A longtime member of the entertainment technology industry, Don Hamilton, died in Torrrance, CA, on July 14, of melanoma. He was 64. Born in New York, Hamilton spent most of his early years in and around Midland, TX. He joined the Navy in 1960 and served as an electronic radar technician, serving on submarines for four years. After his discharge, he went to work as a salesman for International Rectifier.
Later, Hamilton went to Van Buren Industries as sales manager. On a trip to the University of California at San Diego, to sell a dimming system to a theatre group there, he met a young man named Dave Cunningham. Because of that encounter, Cunningham accepted a position with Van Buren where, with the help of Bill Ward of UCLA, he invented the Comp-U-Set 2000, a forerunner of the Multi Que and Lightpalette automated lighting consoles and certainly one of the first full-featured microprocessor-based lighting control systems.
Later, in 1976, Hamilton introduced himself to Wally Russell, who had recently been appointed president of Strand Century, North America. Because of that meeting, Hamilton and Cunningham went to work at Strand (Hamilton was appointed international sales manager). Hamilton left Strand in 1982, and joined the rigging company Hoffend & Sons, where he worked on such projects as the Siegfried and Roy Theatre at the Mirage in Las Vegas, the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts in Cerritos, CA, the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, and the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, among others.
In 1992, Hamilton joined Electronics Diversified (EDI) as western regional manager; he was hired by then-president Tom Folsom, who was with him at Strand. Hamilton left EDI in 1995, then worked for the Las Vegas-based rigging company Protech until his death.
According to Folsom, Hamilton was a key player in some of the events that transformed the lighting industry. "The key to everything was that Don and Dave Cunningham left Van Buren at the same time and went to Strand, which was a relatively small company in the US at the time," he says. "Because of the joining of Wally Russell and Dave Cunningham, we got the Lightpalette, CD-80, and much more, allowing Strand to quickly grow and dominate the 1980s. Wally's collaboration with Cunningham continued even after both had left Strand. And Don helped to sell them. If Don had not introduced Dave to Wally, we might have had a much different, and less interesting, lighting industry."
After Russell's death, Hamilton became a founding member of the Wally Russell Foundation. Hamilton, who was divorced, is survived by a sister and his daughter Michelle.
Not long after celebrating the company's 21st anniversary, Celco's managing director Keith Dale and sales director Colin Whittaker departed Celco Ltd., the UK-based lighting console manufacturer and supplier.
Dale and Whittaker say the separation is a result of another change in the ownership of the company - one that they did not support. The new shareholders of Celco are Amptown of Germany, Applied Electronics of the US, and Sonoss of France, with Lightstorm Trading maintaining an equal interest with the new investors. Dale and Whittaker had been trying to strike a joint venture with a major British manufacturer.
In January 1999, Celco was sold by multinational parent Helvar Limited to Lightstorm Trading and set up as an independent company. During the first 16 months of independent business, Dale and Whittaker restructured the service side, oversaw the move of the manufacturing lines from Helvar's Maidstone facility to a new Midlands-based operation, introduced new models, and "managed to turn in a profitable balance sheet."
In a press release, the pair said that despite these short-term successes, they recognized the need to expand development to ensure the long-term viability of the company.
Dale started the business as a production rental company in 1978, following five years as a "semi-pro," during which time he built up equipment and contacts. In 1981, Dale merged Celco, or Celestial Lighting Company, as it was then known, with EFS Limited, a manufacturer of control equipment, and launched the Gamma, the world's first microprocessor-assisted console.
Said Dale of his departure, "I don't think anyone will understand how difficult it is to part with something that has been a major factor in my life for so long. However, at least I can leave knowing that our strategic plan was in the best long-term interests of the company, its staff, and customers - even if the major shareholders did not agree. We wish everyone at Celco continued success and are excited at the prospect of applying our wealth of experience in new and different directions."
Whittaker, who joined Celco in 1988 following 10 years as sales director for Cerebrum Lighting, said, "It's regrettable that my involvement with Celco has come to an end, but it's been a privilege to have worked with such a great team over the years. We consider ourselves fortunate to have enjoyed such fantastic support from colleagues and dealers alike, many of whom have become good friends."
Dale and Whittaker say they intend to take a break before "evaluating their options in the industry," either jointly or individually. They can be reached at: (Dale) phone: 44/208/249-8877; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; web: www.kisska.co.uk; (Whittaker) phone: 44/1372/468-779; e-mail: email@example.com.