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CEA Honors 2008 CE Hall Of Famers

Industry notables came out in force for the annual Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame dinner on last Tuesday evening, held during the Consumer Electronics Association’s Fall Forum meeting, here, at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Ten awards were given to individuals and teams for developing technologies and businesses, as well as marketing and selling products that have contributed to the development of the consumer electronics industry.

The 2008 CE Hall of Fame class includes:

Jewel and David Abt, founders of Chicago’s Abt Electronics, which opened its doors in 1936 based on an $800 “loan” from wife to husband. CEA president/CEO Gary Shapiro and host for the evening noted that Jewel is the first woman to be named to the CE Hall of Fame.

Joe Clayton, the longtime RCA and later Thomson executive who helped introduce and popularize DirecTV during his 25-year career there. After a five-year hiatus from the industry, Clayton reappeared as CEO of Sirius Satellite Radio and helped put that company and format on the map.

Eddy Hartenstein, chairman/CEO of DirecTV and the company’s founder. Hartenstein presided over the birth and growth of the first small-dish DBS satellite TV service in North America. DirecTV became the second-largest pay-TV service in the U.S.

Martin Cooper and Donald Linder, part of the Motorola engineering team that beat long odds (and the old AT&T) to develop the first cellular telephone which was originally shown in 1973.

Dean Dunlavey, an attorney who represented Sony in 1984, and is arguably responsible for the home video revolution. In that year Dunlavey successfully argued the so-called Betamax case before the U.S. Supreme Court which, in a 5 to 4 decision, ruled that Americans had a legal right to record programs broadcast on TV. The decision made it legal for manufacturers to build, and consumers to user, VCRs.

Ken Kutarag, the inventor of Sony’s PlayStation which, by 2003, was responsible for 60 percent for the company’s operating profit. Kutaragi, with support from Sony CEO Norio Ohga, developed a sound-chip for the 1980s 16-bit Super NES platform of Nintendo and in 1994 Sony introduced the PlayStation.

Warren Lieberfarb, former president of Warner Home Video, was called “The Father of DVD” by Variety. While he didn’t develop the hardware, Lieberfarb may have done something even more difficult: He convinced Hollywood to overcome their piracy fears and back the format.

Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, the 96-year old founder of Sennheiser Electronic, a world-leading manufacturer of microphones, headphones and wireless transmission systems. Founded in a farmhouse laboratory in Germany at the end of World War II, the company has won many engineering honors over the yeas, including an Emmy, a Grammy and a Scientific Award from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Hans Fantel escaped Nazi-occupied Austria and came to the U.S. not knowing a world of English. Eventually he became an influential consumer electronics journalist and supporter of audiophile equipment, who was the founding editor of Stereo Review and a long-time CE columnist for The New York Times.

Richard Sharp, one of the top executives with Circuit City during its glory days of the 1980s and 1990s. Sharp joined the chain in 1982 and eventually became chairman, CEO and president during the time of Circuit’s most dramatic growth. He retired from Circuit’s day to day management in 2000.

For more on the night’s festivities, check out Viewpoint at