Ben Tongue, Television Engineering Pioneer, Dies July 4

Ben H. Tongue, co-founder of Blonder-Tongue Labs, died on July 4.
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OLD BRIDGE, N.J. - Ben H. Tongue, co-founder of Blonder-Tongue Labs, died on July 4. He was 90.

Tongue held engineering degrees from both Northeastern University and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and worked at several electronics firms, including Federal Telephone and Radio Corp. and Panoramic Radio Corp., before partnering with Isaac S. Blonder in early 1950 to establish the New Jersey-based television products company that still bears its founders names.

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The two partners recognized the need for specialized consumer reception products in the postwar television “boom” period, and were among the first to offer a low-noise VHF “booster” RF amplifier to improve reception in weak signal areas. Blonder-Tongue continued to produce a line of similar amplifiers until the early 1960s. When the FCC’s 1948 “freeze” on new television station applications ended in 1952 and began to issue UHF construction permits, the company began manufacture of UHF-to-VHF converters (set-top boxes) to enable consumers with VHF-only receivers to take advantage of the new channels that were becoming available. Blonder-Tongue was also a pioneer in the field of RF distribution, with its product line expanding to include master antenna system hardware to spread television signals through apartment buildings, hotels, schools, hospitals and similar venues. Blonder-Tongue entered the professional audio products business in 1959 with the introduction of an early graphic equalizer, the “Audio Baton.” It was designed by Tongue and covered nine one-octave bands. Tongue amassed some 30 patents during his engineering career.

Tongue was a Life Fellow member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and was a Fellow member of the Radio Club of America. Survivors include two sons, Benson Tongue and Glenn Tongue, and a daughter, Barbara Ling.