Sometimes innovation relies more on the inspiration and motivation of an individual than on teams of employees. Such was the case of innovating the 9600 bits/sec. modem. As early as 1955-56, AT&T, and Bell Labs, knew that a modem of such speeds was possible. But Bell Labs, the paramount telephony communications research organization, had only been able to develop a 2400 bits/sec. modem. Why? Holsinger opines in this interview. As successful as the Codex AE-96 was, only when they introduced their second generation 9600, the L Series, developed under the team led by David Forney, had they innovated a truly robust modem: the L Series set Codex on the path of market leadership. Holsinger’s self-description as an entrepreneur, however, proved prescient for he founded a very successful modem firm, Intertel, after leaving Codex.
At the time of this interview, Jerry Holsinger had been retired for several years as Chairman and CEO of Infinet, formerly Intertel, which he had founded in 1970. Holsinger received his doctorate from MIT in 1965, and then started to develop a high-speed modem at Defense Research Corp. in Santa Barbara, CA. After having created a working prototype, Holsinger formed a company, Teldata, and tried to raise venture capital. Realizing he was not going to be successful, he turned to his only option and sold his company to Codex Corp. in 1967. As an employee, he developed the world’s first 9600 b/s modem: the AE-96. He left Codex in 1969, and founded Intertel in the following year. Intertel started out with low-speed modems, then higher-speed, and was well known for pioneering in network management.
Jerry and I had difficulties finding a time when we were both in the Boston area and settled on having a late dinner in my hotel room in Westborough, Ma. So once we met in my room and ordered room service, we talked, ate quickly and started the interview around 9 PM. Jerry was very patient for my endless questions, and I think you will find some of his answers a little brief because of the time of day and both our needs to complete the interview. What is not captured is the time we took afterwards, to laugh at our situation and his hoping he had been of help. Which he had been, of course, particularly of the time after he left Codex and faced the issues of starting a company that would end up going public.
Keywords: MIT, 9600-bps, Modems, Defense Research Corp., Teldata, Codex Corporation, Intertel, Infinet