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Comrex, You Don’t Look 50!

Comrex, known today for its codecs, turns 50 this year

Comrex, known today for its codecs, turns 50 this year.

Seeing a company stick around for five decades and even somewhat resemble what it started out as is unusual. Yet businesses and industries never stop evolving. And neither did Comrex.

Started in 1961 by engineer John Cheney to make newfangled doodads like wireless microphone systems, the company soon came up with a stream of broadcast- and radio-oriented products. Wireless microphones and other RF devices put bread on the table. Cheney kept Comrex on the leading edge of technology research and change (“Transistorization!”) and new uses for those technologies.

A killer app for Comrex came along in the later 1970s when it had success with frequency-extension devices for use with telephone-based transmission. It then built upon that technology and was able to package it into equipment such as all-in-one remote talk/sports radio packages, then expand its platform further into modern standalone codecs.

Cheney helmed the company until his death in 1998. His widow Lynn Cheney took over and kept the company focused and lean. It has avoided the stream of bankruptcies, buyouts and mergers that has erased or transformed almost every other electronics technology company that was around when Comrex started in the early 1960s. Eventually she morphed it into an employee-owned private company. Lynn Cheney retired in 2006. See Paul McLane’s excellent piece on Lynn Cheney for more on the life and times of the company. Comrex also has posted an interesting historical account here.

Comrex is still in Massachusetts, now on the grounds of a former army base, not far from where it was founded 50 years ago. It continues plowing ahead in remote audio technology, exploring how broadcasters can put smartphones and 3G/4G services to work. And it still sells modern iterations of some of its legacy products such as cue equipment. Happy anniversary guys. Where can we get one of those funk-ee shirts!?