|At the dawn of the 1950s, our Cannon connectors were battle-tested – literally – and ready to tackle new missions.
In the previous decade, World War II had helped catapult Cannon products into a leading solution for defense, aerospace and broadcasting customers. During the war, it was estimated that every American was using a Cannon connector at least five times a day – to watch television, listen to the radio, fly from here to there or fight for their country. Cannon plugs had become “cannon plugs” – turned into a generic name, like band-aids and escalators, to stand for an entire product market.
When the fighting ended, a growing chill developed between the United States and the Soviet Union – fed by differences in political beliefs and the direction of the post-war world – and these two emerging global superpowers faced off in a “Cold War” marked by massive build-ups of missiles. Having “earned our stripes” in the heat of battle, U.S. military customers again turned to Cannon to provide products for the many types of inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) being developed, including the Atlas, Titan and Minuteman.
It was a hectic and tense time, but the Cannon team kept calm, staying focused on the job at hand and bringing the Cannon brand values of quality, high reliability and innovation to the fore. Our Cannon engineers designed specialized connectors to meet the needs of missile launchings – from small rockets to massive multi-stage vehicles. There were on-board connectors that linked the missile’s internal electronic systems together and umbilical connectors that linked the missiles to electronic complexes on the ground. When the missile launched or separated during flight, the umbilical plugs disconnected either by the action of the missile or by remote control directions.
The performance and ingenious designs of the missile connectors further helped solidify Cannon as the go-to source of connectors for defense and aerospace customers.
The D-sub breakthrough
While one Cannon team was helping us dominate the missile market, another was developing a breakthrough product: the D-subminiature connector. The D-sub earned its name because there were two rows of contact pins, one slightly longer than the other so that the connector was shaped like a long, narrow “D.” The ability – and just as important, the willingness – to break with tradition and try a new connector design marked Cannon as a technological leader.
Originally designed for aircraft radio systems, the D-sub became the first-ever multi-purpose connector, ideal for many different applications. Through the years, this versatility made this Cannon invention the most widely used connector in the world. As is often the case with amazing discoveries like this, the team didn’t know it was making history; it simply thought it was making a better, smaller product for the customer.
“We kept hearing that people wanted smaller plugs, so we decided to make some,” said Bob Cannon – the Cannon Electric Company leader at that time – with typical matter-of-factness.
Several other significant technological breakthroughs occurred during the 1950s. A new audio connector expanded the capabilities of military communications and – ironically – provided the base for sophisticated and durable sound equipment that would be used in the very un-military-like world of rock-and-roll recordings and concerts. Our Cannon connectors also enabled the first electronic color TV camera to take viewers – like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz
– from a black-and-white world to one in full, exciting color.
Additionally, the introduction of a telephone switching equipment connector provided the basis for Cannon’s entry into the telecommunications marketplace and spurred Cannon’s growth. Cannon opened a manufacturing and sales operation in the United Kingdom in 1954, and this was soon followed by facilities in Germany, France, Australia and Japan.
Three decades after Cannon began its life in the backyard workshop of James Cannon, the company and brand now had an international presence. It had already been an amazing journey, but in many ways it was just beginning.
Click here to view a video called “A Century of Amazing Connections” that outlines the milestones throughout Cannon’s history.