Steve Allen on hooks constructing new plant on the Esplanade in Chico in 1974 for State TV Cable
Steve Allen Receiving Lifetime Achievement Award at NorCal Vendors Day
Steve Allen from days long ago when he still had hair.
Steve Allen, a founding member of the SCTE Sierra Chapter, was recently awarded the high status of SCTE Emeritus Member, meaning 40 years of continuous membership in the SCTE.
I first met Steve Allen in the early eighties while attending an SCTE Training event in Sacramento. He was an inspiration to me back then in encouraging me to take advantage of all the resources and networking opportunities available as an SCTE member. It’s led me to a very long and successful career.
I asked Steve to send me a short summary about his career and SCTE involvement. I soon realized that you can't fit long career as extensive as Steve’s in a paragraph. But he was able to squeeze it into just a couple minute read. I’d encourage you to take a couple minutes and learn about his journey. Someday you’ll have a story to tell.
For me, life has always been “ Cable” or ”CATV”. I knew from a very early age that this was where I would end up. My Father, Ed Allen was one of the earliest entrepreneurs to delve into TV distribution after WWII. From being the general manager of a radio station in Minnesota, to being one of the first cable operators in the country, I was always in the background. My first job, if you can call it that, was stuffing electron tubes in amplifiers on a bench in the back room of the cable office. That was in 1958 when I was 7 years old. I got a dime for my efforts. I also changed 14-inch audio tapes on the Muzak machines and changed advertising cards on the WeatherScan machine that displayed the local weather. But I got to hang around with the cable people. A couple of years later, I spent several weeks riding with an installer performing grunt tasks while my mom was out of town visiting her parents. I crawled under houses and fetched the RG-59 wire the installer would put down a hole in the living room. I learned to install C and F fittings and what splitters did. It was fascinating.
In 1966 we moved to the Bay Area (Lafayette) where my Father had accepted the job of Area Manager for Jack Kent Cook, the owner of ATC. I was in school by then and working the usual afterschool jobs. ( KFC and as a clerk in a liquor store) Upon graduation from Acalanes high school in 1969, one year ahead of Mark Harrigan, I went to work as a summer vacation replacement worker for Concord TV Cable as an Installer. I did that for 2 years while I attended DVC. I transferred to Chico State University and worked part time as a Construction tech and Local Origination Director for State TV Cable in Chico.
Following graduation, I returned to the Concord area and worked full time for Concord TV Cable again. I got tired of the Bay Area and longed to return to the Sacramento Valley. I voluntarily left CTVC to go to work for the McClatchy family and Viacom in Yuba City. I must have done pretty well because 6 months later, I was promoted to Chief Technician for the Oroville System and ventured into the era of AML and microwave. I got my FCC license and joined the SCTE in 1980. At the time, the only resource for CATV was a magazine called CATJ. Cable Television Journal. https://worldradiohistory.com/Archive-All-Cable/CATJ/CATJ-1982-11.pdf It was the forerunner of Communication Technology Magazine. It taught me a lot. One day I heard about this new organization called the SCTE. The Society of Cable Television Engineers. Bingo. Right up my alley. I signed up the day I read the ad and sent them my $40.00. It stayed that price for decades. There were no chapters at that time, and the training classes didn’t begin until a couple of years later. In 1984, I was promoted to Staff Engineer for Viacom and moved to Tracy to work at the Viacom Headquarters in Pleasanton. I worked alongside Pete Petrovich, who was the first President of the newly formed Golden Gate Chapter of the SCTE. That was when the classes began, and the BCT/E program was rolled out. I became the Vice President of the Golden Gate Chapter the next year and in addition to assisting with Chapter functions, I pursued the BCE certification in earnest, completing the 7 categories in 1988 and becoming the 6th person in the country to become certified at the Engineer level. I went on to become a proctor for the exams at our Vendor Day events and even traveled to various locations to administer tests to participants at local cable offices.
Once again, I got tired of the Bay Area and longed for my Sacramento Valley. I sent resumes to several cable operators in the valley, including the not yet constructed Sacramento Cable. I wound up offered a position as Chief Engineer for the WESTAR system in Roseville with additional support duties in Truckee and Lake of the Pines. Mike Gildersleeve and I built the Lake of the Pines system near Auburn. All this time, I remained active in the Golden Gate Chapter until I decided it was just too far to go and decided it was time to start our own SCTE Chapter in the Sacramento area.
I got together with a few of my fellow system engineers from around the Sacramento area and we formed the Sierra Meeting Group. A required precursor to being admitted as a Chapter. We had to complete a rigorous list of tasks and accomplishments in order to be elevated to Chapter Status. We set an SCTE record at the time, for the fastest elevation to chapter status, something like 11 months start to finish.
1n 1990, I was appointed Cable Tech Expo Co -Chairman along with Bill Riker and put the technical program together for the Tech Expo to be held in Reno , Nevada. In addition to supporting the schedule of events at Expo, I was pleasantly surprised during the annual luncheon, to be named SCTE member of the year for my vigorous activities at the local and national levels, in support of the SCTE goals.
I went on to become a member of the BCT/E curriculum committee, a standing member of the SCTE Planning Committee, Region 1 Director representing California, Nevada and Hawaii, Western Co-Chairman of the SCTE, and Chairman of the Cable Games Committee.
In 1991, I came up with the idea for a local technical show. Some way to bring back all the information available at the Expo, combined with the local vendors, with the intent of our local technicians and installers having access to product information. I was prohibited from using any part of the Cable Tech Expo name. I wanted to call it a MiniTechExpo, but HQ nixed that. We came up with Vendors Day. So, in January of 1991, coinciding with the very first day of Gulf War 1 in Iraq, we launched SCTE Vendors Day at a venue called The Party Palace in Fairfield right next to the main gate to Travis AFB. I had managed to convince 40 vendors to pay $50 apiece for a table, plus an additional $10 if they needed power. We put on technical classes on a dozen topics and it just clicked. Before the concept of Vendors Day, many of the SCTE chapters were having a very difficult time raising enough money for postage. The National SCTE did not provide any support to the local chapters, so Vendors Day solved one of the trickiest tasks of chapter operation. Operating funds. Vendors Day shows sprang up around the country and has been generously supported by the vendor community. From that first Vendors Day, put on by the Sierra Chapter, we went on to invite the other chapters in NorCal to join us to make it a combined show. Hence “The Northern California Vendors Day. We had energetic participation by Golden Gate, Sierra, Central and the Shasta Chapters of SCTE. At the time of my retirement from being the Chairman of Vendors Day for some 15 years, we had attracted over 100 vendors and had a peak attendance of over 1000 persons . It was a heady time. We were a success. I celebrated the occasion by serving a giant bowl of Jumbo Shrimp at the Cable Games similar to the buffet at the Playboy Channel hospitality rooms at the Western Show. . We had arrived. The Northern California Vendors Day attracted press coverage and the annual participation of Rex Porter, the Editor in Chief of Communications Technology magazine. He loved attending the shows around the country.
I think I passed on the responsibility for Vendors Day around 2007 or so. I was chairman for about 15 years, moving from The Party Palace to the Holiday Inn in Fairfield, to the Concord Hilton.
I can’t remember when I started backing off of activities, but I felt it was time to move on and let others pick up the torch and carry forward. I enjoyed watching others get the chance to make a difference and incorporate their ideas and energy into the program. I am very proud of my contributions to the SCTE and the mentorship I provided to cable personnel across the country.
- Steve Allen - July 2022
Steve says he’s always open to offer any advice that he can give to the current generation of cable technicians. You can reach Steve at email@example.com We plan to host Steve this October 5th at the Sierra Chapter Cable Games and Reception at the Stockton Hilton. You might also have the opportunity to meet and listen to Steve at the 2023 NorCal Vendors Day Show in Concord, CA targeted for April 26/27, 2023.
Stay engaged with the SCTE Sierra Chapter at https://www.sierrachapter.com/
Link to upcoming Cable Games and Golf Event: Sierra Chapter Cable-Tec Games & Golf Outing 2022 — SCTE