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ON LOCATION The evolution of by Simon Browne & Ed Fitzgerald, Clear-Com Early Beginnings Wired Intercom What do you think was the fi rst DIGITAL communications system devised? Of course you could think of the evolution in standardised parallel data backplanes and digital ICs in the 1980s and the swathe of multi-rack Time Division Multiplexed switching systems that it enabled, but the answer is probably and simply smoke signals. We have to take a long journey to get back to that binary coded capability. Our own humble beginnings in Clear-Com start way back in the mid 1960s, when the founder, Bob Cohen, was running sound at the Avalon Ballroom on Sutter St. near downtown San Francisco, frequented by the likes of Bay Area musicians like Janis Joplin, Grace Slick, Elvin Bishop, Joe McDonald aka Country Joe. With the advent of loud rock and roll it was realised that a technical solution was needed to better communicate between the follow spots, sound and back stage. Passing written notes or using the 52AW Carbon based telephone headsets or shouting across the loud and busy stage did not make for a smooth production. Rock and Roll was loud; levels near stage (and on stage!) could be in excess of 115db and simply throwing “louder intercom” to the ear was not the answer. Early headset with carbon mic c 1977 Bob Cohen came to know a young man, Charlie Butten, who was working with local bands and fi xing the guitar amps for Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) that kept blowing up. Charlie Butten Sound had become the ‘go to’ fi x it place for the touring US and British bands and Bob looked to Charlie to help with the better intercom need. Early Partyline beltpacks 1980 and 1990 66 | KITPLUS - THE TV-BAY MAGAZINE: ISSUE 93 SEPTEMBER 2014