Electronics pioneer helped to invent TV

Despite skeptical opinions, George Clifford Sziklai never swayed from his dream to see man explore the moon. And because of his many inventions that were instrumental toward space exploration, he lived to see the first astronaut plant an American flag on the moon's surface.

Mr. Sziklai held 160 patents in electronics, many of which were key to the invention of the television, during his long career as a physicist and inventor. His design of the first AC-DC battery-powered portable radio and the creation of color television, the remote control and a non-deteriorating material for the first American flag to be placed on the moon, were among the milestones of his career.

The 31-year Los Altos Hills resident died Sept. 11 of Parkinson's disease. He was 89.

"He always hoped man would visit the planets. People laughed at that, just like before TV. But he made these things come true in his lifetime," said his daughter, Katharine V. Alexander. "He was always full of ideas. He loved inventing things."

Even at the age of 89, while in the hospital and unable to speak, "he wanted a paper and pencil for another invention he had in his mind," she said.

Mr. Sziklai's wife, Violet, said he never considered his career work.

"He would always say, 'I'm not working, this is my hobby,'" Violet said.

Alexander said her father was recently working on a device that would control security locks on doors by recognizing an authorized person's finger prints.

Alexander said growing up the daughter of an inventor was "very exciting. When I was a very little girl (in the '40s), he brought TV home. Other people didn't have that. There was never even the conception that you could turn on (a box) and have a picture that was talking to you. I remember being so shocked."

Alexander said she mostly enjoyed growing up with a father "full of laughter and jokes and love.

"He always had a twinkle in his eye and a wonderful sense of humor," Alexander said.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, July 9, 1909, Mr. Sziklai studied at the University of Budapest where he received an advanced degree. He later studied at the Technical Institute of Munich as an exchange fellow.

Travel brought him to the United States in 1930, where he settled in New York.

"He came without anything," Alexander said. "And just as many Americans, he worked hard and cared a great deal about what he did."

While in New York, Mr. Sziklai met Violet, who had lived across the street from him in Budapest, but whom he had never met. Violet said Mr. Sziklai was handsome, humorous and intelligent, but she was not interested in him. After months of flowers, letters and a midnight serenade on her 13th-story balcony, Violet could no longer resist, and in 1934 she agreed to marry Mr. Sziklai.

"That was the best thing I ever did," Violet said. "We had a fascinating romance that lasted for 64 years." The Sziklais would have celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary this January.

Mr. Sziklai launched his career as an inventor in 1939 when he became assistant chief engineer for Aerovox Wireless Corp. and developed new manufacturing processes for electrical components.

He worked as a researcher at Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Princeton, New Jersey, for 17 years conducting supervised research and development in radio and television for civilian and military uses.

He later joined Pilot Radio Corp. and Westinghouse Electric Corp., where he served as director of communication and display systems of the Research and Development Center.

Mr. Sziklai came to Los Altos Hills in 1967 to work at Lockheed Palo Alto Research Laboratory.

Mr. Sziklai is recognized as the builder of the first image orthicon television camera; as leading the research on the color television systems and television-guided missiles; and as applying transistor properties to radio and television circuits.

He is survived by his wife, Violet, of Los Altos Hills; his daughter, Katharine Alexander of Los Altos Hills; two grandchildren, Suzi and Chip Alexander; and two great-grandchildren, Katie and Sam Alexander-Eiseman.

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