IEE Open forum on undergrad teaching of electromagnetics, IEE Savoy Place, thu12dec02, 2.30pm.


Draft dated sun22dec02, 9pm


EMC – A Fatally Flawed Discipline

My attendance at an IEE Open Discussion Forum on the teaching of electromagnetics in undergraduates course on 12 December 2002 encourages me to confront the EMC incubus.

I have been very concerned about the EMC community since 1964, when I first ran into it in Los Angeles when I designed a power supply for a torpedo-proof line printer for the US Navy in Data Products Corp.


I became extremely concerned when in Europe it became a criminal offence to fail to take a piece of equipment through their ridiculous EMC tests.


Of all the subcultures in electronic engineering, EMC is the worst.


During the Falklands War, HMS Sheffield had to switch off its radar looking for incoming missiles in order to resume radio communication. This is why it did not see incoming Exocet missiles, and you know the rest. How was it that after decades of pouring money into the EMC community, this could happen? Do the EMC community agree that they should shoulder the blame? No. This is because that community has gone into limbo, sucking in money but evading the real compatibility problems, like watching for missiles while you talk to HQ.


It remains illegal to switch on your laptop computer in an aeroplane, or to use your mobile phone. It is illegal to use a mobile telephone in the forecourt of a petrol station.


While visiting the EMC magicians in Ford Motor Company, I found that it was illegal to have a car radio which inadvertently affected an overtaking car’s electronically controlled brakes. However, the EMC community is totally indifferent if, switching on your car’s starter motor, you cause a passing motorist’s brakes to lock suddenly.


My EMC experience in England started with NWS3, a British copy of US test specs. It is fatally flawed at the fundamental theoretical level. These flaws remained during further decades because of the lack of grasp of the fundamentals of electromagnetism by the whole EMC community.

Los Angeles

I first came across the EMC community as a design engineer in Data Products Corporation, Los Angeles, in 1964. See my book “The Catt Concept” pub. Hart-Davis 1972 for insight into how my family, our furniture and I were shipped to Los Angeles by Ampex Corp.; how I was fired seven months later, and hired on the following Monday by the Ampex spinoff company Data Products Corp. down the road for 50% more salary.

In Data Products, I was put to design a power supply for a torpedo-proof line printer for use on board ship in the US Navy. I discuss it in my 1973 book “Computer Worship” pub. Pitman. (The 12dec02 evening lecturer shipped over by the IEE from the USA came from the US Navy EMC community.) We had to meet EMC requirements, so we hired an EMC magician for six months from the company whose name I remember as Geniston. He came and sat in our offices. Immediately I went to him and asked his about the EMC criteria he relied on. He would not give me any technical information. He said that I should just carry on designing and building the prototype as before. After it was completed he would add a few grilles and things.

We did as he suggested, and on completion we sent it for EMC testing to a test company - Geniston. We were wise to choose Geniston, because this ensured that it would pass. I was mystified by all of this until I heard rumours that U.S Navy admirals had large holdings of stock in Geniston. Then it all  made sense.

The EMC regulations prescribed that electric power drawn by the line printer must not vary at a greater rate than 3Hz. This meant that if the line printer suddenly had to print a whole row of 200 As


(requiring 720 amps) the amount of power demanded down the mains cable from somewhere else on the ship must not increase in a detectable way, at a greater rate than that indicated by the figure of 3Hz. This was because in principle the EMC test magicians would put a current probe around one of the wires, Live of Neutral, bringing in power (The idea was obviously that there might be a Russian spy with a current probe on the US Navy ship, and he might be able to detect whether the line printer was printing information. We all know that increased communication would indicate that the US was about to attack his brother on a nearby Russian ship). The machine sounded like a machine gun, but obviously all Russian spies were deaf, or at least all those who served in the US Navy, so the audio pandemonium was not a matter of concern for our freedom-loving democracy.

My solution to the “problem” was to take in constant power, and build a shunt regulating power supply instead of the usual series regulating power supply. That is, whenever the line printer was not printing at maximum rate, I would divert all the unused power into an electric fire. This design was much admired for its novelty, and the prototype worked fine. It was appreciated most on cold mornings.

I was moved on to design work on a disc memory destined for the Manchester University Atlas super-computer (which I had just emigrated from designing), and another bright young replacement was hired in to design a conventional printer power supply for the line printer which ignored the EMC specs. Presumably it was thought that a better solution would be to deny current probes to resident Russian spies in the US Navy.

Our line printer was the most advanced and sophisticated. Each of the 120 hammers had a row of one inch square coils attached to it (in a permanent magnetic field) through which a 6 amp current would be delivered for 2msec. Thus, printing a row of As meant a 6 amp pulse suddenly (perhaps with a rise time of one microsecond) flowing in each of 120 coils for 2 msec. The number of turns in each coil is now unknown (although my notes indicate 3mH), but my records tell me the rest. The DC resistance of the coil was 10 ohms, which indicates that the number of turns was large, as it would be. During the EMC testing, Geniston would bring up the most sensitive antenna to two feet from the end of this gigantic electromagnet, to try to detect electromagnetic (but to ignore sonic) activity. Their resident magician would then propose blocking metal grilles and the like to blind the antenna, but on no account would he get inside our line printer and discuss our circuits and layout, with a view to causing mutual cancellation of magnetic fields. It appears that this madness continues to this day, and EMC magicians continue to stay outside each of the possibly incompatible boxes, brewing up their million pound Faraday cage test rooms and billions of nonsensical mathematical equations.

The 720 amps was delivered by a gigantic resident 60v electrolytic in the line printer, about one foot cube in volume. At that time, electrolytics exploded at –60 degrees F. Naval requirements were that on board items must survive down to –65 degrees F. Obviously, the US navy operated in very cold waters. It was frustrating to know that the USAF only required that their equipment survive down to  –50 degrees F. This problem (how to print the message that the sea was frozen solid) was not solved by the time I was fired.

EMC was not the only ruse to increase costs in the defence of freedom and democracy. The printer had to survive 200g. This test involved strapping the equipment to a 4,000 pound anvil, and then hitting the anvil with a 3,000 pound hammer which had been raised through one foot and then left to swing at the anvil like a pendulum. Presumably nervous designers would pray for a fly, or better still a wasp, to intervene. Interestingly, all the seamen aboard would have had their legs broken, but the printer would continue to print a message (“Torpedo hit”). The demonstration film, where I saw a nice piece of electronic equipment turn into an array of projectiles, was taken seriously by the freedom-loving Americans watching with me. They objected to my laughter, although I was only fired many months later.

We have to realise that had the resident Geniston EMC magician ventured inside out equipment, or even entered into technical discussions with me, he would probably have been betrayed as part of “rent-a-crowd”, similarly to the way Weinstock’s GEC would rent a crowd of milkmen and the like for a weapons project to keep his roster of “electronic engineers” up to the two thirds contractual minimum. This minimum roster saved the government funded project from cancellation. (In any case, at 100% of cost plus 14%, the more milkmen he hired as engineers, the more would be GEC profits. Professor “stinking fish” Brown played his part in this when he betrayed the IEE, who were trying to establish a way to distinguish between an electronic engineer and a milkman.) In both cases, the Official Secrets Act or the like would provide ample cover. Even at this late stage, this article is probably undermining this country’s defences, which are based on bluff and scam, see  . The EMC community fits well into such a scene.

The EMC requirements meant that the little 3 foot long Data Products line printer turned into something looking very much like a tank, as can be seen in Data Products product brochures of the time. Since the antenna used by EMC magicians to detect emitted noise was brought up to a standard distance from the edge of the device under test, one obvious recourse was to make the device bigger, and so push the EMC detecting antenna away from the workings inside.

More recently, I was an electronic engineer at GEC Chaucer House, Portsmouth, but not at the time an EMC magician. The bright young thing designated Portsmouth Tigerfish Torpedo EMC magician talked about buying a screen room (Faraday Cage). He said it would be 100dB. It was interesting that the naïve, long term defence electronics designer sitting behind me argued with him that surely 60dB would suffice. I told him that this was ridiculous. The bright young thing’s future career path required that he buy the £100,000 100dB cage. What the job needed was nothing to do with it.


[Whenever a major scandal hit GEC, Weinstock would rename it Marconi, or vice versa. MPs were too dim to realise that all the weapons scandals involved the single company. In this document, GEC stands for GEC or Marconi.]

Stingray was special. GEC operated a number of “defence” weapon “design” scams, and Stingray was by far the most surreal. 

Davidson, Walton and Catt had made major breakthroughs in electromagnetic theory. We needed to find out how much of our breakthroughs were known in all the electromagnetism subcultures. Two of us were employed at GEC Borehamwood at the time, so Malcolm Davidson went upstairs to the Microwave design department. He came back down to report that they were only plumbers. They knew nothing, and merely played with equations and connected together tubes to pipe around only one mode.

Later, the question arose as to whether the EMC community already knew any of our advances. So I stopped teaching remedial English and got a job as the top EMC magician on the Stingray torpedo design project in Stanmore, Middlesex. As a magician myself, I would be able to find out what they knew. (For instance, I might be better able to force them to tell me what their jargon meant.) I had to avoid the EMC experts in GEC Portsmouth, GEC Rochester etc. until I had rumbled what some of their main buzz-words (e.g. lisn) meant, and found out what books they relied on. After a few days I found out that their bible was the £400 Don White manual. However, no other EMC experts would lend me their copy, or let me see it. After about ten days, however, I met a man who sold EMC devices imported from Los Angeles to our weapons industry. He volunteered to lend me the EMC bible, which was one of his products, for two or three weeks. When I asked him why, he said that he had mixed loyalty. On the one hand he was happy take a 10p capacitor manufactured in Los Angeles, renamed an EMC capacitor, sold to him for £2 for him to mark up to £5 and then sell to GEC. On the other hand, he was also a taxpayer, and was appalled by the drain on the taxpayer. At the time, “defence” took 6% of GDP.

It took me a day or two to find out that Don White and his EMC cardinals were technically ignorant. I wrote a document blowing the gaff on Don White, which I witheld. By then, I knew that the EMC community knew no electromagnetic theory, much as we had found for the plumbers called “Microwave Engineers”. However, by now I preferred to sit in GEC at £11 per hour rather than sit at home for £0 per hour. I was justified, because the same British government was funding research into my inventions at Middlesex Polytechnic, Brunel University and RSRE Malvern. I was on the research management committees. Everyone else on these committees was so jealous of the fact that my inventions, not theirs, were being funded, that they were determined that anyone else on these projects would be salaried, but not me, the inventor. This was thus a double double-cross. I would sit at my GEC Stingray desk working on the Catt Spiral projects, which paperwork looked more or less the same as Stingray paperwork. I would be paid to do nothing on Stingray, and be paid nothing to work for the same government on Catt Spiral projects. An interesting moral dilemma occurred when I skipped out of “work” on Stingray to attend (unsalaried) a management conference on one of my government-funded projects at Brunel or Middlesex. Should I claim pay for those hours away from my desk at Stanmore?

To keep my £11 per hour going, I had to keep away from other EMC magicians on Stingray. However, after two or three weeks the Portsmouth EMC magician could no longer be held off by my excuses. So two days before his proposed visit, I sent him my report rubbishing his Don White bible. Realising the danger to himself, he cancelled, and I never saw him. In the “defence” industry, reality threatens everyone.

By then I knew that EMC magicians were ex-RAF airborne radio operators or the like, good troopers who knew little electromagnetic theory. The £400 Don White manual gave them Project Plans which they could copy into their own reports for the MoD. They could also copy technical sections into their reports. All this copying was the reason why nobody except EMC magicians must ever see the Don White bible.

While Principal Lecturer in West Herts College, I found out that it was an offence to have no functioning earth leakage detector in the fuse box for power entering a room occupied by students. However, the indispensable mains filters on each machine in my room full of Nascom computers put too much electric current into the earth line. I set out to find out who generated the regulation. After some months, I homed in on an engineer hiding in the entrails of the I.E.E. I told him that that was fine; students’ lives had to be protected. All it meant was that throughout England, computer training would have to be done without using computers. I would make sure that everyone knew his involvement in making it illegal to use computers when teaching computers, so that he would get the credit for saving students’ lives. He replied that the standard was only advisory.

Given minimal support, I could do the same with these ridiculous EMC standards, which at present have criminal sanctions against those who breach them. Under pressure, no technocrat will accept accountability for their enforcement.

In the past, EMC, spawned in “defence”, would only boost the parasitic activity called “defence”, and help to waste a fraction of the GDP. However, the recent move, where it becomes a criminal offence for commercial industry to avoid their ridiculous, expensive standards and tests, makes them a more serious threat to us all. I need assistance to winkle out technocrats responsible for the present standards, to require them to and defend the test standards, and to be accountable for them. Such people probably do not exist. If they do, we must begin to destroy the credibility of such individuals, and in the end make these ridiculous standards unviable in a criminal court, because a jury will refuse to convict.

Ivor Catt    13dec02;  29dec02


The fatal flaws

How do I get to Killarney? – I wouldn’t start from here.

EMC will never escape from its origins – the stamping ground of ex RAF radio operators and the like. Later recruits are probably engineers who failed to cut the mustard as designers, or who were in any case in the surreal world of “defence” electronics. When a GEC or RCA product or similar failed to work properly, management would call in RFI “experts”, who would do tests and write awesome reports (later on copied out from the Don White manual). Like Don White, they drew on the theory and practice in AM and then FM radio developed during the first half of the 20th century when the number of transmitters increased and they began to interfere with each other. To understand the EMC magicians of 50 years later, it is useful to see them as dinosaurs stuck in the age of radio and radio interference, decades before the arrival of digital systems.

In the IEE discussion on the teaching of electromagnetics on 12 December 2002, all the thirty attenders sounded technically naïve when they began to talk about personal computers. However, they demonstrate fatal flaws in their attitude which would remain a problem even if digital systems did not exist.

The EMC specifications discuss conducted interference and radiated interference. Thus, the whole EMC community is committed to the idea that interference is of two types; conducted interference which travels down one wire and radiated interference which travels down no wires. This immediately confronts Kirchhoff’s Laws, which insist that conducted interference travels down two wires; the signal wire and the return wire. This brings us to the second, strange weakness in the whole EMC game. They assume that two interfering units will both be electrically connected to “ground”, which in their test rigs is a large plate of copper. As I moved further into high speed logic, my approach was to electrically float units in order to reduce mutual interference. Put crudely, when the length of the module is less than the wavelength of concern, grounding helps, but if it is longer, grounding hinders. (This was echoed when on 12dec02 the discussion on by EMC magicians dwelt on new problems arising at above 1gHz – wavelength one foot.) Thus, the very process of coming within the EMC specifications bans a potent way of minimising electromagnetic interference! In my case, I went so far as to design a revolutionary mains filter which, although safe and within British safety regulations for being DC earthed, floated at high frequency. The simple stratagem was to insert a choke in the earth line which had a DC resistance of less than half an ohm, and similar impedance at 50Hz. The mains filter was an open circuit between earth and the unit at anything much above 50Hz. This is discussed in my out of print book “Digital Hardware Design”, pub.Macmillan 1979, p83. [Editor; insert diagram, the one at page 88 of the 1979 book.] The filter came to market at about that time. The ideas built into that filter are crucial for limiting interference, but cannot be communicated to the EMC community or their testing standards, since both exist within a cloud of bizarre mathematics and prejudice, and would probably not understand my idea. They limit themselves to a low frequency world view where tying something to ground reduces interference and radiation. The worst comes by attaching two already interconnected units to ground, which increases the pickup of interference, even at lower frequencies, by creating a square loop antenna.

Another fundamental flaw is the assumption that if the emission from one unit is less than the susceptibility of another unit at every frequency, taken one at a time, then there will remain immunity when a number of frequencies are emitted from one and received by the other at the same time. This assumption is implicit in the fact that EMC tests sweep through frequencies one at a time. This is true if a radio transmitter and a receiver tuned to another frequency are involved. However, if the susceptible unit contains digtal electronics, it is not true. Here we see confirmation of the EMC community’s ignorance of digital electronics, which means their ignorance of more than 95% of all of today’s electronic equipment.

Another fundamental flaw in the EMC wallah’s thinking and therefore testing standards is their resort to averages. In the lectures on 12dec02, I heard that their aim was to estimate the peak emission of unwanted interference on the basis of measured emission. The implicit assumption was that any system, including digital, needed minimal average interference. They just do not know that if a digital system loses just one bit, the result should be assumed to be catastrophic. They cannot get away from their world, where a bit of interference of a voice over the radio is O.K. so long as it does not happen too often. The truth is that peak emission should be calculated, not measured with test equipment. Similarly, the susceptibility to interference should be calculated, not measured. This is the fundamental flaw in the approach of the whole EMC community, to test instead of doing what they have to do in order to be relevant. To be relevant, they must get involved in the design process; or else leave the whole problem to the existing design engineers. When a customer buys some equipment, he or his advisers should consult the design details, not the test results from an EMC test. The designer should be accountable if his design emits too much RFI, or is too susceptible. There is no room for an independent EMC community in a properly organised industry.

Ivor Catt  29dec02

First article ends here.

EMC Challenge

The first part of this article will be in EMC-speak.

If two modules communicate with each other via a cable, then that, along with their power inputs and earth, creates a loop, which will pick up interference induced by incident magnetic fields.

The solution is to float both modules away from earth, so that the resulting system only presents a long single conductor with module at each end, representing a rod antenna.

The techniques for doing this while still supplying 50Hz power to both modules was worked out more than 20 years ago. Two problems arise.

Did any one in the EMC community ever hear of these published techniques? When they now hear of them, via this article, will they run away and hide, or will they comment coherently on the implications for EMC standards and EMC testing procedures? I promise that all who earn salary from the EMC scam will disappear into the undergrowth and hope that the matter disappears.

[Editor.  At this point, add as much as convenient from pp69 thru 77 and 83 thru 88 of my 1979 book]

Second article ends here.   …. Martin Green, who in 1987 had established his own company located in the United Kingdom. Because of the coming European Union single internal market changes on the horizon, particularly the pending impact of the EU Directive on EMC, Mr. Green was very interested in developing a North American business subsidiary. As Mr. Green’s company was on the advance list of “to be appointed” regulatory bodies known as “competent bodies” for the EMC Directive, he wished to develop early market access to North American companies who might wish to have technical support and assistance to meet the CE Marking requirements of the EMC Directive.


“The International EMC Society is a small group of hard working people who all know each other. ….”  …. Don White, the international EMC guru, is President of Don White Consultants (DWCI).







Ivor Catt  tel. 01727 864257


Ivor Catt’s book on electromagnetism is at


IEE paper




The material below (in ) shows that, if the young lecturer (or even old lecturer), given the task of lecturing on electromagnetic theory, finds no help from the text books, he will certainly get no help from the www if he does a Google search for “Transverse Electromagnetic Wave”.  Nonsense about so-called “self-resonant frequency” of a capacitor  Displacement Current - and how to get rid of it


The Fatal Flaw


Ivor Catt   27dec02


The rapid collapse of Marconi, alias GEC, is food for thought.

Arnold Weinstock, with the help of the British Government, forced the merger of all British electronics companies into a massive company called GEC. This is because the dogma of the time, promulgated by the then Minister of Trade and Industry Tony Benn, was that Big is Beautiful. British industry in general, and British electronics in particular, would only be able to compete globally if it had companies as big as the competing companies abroad, for instance Siemens.

Previously, it was said, the greatest merger Weinstock ever achieved was when he merged with the daughter of GEC’s previous boss Sobell. This and more is discussed in the “Stinking fish” article in New Scientist, which led to a libel action which was dropped when New Scientist went for Disclosure..

Weinstock asset stripped, and created a widely noted and discussed money mountain of £2 billion. He also talent stripped, so that for decades, GEC was an empty shell. However, since all journalists were hostile to technology, and ignorant of it, this passed unnoticed. It was well known within GEC that Weinstock had got rid of the technical middle management, for reasons which will be explained later. However, this did not deter technology-free (and technology hating) city slickers and journalists from writing books about GEC’s brilliant management, investing in GEC, and advising everyone else to do the same. For decades, GEC profited from government cost-plus “defence” development projects which often lacked any end product. Nimrod was an example. However, in the same way as GEC would change its name when scandal broke, so Nimrod was a name given to successful minor projects as well as the major £1 billion spectacular failure.

GEC ended up valued at perhaps £10 billion, with Weinstock, the grand old man of the company, owning a good percentage. The £2 billion money mountain received frequent comment. Then came the time for the succession.

First, Weinstock tried to install his son, but ran into too much opposition from major shareholders, presumably the Pension Finds. In due course, the lead position went to Lord Simpson, who spent the money mountain and more on third generation mobile phone licences. It appeared that he was getting away from “Defence”.

In the space of only a few months, the mighty GEC was gone with the dotcom crash, down from £35bn to £150m. That is, its share value was down from £20 to 20p. In the process, Weinstock’s holding collapsed down to a few millions.

Technology-free journalists (which means all journalists), noting that Simpson was a technocrat, blamed the collapse on him. GEC had grown and prospered under Weinstock for decades, and soon after that great manager and financier handed over control, the company he had nurtured so carefully for so long was gone. All analysts ignored the fact that the weapons industry gives only a fraction of the return on capital invested of other industries, and that GEC’s growth had been less than that of its competitors. These things had been remarked upon decades earlier, but were now ignored in the rush to praise Weinstock the accountant and blame Simpson the technocrat.

The Collapse.

Why did a massive company, widely praised for its management (by Weinstock), collapse so suddenly after he gave up control?

The Market.

Predators noted that the succession made GEC temporarily vulnerable, or weaker than usual. They sold GEC shares short on a massive scale. The scale of their sellings made GEC’s share value collapse. The predators continued to sell, so that the amount they had to pay on settlement day was minimal. By then, nobody wanted GEC shares.

GEC was the perfect illustration of the fact that massive profit can be made out of destroying a company. In the same way as one profits from buying on a rising market, one profits from selling on a falling market. The only difference is that, whereas a bull has limited commitment, to the amount he buys, the bear has unlimited commitment if the market rises after all. However, this risk is fully covered by selling through a limited liability subsidiary. If things go wrong, the subsidiary goes into liquidation, leaving Soros or the like secure but a little less wealthy.

For this wheeze to work, all that was necessary was for Soros and his ilk to believe that GEC was in trouble, and together to be much larger financially than GEC. They did not need to know that GEC was an empty shell. In any case, being themselves technology-free, they would prefer a high-tec company to be technology-free like themselves; that is, they would prefer an empty shell to a real company.

When S told me that his top manager was trying to destroy his company which he was trying to save it, he assumed I knew that money could be made out of destroying a company. That is why he failed to explain the mechanism which was demonstrated so spectacularly in the case of GEC a decade or two later. That is, I did not realise that one can make money by selling short provided that one destroys in the process. This is the mirror image of making money by buying, or investing, in something which grows.

The Truth.

There are no grounds for my saying that major financial groups knowingly destroyed GEC by selling short. All that the above tale demonstrates is a fatal flaw in the Limited Liability company. A subsidiary can attack a company or a  country’s currency without the mastermind being liable for the resulting destruction. In fact, no master mind is needed. All that is needed is financial centres, for instance pension funds, with large amounts of money to wield egged on by rumour. It appears that no journalists understand the mechanism. So long as they all believe the same story, the destruction results, and they are all amply rewarded. The destruction is most likely to result without the predators knowing what they are doing. Such predators as understand what they are doing sleep uneasily in their beds, and stop doing it. Those that remain are those who do not understand, and who are much more efficient as a result. The most efficient system of all is if they are loosely directed from above by those who understand the process, and live with the guilt.

This fatal flaw in the Limited Liability Company will be one of many. The underlying flaw is that limited liability removes accountability, leaving the big predator to destroy anything smaller. It appears that the damage is limited by inefficiency. This means that as computers and the internet increase efficiency, the predatorial damage will increase.

It is clear that our system, based on limited liability, is only viable if it is heavily regulated on a worldwide scale.

Weinstock-Style “Defence” Contracting.

The government used “Defence” spending to regulate the economy, so it was erratic. Weinstock organised his company ideally for this. Lower level engineers were hired straight from college, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. It took them only a year or at most two to realise that they were in a blind alley, and leave. These bright young things were granished with a smattering of more experienced temps like me, hired for the contract on double pay. (Hired on a government funded cost plus 14%, the higher their pay, the better.) When the next “defence” contract came along, Weinstock could hire in this year’s graduates and some more temps, and repeat the cycle. He could match his low level staff closely to the ebb and flow of  the contracts.

Middle management presented a bigger problem. As family men with mortgages, they were less likely to leave to save their careers. Weinstock left them on half pay, so that only incompetents stayed. During low funding times, he had to keep paying these poor men half pay, but all the same, they would leave in a trickle.

These three ruses made Weinstock the ideal contractor for defence spending by his buddies in government.

On my website I pointed out that it was impossible to conceive of Weinstock being a crook, or even a shyster, because that year he occupied the Queen’s carriage to the opening of Ascot, while his wife brought up the rear in the second carriage with the Duke of Edinburgh. In any case, he was an accountant, so these ruses may not have been intended. It was well known that his sole interest was the balance sheet for each division, and if the current six months proved poor, the man in charge of that division would be fired. One journalist who interviewed him at GEC Headquarters reported that he had no long term plans, or strategy. It is possible that the three ruses alleged above developed naturally without any intent; the inevitable result of an accountant’s approach to hi technology.

Working as Principal Lecturer down the road, I would ask my day release students how long they intended to stay at GEC. Every one of them assured me that they realised they must not stay long, or it would ruin their careers. An engineer who spent more than a few employed at GEC was not taken as a serious candidate for his next job. Of course, this applied to any engineer employed in “defence”, but the principle operated with a vengeance in the case of GEC (where I myself was employed for many years).

Ivor Catt   27dec02


Argument for publishing this in Electronics World.


WW has been in decline for decades. This means that there will be a preponderance of old guard who have maintained their readership from a long time ago. For the old guard, this article will be very nostalgic, and they will be very pleased to see these complaints about Weinstock’s management of GEC from a technical point of view (which was always suppressed) aired. More or less all of them worked for GEC at least some of the time. Its collapse will interest them.


This kind of material was censored out for fear of Weinstock. After I wrote it, I started to search the www to improve it, and only then did I find that Weinstock died 6 months ago. This makes the article rock solid w.r.t. fear of libel. It was already safe, according to my judgement, even with W alive. W and/or GEC did sue New Scientist for libel, but dropped it. Thus, fear of such legal action will have reduced this kind of commentary, which makes it stand on its own, which is a good thing. The collapse of GEC’s credibility makes comment of this kind easier, of course.


If you take part 2 of the EMC article, this third article goes some months into the future, unless you want to run two things in the same issue. Of course, this depends on how much else you have.

Ivor   30dec02




It is astonishing to compare my article (above) with the standard stuff in the media, see for instance Brummer, below;


Lord Weinstock

Britain's premier industrialist for three decades, he built a world-class manufacturing empire with efficiency and passion

Alex Brummer

Wednesday July 24, 2002

Lord Weinstock, who has died aged 77, was Britain's premier post-second-world-war industrialist. For more than three decades, as managing director of the General Electric Company (GEC), he remained at the top of one the nation's greatest and most successful industrial enterprises, in a period when manufacturing was steadily declining. The fact that Britain is still a leading player in the global power industry, and has a world-class, research-based defence industry, can largely be attributed to his precocious skills.

With a strongly developed intellect and wit, Weinstock overcame an unprepossessing background to become the trusted counsellor to four prime ministers - from Harold Wilson, who saw him as the personification of "white-hot technology", to Margaret Thatcher, who recognised him as a powerful exponent of modern capitalism, although they were often were at loggerheads over her privatisation drive and defence contracts.

However, he was not just the cold-eyed industrialist who, in the Wilson years, drove the amalgamation of Britain's electrical industry - to the chagrin of Labour's leftwing, led by former technology minister Tony Benn, and the trade unions. He was as well known in the bloodstock industry and on the racecourse as in the boardroom, running, with his late son Simon, the Ballymacoll Stud in CoMeath, Ireland.

This was one of the few Anglo-Irish owned and run stud farms capable of producing classic winners. The most notable product of Ballymacoll was Troy, winner of the 200th Derby in 1979, sweeping all before him before being put out to syndicate by the Queen's racing manager, Lord Porchester, for what was, at the time, a record £7.2m.

Weinstock's other great passion was music, which he first discovered as a choirboy at the Poet's Road synagogue, in north London, and was, in latter days, pursued through a friendship with the conductor Riccardo Muti.

Outwardly, Weinstock was a forbidding figure, before whom his senior managers - and even some cabinet figures - would quake. There was nothing dreaded more for a GEC employee than the managing director reaching them at home, late in the evening, after he had been scouring the accounts. The thoroughness of his management, the tight control on costs down to the smallest washer, enabled GEC to prosper and grow in the face of the ups and downs of the UK economy in the 1970s and 1980s, when so much of British manufacturing vanished into overseas hands.

When the economy was going through one of its most severe recessions, under John Major's stewardship in 1990-92, GEC demonstrated a rare consistency, breaching the £1bn profit mark despite the problems of a high exchange rate as a result of the exchange rate mechanism. This was only possible because of the strict cost regime at GEC, which set it apart from the crowd.

But behind the mask of the cold-eyed industrialist, willing to close uneconomic factories and take on the unions and the complacency of much old-style British management, was a warmer figure, whose obsession with his own health meant that he was always there to ensure the best medical attention for an employee or manager's relative with a problem.

His senior associates at GEC - the inner circle with whom he would chew over the day's events - also recognised a good deal of wit, and saw that Weinstock's actions were always governed by a sense of fairness and sentimentality. There was much gentle teasing in his approach to people, though this was sometimes mistaken for sharpness.

Arnold Weinstock was born in Stoke Newington, north London. It was a remarkable birth for the time because of the age of his parents. His father Simon, who had emigrated from Poland to London in 1904, was 50; his mother 46. The oldest of his five brothers was already 24; the closest to him was Harry, by then 15. His father, a master cutter, worked for Hitchcock and Willis, making ladies' coats and mantles in the West End garment district.

When Arnold was just five, his father died after contracting acute pneumonia. Weinstock always retained vivid memories of a tall, dignified man, who would dress up in dark coat and trousers, with his fob watch nestled in his waistcoat, to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath at the Wellington Road synagogue.

His mother Golda took on the running of a busy household, but, by 1934, she was also dead from breast cancer, leaving Arnold an orphan at 11. Then began a peripatetic existence which saw him passed from one brother and sister-in-law to another. This was useful preparation for when he, and his fellow students at Stoke Newington central school (SNCS), were evacuated to Warwickshire in August 1939.

While living at the hamlet of Withybrook, the young Weinstock began to flourish academically. With the help of Freddie Fogg, a master from the SNCS, and the schoolteacher wife of his host, he gained matriculation, and, even more impressively, a place at the London School of Economics.

His days there were spent during the school's wartime exile in Cambridge, where his economics lecturer was Friedrich von Hayek, whose thinking was later to become the intellectual inspiration for Thatcherism. But despite his clear intelligence and hard work, he gained only a disappointing, lower second-class degree.

Two days after his graduation in 1944, Weinstock got his call-up papers, and was assigned to the production and priority branch of the Admiralty at Bath. Few might have guessed that the spindly statistician would, five decades later, be responsible for the manufacture of all Britain's naval vessels as well as the country's radar systems and advanced avionics.

After three years at the Admiralty, working hard for very little, Weinstock returned to London, where, with the help of his brother Jack, he quickly found a place working for the West End property man Louis Scott.

At this point, Weinstock made the most critical connection of his life. He was invited by the hotelier Maxwell Joseph to a charity ball at the Dorchester hotel on Park Lane, and placed next to one of the most eligible women in London, Netta Sobell, the daughter of Michael Sobell, an entrepreneur who had made his fortune manufacturing radios and would soon, with the assistance of his son-in-law Arnold, ride the television boom.

In 1954, Weinstock joined Sobell's Radio and Allied Industries, from which base he went on to create a manufacturing giant. So impressed was the City with his management skills that, when the larger GEC was floundering in 1961, Radio and Allied was encouraged to make a reverse takeover of it. Weinstock became the company's managing director just 44 days after Harold Wilson was elected leader of the Labour party.

It was a fateful coincidence. Wilson recognised the talent of the donnish businessman, and, when he made takeover bids for Amalgamated Electrical Industries (AEI) in 1961, followed by a merger with English Electric (owners of Marconi) in 1968, Labour egged him on, despite his policy of radical rationalisation. He was now Britain's top manufacturer, and, in 1970, received his knighthood, shortly before joining the board of Rolls-Royce.

Despite his success, however, he was not entirely acceptable to the establishment. In 1973, much to his chagrin, he was blackballed from Brook's club amid mutterings of anti-semitism.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Weinstock continued to develop the business, both organically and through acquisition, buying up scale maker Avery, the health equipment company Picker, the shipyard at Barrow-in-Furness, the electronics group Plessey - after a bitterly fought takeover - and Ferranti, which had run into financial difficulties. This purchasing spree ended in 1995 when he acquired the last remaining leg of the UK's seagoing platform, the VSEL shipyards at Jarrow.

Against the background of the breakup fever of the late 1980s, which was led partly by the financier Lord Hanson, Weinstock also built a series of relationships with continental and American companies, including Alsthom of France, Siemens of German and General Electric of the US (no relation) in a series of moves designed to make the GEC he had created takeover-proof.

But Weinstock's final years at GEC were not happy ones. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he found himself increasingly out of touch with the prevailing political and City mood. He fell out with Mrs Thatcher over his opposition to privatisation and the perceived poor performance of GEC in the development of Nimrod surveillance aircraft. He failed to please the City because of the GEC's old-fashioned corporate governance and a belief that he was not delivering enough shareholder value.

As if this were not bad enough, he was struck by personal tragedy. His son Simon, the commercial director of GEC, contracted cancer in 1996, and died before his father had settled the succession at the company. The City insisted that Weinstock Sr move on and, in the same year, he became emeritus chairman, making way for Lord (George) Simpson. The company he left behind was a varied collection of electrical businesses.

Ironically, GEC, at the forefront of developing silicon chip and cellular phone technology, showed no great aptitude for exploiting these commercially, which meant that the company that Weinstock bequeathed was strong on defence but not civilian technology - a distinct disadvantage in the age of e-commerce and the cellular phone.

In 1999, Simpson focused the company on IT and communications, and renamed it Marconi plc. But last month, as a major loser in the dotcom and telecom crash, its value had declined from £35bn to less than £150m, Simpson left with a million-pound pay-off, and Weinstock was said to be deeply upset.

In later years, after the death of his son, Arnold Weinstock rediscovered his Jewish traditions; he took pride in the fact that his daughter Susan chose to bring her children up in the religion of his ancestors, and he drew comfort from the fact that he was able to play a personal role in helping to ensure Israel's survival during the start of the 1967 six-day war. His legacy reached well beyond the realms of business, politics and the turf.

He was made a life peer in 1980, and is survived by his wife and daughter.

· Arnold Weinstock, Baron Weinstock of Bowden in the county of Wiltshire, industrialist, born July 29 1924; died July 23 2002