This chronological retrospective on the Society—describing its formation, expansion, adaptation, and maturation—seeks to underscore great benchmarks in the Society’s history in the context of how those achievements have positioned this successful organization for more success in the future.
The Society’s official birth date is June 22, 1969, but as with any new venture, SCTE’s birth required some behind-the-scenes groundwork.
The inspiration for the Society came from Charles S. Tepfer, who was the publisher of Cablecasting magazine. In an editorial in the November 1968 issue of the magazine, Tepfer wrote of the lack of recognition awarded cable system engineers. William Karnes, of National Trans-Video at the time, wrote a letter in response to Tepfer’s piece stating that system engineers should be acknowledged for their valuable contribution to the young and growing cable television industry. This suggestion attracted the support from others in the industry, resulting in Cablecasting’s publication of a membership application for the then-Society of Cable Television Engineers.
On that landmark day of June 22, 1969, the fledgling Society conducted its first general meeting, in conjunction with the NCTA convention in San Francisco. Seventy-nine individuals, today recognized as Charter Members of the Society, were in attendance. Officers were elected at the meeting, and a set of temporary bylaws was drawn up.
This original group elected Ronald Cotten, of Concord TV Cable at the time, as president, Karnes as vice president, and Tepfer as secretary/treasurer.
SCTE Regional Chapters were established at the inaugural meeting. They were California, Pacific Northwest, North Central, Southwest, South Central, New England, Pennsylvania, Atlantic Central, South, Canada East, and Canada West. In 1970, the organization of local chapters began but was delayed by correspondence and funding problems. Today, SCTE has 68 chapters and meeting groups.
Any new undertaking has its share of hurdles, and SCTE was no exception. The founding fathers had to allay concerns rippling through the industry that they were secretly starting up some kind of union for the industry’s technical personnel.
Just five years into its existence, SCTE, in 1974, saw a surge in interest in the Society. Membership was approaching the 1,000-member milestone, and chapter growth and was taking off. SCTE became incorporated in 1974, officially becoming the Society of Cable Television Engineers Inc.
As noted, giving cable’s technical folks their due recognition was a main motive in setting up SCTE, and in keeping with that, in 1974, the Society named its first SCTE Member of the Year—Steven Dourdoufis.
The Society conducted its first National Engineering Conference in 1976. In 1977, the Society opened its first full-time office, in Washington, D.C., and hired its first paid staff. SCTE had been an all-volunteer organization up to that point in time.
The 1980s were characterized by unprecedented growth and development for the evolving Society. Not only did SCTE’s membership numbers begin to soar, but SCTE became a mounting force for ensuring the quality of the industry’s technical performance and engineering advancements. However, the early years of the decade were difficult, and the Society found itself teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. One of the association’s great stalwarts, the late Thomas Polis, is credited with rallying the Society while serving as SCTE president during that tumultuous period.
While the ship was still being righted, a number of important traditions were established. The year 1983 saw the debut of what was to become the cornerstone of SCTE, its flagship event, SCTE Cable- Tec Expo®. The Society’s first Expo was conducted May 6–8, 1983, in Dallas. What a remarkable contrast between then and now. In Dallas, there were 700 attendees and 118 exhibitors. Nowadays, Expo attracts more than 10,000 attendees and features better than 400 hands-on, technology focused exhibits.
Expo was well on its way to becoming an established annual industry event during the growth decade of the ’80s. Expo 1988, conducted in San Francisco, broke all previous attendance records. More than 1,300 technicians and engineers were there, which was more than double the number who had attended the event just three years earlier.
The SCTE Satellite Tele-Seminar Program series was created in 1984 to provide technical training videotapes to cable systems across the country. System operators were encouraged to downlink and record these programs for their training needs. The program helped to establish SCTE as the technical leader that it is today by logging hours upon hours of instructional programming for the industry.
One of SCTE’s benchmark products and services for the industry’s technical community over the years has been its certification programs. In 1985, the SCTE Broadband Communications Technician/Engineer (BCT/E®) certification program was introduced at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo® with 90 attendees becoming the program’s first candidates.
SCTE created the BCT/E® program to encourage personal development in cable technology, recognize individuals for the demonstration of technical knowledge, and assist management in their employee evaluation and promotion processes.
In 1987, Ron Hranac, at the time with Jones Intercable, and Les Read, at the time with Sammons Communications, became the first certified individuals at the BCT® and BCE® levels, respectively.
The Society has always been about helping its members succeed. As a precursor to the grants and scholarships managed and distributed today by the SCTE Foundation, the SCTE Technical Tuition Assistance Program was created in 1985 by the SCTE Board of Directors. Much like today, recipients in the ’80s were applying their assistance for such purposes as NCTI (now Jones/NCTI™) correspondence courses and university courses.
The second half of the ’80s saw rapid growth in the number of SCTE Chapters and Meeting Groups. In 1986, the number of local groups reached 30, doubling the total from the prior year. By the time the decade was drawing to a close, SCTE included more than 50 local groups. As they do today, SCTE Chapters and Meeting Groups conducted low-cost, high-quality technical professional development opportunities across the Society, bringing educational meetings and events to industry personnel at all levels.
In 1988, the SCTE Hall of Fame was established to permanently honor individuals who have tirelessly shared their extensive knowledge with others throughout their storied careers. The first inductee into the Hall was Cliff Paul, who received his honor at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo® 1988. Today, 33 SCTE stalwarts occupy the SCTE Hall of Fame following their inductions through the years, the most recent being Eugene White, who was inducted during Expo 2008.
A final stamp on the decade of growth and expansion that the ’80s was for SCTE is found in the increase in the SCTE membership rolls in the latter half of that decade. At the close of 1984, the membership figure stood at 2,500. When 1989 and the decade drew to a close, SCTE had reached the 6,000-member milestone.
Accommodating the changing technical needs of the industry and SCTE’s members, SCTE got the decade of the ’90s started in grand fashion by conducting its first technology conference called “Fiber Optics” in Monterey, Calif. This annual event became what is known today as the SCTE Conference on Emerging Technologies® (ET).
In 1992, the Society established its mission statement, a simple but easily remembered trio of words: “Training, Certification, Standards.” Reflecting its flexibility and ability to evolve with the industry and reposition itself as a technical leader, SCTE has since modified its mission statement in recent years to read, “Professional Development, Standards, Certification, and Information.”
In 1995, SCTE’s willingness to adapt and change even crossed over into its very name. SCTE’s name changed from Society of Cable Television Engineers to Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers. The name change depicted SCTE’s advancement into the widely developing arena of multiple media and interactive cable services. The new name demonstrated SCTE’s responsiveness to the rapid changes that were taking place in all forms of cable-delivered media including television, telephone, data, alternate access, LAN, WAN, computer, interactive, and multimedia services.
SCTE was busy that year, too, repositioning itself in at least two other main respects.
One had to do with its headquarters building. SCTE broke ground in July 1995 for construction of a brand-new headquarters building and by January 1996 had moved into the new digs, 140 Philips Road, Exton, Pa., from where SCTE’s professional staff continues to serve SCTE’s members to this day.
The other change of note in 1995 was a huge stride forward that the SCTE Standards Program made that year. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited SCTE, which had first begun developing industry technical standards in 1988, as a recognized Standards Development Organization (SDO).
In 1996, SCTE established its website and has since enhanced this service to members and the industry by leaps and bounds. Today, SCTE’s website is the launch point for all kinds of great technical interactivity among SCTE’s members—from SCTE Live Learning™ to SCTE MemberLINK™ to SCTE InfoScope®. More than an Internet address or a mere virtual storefront, www.scte.org is a solid springboard for members as they develop their technical careers like never before.
Continuing its focus on developing industry professionals, affirming its role as a longstanding, adaptive technical leader, and being cognizant of the signs of the times, in 1997 the Society unveiled two computer-based training programs—Telecom Technologies and T-1 Transmission Basics—and rolled out a pair of new, specialized industry certifications: Telephony, and Service Technician.
As the decade was approaching its close, the Society’s chief professional staff member since 1984, SCTE President William Riker, departed to take a new position in the industry. In a change of course, the SCTE Board of Directors felt the best-suited replacement for the engineering-minded Riker to take SCTE into the new millennium would be someone whose foremost strength would lie in the area of marketing and business development. Under the direction of its chair at the time, Hugh McCarley, the board followed that inclination and hired John Clark as Riker’s replacement toward the end of 1998, just shy of the Society’s 30th anniversary.
SCTE began to hit its stride as it turned the corner into the 21st Century. This new period has brought more change and evolution to SCTE but with a strong sense of purpose and direction from its membership.
SCTE was already a solid organization that was very much in tune with the needs of its members when Clark came on board as president of SCTE late in 1998. Since that time, SCTE has implemented a number of important changes that have taken the organization to the next level.
Most prominent among them have been enhancing the SCTE Standards Program and establishing the SCTE Foundation.
The SCTE Standards Program is a critical component of what SCTE is all about, a core element of its mission as a Society. As noted above, the program has been developing technical standards for the cable telecommunications industry since 1988 and became accredited by ANSI in 1995.
The SCTE Standards Program has made tremendous strides and is commanding growing attention from the cable telecommunications industry that it serves. The program soared from a rank of 79th in 1998 to 13th in 2008 for production among the more than 200 standards development organizations accredited by ANSI. SCTE’s program is made possible not only through the generous support of the program’s members but also through its newly established group of sponsors. Membership in the SCTE Standards Program is open to any individual or organization willing to participate and pay the membership fee.
Demand has been growing in recent years for technical standards that promote interoperability in the industry’s fast-changing marketplace. SCTE standards address a wide range of industry requirements from basic network components such as F connectors to the advanced technology used in Digital Program Insertion (DPI) for advanced advertising systems. SCTE is excited about the potential for further growth in standards development.
Meanwhile, the SCTE Foundation has made excellent progress in a short period of time.
The SCTE Foundation promotes innovation and expanded educational opportunities for SCTE members to assist them in their professional development within cable and telecommunications engineering; helps to advance research and information of cable and telecommunications technology; and helps to maintain a history and awareness of cable and telecommunications evolution. The SCTE Foundation was established by the SCTE Board of Directors in 2005 and began issuing grants in 2006 to fulfill the first part of its three-part mission. The Foundation has now helped numerous SCTE members with a combined total of approximately $95,000.
SCTE members from both cable operators and vendors have received SCTE Foundation grants for such purposes as advanced and undergraduate degrees, college textbooks, Jones/NCTI™ courses, and industry events such as SCTE Cable-Tec Expo®.
All of the financial assistance that the SCTE Foundation provides to SCTE members is made possible through tax-deductible donations. The Foundation’s Founding Donor Campaign raised more than $225,000, a remarkable show of support. The tax-deductible donation aspect is a significant improvement that the SCTE Foundation brings. Now, donors not only get the satisfaction of performing a generous deed, but they get rewarded for it at tax time as well.
In strong support of its fundraising efforts, the SCTE Foundation began hosting the popular annual Tom Polis Classic Golf Tournament in 2007. The tournament helps to keep the Foundation funded for its mission while honoring the memory of the aforementioned cable industry pioneer and SCTE stalwart, Tom Polis.
SCTE has made other leaps forward in this new millennium. The Society is excited about its growth into Canada. Since 2002, the SCTE Board of Directors has included a Director-At-Large Canada to specifically represent SCTE members in that country. Also, in February 2009, in its 40th Anniversary year, SCTE launches the SCTE Canadian Summit to address the unique needs of cable telecommunications professionals and organizations in Canada.
In 2002, SCTE rolled out its Broadband Specialist suite of certifications, including Broadband Premises Specialist (BPS). Later came the Digital Video Engineering Professional (DVEP) Certification among others. Adding in the aforementioned BCT® and BCE® certifications, SCTE’s suite of certifications has grown to nine programs of various areas of expertise and technical complexity across the cable telecommunications network.
The advancement of SCTE Certification Program offerings through the years by always vigilant committee volunteers is one of the more tangible ways SCTE has demonstrated its desire to stay out in front of the changing needs of industry professionals.
SCTE Pd also has demonstrated this desire by providing expert technical instruction delivered online in recent years through SCTE Live Learning™ seminars and SCTE Virtual Classroom courses and in person for many years through SCTE Onsite Seminars.
Another one of those new millennium advances the Society has made is the SCTE Chapter Leadership Conference (CLC), an annual event that began in 2000. The conference is extremely popular among SCTE chapter leaders as they learn how to make their local groups function more effectively in carrying out the SCTE mission. CLC 2008 set a new attendance record with 165 attendees. SCTE Chapters provide members with leadership and skills development opportunities in areas outside of their technical proficiency such as financial management, marketing, and recruitment.
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Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers® (SCTE)
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