A. James Ebel Papers
From 1937 to 1946, A. James Ebel worked as the chief engineer for station WILL at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. There, he designed the station's first FM transmitter while he was the executive secretary of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. Ebel then taught as an assistant professor of Engineering, and worked for a variety of stations--WMBD (Peoria), KOLN-TV/KGIN-TV (Nebraska), WDZ (Tuscola-Decatur), and KMEG-TV (Iowa). During the sixties, his career focused more on satellite transmission. In 1967, he chaired the CBS Affiliates Satellite Transmission Committee, which sought to achieve satellite interconnection between networks and affiliates for improved cost-efficiency and picture quality. Then, in 1970, he headed a similar committee that included all three networks. In addition, Ebel participated as a delegate to three World Administrative Radio Conferences in Geneva, Switzerland in 1971, 1977 and 1988. In 1986, he worked on protection of encryption of network programs fed to a station by means of fixed service satellites and chaired the New Technology Committee for the ABC, CBS, and NBC Network Affiliates. Currently, Ebel has turned his energies again to public broadcasting, participating on the committee working on the development of the U. S. System of HDTV (High Density Television) as a representative of the Nebraska ETV Commission The collection contains articles recounting the history of FM development and an autobiographical essay reflecting on the early history of educational broadcasting.
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A. James Ebel Papers, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
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Engineer and broadcasting executive A. James Ebel was born in Waterloo, Iowa on May 30, 1913 and attended Iowa State Teacher's College and the State University of Iowa where he graduated with a B.A. in Math and Physics in 1937. His long career in public broadcasting started in 1937 when he moved with his wife and the first of their four children to Indiana to work part time for radio station WBAA and to start a masters degree at Purdue. One day, after working at the station only a month, he returned home to find the broadcaster Joe Wright sitting on his front porch and speaking highly of his recent article in Electronics Magazine. Wright offered Ebel a job as chief engineer with the University of Illinois' WILL in Champaign, where Ebel worked until 1946. At WILL, Ebel designed the station's first FM transmitter relying only on plans and articles he had read in trade magazines. WILL received an educational FM license in 1941. In addition to working at WILL, Ebel also finished his master's degree in Electrical Engineering, announced Big Ten basketball and football games, and became executive secretary for the National Association of Educational Broadcasters (NAEB). In addition Ebel tested acetate discs for NAEB.
In 1946, Ebel began work in commercial broadcasting by taking a position as director of engineering with WMBD of Peoria and its sister station WDZ of Decatur. In 1952, he became president of KXIC in Iowa City, and in 1954 he moved to Lincoln as vice president and general manager of KOLN-TV, a station owned by Fetzer Broadcasting. When Mr. Fetzer decided to sell this station, Ebel, showing concern for educational television, persuaded him to give the equipment to the University of Nebraska. Ebel managed a number of Fetzer's stations including KGIN-TV in Grand Island, Nebaska and KMEG-TV in Sioux City, Iowa. He also became director of Fetzer Broadcasting and Fetzer Communications. Ebel continued to work for Fetzer until its Nebraska interests were sold to George Gillett. He then became a consultant and industry representative for Gillett. Ebel was also an enthusiastic friend and benefactor of Nebraska ETV and was instrumental in the Channel 12 assignment to KUON-TV in Lincoln in the early 1950s. In 1988 he retired and has continued consulting.
Throughout his career, Ebel has promoted new broadcasting technologies. Not only did he implement FM radio at its early stages, but he has also enthusiastically promoted both satellite technology and high density television (HDTV). In 1967 as chairman of the CBS Affiliates Satellite Transmission Committee, Ebel informed the affiliates how to use satellites to connect with the networks in the most cost-efficient manner that would still guarantee high picture quality. In 1970 he headed the Combined ABC, CBS, NBC Affiliates New Technologies Committee. This committee filed reports to the Federal Communications Commission's Domestic Satellite Committee that later proved useful to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in their effort to interconnect all PBS stations by satellite. In addition Ebel's duties on this committee allowed him to study HDTV and advise the FCC on its impact. Since his retirement he has continued to show interest in HDTV by representing the Nebraska Educational Television commission on the subject.
Ebel has had many significant honors and recognitions during his career. In 1973 he was selected by the National Association of Educational Broadcasters as Engineering Man of the Year. The following year the University of Nebraska School of Journalism elected Ebel to the Nebraska Broadcasters Associations Hall of Fame. In 1971, 1977, 1979, 1983, and 1988 he served as a U.S. delegate to the World Administrative Radio Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. In 1997, he retired as a member of the National Advisory Committee on High Definition Television.
A. James Ebel died in 1998.
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The A. James Ebel Papers cover the years 1941-1991 with the bulk of material dating from 1991. The papers include newspaper clippings, writings by Ebel, and an audiotape. The collection documents Ebel's early work with FM radio at WILL as well as other aspects of his career.
Custodial History and Acquisition Information
The A. James Ebel Papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by A. James Ebel in April and October of 1991 and in August of 1992.
Bryan E. Cornell, December 1992. Revised by Karen E. King, November 1995
EAD markup created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Karen E. King, November 2004.
Arrangement of Collection
Organized as one series:
Detailed Description of the Collection
Series 1: Personal Papers, 1941-1991 (4 folders)
This series contains information on Ebel's career in broadcasting. It includes clippings on Ebel's early career at WILL, a biography, and an autobiography. It also contains newspaper articles describing his early work with FM radio and a tape of the 50th anniversary of WILL.
|Description||Series||Box / Reel||Folder / Frame|
|A. James Ebel Autobiography, undated||series 1||box 1||folder 1|
|Clippings, 1941-1991||series 1||box 1||folder 2|
|WILL Clippings, 1954-1991||series 1||box 1||folder 3|
|WILL-FM 50th Anniversary [audiotape], 1991||series 1||box 1||folder 4|
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Selected Search Terms
This collection is indexed under the following headings in the University of Maryland Libraries' Catalog. Researchers desiring related materials about these topics, names, or places may search the Catalog using these headings.
- Ebel, A. James -- Archives.
- FM broadcasting -- Illinois -- History -- Sources.
- Radio engineers -- Illinois -- Archives.