1970s -  Moving Ahead at the Speed of Light ... and Sound


Our sixth installment of this decade-by-decade brand history visits the 1970s when Cannon – part of ITT since 1963 – developed new connectors for fiber optic systems, ultrasound machines and more.
After the social movements of the 1960s, the world entered the “Me Decade.” For much of the 1970s, people looked inward – turning their gaze inward to focus on their own personal issues.
But while a large part of the population was busy “finding themselves,” the employees, inventors, engineers and business people at ITT Cannon were busy finding solutions to more and more of the world’s new challenges. 
In the 1970s, fiber optics were changing the way we communicate, and ITT Cannon – building on the huge breakthrough of another ITT innovator – developed a number of important fiber-optic firsts.
While working in London for ITT’s telecommunications business in the 1960s, Dr. Charles Kao proved that glass strands could transmit light signals across long distances without signal degradation.  In that moment, he became known as the “father of fiber optics” and developed the “concrete” that would be used to build the information superhighway. 
You can trace back the development of the Internet, modern telecommunications, video conferencing and electronic commerce to that office in London – but not without stopping at ITT Cannon offices along the way.
In an early development during the 1970s, ITT Cannon teamed with Honeywell and Dupont to produce one of the first complete fiber optic interconnection systems.  Our fiber optic connectors linked sophisticated communications systems – from board level to network level. As telephone companies began to use the speed-of-light fibers extensively to rebuild their communications infrastructure, ITT Cannon was positioned perfectly to accelerate its push into e telecommunications marketplace.
Meanwhile, in the medical arena, ultrasounds became a vital part of the clinical landscape during the 1970s.  These noninvasive machines use soundwaves to let doctor’s see inside the human body and determine the health of unborn babies and patient organs.  It made life easier on patients, and Cannon made life easier for the doctors and medical staff by introducing the DL Series of connectors.
The DL was the first-ever Zero Insertion Force (ZIF) connector from Cannon – and a first in the ultrasound industry.  As the name implies, it’s designed to require no coupling force.  Instead of pushing the interconnect half of the connector (the “plug”) into the contact half (the “socket”), the DL lets the user move a lever to separate the contact pins so that the interconnect slips in with no downward force.  And when the lever is moved back, the contacts close and grip the pins of the connector.
It takes a lot of contact pins to produce clear ultrasound pictures, and the DL solved the issue of doctors, nurses and medical technicians damaging the pins as they tried to manually mate the two sides of the connector.  Not only was it easy to use, but the DL was durable and could be connected in just seconds.  It quickly became an essential part of ultrasound machines, and the first big accelerator of Cannon’s growth in the evolving medical market.
This easy-to-use product also found a home in other industries, as a DL product brochure from the 1970s made clear: “The DL is also a problem-solver in mainframe computers, lighting systems, disk drives, entertainment systems, radar gear and many types of instrumentation and control systems.”
The versatility of the DL connector was matched by another development that decade.  The VE connector was designed to withstand the temperature variations of high-performance engines and adverse weather conditions encountered by different types of vehicles, and could also be used in some industrial applications. 
The VE connector won over customers such as BMW, Volvo, Ferrari, Porsche, Jaguar, General Motors and Ford, and provided Cannon with a low-cost, commodity product for the transportation marketplace. 
The 1970s might have been the Me Decade for many people.  But at ITT Cannon, it was the “See Decade” – as in “Let’s see what new market challenge we can solve today.”
Next time, we look at the 1980s when Cannon moved into evolving telecommunications and computing industries. Click here to view our  “A Century of Amazing Connections” that outlines the milestones throughout Cannon’s history.