Welcome to my Zodiac History Page.
Bits and pieces from Tokai, Zodiac, Switzerland and Japan

1969-1972, SWEDEN




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Bits and pieces from my Zodiac years
1969 - Before my time
I like to call myself a Zodic specialist. At least regarding the transceivers. After all, that was the company that I worked for and with for the last 40+ years or so. After I graduated in 1967 I spent one year in the Swedish Air Force as a radar operator. In the beginning of June 1969 I started my career with RF communications with Svenska Tokai AB in Stockholm. 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.

But first a little bit of history from the time before Zodiac. A Japanese CB manufacturer named Tokai Communication Apparatus Corporation had been founded in 1960 as a transceiver manufacturer and a sister company of Tokai Wireless Co., Ltd. Tokai had been founded back in 1951, mainly producing portable valve radios and later on portable transistor radios for the AM (medium wave) band. In 1961 CB transceivers had become allowed for private use in Sweden. Some years later during the middle of the 1960's Tokai had got an inquiery from Mr. Grahn who operated "Hobbytjänst" in Stockholm. Hobbytjänst was, among other things, selling airplane models and remote controls for these kind of models.

Mr. Grahn started AB Svenska Tokai and Tokai's transceivers were sold in Sweden through Hobbytjänst with AB Svenska Tokai as the sole agent for Tokai in Europe. With the sales picking up in the mid 1960's both in Sweden and abroad, the premises at Atlasgatan in Stockholm became too small and AB Svenska Tokai moved to Sickla Kanalväg, near the border with Nacka.

AB Svenska Tokai in Sickla before 1970
AB Svenska Tokai on Sickla Kanalväg in Stockholm before 1970 [From a Tokai catalog]


Where Tokai was in 1970 [in the center of this map]

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1969 - The first years in Sweden
Svenska Tokai was located in a former show room of a Dutch brick factory at Sickla Kanalväg in Stockholm, a brick (yes, of course!) building made from bricks in all colours, shapes and sizes. There were about 30 people working there in the beginning of the 1970's. I began my work there in June 1969 tuning up mobile transceivers, mainly the Tokai PW-5024 [1] .
Tokai PW-5024
Tokai PW-5024 [picture from rigpix.com]

In 1970 I was transferred to the R&D section where I was involved with type approvals, of among others the type approvals for Switzerland of the Zodiac P-200 [2]

Zodiac P-200
Zodiac P-200 [picture courtesy of Michael (zodiac.ch)]

which was produced by Novel Electronics and delivered through Nippon Shinsho and the Zodiac MB-5012 [3] which was produced by Nihon Dengyo. This first Zodiac brand transceiver's logo was green coloured.

Zodiac MB-5012
Zodiac MB-5012 [picture from a Svenska Tokai catalog]

I also designed special instruments, which were sold to our sales and service partners around Scandinavia. Some worth to mention are a variable DC power supply (Zodiac SL-20) [4] which included automatic visual function control of the floating chassis of the transceivers, a 50 W RF amplifier [5] for Zodiac's remote controlled VHF base station, a 15 W RF power amplifier for Kyodo's VHF transceiver Zodiac MA-160 [6]. The measurement protocol for the Swiss PTT was dated 9th July 1971. Zodiac got PTT approvals for MA-160 in Sweden and in Switzerland. Below is an early drawing on the modified front for Zodiac.

Zodiac MA-160
Zodiac MA-160 VHF transceiver made by Kyodo [picture of an original sketch to Kyodo]


There was also the Communication Test Set including RF Power meter / transmitter analyser and a receiver RF signal generator, the Zodiac ZS-30 [7]. This was designed by me in 1971.

Transceiver Tester Zodiac ZS-30
Transceiver Tester Zodiac ZS-30 [picture from a Zodiac catalog 1974]

Other projects we worked on were base stations for the pleasure boat maritime emergency channel 11A (27.095 MHz), which were operated by the coast guard. Among other things under my responsibility was quality control (QC), managing internal statistics of technical problems and epidemic problems and how to solve these in order to improve the production.

Uniden had decided to modify one of their existing products for the USA market and produce a slightly different looking CB base station for Zodiac, their UT-69 model which got the name Zodiac B-5024  [8] . This base station appears in a photo from around December 1971 in the lab at Svenska Tokai AB.

Svenska Tokai AB, later Zodiac Svenska AB in Sickla as it looked in 1981
Svenska Tokai AB, later Zodiac Svenska AB in Sickla as it looked in 1981 [Photo courtesy of Mr. Oishi]


The same place in Sickla as it looks today
The same place in Sickla as it looks in 2014 [from Google street view]

Later, after the Tokai company in Japan had failed because of the slump in the US CB market, the name of the Swedish company name AB Svenska Tokai was changed to Zodiac Svenska AB on the 1st of January 1971. At that time Zodiac had started its own factory in Japan in Shizuoka City with former key engineers and employees from Tokai called Hokuto Denshi. However, Tokai in Japan lived on for a while under the Japanese "Corporate Rehabilitation Law" and produced transceivers for among others Sommerkamp and the Swedish company "Handic" in Gothenburg. Tokai was finally declared bankrupt in 1977.
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1972 - Moving to Switzerland

Towards the end of the 1960's Zodiac had plans to move to Switzerland. Land had been organised in canton Obwalden and plans for a new building including space for a production line was drawn up. Temporary headquarters were rented in Sarnen at Brünigstrasse 119.

Zodiac at Brünigstrasse 119 in 6060 Sarnen in 1972
Zodiac's first office in Sarnen, Switzerland [from my pictures]

During that time construction of the new Zodiac headquarters had begun in Kerns at Stanserstrasse 109 in a small part outside the town center called Sand. At that time there was only a cuck-cuck clock factory and a petrol station there and a tool factory that was under construction. On the other side of the road was Gasthaus Sand, a small hotel and restaurant. The Zodiac office building was made of concrete wall elements covered by copper sheet which was a novelty at that time. Later the building was referred to by the local population as the "Inca Temple".

At the end of January 1972 I was invited to visit the Swiss branch of the company after having got an offer to join the new research and technical development department in Zodiac. After a week in the central part of Switzerland I decided to grab the opportunity and move there for a couple of years or so. At the end of May 1972 I and my colleague Lasse Johansson went down to Sarnen a second time for two weeks to look for a place to live and to register for resident and work permits. Those permits were granted on the 2nd of June and at that time the office building in Kerns looked like this:

Zodiac at Stanserstrasse 109 in 6064 Kerns in June 1972
Zodiac's building in Kerns in the beginning of June 1972 [from my pictures]

The Inca Temple was not ready, but scheduled to be finished during the Summer 1972.
Towards the middle of September I packed all my furniture and belongings in my apartment in Salem south of Stockholm and I left Zodiac Svenska AB and Sweden at the end of September. My first home in Switzerland was a 3 room plus kitchen apartment in Sachseln overlooking the Sarnersee (Lake Sarnen). In June 1972 the house looked like this:

Thurmatt 3 in Sachseln - my first home in Switzerland
Thurmatt 3 in Sachseln - my first home in Switzerland the way it looked in June 1972 [from my pictures]

At least they had managed to almost finish the two apartments on the upper floor where we were supposed to live. After a couple of weeks in Hotel Kreuz in Sarnen we got the keys and could move in. Soon after we collected our furniture in Zürich. It had been transported by rail to Switzerland together with 25 large office tables and chairs from IKEA in Stockholm. Office furniture was very expensive in Switzerland, and desks were generally smaller in size than the Swedish ones.

About the same time in September Hokuto Denshi's new premises were finished in Nishiwaki, Shizuoka City. Hokuto could then move from the temporary office in Hontori during October 1972. During the same month Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG and Hokuto Denshi K.K. entered into an agreement that Hokuto were to be the exclusive manufactures products for Zodiac. The president of Hokuto Denshi, Mr. Kurita was in Switzerland for this occasion.

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The first years in Kerns

In the beginning around October 1972 I was mainly working with technical documentation and maintaining service documentation for the various products in Kerns. In between we were putting the desks together in the R&D room. We built all the desks ourselves complete with wall outlets and plenty of shelf space.

One of the first jobs included drawing the Zodiac logotype on paper and give it a finishing touch. This drawing was then registered as Zodiac's official trade mark. This time the colour was Zodiac blue, not green. My first project was to combine the selective call modules IST and ISR into one compact module which was named ISTR  [9] . ISTR was a two tone selective call module using three mechanical tuning forks from Murata. The module was used in several of Zodiac transceivers, both mobiles and portables.

The Faraday shield room
The selective call unit ISTR [from my pictures]

A year or so later I became more and more involved with the PTT approvals of new models for our markets in Europe and Africa. In order to measure transmitters and receivers we had to have a wide range of measuring instruments and a climate chamber. My work place was more or less always inside the Faraday shield room - a professional shield room that damped radio waves more than 120 dB.

In the beginning of February 1973 we finally assembled the Faraday Shield Chamber installed in Kerns after screwing umpteen hundreds of bolts tight. We could not get the Faraday shield walls up the stairs because of the enormous weight of the wall elements, so we had to wait for five months until the elevator eventually was delivered and installed.

The Faraday shield room
The Faraday shield room in Kerns with the climate chamber left [from my pictures]

During 1973 The owners of Zodiac began plans to start importing private planes from France. Grahn's flying instructor, Mr. Hügli had been killed in September when attempting to land in thick fog in Sarnen. During the investigation of the accident they found only a few deciliters of fuel in the tank. This was before the Rallye erea - the plane model Mr. and Mrs. Grahn had plans to buy from Socata in France in October 1973. It is not clear how much of the CHF 160'000 they paid came from Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG. Originally Lasse Johansson was supposed to be the third member in this company, but he backed out later. They had registered a new company called Grahn Air AG located on their address in Sarnen which was planned to open oficially on 24th November 1973. They had one plane at that time, the "Spirit of Sarnen" as they christened it. Later they bought another plane which later was lost in an accident during a flight and went down in Lake Sarnen.

In the beginning of 1974 Zodiac ran into office space problems. We were told that a new board member who came from Sweden needed a room. The new board member was Jan Borgenhard, son of the director of the insurance company Trygg Hansa in Danderyd, Sweden. Mr. Engström had met Jan Borgenhard in Sandhamn during a sailing trip and got to like his abilities. However, it was to become a totally different story.

So I had to give up my room which was next door to Mrs. Grahn's and that was supposed to be best for the new director. Everyone in one place. So I got a new room with a beautiful view towars Mt. Pilatus at the other end of the building, which had been a part of the canteen and was close to the lab. More space for me and all my files.

Sometime in March 1974 Grahn's company Grahn Air became the sole agent in Switzerland for the French plane Socata. I suppose that Grahn's were not so happy with the new Swedish director. Had they plans to leave Zodiac? I began thinking about my own situation as well as I had planned to stay in Switzerland for a couple of years and after that perhaps move back to Sweden. With this new business they got in trouble with Zodiac's board of directors, as Grahn's did not focus much on the Zodiac business any longer.

Bomb scare in Zodiac Svenska AB!
In April 1974 Zodiac Svenska AB got a call from the police in Stockholm about a suspected parcel bomb. The Post Office had called the police because they had noticed a ticking sound coming from a parcel addressed to Zodiac in Stockholm! As nobody at Zodiac had got any threats or other suspect messages, nobody had any clues what it could be. According to the police the parcel was only 188 grams in weight and it was carefully opened under great precautions. In the parcel they found a Zodiac RU-30  [10] pager which was beeping. Well, at least a happy end to that story.
Zodiac Pager RU-30
The bombscare object. The Zodiac Pager RU-30 [from a Zodiac catalog]

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On the 7th June 1974 Mr. Borgenhard told me during a dinner at home in Sachseln that there would soon be some major changes in Zodiac. Two weeks later we experienced a shake-up in the company in Kerns. Recently we had got a new board member from Sweden and one month later on the 24th of July we were told that the original directors Mr. and Mrs. Grahn had mutually agreed to leave Zodiac immediately effective from this day. We learned this when we were told to meet up in the reception hall after 5 PM. This came to most of us as a big shock and most of the employees never understood the exact reason for this action. It just happened that I had met Mr. Grahn the day before. The Grahn's had been on holiday and he told us that they would be away for a while. The solution came the day after. Perhaps it had something to do with the owners interest in flying and importing private planes. So, with the loss of the original owners we had our second thoughts what was going to happen in Zodiac. Especially as our Japanese people were not very happy to see Mr. and Mrs. Grahn leaving. Would they stick with Grahns or would they be loyal to Zodiac?

When the new regulations for the CB transceivers began to take effect in Europe under the name "CEPT Regulation" around 1975 we needed to develop new transceiver models. These new regulations also meant more stringent limits to unwanted radiation from both receivers and transmitters. As most Japanese manufacturers were focused on the USA market and were mainly familiar with the FCC rules, we suddenly faced resistance in Japan to our new, tighter CEPT regulations. At that time FM was also introduced to the CB band in addition to the AM which added to the confusion in Japan. This prompted Zodiac to take action locally, and my job became to develop the first CEPT all FM transceiver for 27 MHz. This project began at the end of January. The transmitter RF output was limited to 0.5 Watt which allowed a compact housing because of the little heat generated by the transmitter and the first line of transceivers was M-2706 FM [11] and was followed in October with the portable unit P-2706 FM [12].

Inside the Faraday shield room
Working on the Zodiac M-2706 FM in the Faraday Shield Room in Kerns [from my pictures]

Those two transceivers were produced in Zodiac Kerns using standard cabinet housings which were supplied from our Japanese company Hokuto Denshi in Shizuoka. The portable unit used a diecast housing that Zodiac had used for the older models P-3006 and PA-161 etc. in the 1960'a and the early 1970's, and the mobile transceiver was built into the cabinet and chassis frame for the models Contact-23/24. Both models could be fitted with the ISTR Selective Call module and later on with the "Colibri", a 5-tone ZVEI selective call module, based on the British manufacturer CML MOS IC FX-507 developed by my colleague Lasse Johansson and produced in our factory in Kerns.

Zodiac M-2706 FM
Zodiac M-2706 FM [picture from a Zodiac M-2706 FM flyer]

In addition to these four products Zodiac produced the portable VHF transceiver PA-161  [13] in Kerns. The transceiver was based on an existing product made in Denmark, which I and my colleague adapted to the diecast cabinet we had selected for this project. I was responsible for one of the PC boards which included the oscillators for receiver and transmitter, the modulator and the AF amplifier. Lasse Johansson designed the main PC board with the transmitter and receiver. This transceiver, mostly due to its ruggedness and attractive price, became very popular with the Swiss Fire Brigades in sucessful competition with the established Swiss companies such as BBC and Autophon. A line of various accessories and special applications for most of our models were also developed and produced in Kerns.


More transceivers from Uniden

In the middle of the 1970's the Japanese transceiver manufacturer Uniden provided Zodiac with four transceivers, a maritime set, an amateur transceiver and two CB transceivers with SSB. All of these had already been sold by Uniden on the USA market and they were slightly modified for Zodiac.

One was the Zodiac MA-160B  [14] or Aquarius which it was called in some markets. It was a crystal controlled VHF set which was delivered with a standard set of crystals for most european waters. It was also sold in Senegal as can be read about further down the page.

Marine Transceiver Zodiac MA-160 B (Aquarius)
The Zodiac MA-160B (or Aquarius). [from a Zodiac flyer]

Then there was the Zodiac Gemini.  [15] It was also a crystal controlled two-meter transceiver. I designed a small circuit bord with a 1750 Hz tone generator which was used to open the 2 meter repeater stations. The pushbutton for this tone sender was mounted in the hole instead of the TX lamp.

VHF Amateur 2 m Transceiver Zodiac Gemini

The Zodiac Gemini. [from a Zodiac flyer]
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Zodiac Taurus  [16] was a crystal synthesized 27 MHz transceiver designed for AM and SSB. It was marketed as a 66 channel transceiver (22 AM, 22 USB and 22 LSB channels). A CB transceiver with SSB failed in the product palette, and as Hokuto Denshi had no experience yet with SSB it was decided to buy an existing product. Uniden had several models and we managed to get the Zodiac Taurus with our own brand on the front. The name "Taurus" was also chosen in accordance with the Aquarius and the Gemini.

27 MHz SSB Transceiver Zodiac Taurus

The Zodiac Taurus. [from a Zodiac catalog]
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The second SSB model was the Zodiac SSB-15072.  [17] It was like the Zodiac Taurus a crystal synthesized 27 MHz transceiver designed for AM and SSB. It was also marketed as a 66 channel transceiver (22 AM, 22 USB and 22 LSB channels). However, the model name suggested 15 Watts (PEP) and 72 channels. 72 channels would mean the additional channels 23 and the Swedish channel 11A. Perhaps Uniden later on modified the SSB-15072 with a different channel selector and another two crystals. This model included a 220 VAC transformer and power supply which made it a real heavyweight. The total weight was 6 kg. It was equipped with a 12 VDC connector for mobile use (if you had a car big enough!)

27 MHz SSB Transceiver Zodiac SSB-15072

The Zodiac SSB-15072. [from a Zodiac catalog]
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Circus Zodiac, what is happening?

Zodiac under Mr. Borgenhard's management was getting more and more irrational. There were several problems with our agents. The French agent had problems and Zodiac wanted to buy it, but not with all their debts. Suddenly projects like selling window frames to Iraq and toilets to Saudiarabia were considered as a complement to the communication equipment.

Towards the end of August Zodiac's CEO and Mr. Borgenhard travelled to Japan for "hello business". Without Mr. and Mrs. Grahn Mr. Kurita at Hokuto Denshi was not happy to say the least. There was a lot of turbulence in Zodiac in the following months. Colin Rouse from Norway was in Kerns again in the middle of October and towards the end of October Mr. Kurita from Hokuto was back in Switzerland again. We had lunch together at Hotel Gütsch overlooking Lucerne and after Lunch Mr. Kurita wanted to go back to his hotel to get his laundry done. Later that day I and my wife were invited to have dinner with him at Hotel Carlton in Lucerne. When we arrived there Mr. Kurita was sitting in Mrs. Grahn's red cabriolet with Mr. Grahn and he asked me to step in, so he could explain everything, he said. After that Mr. Kurita flew up to Stockholm for further meetings. What a messy month October had been. No wonder I had plans to leave the company at that time.

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1975 - Heading for new horizons

Despite what had happened in July 1974 when the Grahns left Zodiac I got a wider responsibility within Zodiac and my work in the Research and Development had been extended to keep up the technical contacts with most of our agents in Europe. It was a challenging job which I liked a lot. But during the last few months many things had changed in Zodiac and in April I was even thinking that the Summer 1975 might be the last Summer for me in Switzerland.

But I decided to wait for a while as there was talk about sending me to Japan. First there was a plan to send me before Christmas 1974, but that was postponed. Then there was plans for me to go at the end of January 1975. But January went and nothing happend, so I was about to forget about it. But then my first trip to Japan was finally scheduled for July 1975. When Tokai Communication Apparatus Corporation went bankrupt in February 1975, it filed for protection under the bankruptcy law. That meant that the company could still operate, but sooner or later it would disappear completely. So on the 8th March 1975, Zodiac Funksprechgeräte AG and Hokuto Denshi entered into a second, revised agreement that Hokuto were to be the exclusive manufacturer of products for Zodiac

I remember the first time I met Mr. Yamada from Sanwa Trading, Zodiac's trading partner in Tokyo. One day during his visit to Switzerland he suddenly stood in the laboratory at the door of the Faraday shield room and said hello and handed me a bottle of Japanese whisky and wished me welcome to Japan.


Modena, Italy

But before I travelled to Japan I had to go to Italy for a couple of days at the end of April to look after some measurement problems with a PTT approval sample, which was checked in the University in Bologna before it was given to the Italian PTT for approval. My trip to Modena went smoothly and I met with Mr. Dadomo and dottore Dessena of Sirtel. Modena, home of Ferrari, was a lazy city. I stayed in the famous hotel Real Fini where, according to Mr. Dadomo, all visitors to Ferrari normally stay.

Discussing measurement methods at the University in Bologna

Mr. Dessena and I discussing measurement methods at the University in Bologna [from my pictures]

The engineer who measured PTT samples at the University in Bologna was also an easygoing man. As far as I remember we agreed on a different measuring method fot he transmitter harmonic radiation with the spectrum analyzer. Using a spectrum analyzer without a selective trap filter for the operating frequency would often result in mixer overload in the analyzer. That results in false (too high) values of unwanted radiation, especially on the second harmonic. After that the PTT approval was OK.

Mr. Dadomo closes his office for the day
Mr. Dadomo closes his office for the day [picture from my collection]

I will never forget the 30th April when I travelled back from Modena to Switzerland. I had a first class train ticket from Modena via Milano to Luzern. The next day was Mayday, so lots of people had taken the afternoon off. I was desperately looking for the first class wagons, ran along the train and suddenly there was only the locomotive left! Judging that there was no time to run back I just had to get on anywhere, not to miss the train. The train was full to 200% of its capacity, so I had to squeeze myself in and stand in second class all the way up to Milano.

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Oslo, Norway

Next stop was Oslo, Norway towards the end of May. Our Norwegian agent Björn Dich Röstad A.S had sold two PA-161 to His Majety King Olaf's Motor Yacht M/S Norge and I and BDR:s chief engineer Colin Rouse were supposed to attend in person to hand over these two transceivers on board the ship. The only problem was that the crystals that we had ordered for the two sets had not yet arrived. Monday had been a holiday and at 9 o'clock on Tuesdayin morning we got the message that the parcel was held at the customs at the Head Post Office in Luzern. I packed 8 PA-161 in a suitcase and set off for Luzern, picked up the crystals, drove to the airport in Zürich, parked my car and picked up the ticket around 11:40 for the flight to Oslo which departed at 12:15. On Wednesday Colin Rouse and I prepared the two sets for His Majesty.

The Royal Yacht M/S Norge in Oslo Harbour
The Royal Yacht M/S Norge in Oslo [picture from my collection]

So on Thursday we met up at 10:00 in the harbour and were picked up by the tender and could hand the PA-161 over to the crew. It was not as spectacular as I had expected as there was no king present on the ship that day, only a crew and Captain Egers, the captain of the ship.

Testing the communication with Zodiac PA-161
The Royal transceiver Zodiac PA-161 in Oslo [picture from my collection]

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Dakar, Senegal

Less than a month after my visit to Norway I had to go to Dakar in Senegal for a couple of days from 15th to 19th June 1975. It seemed like all Zodiac was making trips all over the world: Mr. Borgenhard was in Kuwait on some kind of business - probably not related to communications, Lasse Johansson and the Export Manager Mr. Meyenhofer were in Rotterdam, our domestic sales manager Mr. Schindler was in Moscow for three weeks at a communications show. And I should travel to Senegal.

Our agent down there, Sollinger, had run into trouble with the Dakar Secret Police. Sollinger had sold the marine transceiver Zodiac MA-160 B in Senegal, and now I had to go there to find out why the MA-160 B could eavesdrop on the police VHF channels. The Secret Police had big ambitions to remain secret, so they had confiscated the already sold transceivers and banned Sollinger from selling any. We could not reproduce the problem in Kerns, so I was chosen to go there and try to solve the problem. As the instrumentation in Sollinger's workshop was scarce to say the least, I had to bring the Hewlett Packard Spectrum Analyzer with me as hand baggage. A neat 38 kg chunk of delicate electronics that got a seat of its own beside me in Swissair's DC-10 on its way to Rio de Janeiro with a stopover in Dakar. We were struck by lightning when we flew over Toulose in France and a flight attendant asked me if my equipment could have been harmed. We landed around 4 o'clock in the morning and some 18 very suntanned native residents helped me to carry the spectrum analyzer into the arrival terminal. And as it turned out, there was noone there at the airport to meet me. And on top of that I got stuck in the customs with the spectrum analyzer. Great experience! Welcome to Africa!

Hotel Teranga in Dakar, Senegal
Hotel Teranga (2021: Pullman) in Dakar, Senegal [picture from my collection]

I managed to get away with it after having signed some papers which were duly stamped by a uniformed officer. Next problem was how to get to the hotel. I found a very suntanned taxi driver who spoke some French, and he insisted I should put the spectrum analyzer in the trunk, which was full of rubbish. When I insisted on putting it on the back seat, he opened the bonnet and said the engine had suddenly broken down. But after some haggling the engine suddenly worked again and he drove me into Dakar to my hotel, no lights on the car and on a motorway with children and cows crossing it all over the place. No meter, and the tachometer was broken. When we arrived at the Hotel Teranga I had to explain that I did not have any CFA to pay the fare, but I needed to exchange some American Express travellers cheques first. That added to his suntan and he followed me all the way to the check-in desk. It was nice to go to bed, even at 05:30 in the morning!

The technical section of Sollinger in Dakar
The technical section of Sollinger in Dakar and my hand baggage (center) [picture from my collection]

When I was in Dakar we had no problems with the supposed interference at all. After some calculation of possible image frequencies and spurious reception I found the problem: A local shortwave transmitter was the source of the trouble. We went out to the transmitter site only to find a broken down transmitter and some local engineers scratching their heads. The transmitter had been built by Russians as aid to Senegal and they had left lots of documentation - all in Russian which noone understood. Well, not much to to about that. The problem with the police in Dakar was finally solved during a better dinner downtown Dakar, attended by myself, Sollinger's engineer, the director of Sollinger and the head of the Police department. Indeed a nice way to solve technical problems!

The last day in Dakar I could spend taking photographs, do some shopping and go sight-seeing with Joël Carrion and his old rusty Renault. Among other things we took the car out to Cap Verde and walked out to the westernmost point of the continent of Africa.

I was lucky to get out of Senegal with the spectrum analyzer. I met the same customs officer in the same customs office, but he could not find the duly stamped document he had put in a drawer in his office full of piles of paper. He searched through all the drawers and opened all his cabinets and out fell half empty Coca Cola bottles and all kinds of stuff that does not belong in a customs office. I was in a hurry and he finally gave in and let me go with my heavy load. On top of that our Swissair plane, a DC-8 this time, had to take on board lots of stranded people from a Lufthansa airliner which had suffered engine failure, so our plane was full. About 40 or so natives on the tarmac were extremely helpful and wanted to carry my 38 kilograms hand baggagae to the plane, and we squeezed in the spectrum analyzer beside a stretcher in front of the DC-8. The rest of the journey went fine and I got through the Swiss customs with my ATA Carnet and returned home safely.

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First visit to Japan. Tokyo Ichikawa and Shizuoka

In 1975 I began coordinating the technical matters with our suppliers in Japan. About a week after I had returned from Senegal, on the 26th June I left my office in Kerns for my first two weeks trip to Japan. The purpose of this trip was to meet our exporting company Sanwa Trading in Tokyo and meet our producers of CB transceivers Uniden and Hokuto Denshi. My journey to Japan took me by charter plane to Bangkok where I had to stay overnight and continued with Thai Airways the next morning to Haneda in Tokyo. At Haneda I was met by Mr. Yamada who I had briefly met in Kerns and his colleague Mr. Sato. It was a late, rainy afternoon and we travelled by a nice Nissan Gloria limousine with air-conditioning, a thing I had never experienced before, in to the Tokyo Prince Hotel. Near Haneda Airport I saw a neon sign that read "Welcome to Tokyo", and that was just about all I could understand during the next two weeks in Japan. Reason: The Japanese don't use our alphabet, but Chinese charcters mixed with two other character sets, Hiragana and Katakana, completely impossible to make anything out of at first sight.

The location of Sanwa Trading in Tokyo (right)
The location of Sanwa Trading in Tokyo (lower right) [picture from a web photo]

Tokyo was completely different from Bangkok except for the left-hand traffic. Otherwise no hassles, no mess, no agressive people, public transportation was perfect, clean taxis with meters (working ones!), a clean hotel with fantastic service and people were always helpful, even taking the language barrier into account. The Tokyo Prince Hotel in Shiba Park at the foot of Tokyo Tower was to become my second home for years to come in Japan. Dining was delicious, you could eat anything without worrying of getting sick or anything. Only the tap water in Tokyo was not the best in the world, but beside the cold water tap there was always a tap for chilled drinking water. But the biggest surprise was the air. The air was dirty. Very dirty. After a day out the collar lining was yellow from the air pollution. But again, the laundry service in the hotel was also impeccable. But on the other hand, the sunsets were beautiful. Bright red. Just like a Japanese flag.

During the following days I met the rest of our trading company, Mr. Shimura and Ms. Yamano. Sanwa had been founded in October 1969 and was located in Akasaka, not very far from Tokyo Prince. It consisted of one room with four desks, a kitchenette and a tiny bathroom. A typical compact apartment in Tokyo. Before Mr. Yamada came to Sanwa he had been working at Nippon Shinsho where he was in charge for Nippon Shinsho's business with Svenska Tokai. Mr. Shimura had worked in the overseas business department of Tokai Communication for four years from 1962 and Mr. Sato had also worked at Tokai.

Later on we went by train to Ichikawa City (in Chiba Prefecture) which was in the direction to the not yet opened Narita Airport, where we visited Uniden Corporation which produced mobile CB transceivers for Zodiac. After the bankrupcy of Nippon Shinso Uniden also took over the production of the Zodiac P-2003  [18] before this model was transferred to Hokuto Denshi.

The rest of the time in Japan I spent in Shizuoka City in Shizuoka Prefecture, located about 160 km west from Tokyo about 50 km west of Mount Fuji. You got there in about 90 minutes in those days by Bullet Train (Shinkansen), super fast and clean and always on time. Compared to Tokyo, Shizuoka City was a country town with about half a million inhabitants located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. A mix of Route 1, the Tomei Expressway and narrow streets with poles full of electric wires of all kinds beyond belief. The hotel I stayed at was called Dai Ichi Hotel (The Number One Hotel). I often wondered what was so number one about it. It was convenient because Mr. Kurita's house was only a short walk from there.

Hokuto Denshi as it looked in July 1975
Hokuto Denshi as it looked in July 1975 [picture from my collection]

Hokuto was not exactly what I had expected to find. A building that looked more like a warehouse than a production site with no name at the front. Behind the entrance door was an office. The part in the middle was the production and at the right there was a warehouse.

Mr. Kurita at his desk in Hokuto Denshi
Mr. Kurita at his desk in Hokuto [picture from my collection]

Here I spent a couple of days meeting the president of Hokuto Denshi, Mr. Kurita and some key staff such as engineers and designers, Mr. Suzuki and Mr. Sugiyama just to mention a few. After the Tokai failure in 1970, Mr. Grahn and Mr. Kurita (at that time his name was Konishi) decided to start a business together with capital from Sweden. In the beginning Hokuto Denshi was located at Hontori near Shizuoka city center during the construction of the new office at Nishwaki on the south side of Shizuoka City. By the way, the name "Hokuto" means "Great Bear" (the "the Frypan" in the night sky), and that name was chosen as an association to the "Zodiac".

My initial work at Hokuto Denshi was to go through the new CB regulations for Europe and see to that those could be implemented. Hokuto Denshi had scouted most of its technical staff from Tokai and they had experience with production from that company. The only problem was that they were more familiar with the US regulations and not with our stricter requirements in Europe. At this time there was no production line, just manual component mount and shoving boxes around.

The production line in Hokuto Denshi in Shizuoka (1975)
The production line in Hokuto Denshi in Shizuoka in the early days [picture from my collection]

As this was my first time in Japan I was also taken on a mandatory sightseeing tour of Kyoto, the ancient capital of Japan by Mr. Kurita. Temples at no end and it was hot and humid. At that time he told me that he was going to leave Hokuto in May 1976 and he introduced me to Hokuto's chief engineer, Mr. Toshi Suzuki who should be my partner for all technical correspondence in the future. I was surprised when I saw the R&D department at Hokuto in 1975. What struck me most was the lack of instrumentation. There was hardly any desk space. My briefcase hardly fit on top the desk and my note pad lies on top of it.

Mr. Suzuki in his lab in Hokuto Denshi 1975
Mr. Suzuki in his lab in Hokuto Denshi 1975 [picture from my collection]

Back in Tokyo, Uniden invited me to their Ginza night club. It was trendy for companies in those days to run a night club and they were proud to treat me to a nice evening before I had to leave Japan for Switzerland, again by Thai Airways to Bangkok and from there with the charter airline Balair in the same evening towards Zürich.

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Back to Kerns

During my three trips to Italy, Norway and Senegal I had got job offers from all three. Senegal did not impress me that much so that was no option. Modena in Italy - why not? But on the other hand, there was the language problem. And both offers were only verbal, no talk about salary, living conditions and so on. But from Norway it was different. I had a job offer for a position with Björn Dich Röstad and the salary would be double of what I earned in Switzerland. The only problem was to find a place to live in Oslo. There was an apartment under Colin Rouse's, but it was already rented by a family, so that was no option. So at that time I had to drop the idea and thinking about it, I wanted to go on with the development of new transceivers with our Japanese manufacturers.

Meanwhile back in Kerns work continued on the CEPT project M-2706 FM. On the 5th of August 1975 we made a field test with the transceiver mounted in a car. The base station was in Kerns and we drove around in the vicinity and were surprised that we could easily cover distances up to more than 20 km to Küssnacht am Rigi. Just before this model was ready to go into production it was decided that I should go to Japan for my second visit there. Then it was decided that we would need a portable set to complete this line.

Distance from Kerns to Küssnacht
Field test result base to mobile with the Zodiac M-2706 FM [picture from Google Maps]

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Stockholm conference

Just a month after having returned from my Japan trip there was a sales conference in Stockholm from 27th - 30th August. Participants from Denmark, Sweden and Switzerland attended this meeting which was hosted by Zodiac Svenska AB and held in Saltsjöbaden just outside Stockholm. The discussions concentrated mainly about coordination of the joint planning of new products, exchanging experiences in different new markets and better communications within the Zodiac group regarding technical matters and regulations.

Sales conference in Stockholm (1975)
Sales conference in Saltsjöbaden (1975) [picture from my collection]

In the picture from left to right: The managing director of Zodiac Svenska AB, the head secretary in Zodiac Funksprechgeräte, Switzerland, the managing director of our VHF transceiver producer from Denmark, a Swedish consultant, the Swiss export manager and the managing director of Zodiac Funksprechgeräte in Switzerland. The man with the camera was the Swiss domestic sales manager. The host of the event is not seen in the picture.

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Zodiac Inauguration Party in Kerns 15th October 1975

Three years had passed since the opening of the office in Kerns. Someone suggested that Zodiac should throw a big "inauguration" party with some 70 guests from the local government in Kerns and surrounding places, journalists, bank people and other important people from near and far. There were guests from Denmark and Sweden. PTT with their head office in Bern were invited but all of them refused the invitation. PTT handled all transceiver approvals and it was thought to be a little too sensitive to come.

Before the dinner party there was speeches by our directors and a demonstration of items from the products made in Kerns. The guests were then taken for a tour around the factory which was complete with employees working.

Demonstration of Zodiac' products (1975)
Demonstration of Zodiac' products before the inauguration dinner(1975) [picture found in a box in Kerns]

After the tour everyone went down the stairs to the garage which had been turned into a party restaurant with Zodiac posters, lanterns, chairs and tables with candles and minibottles with all kind of drinks. There was live music and traditional folk music. We even got blessed by a priest from Kerns. From now on nothing could go wrong. And plenty of beer and wine to drink and the plates were ready to dig into. People ate and drank and the noise level increased as time passed.

Inauguration party in Zodiac Kerns 15th October 1975
Inauguration party in Zodiac Kerns 15th October 1975 [picture from my collection]

Later on, when everyone had eaten and have had enough to drink, the party ended with people stumbling up the stairs and everybody left, most by their own cars or other transportation. The chief police officer waved everyone goodbye on the stairs in front of the office building and wished everybody a safe trip home. He also guaranteed that there were no police checkpoints out that evening but asked people to drive carefully.

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Zodiac at TELECOM 75 in Geneva 7th October

In October Zodiac participated in Geneva at the TELECOM 75 Exhibition. We had quite a large area for our exhibition, complete with a meeting room for guests and potential customers. Our export manager Mr. Meyenhofer, I and my wife, who worked as a secretary in Kerns, went to Geneva by train while Lasse Johansson and Mr. Ulrich drove the Ford Transit truck down, as we should transport the material back to Kerns the next day at the end of the show. We had lunch with a couple of Englishmen before we went to the show. One was Mr. Wallace who had been home at our house in Sachseln where he was bitten in the thumb by Amigo, our friendly parrot.

Arriving with Mr. Wallace at Telecom75 in Geneva
Arriving with Mr. Wallace at Telecom75 in Geneva [picture from my collection]

Mr. Borgenhard had already left and gone back to Kerns when we arrived at the TELECOM. It was a huge exhibition but not that much of interest to me. Mr. Englund from Zodiac Svenska AB was also present. Mr. Borgenhard had landed two orders, one for aluminium window frames for Saudi-Arabia and another for bathtubs for a hotel in Teheran. Communications. Well. Zodiac had signed up for a wine- and folklore party towards the end of the show, which meant that people could come to get free drinks. Many responded to this event and we became rather tipsy after having toasted with everyone. At the end there was Alphorn music and after that we were rather finished. At least we did not have to dismantle the exhibition! Mr. Ulrich, Mr. Schindler, I and my wife travelled back home by car. We arrived home around midnight. Next day we had to be at the office at 07:30.

Meyenhofer, Ulrich, Englund and myself at TELECOM 75 in Geneva
Meyenhofer, Ulrich, Englund and myself at TELECOM 75 in Geneva [picture from my collection]

In November Mr. Kurita and another Japanese, probably Mr. S. Kimata, were here for a one day visit. Mr. Kurita should leave Hokuto Denshi in 1976 and he was introducing his sucessor to Zodiac in Switzerland and Sweden. I went with Jan Borgenhard and them for lunch, and after that I took the mandatory trip up to the top of Mt. Pilatus with our Japanese guests. The weather was not that great, but they were sort of impressed anyway. Afterwards they were met in Luzern and were driven to Zürich to stay overnight. When I came back to the office I noticed the luggage that Mr. Borgenhard was supposed to bring was still there. So after dinner the phone rang. I had to go to Kerns and load the suitcases and rush up to Zürich Nova Park Hotel to hand over the bags. However, there was no trace of either Jan or the Japanese guests. I suppose they got their luggage at least.

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Summer holidays - in December
Never say never. 1975 ended with us going on vacation trip to Gambia, a country squeezed in in the middle of Senegal. Two weeks at the Atlantic ocean with endless beaches and few tourists. It was nice to get away from Zodiac for a few weeks. In those days there were no iPhones or Androids, so one could enjoy being left in peace! Later I heard from our Senegalese agent that Mr. Carrion and his wife had tried to go to Gambia by car, but they were stopped at the border so they did not make it. After the holidays in Gambia we celebrated Christmas and New Year in Sweden.


1976 began with a very short trip to Frankfurt.

Just before I went to Japan for the second time the work on the Zodiac P-2706 had been more or less finished. On the 27th January the prototype had been assembled sucessfully and the final printed circuit board films were given to the PCB manufacturer in Alpnach.

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29th Jan. - 28th Feb. 1976, business trip to Japan
(including a bomb scare flying out from Hong Kong)

The first week I stayed in Tokyo for meetings with Uniden and discussions with our trading company. After that, when I arrived in Shizuoka I got to stay at the same hotel as last year. A small room with one bed, no place to hang your clothes, no restaurant except for the morning breakfast. So I finally got a room at the Shizuoka Nakajimaya Grand Hotel instead. Compared to the Tokyo Prince Hotel it was a few classes below, but there were at least two beds, a chair and a table and a closet to hang your clothes in. There was a colour TV set which you did not have to feed with 100 yen coins to watch TV. Not too bad. They had probably never had a guest who stayed almost a month and they worried about payment.

On the 11th February Mr. Engström arrived in Tokyo and he had tried to phone me at the office the next morning. At that time I was still sitting in the hotel lobby waiting to be picked up, but nobody came. After an hour or so a young lady from the office came and excused herself about me having had to wait so long, because my usual driver had been involved in a car accident on his way to the hotel and was held up. After a lot of confusion and many turns and mistakes we finally made it to the office about 50 minutes later. Everybody were worried and thought something bad had happened but here I was at last. Mr. Engström wanted me to come up to Tokyo. So I took the train to Tokyo on the 13th and met him, because he knew that Colin Rouse was coming from Norway to Japan and probably wanted to meet Mr. Kurita and perhaps go to Tokai as well. He also asked me if I had any plans to meet Colin during his visit. I said that would probably be the case. In the afternoon on the same day I travelled back down to Shizuoka again.

On the 14th February my wife came to Japan to see what the country looked like. On the same day Colin Rouse arrived in Tokyo. That morning I had to visit Uniden in Ichikawa and did not come back to Tokyo until late in the afternoon. Suddenly Mr. Engström insisted that I should go to Haneda and pick up Colin. So I did, but his plane had landed 45 minutes ahead of schedule and there were no signs of him. He had already arrived at his hotel. We met there later on and had a light meal together and then it was time for me to go to Haneda a second time to pick up my wife.
The next day, a Sunday, Mr. Engström had invited the three of us for lunch at the New Otani hotel. Afterwards we had coffee in the rotating restaurant on the top floor of the hotel. Mr. Engström and Colin Rouse spent a couple of hours talking business and that ruined the rest of the day for us. We just managed to go down to Ginza which is free from traffic in the afternoon on Sundays. Needless to say, we just managed to miss that.
Colin, me and my wife spent the evening dining together. The following days I was busy with meetings from Monday through Wednesday and on Thursday afternoon I and my wife left for Shizuoka where we were treated to dinner with Hokuto staff. On Sunday the 22nd we made another trip to Tokyo to see Ginza again, but it was dull and cold so there were not many people out at all.

The rest of the stay in Japan was more pleasure than business. On Monday the 23rd we left for Kyoto and Nara in the morning together with Toshi Suzuki. We spent the night in Kyoto and travelled to Nara the next day, whereafter we travelled back to Shizuoka via Kyoto. The last day before we flew back to Switzerland we stayed in Tokyo for a farewell party. The following day we left Tokyo and flew to back to Zürich via Taipei, Hong Kong and Bangkok.

Soon after the departure from Hong Kong with Thai International Airways we began flying in a wide circle over the sea. I noticed that because the afternoon sun shone through my window at least twice, so we were definitely not going straight ahead towards our destination. There was no announcements from either the captain or the crew. Finally the silence broke and we were told that we had to return to Hong Kong because of a technical problem. We landed safely and the plane was parked at a remote area way out at the end of the runway. Then they told us that there was a bomb scare and we should evacuate the plane and leave all our belongings behind and run for shelter.

Thai Airways DC 8 parked at the end of the runway in Hong Kong
Thai Airways DC 8 parked at the end of the runway in Hong Kong [picture from my collection]

After an hour or so we were allowed to return to the aircraft in small groups of four to pick up all our hand luggage. The plane was dark and quiet - no generators and no equipment running - and then we had to return to the makeshift shelter, a couple of buses, and wait there for another hour or two while they searched the aircraft for a bomb. They did not find anything and we had to return a second time to the aircraft to identify our luggage which was lined up outside the plane. After that we had to go through transit and board the plane again and continue our journey to Bangkok. The connecting charter flight to Zürich had to wait for us and six others who had been on a tour to Hong Kong and were also returning to Switzerland with the Balair flight. We arrived home after a 33 hour long journey without any luggage which was lost between flights in Bangkok.

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Future Plans - return to Sweden?

Back in Kerns in March and I was met by lots of pending matters. My wife unhappy with her new boss for finances and bookkeeping and salaries. The technical section, me and Markus Ulrich could well need help with correspondence, manuals and other technical matters. But I was also thinking of giving up my job in Switzerland and move back to Sweden. Zodiac after Grahns was not the same. My feeling was that Zodiac with Mr. Borgenhard at the helm would run Zodiac into problems. Mr. Borgenhard was hardly seen in the office. He was always away somewhere. He had been in Oslo, Copenhagen and Paris. And in Sweden, Denmark, Las Vegas, Spain and Portugal. And in April he left with Hans-Hugo Engström for Japan. Zodiac's 1st quarter expenditures on travel exceeded CHF 50'000.-

Thinking about this made both Markus Ulrich and me to consider looking for new jobs. Jan Borgenhard's management was weird. Not seriously thinking about technical stability but just trying to jump on all kinds of odd items to sell. There was no long time planning according to my opinion. We were seriously believing that 1976 would be the last summer we would spend in Switzerland! Finally, at the end of March after I had seen a job offer with Siemens in Stockholm I applied for the job. A job which was about buying components from Japan. It also included training at the Siemens headquarters in Munich. The job needed fluent Swedish, English and German which suited me perfectly.

In the beginning of April Guido Meyenhofer and I went to Geneva to demonstrate the Zodiac P-2706 FM. A customer later placed an order for more than 100 transceivers. A nice order, but it later turned out to be a headache: Because of the frequency used we had problems with image frequency reception from Italian CB stations. Later we solved that by choosing a different receiver crystal thereby shifting the image frequencies up and out of the CB spectrum.

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The Kilimanjaro project

Then there was the Kilimanjaro project. In April 1976 a Swiss hang glider pilot was to attempt to set the world record in distance by flying a hang glider from the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Zodiac sponsored all the communication equipment for this expedition. Lasse Johansson and I carefully prepared the transceivers for this somewhat unusual commitment. Our domestic sales manager Hansjörg Schindler was travelling with the group as a team member to Tanzania to be at the Base Camp and operate the Zodiac MA-162 VHF Base Station. The portable set used by Hofstetter was the Zodiac PA-161. On the 12th April 1976 after four days trekking to the top of the mountain Otto Hofstetter started as the first person in the world with a hang glider from the top of the crater of Mt. Kilimanjaro from a peak called Gilmans Point. At that time it was the highest start by jumping off on foot from an altitude of 5900 metres above sea level, a world record. A few months after Hofstetter's successful flight, the German delta hang glider pilot Herbert Kühr tried to start from Kibo but was lost during the flight.

Part of the deltaflyer expedition to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (April 1976)
The expedition to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania outside Zodiac in Kerns in early April 1976 [picture from my collection]

From left to right in the picture are Josef Rittler, Reporter from Blick, Heinz Mondini who knew the region in Tanzania well, the hang glider pilot Otto Hofstetter with his IKARUS and Hansjörg Schindler, Zodiac's member of the expedition team. The reporter from Blick wrote a series of six articles about the adventure. It can be added that everyone returned to Switzerland in good shape. Later in 1976 there was an exhibition about this event in the Swiss Transport Museum (Verkehrshaus der Schweiz) in Lucerne.

The exhibition in Verkehrshaus der Schweiz in Summer 1976
The exhibition in Verkehrshaus der Schweiz in Summer 1976 [picture from my collection]

The hang glider IKARUS is still kept in the Swiss Transport Museum but the exhibition is no longer on display. The hang glider IKARUS was donated to the museum by Otto Hofstetter. Unfortunately, Mr. Hofstetter was killed in a motorized hang glider accident in Alsace in 1990. He was 40 years old.

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May - July 1976

In the beginning of May we continued to struggle with the Aquacom underwater communication transceiver. The underwater tests in Vierwaldstättersee (Lake Lucerne) continued with us engineers and divers. This project is dragging out endlessly and is slowly becoming a headache for Markus Ulrich. The new finance manager left. There were obvious problems between him and the managing director. In Japan Shoichi Kimata replaced Ego Kurita as president of Hokuto Denshi. Ego Kurita informed me, that Toshi Suzuki would be my new technical contact in Hokuto Denshi from now on. After a short trip to Frankfurt in the middle of May I was back in Japan on a business trip. Two weeks had been planned, but plans can change quickly. There were several technical problems with Hokuto's transceivers, so it was my job to try to sort out and solve these. Not that easy just to trample on Japanese toes and try to tell them they made something wrong.

Shortly after I came back from Japan in the first week of June I flew to Stockholm and and went to Siemens for the job interview. Initially I had expected SEK 7'500.- per month, but I got a phone call from Siemens a few days later when they offered me SEK 6'900.-, more than my present salary with Zodiac. A couple of days later I accepted their offer and we decided to begin my new job with Siemens in Stockholm from 1st of February 1977. But only ten days later I got an offer from Colin Rouse at BDR in Oslo worth NOK 8'400 per month which was more or less the same as Siemens offered me.

Suddenly I had two job offers, one in Stockholm and one in Oslo. According to Colin Rouse we could move into an apartment in his house in Lysaker in late autumn 1976. I had ordered a new car which is supposed to arrive around the 8th of July. This car would be a problem to import to Sweden as I had to pay import duties on it. And the apartment in Sachseln had to be cancelled before the 15th of June which was now, so there was a tight schedule. Moving of furniture back to Sweden, how and with whom? Suddenly many things to think about. And what would Zodiac say?

In the beginning of July I received the documents from Siemens in Stockholm for me to sign. The job offer from BDR in Oslo was also in place, but I should consult my uncle in Norway who is a lawyer about what my proposed salary is worth in daily life in Oslo. Then I managed to delay the start with Siemens because I said that I had some problems resigning from Zodiac. This was just a delay I made up myself, just to save time as there were talks of me going to Japan for six months later in 1976. But Siemens agreed that this longer stay in Japan would be a good experience for my job with them later. And I had not told Zodiac anything about my plans either!

To finish off all this mess I had created we went on vacation in Scotland with our brand new Volvo 244 bought on credit and forgot about Zodiac problems, job in Oslo and Siemens for a while.

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August to October 1976

Soon after my summer vacation Zodiac had visitors from Japan again. This time it was a Mr. Kuroda from National (Matsushita) in Yokohama. Matsushita produced the PA-451 for Zodiac. A compact 2 channel UHF transceiver which in those days could be seen hanging on almost every policeman in Japan. He got the usual Zodiac treatment complete with a round trip by cogwheel railway from Alpnach in Obwalden, lunch at the top of Mt. Pilatus and down to Luzern on the other side by two separate ropeways. A bus took us down to the railway station and from there it is possible to go back by train, or if you have enough time, take the boat to Alpnach Stad.
A visitor from Matsushita in Yokohama in front of Zodiac Kerns
A visitor from Matsushita in Yokohama in front of Zodiac Kerns in August 1976 [picture from my collection]

In September it was high time to begin with the production of the Zodiac P-2706 FM and the printed circuit drawings were brought to the manufacturer in Alpnach. Only a few days later it was time to go to Japan again. This time I flew Korean Air from Zürich to Seoul with a DOuglas DC-10 and from there to Tokyo. My stay lasted three weeks this time. But only a week after I had returned to Switzerland it was decided that we learned that it was time to go to Japan and stay there for six months. Now there was little time to start getting through four dozens of pending matters, plan the trip and stow away house plants not to mention our parrot, Mi Amigo.

At the end of September it was definite. In the middle of October they had arranged a 3 rooms and kitchen flat in a building called Nakaya Heights which sounded good. Staying half a year in a hotel would hav cost a fortune, and with our own keys we could come and leave as we like it. Staying for a longer time in Japan was my idea from the beginning, because nobody in our factory in Japan were familiar with the new European CEPT specifications for CB. At this point I had already talked to Siemens in Stockholm and told them about my intended six months stay in Japan. To my surprise they thought that was a good opportunity for me to learn more about Japan, especially as I should manage components, mainly Japanese which Siemens were to import from Japan. I had already scrapped the job offer I had from Björn Dich Röstad in Oslo because they were not very helpful to find a place for us to live there. However, so far I had not said anything to Colin Rouse. But we had serious plans to leave Zodiac and Switzerland behind us and move back to Sweden. But first we would head for Japan.

In the middle of October Mr. Borgenhard introduced me to our new agent who should take care of Zodiac's Middle East activities - if any. Again I had to entertain him and his Swedish wife who we took for a day trip to Berne. Joseph was half French and half Lebanese. They had married in Stockolm only three weeks before. The next evening we treated them to Raclette at our place in Sachseln. What happened to those two afterwards I don't know. I cannot remember that we ever had any successful business in the Middle East.

Just before we were supposed to leave for Japan and I was very busy organizing everything in the office, we had to attend a seminar 'away from home' for four days in a hotel somewhere in the middle of nowhere. The participants were the managers from inland sales, export sales, technical staff, direction and more. It was a kind of coaching event, some kind of idea Jan Borgenhard had come up with. Probably some kind of american idea how to get the group grow closer to each other and strengthen us mentally. Two in every room, breakfast, lunch and dinner together, seminar during the day and free time in the evening. The last day was a Sunday and the seminar ended in the late afternoon. Wiser or not, I can't remember.

on 26th October Markus and his wife were at our place for dinner. They took our room plants home to their house to keep them alive during our absence. Two days later we were driven to the airport after waving goodbye to friends and colleagues. But before we left Zürich we were held up in the departure lounge where the authorities collected all tickets and boarding cards. It seems like Korean Air sold tickets in conflict with the normal IATA fares. In those days some travel agents in Switzerland bought their passenger's tickets in London to much lower prices than in Switzerland. The price in the ticket stated GBP 970.- but later I heard that you only had paid half of that price. When they asked me, I just answered that my employer had purchased the tickets and I did not know anything more about it. Because of this delay our departure was changed from 11:20 to 13:00, but then we had an hour delay on top of that. This could only go wrong! And it did. Upon arrival in Seoul there were no connecting flights to Tokyo and it was already dark and way past sunset. So we were taken off the plane and separated in groups staying in Korea or in transit. We transit passengers had to board a bus which left the airport through a backdoor gate and we were driven to Seoul. In those days there was a curfew in Korea so there were tanks and artillery in the road crossings, and after a while we arrived at a restaurant where they treated us to a Korean meal. The drinks we had to pay for ourselves. We had no korean money but US dollars were gladly accepted. Afterwards we were driven to Hotel President in the center of the city. Because of the curfew we were not allowed to go outside. Our 'tour manager' who called himself 'Poor Mr. Kim' promised to send our messages by telex to Tokyo about what had happened to us, but I don't think he did.

The next morning we were again taken by bus back to the airport and continued our journey to Tokyo. We arrived in Tokyo on a Saturday. For some reason or another nobody met us at the airport. Most probably 'Poor Mr. Kim' did not send any messages to Tokyo. So we took a taxi to Tokyo Prince Hotel. There was no reservation for us. Luckily I had a copy of the hotel reservation we had made back home and when they heard my name we got a double room within seconds. Mr. Engström was also in Tokyo, but we got the Sunday for us to rest after the adventures we had been through.

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Staying in Japan for six months - we thought

The 1st November was a Monday. I had contacted the Swiss embassy in Tokyo about how to get a driver's licence, as the Swiss was not valid in Japan. They had given me an address in Tokyo to go to to apply for a Japanese driver's licence. We went there by taxi and after some asking around we found the office. After a lot of paper work the official noticed that my address was in Shizuoka and not in Tokyo. He apologized to me and tore all documents to pieces which we just had filled in. Shizuoka is not Tokyo he declared and that was that. So we went back to the hotel, packed our things and took the next train to Shizuoka where they had reserved one night for us at Nakajimaya Grand Hotel. Luckily we got the room for the rest of the week. We had not even got to see our apartment yet.

The address of our temporary home in Shizuoka City sounded good: Takamatsu-cho. 'Taka' means 'high' and 'Matsu' means 'pine-tree(s)', so we thought that would be a nice location. A house on top of a hill with pine trees gently swaying in the breeze. How wrong could we be. The next day Toshi Suzuki from Hokuto Denshi drove us down to Nakaya Heights. The building was in a flat open place surrounded by abandoned rice paddies! There were no sight of any heights or hills - just flat land as far as you could see. Only a few small houses nearby. No shops. One road, but many traces of planned roads around the place. There was a bus running past our house which took you to Shizuoka Station.

Nakaya Heights in Takamatsu-cho, Shizuoka City in November 1976
Nakaya Heights seen from the fields in November 1976 [picture from my collection]

The first impressions of our Takamatsu-cho flat: As soon as we opened the front door we were met by bad smell and generations of cockroaches all over the floor. It was filthy and yhere were cockroaches in all cupboards and in all the drawers, inside the gas stove, in the hot water boiler cabinet, you name it. Cockroaches everywhere. The gas cooker was black with thick dirt and the walls in the kitchen were covered with grease. The kitchen fan looked like a lard factory. We both suddenly got a strong feeling of homesickness and wanted to return to Switzerland with the next available flight!
But we came back the next day armed with six spray cans and emptied them all holding our breath and walking backwards from the living room to the entrance while spraying, locked the door and left. Hopefully we would not die from the fumes ourselves!

And there were no heights or pine trees. And no hills. Just abandoned rice fields. And the Tomei Expressway cut through the landscape just 100 meters north from us. I thought I had always dreamed of living next to a motorway! Well, looking south we could see some pine trees a few kilometres away down by the ocean. Perhaps that was what they meant. Takamatsu-cho. But like somebody said: 'It could have been worse'. The building was not that old. We had four rooms and an open kitchen, a small bathroom and a toilet 90 sq. metres in all. Quite large for a Japanese flat. Nakaya Heights looked good from the outside. It was a seven storey building and we were on the fourth floor in 403. The next door was 405. 404 in Japanese is a no-no. A lot of '4' means bad luck. But sometimes a lot of 4 means good luck: 'Shiawase' in Japanese. This language is a mystery.

The view from our livingroom in Nakaya Heights towards the south, November 1976
The view from our livingroom in Nakaya Heights towards the south, November 1976 [picture from my collection]

With the help of my Tokyo Office they organized a cleaning company to come and make the place clean enough to be possible to live in. Eight people cleaned the flat in two days. In the meantime we bought furniture and most of the things we needed to cook and sleep. There were two beds in the bedroom which had been put there by Hokuto. On the last day of our hotel stay we got six deliveries! Sofa, rugs, dining table, lamps, a refrigerator and a coach table with a glass top so you had a good view of your feet all the time. Time to move in! We even bought a colour TV set even though we did not understand a word of Japanese.

Cooking in the kitchen in Nakaya heights 1976
Cooking in the kitchen in Nakaya heights November, 1976 [picture from my collection]

In the beginning of November Colin Rouse from Norway came to Japan and he came to Shizuoka on the 9th. At that time we decided to give up the plans of moving to Norway or at least put the whole thing on ice. The next day we travelled back to Tokyo and met briefly with Mr. and Mrs. Grahn who had rented a house in Yokohama. They were surprised to meet us and we were also surprised to meet them in Japan.

The rest of the month I spent working in Hokuto and travelled to Tokyo a couple of times. We were invited to Toshi Suzuki's house for dinner with his family, something that is not so common in Japan. Usually you go to a restaurant for a meal and chat. On the last day of November the documents for my driver's licence application had reached the point of getting an eye test. The driving school was located far away outside the city we spent half the day watching a film about road safety and how to behave behind the steering wheel. I passed the eye test and got my photo taken at the same time.


A sudden trip back to Europe

It was December and we had been in Japan for one month and a few days. Hasse Englund came to Japan on business and he visited Nakaya Heights. There was a business meeting with Hokuto Denshi and the following days I spent in Tokyo for more meetings. We discussed the problems our German Agent WIPE experienced with a Hokuto CB transceiver. So there were talks about me and Toshi Suzuki should go to Europe, first for a couple of days in Zodiac Kerns, then fly to Düsseldorf for discussions on the AM modulation problems they had in Germany and how to solve those. After Germany should go to to Stockholm and spend Christmas and New Year there. Those were the plans.

Just before we left Japan I got my Japanese driver's licence. That was good, because from now on I could go by car to Hokuto instead of being picked up in the mornings or travel by bus which was awkward. Nakaya Heights was only about 1.5 km away from Hokuto.

So on the 17th December we and Toshi Suzuki travelled with SAS from Tokyo to Zürich via the North Pole with a stop in Anchorage. It was the first time I had flewn the route over the North Pole and it was much faster than the other flights I used to fly. After a three hours stop in Copenhagen we flew to Switzerland Zürich during the next day. After a couple of days in Zodiac in Kerns Toshi and I left Switzerland and flew to Düsseldorf where we were picked up at the airport by Wilfried Peters from WIPE. We had a very tough meeting with Peters and his chief engineer W. Schnorrenberg about their idea how to improve the modulation. In the evening we were taken to a Chinese restaurant downtown Düsseldorf and afterwards we had a terrible ride back to the hotel in Peters' flashy Mercedes Benz. The car was equipped with a mobile telephone and Toshi was able to exchange a few words with his family in Japan.

The day before Christmas Toshi and I travelled from Düsseldorf via Hamburg to Stockholm. My father picked us up at Arlanda Airport, which was a bit confusing for Toshi because he knew my parents were divorced. But all went well and we spent an hour or so at my Mother's house before going in to Grand Hotel where Toshi should stay. After he had checked in we went together and had dinner at Operakällaren that first evening. The hotel was more or less closed for the holidays and you had to order lunch and dinner in advance as the restaurants were closed. Unfortunately this was not clear to neither of us, so Toshi probably was hungry for a couple of days. And it was cold in Stockholm. Freezing cold. Poor Toshi was left on his own during the Christmas holidays. This bothers me even today more than 40 years later.

But on the 27th December we were at Zodiac Svenska AB and had lunch with Toshi, Curt Amberg and Hans Olof Englund in Stockholm. The next couple of days we spent working at Zodiac Svenska AB. Then we celebrated New Year and 1976 came to an end. It had been a turbulent year.

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1977 - Japan, continued

Soon after New year we left Stockholm for Oslo and visited our Norwegian dealer Björn Dich Röstad. With Colin Rouse for a lunch meeting at Sjöfartsmuséet. A day after we were back in Switzerland. After that we made a detour to Glasow from London for a week during our way back to Shizuoka. We left on the 13th January with British Airways to continue our interrupted six months stay in Japan. The next day we were back in Shizuoka. We were invited for dinner by Toshi Suzuki in a restaurant called Green Brier which we sometimes went to for lunch with visitors. I probably ate a bad oyster which later caused me to stay in bed for several days. Since then I never eat oysters! The remaining days of that week I spent looking through a lot of pending matters that had piled up during the trip to Europe.

In the afternoon of the 21st January we went on a trip by car together with Toshi Suzuki, his wife and son to Hakone and Izu Peninsula where we stayed overnight in a Japanese style Guest house, a 'Ryokan' in Japanese. Toshi had brought a large machine for a friend of his and we also met them and we had dinner together. There was an Onsen (hot spring) there which I did not try, as I had never seen a hot spring bath before. Later I have discovered the nice feeling of a hot soak. It was cold in the night and noisy, because the heater fan in the room made a racket all night so I could hardly sleep. But I gave it a hard bump with my pillow and eventually it got much quieter! The next day we travelled south on winding roads down to Dogashima and visited an orchid exhibition there. A large collection of beautiful orchids. Then it was time to break up and go back home on the same narrow, winding roads. After a nearly 400 km journey we finally arrived back very tired in Shizuoka. That was the only time I was extremely happy to see Nakaya Heights! Thank goodness it was weekend and I could spend the sunday just resting.

Dogashima on the west coast of Izu  Peninsula
Dogashima on the west coast of Izu Peninsula [picture from my collection]

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Going back to Sweden?

At the end of January I had noted that the bank in Sweden had begun sending us housing information. We were saving money in Sweden to be able to buy our own house which would be necessary if or when we were to move back to Sweden. Slowly our stay in Japan was getting on my nerves and noted that there were only three months left of our stay here. I would be glad to be back in Switzerland. Japan was not that fantastic after all. The language barrier was rather tough. It is very difficult to communicate in the everyday life. Work at Hokuto was not that easy either. It feels like swimming against the stream all the time. Especially having to work unpaid Saturdays all day was not so fun. But when my three month visum expired I had to register at the City Office.

In the beginning of February we had Sukiyaki dinner in a cold and drafty restaurant with Toshi Suzuki, Kimata (president), Sugiyama (designer), Sugiyama (production manager), Shinomiya (engineer) and Okamura (vice director). This was a delayed year-end party because we had to travel back to Europe at that time. After dinner we had coffee at a coffee shop where they had coffee from practically every corner of the world.

The rest of February was spent in Shizuoka and Tokyo. There had been frequent earthquakes in Tokyo and around Japan. When we left from Europe everybody waved us goodbye because they had heard about the 'Tokai Jishin', a huge temblor that would destroy Shizuoka if it struck. That did not sound very promising, but it did not happen either. But the journey back to Switzerland had now been planned for the 20th May. Hans-Hugo Engström had been in Las Vegas with Hans Olof Englund and Jan Borgenhard. It was decided that Zodiac would keep Nakaya Heights for my future visits. Mixed feelings from my side as there had been no increase in my salary for 1977 and the CB market seemed rather tough and the future for Hokuto could be bleak. I myself was starting to get homesick for Switzerland.

On the 1st of March Hokuto got a new engineer on the team. Mr. Oishi joined and was managing the production line. Mr. Oishi had just left Tokai and joined Hokuto instead. A week or so later Ego Kurita, the former director of Hokuto Denshi, called me and invited us for dinner. Ego was working with Grahn's and we got to hear some news. Sometimes Mr. Kurita came to Hokuto and tried to get some information what Zodiac was up to.

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Is Zodiac running out of space in Kerns?

In the middle of March Jan Borgenhard from Zodiac Funksprechgeräte in Kerns was in Tokyo again. It was necessary to keep an eye on him so that he did not completely loose Zodiac's face, so I had to go to Tokyo and entertain him. The next day he wanted to visit Akihibara with all its electrical shops where we spent most of the day just roaming around and looking at shops. On the third day we went down to Shizuoka where he came for a short visit to Nakaya Heights to see how we lived and he had just time for a whisky. Jan told me that Zodiac was looking for office space to rent in Sarnen. He wanted to move the service and the technical department there. Zodiac in Kerns was short of space for all its employees, but was his idea realistic? This director is more or less a catastrophe for Zodiac! He also asked me how soon I thought I could be back in Japan. I answered that I would like to at least spend the summer at home in Switzerlad. Later we visited Hokuto Denshi and in the evening Hokuto hosted a dinner party for Mr. Borgenhard. He left for Tokyo during the next day. Shortly afterwards Toshi Suzuki and possibly Mr.Yugeta from Hokuto's production line left to go to Zodiac in Switzerland. I believe that Mr. Yugeta had to stay in Switzerland to modify already delivered transceivers from Hokuto.

In the middle of April an old friend of mine in Sweden came to Japan partly to see Tokyo and partly to meet me. On the same day Mr. Englund from Zodiac Svenska in Stockholm also arrived in Tokyo. Before they came I had been in Tokyo on two occasions. I'm slowly getting used to travel back and forth to Tokyo with the Shinkansen. Then on the 15th April I was in Tokyo for the third tim in a fortnight and I had discussions with Englund. In the evening it was time to eat dinner together with the four people from Sanwa.

I had planned that my Swedish friend should come down to Shizuoka and stay over at our place. There was a Japanese room in our flat and we borrowed a Japanese bed from friends. The next time I went to Tokyo we went by car. We met in Tokyo Prince where I always stayed when I was in Tokyo. My friend came to Tokyo Prince and we ate a sandwich together and then we took a look at Tokyo. After that we had dinner together at Tokyo Prince in the evening. I had meetings in Tokyo on the next day so my wife took a sightseeing bus tour in the dull and gray Tokyo. In the afternoon wife and Lasse went to Shizuoka by Shinkansen Bullet train and I drove the car back down to Shizuoka. We ate Tempura for dinner at a local restaurant. Lasse stayed Wednesday too in Shizuoka, because it was so comfortable he said. We drove him back up to Tokyo by car so that he could experience a drive on the Tomei Expressway. During the ride the Nissan Skyline engine began coughing and backfired almost all the way. We began to wonder if we could make it up to Tokyo. I drove past Sanwa Trading in an errand and then Lasse and I managed to find our way back to Tokyo Prince Hotel where we had a sandwich for lunch whereafter we parted and I drove the Nissan Skyline back to Shizuoka. The car was in a sad state and they repaired it during the following days.

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Things are getting complicated

On the 22nd April both Lasse S and Hans Olof Englund flew back to Stockholm. Before Englund left he asked me how soon I would be able to be back in Japan after May. My answer was if possible not before October, because of all the bad planning and problems we had with production. I told him that I would expect a pay rise and more responsibility as well. So I was promised a pay rise by CHF 750 a month. What to do? Continue with Zodiac or leave and return to Sweden? I also had to file my tax returns in Switzerland so I needed to go back home as well. That should have been done in March and we also had to renew our Swiss visas before the beginning of June. The next visa would last 5 years and that would mean that we don't necessary had to live and work in Obwalden, but be free and settle and work anywhere in Switzerland.

The month of May began with the Golden Week. It is one of the main holidays in Japan and virtually everybody is on the move. In the middle of May Hans-Hugo Engström was in Shizuoka. We were out for dinner with Hokuto people and went to Club AOI later in the evening. This kind of entertainment used to be common practise when we had people coming to visit, especially visitors from abroad. The next day H-H Engström came for a five minute visit to our flat in Nakaya Heights just to see how it looked. Now it was almost time to start packing for the trip back to Switzerland. I had to go to Tokyo on business and happened to meet Ego Kurita on the train. In the evening before my last day at Hokuto they gave a small 'Sayonara Party' for us in the evening with Mochizuki, Toshi Suzuki and Shinomiya. The 20th May was thelast day at Hokuto Denshi.

Just one day before we left Shizuoka I got a letter from Siemens in Stockholm with an enquiry whether I still wanted to work for them or not. But just now we just want to go back to Switzerland and leave Japan for a while. So on the 22nd we packed all our things and spent the last night in Nakaya Heights for this time. The next day we took the train to Tokyo and stayed overnight in Tokyo Prince. We had another Sayonara Party in the evening with the Sanwa people. We were even taken to Club Copacabana afterwards. Usually ladies are not invited to such places but they made an exception for my wife.

So on the 25th May we finally were back in Switzerland after a 34 hours long trip with Korean Air. It was nice to be back, but it was so different from Japan. In Japan there were always a lot of traffic and people everywhere at all times of the day and night. Back home there was hardly anyone to see and all you heard were cowbells. It was time to go back to work and find out what was waiting for me at the office. In June we were out on Vierwaldstättersee and tested Aquacom, one of the flops Jan Borgenhard had led us into. Jan had bought the idea from its 'inventor', one of our agents in canton Berne. The idea was rather straightforward: A 38 kHz ceramic transducer modulated with voice from an amplifier was used to transmit and receive ultrasound under water. In practice that was not that easy as there were false echoes from the bottom of the lake as well from waves on the surface. This made communication difficult to in worst case impossible. Even with careful mechanical design water seeped into the housings causing electric problems. One problem after the other. That project was the main reason that Markus Ulrich gave up and later left Zodiac.

In the middle of June I had to pick up a certain Mr. Al-Essawi in Zürich. It was yet another possible Middle East connection which probably never contributed anything to Zodiac's business. But he should be entertained, so he got the standard sightseeing tour of Mount Pilatus. I remember that he was very suspicious about the 'Wienerschnitzel' served in the restaurant on top of Pilatus. He asked me several times if it was not pork! In the evening we took him to Chupferpfanne in Hergiswil for dinner. That restaurant had a larger menu and he could choose for himself what he would like to eat.

At the end of June to the middle of July we managed to take some holidays which were spent in Stockholm. Most probably by then I must have cancelled my Siemens plans and scrapped our plans to move back to Sweden. At the end of July we threw a sayonara party for Mr. Yugeta who had been working in Kerns for a couple of months. This dinner was held at Fürigen together with Markus Ulrich and his wife Lilo and Mr. Kimata from Hokuto Denshi.

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October in August? According to the Zodiac Calendar?

Just a few days after I was away on a business trip again for a month to Japan via London and Moscow to Tokyo via Tokyo Prince Hotel to Nakaya Heights in Shizuoka. That was much before my intention not to return before October! But things change fast sometimes. When I arrived back at my Nakaya Heights appartment there were no bedcloathes in the house. Luckily there are hotels too! Only a day or two after I travelled up to Tokyo by car and stayed overnight. Mr. Englund was coming over for discussions with Hokuto and Shinwa. After one night in Tokyo I returned to Shizuoka with the Nissan Skyline which made trip without problems this time. On the 8th of August Mr. Englund was in Shizuoka. We had steak dinner at Fujigaya and after that we went to AOI night club on Mr. Englund's request. Then we were at one more place which I cannot recall for one reason or the other. Th next day we had a technical meeting at Hokuto Denshi. After that Shimura, Hans Olof Englund and I left by train for Tokyo. Later in the evening we went to a night club called El Morocco in Akasaka. The difference of night clubs differ from city to city!

On the 10th of August we travelled by car together with Mr. Shimura from Sanwa in Tokyo to Shinwa Tsushinki in Hachioji and spent the whole day there discussing new VHF transceivers. The day after Mr. Englund and I spent summing up the last couple of days meetings whereafter we had dinner at Hotel Hilton. The next few days I was back and forward to Tokyo another couple of times. Somewhere during lunchtime I saw on TV that Elvis Presley had died.

Still while in Japan Mr. Borgenhard told me over the phone that the next time I went to Japan I should travel together with Markus Ulrich. Needless to say, this never happened, even if it could have been fun to travel with someone. So on the 24th August I packed my bags, locked up Nakaya Heights and left for Tokyo. The next day I flew back to Switzerland via Frankfurt. Back to the office and a pileup of pending matters which would keep me busy for some time.

Just over a week at the office I went on a business trip to Basel with Lasse Johansson, Markus Ulrich and Mr. Salierno, who worked in the lab with us. It was an exhibition of some sort, but it was barely related to communications and therefore more or less a waste of time. I remember buying some Basler Leckerli (a cookie with nuts and honey) in Bahnhof Basel so the trip was not a total waste. Then in the middle of September I had lunch with Guido Meyenhofer, our export manager and Mr. and Mrs. Joël Carion from Sollinger in Senegal who were on a visit.

At this time there were so many loose ends to tie up. Suddenly I got a request from my uncle in Oslo whether Zodiac would be interested in supplying a business relation of his in Norway with with emergency buois for ships. The idea was to make a transmitter which operated on an VHF emergency channel and it would start transmitting when it was thrown into the sea. A floating watertight container shaped like a tube with an antenna on the top. Mr. Borgenhard thought that this would be a big thing, as the Norwegian merchant fleet was large. If this would come to production I would get provision from the sales as well. So just a couple of weeks I was away to Stockholm and Oslo to discuss the project in detail. So after a week or so in Scandinavia I was back in the office on the 7th October. Already towards the end of October I went for a second visit to Stockholm and Oslo.

At the end of october 1977 rumours were heard that two long time members of Zodiac Svenska had been sacked. On top of this my good old colleague and production manager in Kerns told me that he was going to leave Zodiac. He also tipped me off about a possible new job for me too. He had been on an interview with a Swiss company called Sprecher & Schuh and asked if they were interested to talk to me, and they said they were. But before that Japan was calling for me again. So in the middle of November I set off for a month which started with a week in Tokyo before going down to my home base in Nakaya Heights.

One meeting was with IWATA who produced Zodiac's selective call products and supplied us with tuning forks for those products. Then there was a one day trip to Shinwa Tsushinki in Hachioji to discuss VHF transceivers. Back in Shizuoka we had a sudden visit from our German agent WiPe Electronics. Germans always have a lot to say and Hokuto's staff looked very worried. And there were also rumours about Zodiac - I made a peculiar remark in my protocol: 'Is Zodiac breaking up?'. Perhaps it was time to find another job and do something else.

On the 11th December I came back from Japan after a 21 hour long flight and a few days later it was time for Zodiac's year-end party which Mr. Gobalet had organized out in the woods in Canton Aargau in a remote 'Waldhütte'. There was plenty of food and drink - I think there were more to drink than there was to eat. There was a band and all employees were mixed in a pattern that no one should sit next to a person which we usually mingled with. It was a great party and I was surprised that noone got lost in the woods. Then we were driven back to Kerns in the early hours around 05:30 in the morning. I wonder if there was any productive work on the following day which was a Friday!

M.A. Gobalet and Jan Borgenhard munching an apple (From my pictures)
M.A. Gobalet and Jan Borgenhard munching an apple [picture from my collection]

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At the end of the year I spent the Christmas Holidays in Stockholm from the 17th December. Well, there was one day at the office in Stockholm on the 29th, otherwise we could relax as Zodiac was closed until the 6th of January.

1978 - The year of change

It started with a bang! (At least with a surprise to many in the office...)

(To be continued)

Transceiver names and my involvement

1 Tokai PW-5024 24 channel mobile CB transceiver manufactured by Tokai Communication Apparatus in Japan My first job was to perform quality control on these and adjust them to fulfill our internal specifications, mainly of tuning the transmitter frequency to ±300 Hz on all channels.
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2 Zodiac P-200 One channel hand-held mini-CB transceiver manufactured by Novel Electronics in Japan Type approval sample for Switzerland. Measurement protocol for PTT.
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3 Zodiac MB-5012 12 channel crystal controlled mobile CB transceiver produced by Nihon Dengyo. The first transceiver with Zodiac brand.
Type approval sample for Switzerland. Measurement protocol for PTT.
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4 Zodiac SL-20 Regulated Power supply (6 - 20 V, max. 2.5 A). For use in Zodiac Svenska AB. Sold to sister companies and Zodiac agents. Later included in the Zodiac catalogs. Design, approval and production.
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5 50 W RF PA VHF Power amplifier. Used in Zodiac's remote controlled VHF base station. Design and assembly.
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6 Zodiac MA-160 VHF Mobile transceiver made by Kyodo (Japan). Type approved in Sweden. Development and design of a 25 Watt RF power amplifier instead of it's original RF PA which had an output of only about 6 Watts.
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7 Zodiac ZS-30 Communication Test Set for 26-30 MHz. Sold to sister companies and Zodiac agents. Produced in Stockholm. It was also put in the 1974 catalog in Switzerland. Development, mechanical and electronic design. Assembly and quality control.
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8 Zodiac B-5024 Zodiac's first CB base station. It was produced for various markets with 0.5 W - 3.5 W RF output power and 12, 23 or 24 channels. One of the most long-lived products among our customers. Made by Uniden Japan, based on a USA market model. The model was called UT-69Z by Uniden. This base station appears in a photo from around December 1971 in the lab at Svenska Tokai AB.   Return to text
9 Zodiac ISTR Two tone selective call module using three mechanical tuning forks from Murata. Produced in our factory in Kerns. Standard accessory for transceivers. Produced in Kerns.
My fisrt major design job in Switzerland. Design and PCB design.
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10 Zodiac RU-30 Pocket Pager for the CPU-20 or CPU-110 using tuning forks. 120 grams including battery. The effective battery life was about 800 hours. It was manufactured by Iwata in Japan.   Return to text
11 Zodiac M-2706 FM CEPT conform 6 channel FM Mobile CB Transceiver. The first 27 MHz all FM transceiver. Produced in Zodiac Kerns, maily for the Swiss market for professional use. Swiss PTT approval in November 1975. Electrical and RF design, approval sample measurements and approval with PTT in Switzerland. The development of the M-2706 took about 900 hours (or 3.75 months).
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12 Zodiac P-2706 FM CEPT conform 6 channel FM Portable CB Transceiver. Produced in Zodiac Kerns, maily for the Swiss market for professional use. Electrical and RF design, approval sample measurements and approval with PTT in Switzerland.
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13 Zodiac PA-161 6 channel VHF FM handheld transceiver. Produced in our factory in Kerns and sold in most of our european markets. Mainstay with many Swiss fire brigades. I developed the transmitter and receiver oscillators, the modulator and the AF amplifier PC board.

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14 Zodiac MA-160 B 12 channel VHF FM Marine transceiver from Uniden (Japan). Based on Unidens model UT-171A. Mainly an export model. It was not type approved in Switzerland. Cabinet modifications for Zodiac's markets.
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15 Zodiac Gemini Zodiac Gemini was a crystal controlled amateur transceiver for the 2-meter (144-146 MHz) band. I modified this model with a 1750 Hz tone call to open repeater stations. Made by Uniden Japan based on a USA market model. The model was called UT-124B by Uniden. Mechanical and electrical design of the 1750 Hz repeater opener. A small sub-PCB and a call button.   Return to text
16 Zodiac Taurus Zodiac Taurus was a crystal synthesized 27 MHz transceiver designed for AM and SSB. The manufacturer was Uniden in Japan. It was marketed as a 66 channel transceiver (22 AM, 22 USB and 22 LSB channels). Return to text
17 Zodiac SSB-15072 The second SSB model was the Zodiac SSB-15072. The manufacturer was Uniden in Japan. It was also marketed as a 66 channel transceiver (22 AM, 22 USB and 22 LSB channels). This model included a 220 VAC mains transformer and a DC power supply. The total weight was 6 kg. It was also equipped with a 12 VDC connector for mobile use. Return to text
18 Zodiac P-2003 3 channel handheld transceiver. Originally supplied from Nippon Shinso. After their bankruptcy the model was produced by Uniden for a while and later produced in Hokuto Denshi.  
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Last edit: 2021-03-28