Welcome to my Zodiac story.
Bits and pieces from around the world.
 
THE ZODIAC YEARS

THE ZODIAC STORY


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Bits and pieces from my years with Zodiac
 

I like to consider myself a ZODIAC specialist. At least regarding the transceivers. There are numerous products that I designed for the Zodiac group of companies, not to mentions all the products I got through the PTT approvals around Europe and parts of Africa. After all, that company kept me busy for 40+ years or so. It was interesting and challenging at the same time.

Svenska Tokai in Sickla, Stockholm around 1970
AB Svenska Tokai in Sickla.

Zodiac Funksprechgeräte in Sarnen, Switzerland in June 1972.
Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG in Sarnen

Zodiac Funksprechgeräte in Kerns, Switzerland under construction in June 1972.
Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG in Kerns

Working on M-2706 FM in the Faraday shield room in Zodiac Funksprechgeräte in Kerns, Switzerland.
In the Faraday shield room in Kerns

Zodiac's agent Sirtel in Modena, Italy in April 1975.
Zodiac's agent Sirtel in Modena, Italy

Zodiac's agent Sirtel in Modena, Italy in April 1975.
Zodiac's agent Sollinger in Dakar, Senegal
I started my life with RF communications in 1969 with Svenska Tokai AB located at Sickla Kanalväg in Stockholm after having finished my electronics education and my military service. At the beginning I worked in the QC department and from the beginning of 1970 I was transferred to transceiver design. In the early days I was involved wth design of equipment to be used for service purposes at the retailers in Scandinavia. Then followed administrative work and preparing PTT samples for approvals in Sweden and in Switzerland. Later, after the Tokai company in Japan went bankrupt due to their Japanese business, the name of the Swedish company was changed to Zodiac Svenska AB on the 1st of January 1971. Around the same time Zodiac had started its own company in Japan, Hokuto Denshi in Shizuoka City with former key employees from Tokai, first at Hontori in Shizuoka City and later at a newly constructed factory in Nishiwaki in the same city.

New heaquarters were planned in Switzerland, in the beginning in rented premises at Brünigstrasse 119 in Sarnen (canton Obwalden), and later from Summer 1972 in newly built premises in Kerns at Stanserstrasse 109. In the same year I got the opportunity to move to Switzerland and work with Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG in Kerns. I left Zodiac Svenska AB towards the end of September 1972 and moved into a nice apartment in Sachseln overlooking the Sarnersee (Lake Sarnen).

My first trips abroad, mostly to look into technical problems at various agents, took me to Modena in Italy, Dakar in Senegal and Oslo in Norway followed by my first visit to Japan in July 1975. The purpose of my first trip to Japan was we called "Hello Business". I was introduced to our trading company in Tokyo, Uniden in Ichikawa City and to Hokuto Electronics in Shizuoka. The first trip lasted a fourthnight and it was to be followed by more frequent and longer stays in the years to follow. It was a challenging job which I liked a lot, but fate took me a different path: In 1976 I thought I had had enough of Switzerland and Zodiac and I had landed a job with Siemens AG in Stockholm. But I had to give that up because at the same time I had got an opportunity with Zodiac to move to Japan for at least 6 months from November 1976 to look after the technical side on the spot. Many discussions were difficult to handle by correspondence and Telex was mostly limited to 1 minute ticker tapes because of the expensive tariffs. Working with the Japanese on location proved much more efficient.

After a couple of years in Japan and Switzerland and becoming more and more unhappy with the directors of the company after Mr. Grahn had left, I found myself a job with Sprecher & Schuh AG in Aarau in the north of Switzerland in May 1978 where I was selling small automation systems to the Scandinavian markets. That job was quite boring, so after a lot of discussion with Zodiac I came back to a newly structured Zodiac in May 1979, which now was called Zodiac Communications AG, still located in the same place in Kerns. At the end of 1979 I moved to Japan again and got myself an apartment to stay in. But the turbulence within the Zodiac group was not over yet. The 27 MHz transceiver business suffered from surplus stock being dumped into Europe from the United States and our Japanese factory also suffered from this situation. However, we struggled and put new models on the market. In those days transceivers like M-5006 FM, P-2003 and P-2004 FM were the first of my creations.

In 1981 I spent most of the year in Zodiac Svenska AB. That was the year when the 900 MHz NMT cellular telephones took off in the Nordic countries and in Switzerland. Zodiac was involved with NEC in Yokohama and there was lot of approval work and training. But then suddenly Zodiac Communications AG was sold to a Norwegian company in 1981 and I was left without an employer, as I had been employed by the Swiss company. As there was no return to Switzerland I decided to leave for Japan again and worked there as a freelancer for the Zodiac group with my newly started company IBIS Consultants. This business continued for more than 10 years including development of transceivers and keeping track of our suppliers in Japan. I also was in charge of most of the PTT approvals around Europe and was generally very busy.

Then in 1989 we experienced the unlucky situation when some people turned the Zodiac group upside down by starting up Shinwa Europe and took over Hokuto Electronics and branded all Zodiac's products "Shinwa" and used the same model names except that they cut off the last "0", trying to push Zodiac from the market. At that point, in 1990 and 1991, Zodiac were forced to source new suppliers and I was heavily involved in this, having the bizzare job of copying our own products and continue to market them in Europe. In 1993 this transition was completed so I had to sell our house in Shizuoka and move back to Switzerland. Japan was no longer the main hub for our products any longer and were later ordered from transceiver manufacturers in Korea, Thailand and Taiwan.

In the meantime the Norwegians had sold back the factory in Kerns to the Zodiac Group and eventually I got employed in Zodiac Communications a third time from the 1st January 1993. Shortly after the land owner decided to sell the land and the building in Kerns was sold to Wiko AG, we had to move into rented premises at Industriestrasse 16 in Alpnach Dorf from the 1st of August 1994. Due to reductions of personnel in Sweden and Switzerland in 1995, Zodiac decided to outsource the service department from the company, so I decided to take over the that part of the business and continued the operation from my home in Biberstein. Therefore I had started my own company Omnirep GmbH and this business continued until 2012. Omnirep GmbH took over the entire service department from Zodiac in March 1996, and later my company started importing transceivers after Zodiac had disappeared from the Swiss market by filing for bancrupcy in October 1998. In 2012 we finally decided to move back to Sweden and I sold my house in Biberstein and moved back to Stockholm in November of that year. Now I am retired and live near Stockholm.

In 2017 I finally decided to get rid of most of the spare parts and all the documentation for the Zodiac transceivers. There was no interest for this kind of equipment any longer in Sweden so I felt that time had come to throw everything into the bin. After all, those who I asked were not interested. After almost 50 years the Zodiac journey had come to an end.

My life after having retired from Omnirep and Zodiac

The old home I inherited from my parents in Danderyd kept me busy. I redesigned the old kitchen from 1939, and built it mostly by myself. Then I decided to add a new bedroom and a new bathroom as well as a larger entrance. This job was done by skilled workers, most of them old school mates. There was always something to do around the house and in the garden. In addition I have my hobbies which include Digital Radio Mondiale (digital medium- och short wave radio), for which I designed a plotting software, the DRM Plotter, to evaluate DRM transmissions. I also like software design in general. Then I maintain this web site with pirate radio QSL, short wave QSL, two-meter FM Amateur Radio based on Zodiac's Profi 6, controversial EH Antennas, temperature measurement with semiconductors and computer based software and a whole lot of other things that might pop up on these pages in the future. Other interests are walking to keep me fit, building web pages, programming with Visual Basic, listening to classical music and watching Korean TV dramas on satellite TV.

The last thing I did in 2015 was to build a larger balcony on the south side of the house. I managed to get this project finished just before I was diagnosed with cancer in my right eye which had to be removed in July 2015. After this many things have changed. Soldering two components together is difficult, hammering in nails usually ends with a bent nail and the same goes for using a screwdriver.

 

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Compared to 1972 Sweden had changed a lot

Unfortunately Sweden was a lot different in 2015 compared to 1972. Even then we thought it was bad and we were quite happy leaving for Switzerland in those days. But Sweden was cheaper on the whole, so that's why we decided to come back. But I never thought that I would move house a third time in my lifetime. Compared to Switzerland Sweden was cheaper to live in in 2013, but Switzerland was far better than Sweden as a country. Sweden did not look like this 40 years ago. Now there are people begging in the streets and in front of every shop and supermarket, even at the entrances of hospitals! Beggars in the in the subway trains placing their sob stories on pieces of paper on the seats and then beg money, others playing fiddle and accordion or selling magazines. I could go on for pages no end, but I'll spare you the details. As Switzrland was no longer an option we took a chance on settling in Japan instead. We finally left Sweden (or what's left of it) on the 2nd December 2017.

So, having left our newly renovated house behind, packed our things, threwn out a lot we headed for Japan. The house in Sweden was sold already in June 2017 and we moved out at the end of November. Before I sold the house in Sweden I had bought a tiny plot of land in Shizuoka City and now (winter 2018) I'm building a house on that land. Construction started in December 2017 and I hope to move in there in the end of March 2018.

(To be continued...)

 

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