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1st Person Founder’s Bio

To see what every­body else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.
Albert Szent-Györ­gyi

1. 1966–68 – The first Junior Achieve­ment (JA) com­pany to do adver­tis­ing at Boul­der High School, Boul­der, CO. In Mr. Park’s sopho­more year, his JA Com­pany man­u­fac­tured and sold the ubiq­ui­tous mag­netic note boards that stick on refrig­er­a­tors. In his junior year, they pro­duced an emer­gency tire “Un-Flat­tener” — basi­cally a high-pres­sure air hose with female tire valves on each end that con­nected a flat tire to a fully inflated one, result­ing in two half-flat tires instead of one fully flat tire. In the­ory, this would enable dri­ving a very short dis­tance to get repairs. Obvi­ously it would­n’t work on any­thing other than a very slow leak and there was always a risk that you could end up with two flat tires. It was two years of arts and crafts.

Finally, in his senior year, Mr. Park led his JA Com­pany to become the first to do adver­tis­ing as interns at the local radio sta­tion (KBOL) on week­ends to cre­ate and sell adver­tis­ing to local busi­nesses while also cre­at­ing and pro­duc­ing the on-air pro­gram­ming all of which gen­er­ated so much rev­enue that rules were later passed ban­ning future JAs from repli­cat­ing the adver­tis­ing program. 

Lit­tle did he know at the time, Mr. Park’s life-long jour­ney into the world of mar­ket­ing had begun.

2. 1972 – First to cre­ate a Sony Walk­man-like device to play music cas­settes while ski­ing. In 1972, he gave his pro­to­type of the device to his father, Dr. Joseph D. Park, a renowned CFC con­sul­tant for Daikin Indus­tries of Japan (the world’s largest man­u­fac­turer of heat­ing, cool­ing and refrig­er­ant prod­ucts) to take to Japan and deter­mine what, if any inter­est there might be.

His father gave the Walk­man-like device (along with a walkie-talkie head­set device that Mr. Park also cre­ated) to some Japan­ese engi­neers that he knew and the rest is his­tory — the first Sony Walk­man intro­duced in July, 1979 was vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to Mr. Park’s device, includ­ing the micro­phone — an unavoid­able holdover on the portable voice recorders Mr. Park can­ni­bal­ized to make his device but cer­tainly unex­pected on newly man­u­fac­tured stereo cas­sette player. Although Mr. Park does­n’t know exactly how Sony acquired the device, there is a “Work­ing Girl movie” expla­na­tion of the design form fac­tor, the case and the con­struc­tion of the head­phones that is sim­ply more believ­able than the var­i­ous, con­flict­ing “offi­cial Sony” expla­na­tions of the cre­ation of the Walk­man offered over the years. (See the many sto­ries: here.)

Rec­og­niz­ing the Japan­ese cul­ture’s rev­er­ence for its his­tory, cul­ture and atten­tion to details, it is incon­ceiv­able that the specifics of some­thing as mon­u­men­tally impor­tant (and recent) as the devel­op­ment of the Walk­man would not have been metic­u­lously pre­served for pos­ter­ity — and yet it wasn’t.

The stated impe­tus for invent­ing the Walk­man (quoted from mul­ti­ple Sony big­wigs) was they wanted a way to “lis­ten to opera on long flights.” Then why put a dic­ta­tion micro­phone on a stereo cas­sette player, for use in an air­plane, and why sponge head­phones instead of closed head­phones, for opera?

The form fac­tor is a major issue — why a cas­sette that “flopped in-and-out” when there were already slide-in cas­sette car­ri­ers in wide use at the time that would have been more sta­ble (as used in Astral­tune and Stere­o­belt). This is also true of the inven­tor Andreas Pavel — who is cred­ited with invent­ing the portable stereo cas­sette player when in 1978 he patented the Stere­o­belt, which looked noth­ing like the Walk­man but nonethe­less even­tu­ally won a set­tle­ment from Sony in 2003.

Mr. Park’s “Work­ing Girl” expla­na­tion for the sponge head­phones was that the ski patrol at the Ara­pa­hoe Basin ski area where he first used the device, would not allow him to wear closed head­phones while ski­ing, for safety rea­sons. He had to be able to hear approach­ing skier’s warn­ings “on your left,” etc. His solu­tion: Sponge head­phones that allowed ambi­ent sound in. The cas­sette player form fac­tor (w/ micro­phone) was dic­tated by what was then cur­rently avail­able in stores — exist­ing portable cas­sette voice recorders that he can­ni­bal­ized in very spe­cific ways to play stereo music cassettes.

The orig­i­nal devices may still exist some­where deep inside of Sony and Mr. Park has spe­cific design details that no one else could pos­si­bly know about the orig­i­nal Walk­man-pro­to­type device and the addi­tional “walkie-talkie” pro­to­type that accom­pa­nied it. (Sony pro­duced the walkie-talkies in their My First Sony line of chil­dren’s elec­tron­ics — see below.)

My First Sony — Walkie Talkies       (1987) ICB-1000 ($50) 

Whether or not the orig­i­nal devices are in Sony’s pos­ses­sion does not change the fact that in 1972, Mr. Park cre­ated, used, and sold a bat­tery pow­ered cas­sette player iden­ti­cal to the Sony Walk­man, to lis­ten to music through sponge head­phones while skiing.

3. 1974 – Mr. Park was able to obtain the first hard liquor license for a world-famous night­club in Boul­der, Col­orado named by review­ing the liquor licens­ing statutes and dis­cov­er­ing, that while the night­club had been serv­ing 3.2 (low alco­hol) beer for more than 20 years, it actu­ally qual­i­fied for a hard liquor license.

Pre­vi­ous own­ers of the estab­lish­ment mis­in­ter­preted the liquor laws stat­ing that hard liquor estab­lish­ments “needed to be more than 500 feet from the state run uni­ver­sity” — by assum­ing that the mea­sure­ment was a straight line “as the crow flies,” when the statutes actu­ally stated “via pedes­trian access.” This was a BIG dif­fer­ence, since “via pedes­trian access” meant paved side­walks, legal cross­walks (no jay­walk­ing in the mid­dle of the block), and no alleys or other “short­cuts.”

500 feet mea­sured “as the crow flies,” placed the prop­erty unques­tion­ably too close to the uni­ver­sity to qual­ify for a hard liquor license. How­ever when mea­sured “via pedes­trian access”, since the prop­erty was located in the mid­dle of the fur­thest block “on the Hill” busi­ness area across from the uni­ver­sity, it was just far enough to qual­ify for a liquor license — which also meant that all other adja­cent busi­nesses were within the 500 foot limit and there­fore could not obtain com­pet­ing liquor licenses.

The sto­ried night club was a “show­case venue” that fea­tured record­ing artists: The Eagles, The Doo­bie Broth­ers, Linda Ron­stadt, Bon­nie Raitt, Chick Corea, ZZ Top, Fly­ing Bur­rito Bros, Miles Davis, J.J.