SIG­NALS

Sound & Vision - - CONTENTS -

Ken Pohlmann in­ter­views him­self. Again.

We con­tinue our dis­cus­sion with Mr. Pohlmann to get his faulty rec­ol­lec­tions of his early days at the mag­a­zine.

Your first Sig­nals col­umn ap­peared in Stereo

Re­view in March, 1989. Didn’t you get a Pulitzer for that one?

Well, no. The lead para­graph noted that the Space Shut­tle was in or­bit, Ge­orge Bush (the first) was pres­i­dent, and that Vanna White had just starred in a made-for-tv movie. Pretty hard-hit­ting jour­nal­ism, that’s for sure. Un­for­tu­nately, the qual­ity of my work has dropped pre­cip­i­tously ever since.

Your col­umn has run con­tin­u­ously for 30 years. You em­ploy an over­seas sweat­shop to write those, right?

Nah, I do the columns my­self. On the other hand, writ­ing test re­ports is hard. You have to pick up the box on your doorstep (lift with your knees, never your back— Daniel Ku­min taught me that), carry it into the lab, un­box it, fig­ure out how to work the darn thing, lis­ten to it, write it up, box it back up, call Fed Ex for a pick-up, then vacuum up all the loose Sty­ro­foam peanuts. Whew! In con­trast, writ­ing a col­umn is easy. In fact, I could write a col­umn about how to write a test re­port, and never have to lift a finger. Writ­ing test re­ports is for suck­ers. Of course, re­view­ers ac­tu­ally get paid money, whereas colum­nists ap­par­ently don’t. I am still check­ing my mail­box every day for that first check from 1989 to ar­rive.

Oh, don’t worry, the check is in the mail. In ad­di­tion to re­views and columns, you’ve writ­ten a num­ber of in-depth fea­tures for the mag­a­zine.

Those as­sign­ments were some of the most en­joy­able be­cause they af­forded me op­por­tu­ni­ties to travel, see in­ter­est­ing things, and meet fas­ci­nat­ing peo­ple. I’ve toured lots of fac­to­ries and fa­cil­i­ties and met many of the movers and shak­ers of the in­dus­try. I had the plea­sure of meet­ing and din­ing with gi­ants like Akio Morita, Dr. Amar Bose, and Sid­ney Harman— men with bril­liant minds, and de­light­ful racon­teurs. And I should men­tion that as a new­bie, I was ap­pre­cia­tive and hon­ored to be wel­comed into the mag­a­zine busi­ness by es­tab­lished in­sid­ers like John Wo­ram, Gene Pitts, Ju­lian Hirsch, Len Feldman, and many oth­ers.

You’ve writ­ten about dozens of ma­jor events over the years, from for­mat wars to new prod­uct launches. Which new prod­ucts or tech­nolo­gies im­pressed you most?

The prod­uct that im­pressed me the most was one that I never re­viewed for the mag­a­zine. It was 1998. I was do­ing tech­ni­cal con­sult­ing at a big pa­tent law firm in Man­hat­tan; an in­ven­tor was patent­ing a means to log on to a cen­tral mu­sic library, search its con­tents, then down­load mu­sic files. What a crazy idea. Any­way, I’m sit­ting in this fancy con­fer­ence room; along one wall is a glass case filled with cor­re­spon­dence with for­mer clients of the firm— guys like Edi­son and the Wright broth­ers. The firm was re­spon­si­ble for killing Wil­bur, but that’s an­other story. An at­tor­ney walks in and pulls out a lit­tle plas­tic box from his pocket. It was an MPMAN F10 MP3 player from an out­fit called Sae­han. He had just bought it in South Korea. The clouds parted, a blind­ing beam of light shone down, and I could clearly see the fu­ture. I was hold­ing per­haps the first MP3 player in the United States. I of­fered him a ridicu­lous sum of money for it, but he re­fused. On the taxi ride back to JFK, I strongly con­sid­ered fly­ing to In­chon to get one. But it was the dead of win­ter, so I took a flight back to Mi­ami in­stead. True story.

Fas­ci­nat­ing. And that about wraps it up for us. Any last words?

Were you kid­ding, or do you re­ally think I have a shot at a Pulitzer?

Oh, it’s in the mail.

An in­ven­tor was patent­ing a means to log on to a cen­tral mu­sic library, search its con­tents, then down­load mu­sic files. What a crazy idea.”

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