Engineering Giant Passes

It’s not difficult to call Cleveland-based Telos Systems co-founder Steve Church an “engineering giant”.

Colleagues and engineering and other friends of Cnurch are mourning his passage, even far away from the company’s headquarters on Superior Avenue in downtown Cleveland. He passed away earlier today at age of 57, after a long battle with brain cancer.

We’ll start with an extensive remembrance of Steve Church, posted on the Telos Alliance website:

Frank Foti, CEO of The Telos Alliance, remembers that Church had no ego about his many achievements. “We had built a pre-production prototype of the Zephyr, and demonstrated it for one of the major distributors of pro sports programming. They liked what they saw, and sent a couple guys to Cleveland to cut a deal. Steve and I finalized the contract, and then they told us, ‘Telos is just a small company, and we’re going to find out who owns it, buy them out, and run it like a real business.’ Steve and I said nothing as we drove them out to the airport, and we high-fived each other on the way back. They had no idea that they were talking to the owners of the company!”

Today, Telos products are in thousands of radio stations in the U.S. and beyond, from telephone hybrids to Zephyr remote broadcast codecs and the popular Omnia series of broadcast audio processors.

Telos has a complete section on the company’s founder here, with pictures and a place to post remembrances, and we’ll close with the release on his passing…

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Remembering Steve Church

28 September 2012 Cleveland Ohio, USA

Colleagues and friends mourn the passing of Steve Church, engineer, entrepreneur, talk show host, and founder of Telos Systems and the Telos Alliance, a coalition of broadcast technology companies.

Over the past thirty years he created many of the products that ushered broadcasting into the digital age.

Steve was born in San Diego, California, and began his broadcast engineering career in 1975 at WFMK in Lansing, Mich. He later worked at W4 (WWWW) in Detroit before moving to Indianapolis, Indiana to become chief engineer at WFBQ/WNDE.

Church’s first innovation transformed the sound of radio talk shows. Having hosted such shows in addition to his engineering duties, he was frustrated by the poor sound delivered by the analog telephone adapters then in use, which were plagued by sidetone distortion. The problem was thought to be unsolvable even by Bell Labs engineers, but by applying DSP adaptive filtering, Church solved the problem and was able to eliminate sidetone distortion. This became the basis for his first product, the Telos 10 telephone hybrid, and Telos Systems was launched in 1985 as a part-time project.

Church later moved to Cleveland to become chief engineer of WMMS/WHK, still building the company in his spare time. Sales of the Telos 10 telephone hybrid increased, to the point that Church decided to quit his day job and commit to his company full-time. The rest, as they say, is history.

Church’s second breakthrough changed the way radio stations do remote broadcasts. What was once an expensive, complex and time-consuming undertaking with long distance telephone lines or satellite links was simplified when Church combined then-new MP3 audio coding with ISDN technology. The result was the Telos Zephyr, which enabled stations to set up and transmit broadcast-quality point-to-point digital audio in a matter of seconds. Zephyr has since become the most successful digital broadcast audio product of all time.

Next, Church applied packet switching and Ethernet technology to the routing of audio signals around the broadcast plant. The result was Livewire IP-Audio, which employs a linear audio-over-IP method. This technology has fundamentally altered broadcast studio infrastructure and spurred a new wave of signal routing within broadcast plants.

In 2010, Church, together with Skip Pizzi, authored the book Audio over IP: Building Pro AoIP Systems with Livewire. He has been well-published in numerous trade publications, has written many white papers, and given numerous technical presentations at NAB, AES (Audio Engineering Society), IEEE, SMPTE, and various other technical forums. In 2010 Church received the NAB’s radio engineering award.

At the heart of Steve’s work was a deep, abiding love for the medium of radio itself, a love manifested since childhood. He wrote, in 2008:

“Radio is a bit like a kiss, no? When passion takes a grip, a kiss connects two humans in an exchange of secrets and emotions. We kiss furtively, lasciviously, gently, shyly, hungrily and exuberantly. We kiss in broad daylight and in the dead of night. We give ceremonial kisses, affectionate kisses, Hollywood air kisses, kisses of death and (in fairytales) pecks that revive princesses. At its best, and in our imagination, radio has such a variety, and a similar power.

“It is well-known that one’s lifelong musical taste is pretty much imprinted during the teen years. Our connection to radio might be, as well. How many of us, during those sensitive years, listening to a great DJ or talk host, decided we wanted to be a part of that? … Think about the vast numbers of people for whom work is just work, and consider how fortunate we are to have found a vocation bound in such a way to our
inner spirit.”

Church fought a three-year battle with brain cancer. He passed away quietly at his home near Cleveland, on September 28, 2012. He is survived by his loving wife Lana, stepson Dimitri, mother Jacqueline Burgess, and brothers Brent Church, Dann Church and Todd Church. He was 57 years old.

The Telos Alliance (TelosAlliance.com) is a global leader in the research, development, and manufacturing of IP-Audio, telephony, and high-performance audio processing equipment for broadcasters. Telos, Omnia, Axia, and Linear Acoustic are Telos Alliance companies. The Telos Alliance is headquartered in Cleveland, Ohio USA, with additional US offices, plus sales, research and manufacturing offices in Germany, Latvia, Ukraine and China.

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One Response to Engineering Giant Passes

  1. PC says:

    All this, plus his great late-night show. I’ll never forget listening to that — great talent an a great guy to boot. RIP, Mister C.

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