H. Taylor Howard, considered the father of the satellite television industry
and the founding chairman of the Satellite Broadcasting & Communications
Association, was killed Wednesday when the plane he was piloting crashed after
taking off from Calaveras County, Calif., near San Francisco. He was 70. Howard's
stepson, Brian Files, 37, was also killed.
A Stanford University professor and veteran scientist who worked with NASA on
several interplanetary probes including Apollo flight experiments, Howard
started a direct-broadcast satellite revolution in 1976, when he built the first American
direct-to-home satellite system from spare components in his garage. Howard's
system picked up Home Box Office, which, at the time, was only selling its signal to cable
operators. Ironically, Howard's attempt to pay the network for its signal was
By 1980, Howard's garage tinkering and his publication of The Howard
Terminal Manual had sparked an industry that saw a small group of engineers
building and selling consumer-fit satellite systems. That same year, Howard
founded the SBCA's early predecessor, the Society for Private and Commercial Earth
Stations, and cofounded his own satellite-systems company, Chaparral
Communications, from which he retired several years ago.
"Taylor was a pioneer in bringing satellite TV to all corners of the world,"
said Eddy Hartenstein, CEO of DirecTV Inc. and chairman of the SBCA board of
directors. "He was an innovator and an active leader in the satellite-television
industry for decades."
Howard has been honored several times over for his dedication to DBS
development, and in 1994 the nonprofit T. Howard Foundation was established to
promote women and people of color in the industry, reflecting his belief that
everyone should have access to satellite technology.
Howard is survived by his wife, Annie, two children and several