Group Title: Interview with Stephan P. Sashoff (October 8, 1974)
Title: Stephan P. Sashoff
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 Material Information
Title: Stephan P. Sashoff
Physical Description: Book
Creator: Stephan P. Sashoff
Publisher: Stephan P. Sashoff
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00005920
Volume ID: VID00003
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.

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74-year-old Stephen Sashoff

Pan American success story
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An American Success Story

In 1921, Stephen Sashoff arrived in NewYork-with his name and

destination on a card pinned to his coat. He learned English at the movies. As a research

engineer, he helped develop the first color TV picture tube. He taught electronics at UF

for 40 years. Now, at 74, he's retired but hardly inactive.

Stephen P. Sashoff has retired from electrical
engineering, but he still likes to work with his hands.
He believes engineers who don't like to get their hands
dirty miss the excitement of seeing ideas move off the
drawing tables and into practical use.
Sashoff taught University of Florida students about
electronics for 40 years. Before moving to Florida in
1932, he was a television research engineer. While in
New Jersey he helped develop the first television
picture tube for RCA.
According to Who's Who In America, this native of
Bulgaria holds patents for electron tubes and circuits.
His early use of tubes involved operating machines.
One of the gadgets he constructed was housed in an
organ and operated the lighting systemfor a symphony
auditorium. For the first time, the tubes and circuits
change the colors rather than having men in the
rafters switching the colored filters to change lighting
Sashoff witnessed the advancements which have
since been-made with tubes and the development of
Transistors and mini-circuits. But, he is no longer part
of the dog-eat-dog world of engineering technology or
the pressures of university life.

At 74, Sashoff lives with his wife in their two-
story log house on the north shore of Little Lake
Swan near Melrose. He designed the house in 1941, and
after contractors put up the main log structure,
Sashoff finished the inside. He still enjoys working to
maintain the ho se and surrounding grounds.
The red cypress logs are visible only in the living
room area. Exposed beams in the living room area are
8 SUNDAY I March 21,1976

the size of telephone poles and hold the walls firm. The
open stairway on the north wall leads to the two spare
bedrooms upstairs. The master bedroom and kitchen
are behind the fireplace on the west side of the huge
living room. Panelling conceals the logwork in those
rooms. The outside dimensions measure about 50-by-20
feet, Sashoff estimated.
He sat in a stuffed chair and recalled the events
which brought him .from his native Bulgaria to the
United States in 1921. His father came to America in
1907 to make a fortune of $1,000."
"My mother and I came over in February which was
the worst time for storms in the Atlantic," he said. The
passage was so rough that no one was allowed to go on
deck. The seven day voyage price was about $400 for
the two immigrants.
"My father had saved about $3,000 to send back for
us, but he was swindled out of most of that when the
exchange was made from U.S. dollars to Bulgarian
currency," Sashoff said. There was only enough money
to pay for the ship passage in the lower hole where
there were about 60 passengers in the lower hold where
"The double-decked beds lookedlike coffins, it would
have been a perfect setting if the ship had gone down,"
he quipped.

Sashoff arrived in New York City with his name and
destination printed on a card which was pinned to his
coat. He spoke no English and leaked the language by
watching dime movies.
At the age of 20, Sashoff wanted to go to college and
scraped the money together even though his father
earned only about $75 per month. He graduated from
Purdue University in 1925 and went to work for

Westinghouse. He worked with Dr, Valdimer Zworykin
on the development of the black and white television
picture tube and the conversion of electrical current
from AC toDC.
"I had thought about going into teaching and the
depression was coming on, that's when I heard about
the position at the University of Florida," Sashoff said.
"I contacted them by wire and on the next day
received word back that I was hired."
The electrical engineering classes at that time were
very small, he recalled. Before.the end of World War II
there were perhaps 12 to 16 graduates per year. After
the war, the student population explosion moved that
figure to about 120 graduates yearly, he said.
In those days, Sashoff said, the teacher provided
personal encouragement to students. There were no
counselors at that time, the teacher was the counselor
and friendships were built out of those relationships, he
The classes got larger and the need for instructors
grew as well. Sashoff said the shift in philosophy for
engineering occurred during that period..Before that
time, engineering involved research and development
of equipment, it was an applied science. After that
period, engineers became "paper pushers who didn't
want to get their hands dirty."
"For some reason the university people decided to
hire only doctoral graduates to instruct in the
engineering department," Sashoff remembered. The
fastest way to get a doctorate was to write some
theoretical study and bypass any experimentation or
research which would take a longer period of time.
Therefore, the new instructors guided the students into
theory and ignored application of the ideas.

"Mary of the laboratory assignments which were
Required before that time disappeared," Sashoff said.
The students didn't have to express themselves by
writing reports on experiments after awhile and
Sashoff said the result has been less efficient products.
"Engineers work out the designs on paper and hire
technicians to put the equipment together," Sashoff
said. "That's the reason cars are recalled with
engineering errors, the application of ideas suffers
because the engineers don't want to get their hands
Other countries don't have more intelligent
engineers, the difference is that they develop the
product on paper then follow through with the
applications of those ideas into the finished product.
Sashoff show no signs of wanting to return to his
teaching duties or the development of new engineering
designs. He still keeps up with new products through
"If I wanted to teach, I would," Sashoff said.between
puffs on his cigar. "If I wanted to do research, I would.
I enjoy working with my hands, I made that table and
that furniture," he said-pointing to various articles in
the living room.

Woodwork is only one of several hobbies enjoyed by
this congenial man who understands the intricate
workings of television. He continuously" repairs and
spruces up the cozy loghouse. The trees and plants
which shade the dwelling receive tended care from his
well-worked hands.
He said his first wife, Zilla Bodie, taught him most of
what he knows of the'social graces. They were married
in 1937. She died of cancer in 1953. In 1961, Sashoff
married Elizabeth McCollum.
"I want to takeher to Europe soon," Sashoff said. "I
don't enjoy traveling much, rm about traveled out,
I've been all over the world."
Another hobby which has occupied Sashoff is the
collection of bottles displayed on the walls of his home.
"Some old, some new, some foreign and others from
this country," he explained. He jokingly pointed out
that he did not empty all those liquor bottles, there
must have been at least 600 lining all the cabin walls.


He said friends had picked them up over the past 10
years and added them to his collection.
The. conversation was relaxed and interesting.
Sashoff spoke with a distinct accent, but was easily
understandable. That is, except when explaining the
"simple design," of color picture tubes or circuits.-

As for advice to future generations, Sashoff
emphasized the "importance of following through on
ideas and not being afraid to "get your hands dirty." ..
Sashoff said communications, especially television,
has made students more knowledgeable and
sophisticated. He said there are more "shiftless
skunks" in the present student population,.but
attributed that only to the larger number of students
present. He said the percentage of good students and
poor students may still be the same, but the total
numbers have increased.
"Let me learn, let me be something," was the
attitude of those small class members in the old days


whereas the new theme seems to be" let me get a job,"
Sashoff concluded. He added that the new students
must deal with numerous distractions which did not
plague those earlier learners in the university.
"I tried to instill the spirit of searching and inquiry,"
Sashoff said. Imagination is the key to new
development. He rejected the idea that everything
worth inventing had already been in rented.
Another tip for posterity involved doing what must
be done as well as things that are fun to do.
"Any damn fool can do what he loves to do, but it
takes a grown up man to do what has to be done. Learn
to do the hard things when it has to be done even
though you' re not overjoyed and that is better for you."

Bill Shields is a Sun staff writer.


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