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‘Father Of Stereo FM Radio, TV’ Dies

River Forest, Ill. — Carl G. Eilers, 83, who has been called the “father of stereo FM radio and stereo television sound,” died suddenly June 20 of an apparent heart attack.

Eilers, a 50-year Zenith Electronics veteran, joined the company in 1948 after receiving his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from Purdue University. Through 1961, he worked on the world’s first pay television system, Zenith Phonevision, earning key patents on subscription TV technologies.

During that period, while pursuing his master’s degree in electrical engineering, which he earned in 1956 from Northwestern University, Eilers led Zenith’s development effort on stereophonic FM radio broadcasting. The stereo FM standard he co-developed was first adopted by the Federal Communications Commission in 1961 and is still in use today around the world. 

Two decades later, as R&D manager, Eilers co-developed Zenith’s Emmy Award-winning MTS (multichannel television sound) stereo TV system, adopted by the industry in 1984. Through the 1990s, Eilers was a key member of Zenith’s HDTV development team.

Over the years, Eilers had been granted 21 U.S. patents and authored numerous technical papers and articles. 

Eilers’ contributions were honored by two technical Emmy Awards for Zenith developments, stereo TV in 1986 and HDTV in 1997.

Others honors included the 1977 Fellow Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), the Best Paper Award of the IEEE Broadcast Technology Society in 1984, the Audio Engineering Society Fellow Award in 1993 and the IEEE Masaru Ibuka Consumer Electronics Award in 1994 (“for pioneering contributions to FM stereophonic and television multichannel sound broadcasting systems”), as well as Zenith’s E. F. McDonald and Robert Adler technical excellence awards.

Eilers was inaugurated into the Consumer Electronics Hall of Fame in 2000. The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recognized him for “high-fidelity stereo sound that revolutionized the radio listening experience,” as well as enhancing the TV viewing experience. CEA said Eilers “holds a unique place in the annals of consumer electronics technology history as co-developer of two key industry standards.”

He had been a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) since 1947, the Society of Motion Pictures and Television Engineers (SMPTE) since 1956 and the Audio Engineering Society (AES) since 1973. He served as both a member and chairman for a number of their special committees.

He served in the United States Navy from 1943 to 1946. He graduated from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., with his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1948, and received his master’s degree in electrical engineering from Northwestern University, Evanston, Ill., in 1956.

Eilers was born March 21, 1925, in Fairbury, Ill. He and his wife of 34 years, Sandra (nee Mahler), were long-time residents of River Forest, Ill. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his son, John Eilers, and his daughter, Janet Ames.