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Julius Barnathan was an ABC television executive who developed a number of important technological changes in broadcasting.
Barnathan served in the U.S. Navy in World War II and graduated from Brooklyn College with degrees in mathematics and statistics. He later obtained a master’s degree in statistics from Columbia University. He started at ABC network as supervisor of ratings in 1954, and, over a forty-year career, rose to become general manager, vice president of research, and, finally, president of broadcast operations and engineering.
In that role, he introduced a number of innovations. He helped bring slow-motion technology to color cameras. He also used long-lens cameras to capture sports events from greater distances. This technique allowed ABC Sports to successfully broadcast Olympic events like downhill skiing and, in turn, to make the Olympic Games among the most popular television events.
He also introduced computer-generated graphics to the television studio, allowing for the incorporation of animated graphics and the “box block” that appeared next to anchormen on ABC newscasts.
His proudest achievement, however, was developing closed-captioning systems for ABC. He convinced the network to incorporate the technology and then shamed other networks to follow its lead. His efforts earned him an honorary degree from Gallaudet College in 1982.
Bill Carter, Julius Barnathan, 70, Innovator In Television Technology at ABC, NY Times, 5 Dec. 1997.