Listed here are the names of people that were associated with Optigan® in some way or another. Some of these people I’ve talked to, some I haven’t, and some are dead or otherwise MIA. Note that not all of these folks were official employees of either Mattel/Optigan® or Miner/Opsonar. Some were either contracted to work on a freelance basis or were employees of other companies which were contracted by Optigan. Also listed here are a few folks from the related companies of Chilton and Vako. This page will be under construction for a long time, I imagine, as more of these people surface and tell their stories!
|Chilton, F||F. Roy Chilton||President||Optigan/Chilton Corp.|
|Chilton||Ken Chilton||Optigan/Chilton Corp.|
|Cutler||Stan Cutler||Vice President of Engineering||Optigan|
|Ellison||Bruce Ellison||Recording Engineer||Optigan|
|Flynn||Ted Flynn||Vice President- Sales||Optigan|
|Fromander||Art Fromander||Midwest Sales Manager||Optigan|
|Jacobson||Rich Jacobson||Head of Technical Services||Optigan|
|La Branche||Harvey La Branche||Engineer||Optigan|
|Largo||Johnny Largo||Music Director||Optigan|
|LeDoux||Mike LeDoux||Software Engineer/Music Director||Optigan/Opsonar|
|Parnell||Chic Parnell||Sheet Music Arranger||Optigan/Opsonar|
|Ryan||John “Jack” Ryan||Engineer (“Inventor”)||Mattel|
|Swee||Gene Swee||President||Miner Industries (Opsonar)|
|Waltzer||Bernie Waltzer||Vice-President||Miner Industries (Opsonar)|
|Woodraska||Joann Woodraska||Secretary to Mike LeDoux||Opsonar|
February 22, 2010 at 8:52 pm
I was there too. I worked with george sioles and richard chang. Also there was ed landsinger, a protype machinist/modelmaker. I am an MIT engineer, using d’ Alembert approach to systems analysis.
February 23, 2010 at 2:07 pm
hi tom, thanks for getting in touch!! i definitely need to do more work on this section of the website. maybe you can write up a short account of your experience at optigan?
April 18, 2010 at 9:44 am
You miss many employees who worked at the new kensington plant, I worked in the service dept and were responsible for setting up and training many of the service centers througout the usa, I worked with Jim Rice and I replace Jack Smith who quit and returned to California. I know many other employees at the plant, Jack Oxman ran Miner industries. It seems most of your list are from the west. I believe Ross Clark replace me when I quit because the plant was planning to move to NY around 1975.
June 28, 2010 at 11:59 am
My Dad was an employee but, I don’t see him listed. His name was Joe Findeis, came from Mattel toys division, between the years 1971 to 1973-ish, and I think was a Chief Tool Engineer.
August 18, 2010 at 11:27 am
I worked at Estey as a draftsman under Don Bergstrom in New Kensington until the move to New York. I continued to
do drawings for them as a consultant for another year. I still have some documentation when I work on the designs
of the vaco orchestron and improvements to the Optigan® and Estey lines as well as manuals and sales brochures.
September 29, 2011 at 10:45 pm
Hey Jack Dull and Bob Klembus… I have just aquired an Optigan… I actually live in New Kensington, Pa! I never knew the Optigan® had any history here. Anyways, my optigan® is in need of some TLC. If either of you email or anything, please drop me a line at email@example.com THANKS A MILLION!
November 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm
Anyone who worked for Chilton or at the Estey plant is invited to share at my Magnatone site. I have lots of history about both Chilton and Estey, but I know there is a lot more to the story. So please write!
August 25, 2013 at 6:58 am
I worked there, too. First as Roy Chilton’s secretary, then as Marketing Administrator.
March 13, 2014 at 12:37 am
In the pre Optigon days I was a patent attorney in the Mattel Patent Dept. Because I had a music background I was assigned to work exclusively on the Optigon development project.
Our patent research came up with patent protection on a device which was known as a “sideman” in musical circles. A single piano player could be backed up with a drum, bass etc. A British rock group was using these devices called Chambelains in their performances. To avoid patent issues in the future, Mattel bought out Chamberlain.
To market the Optigon, Mattel bought in a guy with organ background.
In my opinion, the downfall of the Optigon was that it was a high end product and had to be sol demo style like they sold organs in those days. The Optigon was too far ahead of its time. Today it could be designed with cd type changer technology
April 9, 2014 at 12:14 am
You can add me to the list of employees. I was Roy Chilton’s secretary before becoming the Marketing Administrator. Bob Costello was the Sales Manager.
The trade shows were a lot of fun. I enjoyed transporting the units and “manning” the booths. I agree with you, the Optigan® was too far ahead of its time.
Len Mayem is another Mattel employee who worked with Optigan.
April 9, 2014 at 12:19 am
I enjoyed looking at the television commercial. Thank you for putting all this information together. I recall going to the television studio with Ted Flynn to watch it being produced. What a great memory!
November 28, 2016 at 12:25 am
Hi, I also worked at Optigan® in the early days at the West(?) Compton site. I set up the computer system there and worked directly for Bill Wilcock who was the Controller at the time. I also had the Office Manager, Bruce Tahamont, report to me. I still have my business card. I still have my Optigan. The demise was many fold (manifold). The major customer (Sears) was more interested in it being a fine piece of furniture rather than a novel type of organ. We had so many returns for redoing the “furniture” part of the organ.
Plus the sales volume estimate was unrealistic. It was more than the total organ market. They forecast sales of over 100,000 in the 1st full year. It was less than 27,000. Plus someone told Ruth Handler that we had already sold the complete forecast. When she got a report showing what the advertising budget was, she blew up.
Then the manufacturing line was innovative. It was one single line from one corner to the other of the manufacturing building. The problem was that if there were any problems along the way, the whole line stopped. There was an in-line loop to fix problems. The problem with that was that when the loop was full, nothing else could be guided into it, thus stopping the whole line.
I worked at Mattel two years before Optigan®, and went to Circus World after that.
One interesting thing that happened there(There was a lot!) was I was involved in getting a free Optigan® sent to Zsa Zsa Gabor. I flipped out until I found out she was Jack Ryan’s girl friend. They got married, but Jack became the first man to ever divorce her. She probably said something bad about the Optigan® he(we) gave her.
I was called back to do the computer part of a physical inventory before the buyout to Miner by the Mattel Controller.
November 28, 2016 at 12:43 am
Just found my business card. I was Manager, Systems. The address was 921 W. Walnut St, Compton, CA.
Another employee there was Joe Shaffery a Financial Analyst. A civil engineer from MIT.
March 23, 2017 at 2:40 am
I just found my worksheet where I projected sales after August sales were reported. We had sold 12,982 organs for Organ sales of 2,353 for $616,372 organs, $725,472.03 total. Making YTD units- 12,982 $3,163,995 organs $3,666,216.39 total
Remember the sales forecast was for 100,000 units for the full year. At this point I projected a low of 27,100 units & a high of 31,806 units. When pressed for one based on some scientific method, I used SWAG and came up with 27,654.75 units (I knew that we couldn’t sell 3/4 of a unit, but that was what my projection showed with sales of $6,964,949 organs & $8,129,626.05 total.
Final year-end results: 27,700 units sales: $6,965,000 organs $8,130,000 My SWAG in August was really close, but not good for the company. But, 100,000 units was more than the total market for all organs in 1970. Unrealistic.
February 22, 2021 at 9:34 am
My father George J. Klose worked there as an electro-optical engineer. He worked under Richard Chang. I believe that he helped with the optical reader component. As I recall, when he started working there (around 1969), it was at a location in or near Chatsworth, California. When he started they were still doing a lot of R&D, so maybe my father worked on different prototypes. I don't see him listed on the patents that you list, so maybe he came up with a design that wasn't eventually used. At some point he moved off the project and went to Mattel's Toy Division (about 1972).
March 18, 2021 at 7:26 pm
Hello! I'm hoping I can reach Paul Klose with this email. My name is Tom Boellstorff and with a colleague, I'm writing a book about Intellivision and so of course we're talking about handhelds too. We've interviewed many people who spoke fondly about your father, including Dave James and Glenn Hightower. Would it be possible to interview you just to hear any memories you might have about your father? He was very important to the history of Mattel Electronics, but there are almost no surviving documents. We do, however, have a couple things your father wrote and would love to share those PDFs with you!
Hope to speak to you soon, Tom Boellstorff (firstname.lastname@example.org)