MRF: Why did you start the company?
Ergul: In 1952, I joined Belco Research Laboratories in Newark, NJ in their filter group because I had always been interested in microwave electronics. I was a project leader charged with development of high-temperature, UHF, and microwave transmission-line filters. At that time, they had research contracts in-house for filter networks for the US Army and Navy operating in the frequency range of 400 MHz. Having gained knowledge about lowfrequency filters, following the failure of Belco Research Laboratories, I wanted to venture off on my own to develop new ideas to enhance performance.
MRF: Do you remember the first Microphase employee?
Ergul: My first employee was Kiyoshi Suzukawa, who we called "Q" for short. We worked at Belco Research Laboratories together. He joined Microphase as a technician and over time became a design engineer for low-frequency components. He retired from Microphase with over 25 years of service.
MRF: You mentioned that "Q" had over 25 years of service at Microphase. Are there other employees with long service records?
Ergul: Yes, many of our current employees have over 25 years of service. The two employees with the longest continuous service and still with us today are Vincent "Vinny" Pagliuca (43 years) and Francis "Fran" Laychak (38 years). I should also mention the late Selim Temel who was with me almost from the inception of the company.
MRF: Were you looking at communications applications?
Ergul: Communications applications were not the specific focus at the time.
MRF: Where did you learn about microwave technology?
Ergul: Growing up, I was very interested in making radios. Building crystal radios and superheterodyne radios enhanced my interest in the design and manufacture of filter networks.
MRF: What was Microphase like in those early years?
Ergul: Microphase was first located in New York City and began with an investment of $800. I was the design engineer and technician. At the time, companies designing and manufacturing filters were very limited. I did struggle initially to raise capital but as the products and capabilities became better known, product demand built quickly. Raising capital, based on backlog, became easier but the intent was to remain a private organization.
From the beginning, the operation of Microphase has reflected my personality. Science has always been my focus having the desire to do things that no one else could do. What initially started as a filter-design and manufacturing organization now includes multiplexers, solid-state switches, switch filters, frequency multipliers, up and down converters, limiters, detectors, threshold detectors, detector log video amplifiers, sub-systems, and integrated assemblies.
MRF: Was there any one customer who helped get the company started?
Ergul: The US armed services were our initial customers but companies such as Lockheed, Sperry, MIT Lincoln Labs, and Collins Radio were soon utilizing our products. Some of the initial programs that we designed products for were Polaris, Atlas, Nike-Zeus, Skybolt, Pershing, Mercury, Advent, and Bomarc.
MRF: Over the history of Microphase have there been any memorable products?
Ergul: There are two that come to mind. The Smithsonian Institute houses a Mercury space capsule that utilized a seven-channel multiplexer that was situated underneath the astronaut's seat. Microphase was the proud recipient of a citation from the Department of the Navy for outstanding service to the Special Projects Office in the development of a vital component identified as a coupled multiplexer for the Polaris arming and fusing device.
MRF: The spending of President Reagan's administration during the 1980s brought an end to the Cold War What was that period like for Microphase?
Ergul: During the 1980s, Microphase's backlog consisted of domestic and international customers in defense applications. When the Berlin Wall came down, and the Cold War ended, the business changed with focus on commercial opportunities while maintaining our defense segment.
I was introduced to Ron Durando and collectively plans were developed to pursue new growth in the commercial segment. We realized the highly competitive, low-cost nature of commercial components and therefore started other ventures including mPhase Technologies, Inc. and Janifast Ltd. Janifast Ltd., located in the Guangdong, China, provides high-volume, low-cost manufacturing for commercial products designed by Microphase Corp.
MRF: Wasn't mPhase Technologies involved with some kind of a DSL extender at one time?
Ergul: Yes, it was a Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) over twisted pairs of copper wire. Presently, mPhase Technologies, Inc. offers IPTV ( Internetprovider television) and nanotechnologybased products.
MRF: The central part of your building is a beautiful atrium and meditation area that is something rarely seen in any kind of business environment. Can you explain how this came to be?
Ergul: My family and I have always enjoyed the outdoors and the beauty of nature. The atrium and meditation area was constructed to share nature's beauty with our employees.
MRF: Are you still involved in engineering?
Ergul: Yes, I oversee the activities of the Design Engineering Department in addition to product design.
MRF: Have there been tools that have changed the way that you design?
Ergul: My filter and multiplexer design approach has evolved over time with demonstrated field performance. Tools such as the handheld calculator and personal computer have shortened the design cycle and provided verification of my design methods. I have also developed proprietary design software versus commercially available software such as Touchstone.
MRF: Do you feel that the computer and software do too much for engineers?
Ergul: Design engineers need to have first-hand knowledge of what the circuit is doing and, more importantly, why.
MRF: Was there any one difficult challenge that comes to mind when looking back over your career?
Ergul: With the demand for smaller size, lighter weight, improved performance, and lower price, innovative solutions are always required.
Ned Ergul is president and founder of Microphase Corp. (www.microphase.com), one of the oldest privately held companies in the microwave and RF industry. He received his Bachelor's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Robert College in Istanbul, Turkey and his Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in Brooklyn, NY. The 51-year-old company, based in Norwalk, CT, is a leading supplier of filters, multiplexers, switch filters, frequency multipliers, limiters, detectors, threshold detectors, detector log video amplifiers (DLVAs), and other components for military, aerospace, and commercial applications through 40 GHz. Mr. Ergul started the company in 1955 with $800 and a desire to put science ahead of profit.
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