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OBITUARIES / Carl G. Eilers, 1925 - 2008

Zenith engineer led effort to develop FM stereo broadcasting

June 26, 2008|From the Chicago Tribune

Carl G. Eilers, an electrical engineer who helped develop production of high-fidelity stereo sound over the airwaves, died Friday at his home in River Forest, Ill., apparently of a heart attack.

He was 83.

A 50-year employee of Zenith Electronics, Eilers led the team that developed FM stereo broadcasting. Before 1961, only phonographs could produce the high-quality sound.

That year, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Stereo FM Broadcast Standard, which is still in use.

Eilers was also co-developer of another key industry standard known as multichannel television sound or stereo TV.

Zenith's system was adopted by the industry in 1984, said John Taylor, the company's vice president of public affairs.

When Eilers joined Zenith in 1948 as an engineer in the research department, he started work on subscription television and Zenith Phonevision.

"Even then, he developed the core concepts that are used today, such as scrambling a signal, and you only get an unscrambled signal if you pay for it," Taylor said.

Eilers was born March 21, 1925, in Fairbury, Ill. When he was a boy, he got a glass wireless set from a relative. It captured his imagination and drew him into the world of electronics.

He entered the Navy after graduating from high school in 1943. After his discharge, he enrolled at Purdue University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1948.

While at Zenith, he attended night school at Northwestern University and earned a master's degree in electrical engineering.

By 1961, Eilers was division chief of circuits and communications research. In 1977, he became manager of research and development.

Eilers also worked on development of remote controls, laserdisc recording and supplemental audio programming. He also contributed significantly to high-definition television and was granted 21 U.S. patents, according to Zenith.

Eilers retired in 1997 but returned as a consultant for the company, which is based in Lincolnshire, Ill.

Survivors include his wife of 34 years, Sandra; a son, John; and a daughter, Janet Ames.

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