Some individuals in the hi-fi field are as interesting as the equipment they make, if not more so. To confirmed audio buffs, of course, many hi-fi personalities are modern folk-heroes, and some become well known even outside the audio field. For instance, Avery Fisher, who founded Fisher Radio (and before that Philharmonic Radio, which can be called the very first U.S. hi-fi manufacturer), made front-page headlines with his gift of approximately $10 million to New York's Philharmonic Hall, since renamed Avery Fisher Hall, and also acoustically improved.
Another audio notable, part of a household initial if not name, is Henry Kloss (the K of KLH). In addition to helping develop the acoustic-suspension speaker, Kloss pioneered the high-quality compact stereo system. Under the brand name of Advent (a company he founded after leaving KLH), he introduced the first high-quality cassette recorder that combined Dolby circuitry and the used of chrome tape. Kloss has just resigned from Advent; it will be interesting to see what he comes up with next.
Then there's John Koss, who almost single-handedly revised our concepts of what headphone listening was all about; Stewart Hegeman, whose early and vigorous enthusiasm for multi-directional speakers and wideband amplifier response influenced a whole generation of equipment designers; Alexander M. Poniatoff, whose 1948 Ampex tape recorder (the name "ex" for "excellent") revolutionized the recording and broadcasting industries.
The lates and right now the most celebrated of hi-fi heroes is Sidney Harman, recently named Under Secretary of Commerce for the Carter administration. Most hi-fi buffs know the name as the first part of Harman Kardon. What is perhaps less known but more germane to his new job is Harman's background in large-scale administration and his contributions to human relations in industry. Over the years, he not only built a huge business empire, but also served for a while a president of the Friends World College, and later - at Union Graduate School - earned a doctorate in social and organizational psychology. His main effort in these areas has been to examine relationships between workers and their jobs with a view to understanding and overcoming the sense of alienation he sees as responsible for "poor work, poor products and a poor life pattern."
In his own companies, Harman has instituted "work humanization" programs in which, among other things, workers meet to make basic production decisions. Its success - in helping workers as well as their companies - has won widespread attention and has the support of both labor and management, notably at the automotive plant in Bolovar, Tenn., where one work team has managed to arrange things so well that they have reduced their work day from eight hours to five with no loss in pay.