Grass Valley Celebrates Grass Valley’s 50th

The eponymous community tracks its landmark manufacturer
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The eponymous community tracks its landmark manufacturer

GRASS VALLEY, CALIF.: Grass Valley was a community long before it spawned technology bearing its name. The company that created that technology-- the old Grass Valley Group--retains a presence in this Sierra foothills Gold Rush stronghold, though it’s now a division of Parisian conglomerate Thomson.

“The Group” turned 50 years old this month. The milestone marked by the local newspaper, The Union, with stories on its founding by Dr. Donald Hare, its 22 Emmy Awards, a workforce that peaked at 1,500 and now stands at around 300, and the multiple companies that came out of the Grass Valley Group.

At least 16 of those companies are listed, most of them serving the broadcast TV sector. Sierra Video Systems, Ensemble Design, Nvision, AJA Video, Editware, Telestream, ISIS and the old Graham-Patten Systems are among the companies developed by alumni of the Grass Valley Group. The Union provides snapshots of each, most of which will be at NAB in Las Vegas next week.

Grass Valley the town was established as a miner settlement during the Gold Rush of 1849. Hare wound up there in the’50s at the behest of his friend Charles Litton, Sr. Hare’s now famous switcher with the Marauder shifter appeared in the 1977 film, “Star Wars.” GVG’s Betty Lane Parsons, with the company since 1977, remembers seeing her company’s product in the film.

She also remembered a time when employees folded the shipping boxes and collected mine tailings for the gold tracings on PC boards. Lane and her colleagues now await the next iteration of their company, which was put up for sale by Thomson earlier this year. No buyers have yet been announced. -- Deborah D. McAdams