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‘The Father of FM Stereo’ Is Remembered

Carl Eilers, long-time Zenith employee, was inspired to his career by a glass wireless set; he also innovated in MTS stereo TV.

Technology history buffs as well as broadcast and consumer electronics engineers are remembering Carl G. Eilers, who died last week at age 83.

Here is the text of Eilers’ biography in the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, into which he was inducted in 2000 as a member of the charter class that included Marconi, Armstrong, De Forest, Fessenden and Hertz:

“Four decades ago, high-fidelity stereo sound revolutionized the radio listening experience, and Carl G. Eilers helped make that vision a reality. Before the FCC adopted the Stereo FM Broadcast Standard in 1961, high-fidelity two-channel audio was limited to phonographs. Eilers’ pioneering work brought crystal-clear stereophonic sound to tens of millions of FM radio listeners worldwide.

“A senior scientist with Zenith Electronics Corp. for more than 50 years, Eilers began his career working on subscription television technology in 1948. During the 1950s, he turned his attention to developing the stereophonic frequency modulation radio broadcast system that is now in use around the globe,” the CEA bio continued.

“While seemingly mundane in today’s digital world, Eilers’ stereo FM innovations meant that, for the first time, radio stations could transmit two stereophonic channels with full high-fidelity on each channel, signals that could also be received by existing monophonic FM receivers without loss of quality.

“Likewise, Eilers’ advances, MTS (multichannel television sound) and SAP (secondary audio programming) have enhanced the television viewing experience. Thus, Eilers holds a unique place in the annals of consumer electronics technology history as co-inventor of two key industry standards: stereo FM radio and MTS stereo TV.” At the time that bio was written, CEA wrote, “Eilers, who led development of Zenith’s Emmy Award-winning MTS stereo TV system, adopted by the industry in 1984, has been working on high-definition television (HDTV) in recent years.”

A lifelong member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Eilers also received many industry honors including the IEEE Fellow Award, the Masaura Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award, the Audio Engineering Society Fellow Award and the R&D 100 Award. CEA said he had been granted 17 U.S. patents.

Here is a further biography of Eilers, from this week’s Chicago Tribune.