Wednesday, July 1, 2020

H.H. Scott, Inc., Maynard "Hi-Fi" company

Ken Olsen was not the only Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate who graced Maynard with a technology company in 1957. Hermon Hosmer Scott, 17 years Olsen’s senior, had received his Bachelor of Science degree in Course 6: Electrical Engineering, in 1930, and a Master of Science degree the next year. Scott went on to earn a doctorate degree from Lowell Technological Institute, and to have a long and glorious career in the field of consumer high fidelity and stereo equipment development, including amplifiers, preamplifiers, FM radio receivers, turntables and speakers. In addition, he patented technology that made possible the invention of television.

H.H. Scott, Inc. workers at 111 Powder Mill Road, circa 1960
Click to enlarge. From Maynard Historical Society Archive.
From one source: “The Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame, created in 2000, honors consumer electronics industry leaders who have made fundamental contributions to the products and services that improve consumers' lives and are a vital part of our nation and its economy. Hall of Fame inductees include inventors, executives, engineers, retailers and journalists who are selected annually by an independent panel of industry judges.” For the inaugural year, 50 people were named. Among them, names familiar to all: Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, Guglielmo Marconi, Nikola Tesla – and Hermon Hosmer Scott.

Early in his career, Scott worked on providing sound for motion pictures, and then on the broadcasting of music performances – live and recorded as record albums – to home listeners. In 1947 he founded a company he named H.H. Scott, Inc., in Cambridge. The intent was to create “high fidelity,” i.e., “Hi-Fi” equipment for consumers who wanted near-professional quality music at home. This involved developing radio receivers, record album turntables, amplifiers and speakers. The company was successful. H.H. Scott and Fisher Radio were two of the best-known brands in Hi-Fi and stereo sound systems. In late 1957, H.H. Scott built a new state-of-the-art manufacturing and research facility at 111 Powder Mill Road. The company continued to be an innovation leader during the transition from Hi-Fi to stereo, and from vacuum tubes to transistors. However, financial difficulties in 1972 led to the company filing for Chapter XI bankruptcy, and then being acquired in 1973 by Electro Audio Dynamics. Hermon Scott was not longer affiliated with the company. A few years later the company was moved to Woburn, and was subsequently acquired by Emerson Electronics. Emerson still has products branded “HH Scott.”

Advertisement for H.H. Scott stereo system
Hermon Scott lived in Lincoln from 1941 until his death in 1975, age 66. He was survived by his wife, two daughters and two grandchildren. Given MIT education, choice of career in electronics, working in Maynard and living in Lincoln, it is possible that Scott and Ken Olsen knew each other socially. And as they were both in business in Maynard from 1957 onward, their companies were hiring from the same pool of local workers.

A note on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: From the origin in 1865 to present, courses (later departments), were commonly referred to by number, despite having names. The original set was Course 1 (Mechanical Engineering), Course 2 (Civil Engineering). Course 3 (Geology and Mining), Course 4 (Architecture) and Course 5 (Chemistry). Courses 6, 7, and 8 (respectively Metallurgy, Natural History and Physics) were added a few years later. Over time, Course 6 was reassigned to Electrical Engineering (in 1975 belatedly became Electrical Engineering and Computer Science), and Course 7 to Biology. Splits occurred: 7 stayed Biology, but Course 9 is Brain and Cognitive Sciences, and Course 20 is Biological Engineering. To further compound the numerical haze, buildings are referred to by numbers despite having names, and the building numbers have no connection to the course numbers.

As for the fate of Scott’s building on Powder Mill Road, at some point in time it was acquired by Digital Equipment Corporation, and then after DEC was purchased by Compaq, occupied by Stratus Technologies from 1999 to 2015. Stratus departed, to move into Building 5 of the mill complex. The current occupant at Powder Mill is Maynard Storage Solutions, with rentable space ranging from 5x5 to 10x30 feet.

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