Fluke Networks is 25 Years Old This Month!
Twenty five years ago this month, a highly animated character popped into my cubicle at Fluke. He had a mandate: find a new business opportunity for Fluke within 100 days. To assist this effort, he also had $100,000 and the authority to employ anyone in the company in the crazy scheme. For some reason, he wanted me, and for some other reason, I couldn’t resist his proposition.
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Eventually about a dozen of us were rounded up and sent on our mission. We looked at a number of opportunities in the “communications” market. We spent time dreaming up a mobile phone tester, but could foresee the day when the only people fixing mobile phones would located in questionable strip malls with a guy in a bear suit spinning a sign in front of them. (Our ability to see the future was amazing.) We also looked at phones – that’s when I learned POTS means “Plain Old Telephone Service”. Again, we avoided going down a dead end when we realized that landline phones were not going to be the breakthrough technology of the next decade. And then we looked at Local Area Networks.
It turned out that this market had a need for things that Fluke is good at: rugged, portable products, with advanced measurements that were easy for professionals to use. We worked with an outside firm to launch our first cable tester in December of that same year. I’ll never forget a customer telling me how our first tester – sold under other names by other vendors – was vastly superior to those same models. Within a couple of years, we were designing and manufacturing our own testers.
A major breakthrough came in 1995, when the engineers came up with the idea to build a cable certifier that measured Near End Crosstalk (NEXT) based on a digital signal processing technology. This not only made the tester faster and more accurate, it could display the location of NEXT faults on the cable.
This new capability was put to the test in an imbroglio that took place shortly after the product launched. A contractor called us in to support his claim that the cable supplied by the customer in a large installation was not up to spec, and the problem did not lie with his workmanship. Our team tested a sampling of the links with the then-new DSP-100 and quickly determined that the contractor was right – the fault lay in the cabling. Unfortunately, the DSP-100 was new at the time and the cable manufacturer did not want to admit to the fault. They spent several more days hauling a network analyzer around the facility to determine what we’d figured out in five minutes. Nowadays, people trust our testers a lot more than they did back then.
I’m proud that Fluke Networks has played a role in installing and maintaining billions of network connections around the world and has made life easier and more profitable for our customers. If you’d like to know more about our history, visit: www.flukenetworks.com/25. There’s even a chance of you to tell your story about Fluke Networks.