Les Hoffman

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H. Leslie Hoffman
H. Leslie (Les) Hoffman.jpg
Born 1906
Died 1971
Zurich, Switzerland (Home Residence: San Marino, California, USA)
Nationality American
Other names Les Hoffman
Occupation Founder and CEO of Hoffman Radio later called Hoffman Electronics Corporation 1941-1971
Known for Pioneering work on practical Photo Voltaic Cells, Aircraft Navigation Systems, West Coast US Radio and Television Products, Philanthropist, and major donor and supporter of the University of Southern California (USC).
Original Company Logo of Hoffman used when branding their products

H. Leslie (Les) Hoffman, (1906-1971), was the founder and CEO of Hoffman Radio in 1941, which in 1948 changed its name to Hoffman Radio and Television. In the 1950s formed Hoffman Electronics Corporation based in El Monte, consisting of several electronic divisions involved with consumer, industrial and military products. Married to Elaine Stevely Hoffman (1906-1989). Formed the H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Foundation, Pasadena, a philanthropic organization in 1954. He and his wife Elaine were large donors and supporters of the University of Southern California (USC) and were directly involved with its growth, academic growth and stature. Served on the Board of Trustees at USC for 17 years.

Period before Hoffman Radio[edit]

Between 1929-1931 a company called Mission Bell Radio Manufacturing Company was formed. They were based in Los Angeles and specializing in small (midget radios) low cost radio sets. To keep cost down Mission Bell would buy as many prefabricated parts as possible and made a few design changes to established radio chassis to avoid legal action.[1] It was a company that was always in financial problems throughout the 1930s. By 1941 the company filed for bankruptcy.

In 1941 Les Hoffman, then a fluorescent light bulb salesman came to the Mission Bell Radio Office to collect a past due debt. The doors were locked and they were closed for good. Finding out the company went bankrupt, he decided to buy Mission Bell Radio and continue to make radio sets under the name Hoffman Radio. The company would remain in Los Angeles.[2]

Hoffman Radio and Television[edit]

One of Hoffman Radio's first products. Model A203 sold in 1946-47. One of the last Mission Bell Radios. It first sold as a Mission Bell Brand then rebadged as a Hoffman Radio.

For a short while Hoffman would continue the Mission Bell Radio name and designs. By 1947 Hoffman started designing their own models. The 1948–49 years, Hoffman would manufacture television, since RCA made their television patents royalty free. He aggressively marketed his product regionally, trying to maintain a good regional reputation and recognizable brand name. By 1950 Time magazine writes about Les Hoffman's achievements in making Hoffman Radio and Television the largest west coast producer of televisions. In two years (1948-1950) Hoffman Radio and Television sales went from $3.5 million to almost $12 million.[3]

One of the reason for Les Hoffman's success was in the quality of his products. Hoffman radios and televisions were well built, using proven engineering practices and sometimes applying practices used in military electronics. Hoffman moved into color television slowly and by the late 1960s had a full line of consumer products. Hoffman would continue making televisions until 1977.[4] To see the external and internal layout of a late 1950s Hoffman Television go to this link- Hoffman 9TEEN Portable.

Saving money leads to an interesting marketing strategy- Hoffman Easy Vision Television[edit]

When Les Hoffman entered the television manufacturing business, he was a newcomer he needed to keep his costs down and did not have the resources like the established companies such as Zenith or Philco. After World War Two ended, there was considerable surplus materials that needed to be cleared out of company and government stores. Television picture tubes require a protective safety glass in front of it to prevent injury if the picture tube imploded. Hoffman found large quantities of yellow Plexiglas used in aircraft. Since it was low price he bought large quantities. However the television viewing area had a yellow-green tint to it.[5] During the early years of television there was considerable concerns that long term viewing television could damage one's eyesight due to eye strain. Hoffman took advantage of this scare by advertising that the yellow-green tinted screen reduced eye strain. He marketed his televisions as "Easy Vision". Les Hoffman definitely was a shrewd and market savvy businessman.[6] See a 1953 Advertisement about the Hoffman Easy Vision and medical claims about TV viewing eye strain, CLICK HERE.

Hoffman Electronics Corporation[edit]

Vanguard 1 launched in 1958 was the first major application of the use of photo voltaic (solar) cells as a source of energy. The panels or arrays consisted of solar cells made by Hoffman Electronics, Semiconductor Division.

From 1950 to 1960 Hoffman diversified itself, through upstarts and acquisitions from a consumer electronics to also include industrial and military electronics. The company reorganized into Hoffman Electronics Corporation, based in El Monte, California (about 15 miles (24 km) east of Los Angeles). Several divisions were formed.

The Major Ones Are:

  1. Consumer Products (Hoffman Radio and Television)
  2. Semiconductor Products
  3. Military Products

A pioneer of solar cells[edit]

The invention of the transistor in 1948 must have had an effect on Leslie Hoffman. In the early 1950s, he took a major interest in photovoltaic cells (PV cells or solar cells). When Bell Labs introduced the solar cell to the world in 1951 it was only a curiosity. It had a very poor light to electricity efficiency rate of 2 percent, and was very fragile and expensive to fabricate. Several manufacturers including Hoffman managed to improve the efficiency to 4.5 percent by 1954, but still PV cells were impractical.

Hoffman KP706 Trans Solar Radio (1959), running on batteries or with a Hoffman solar cell array on the top.

Hoffman made great strides in making the solar cell a practical and useful source of renewable energy. From 1957 to 1960, he improved its efficiency from 4.5 to 14 percent and lowered the production cost to make it a marketable item. One of Hoffman's great achievements was the first satellite to be powered by solar cells, the Vanguard 1, launched in 1958.[7] The solar arrays or panels are Hoffman PV Cells. In 1959 H. Leslie Hoffman received the David Packard Medal of Achievement for innovation.[8] In 1959 he was one of the board of directors for the Electronic Industries Association or EIA.

The success of Vanguard 1 led Hoffman to broaden the use of his solar cells into other products and applications. In 1959, the launch of the US satellite Explorer 6 had solar arrays using 9600 Hoffman solar cells. The Consumer Products Division introduced a transistor radio line that operated with solar cells or batteries. It was called the Hoffman Trans Solar Radio.

Leader in air navigation systems[edit]

Hoffman Electronics Military Division specialized in air navigation, communications and radar systems. Most of the work and design was done in El Monte, CA. In 1957 Hoffman Electronics became a leader in designing airborne navigation systems called TACAN or Tactical Air Navigation. It is a series of ground or ship based transmitter and receiver stations that can provide bearing, slant distance and other related information to any aircraft sending the correct frequency and code. It became a standard navigation system used in US military aircraft including the US Space Shuttle Program. Parts of TACAN can be used for civil aircraft to providing bearing, distance and landing approaches. The development of Global Positioning Satellite or GPS will eventually phase out TACAN system.

In the 1960s the Military Products Division continued to grow. They put out advertisements in newspapers, magazines and nearby universities, recruiting engineering students to consider Hoffman as an engineering career. The El Monte site was located near major engineering universities in the Los Angeles County area. Within twenty miles (32 km) circle there was California Institute of Technology (CALTECH); University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); University of Southern California, (USC); California State University, Long Beach (Long Beach State); California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (CALPOLY); and Loyola University. Shown at this LINK is a Hoffman Electronics advertisement in the late 1960s from a CALTECH magazine describing the Military Products Division and what skills they need.

Relationship with science fiction writer Isaac Asimov[edit]

The February 1962 edition of Scientific American, published a short story by acclaimed American science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. The title of the work was "My Son, the Physicist". The work was commissioned by Hoffman Electronics.[9] The story later became part of a collection of Asimov short stories called Nightfall and Other Stories in 1969.

Hoffman Electronics Corporation after 1977[edit]

Six years after Les Hoffman's death in 1971, the board of directors decided to sell the corporation. Gould Electronics purchased most of the divisions in 1978. Gould Electronics was mainly interested in the Military Products Division and kept that. All other groups were either closed down or sold off. In 1988 the Military Products Division became an independent company called NavCom Defense Electronics Inc. with its home office in El Monte, California. (later moved to Corona) Their website still links their roots in Hoffman Electronics.[10]

Hoffman Video Systems was the only piece of the Hoffman Electronics Corporation that stayed with the Les Hoffman legacy. Les Hoffman's son in law, J. Kristoffer Popovich formed Hoffman Video Systems with Robert Jablonski in 1978. Their goal was to supply video products and consultation for industrial and commercial applications. Their home base would be in Glendale, but would have operations throughout major areas in the United States. The company is still in business after 2012. The business was purchased by Anderson Video.

Philanthropic work[edit]

On September 1954, the H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Foundation was formed.[11] Its purpose was to advance education and education activities. The largest benefactor was the University of Southern California or USC. Their donations and matching contributions totaled over $2.5 million over the years and help shape the future of USC. Major areas of support are in business and medicine. Two buildings are name after them. At the Marshall School of Business there is the H. Leslie Hoffman Hall. At the school of medicine there is the Elaine S. Hoffman Medical Research Center.

After the passing of her parents Jane Hoffman Popovich and her husband J. Kristoffer Popovich continue the tradition and remain actively involve in the academic growth and stature of USC. Both are USC graduates (Jane Hoffman BS 1965 and J. Popovich BS 1965 and MBA 1970). At the Marshall School of Business the Jane Hoffman Popovich and J. Kristoffer Popovich Hall is named in their honor.[12]

Family notes[edit]

After Les Hoffman passed away, his wife Elaine continued their involvement of the foundation until her death in 1989. She was an active donor and supporter of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art or LACMA and the Pasadena Art Museum. Les and Elaine Hoffman had one daughter Jane Hoffman who married J. Kristoffer Popovich. As stated earlier Popovich would run Hoffman Video Systems as a separate company after the Gould Electronics Purchase of Hoffman Electronics in 1977.

At the University of Southern California (USC) two buildings bear the Hoffman name. At the Marshall School of Business there is the H. Leslie Hoffman Hall. At the school of medicine there is the Elaine S. Hoffman Medical Research Center. Les Hoffman died in 1971 in Zurich, Switzerland (he lived in San Marino, California) and Elaine S. Hoffman died August 1985 in San Marino, California.[13] Both Les and Elaine Hoffman are buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.


  1. ^ Paul, Floyd A. (1994). Los Angeles Radio Manufacturing: The First Twenty Years (1922-1942). Glendale, CA: Floyd A. Paul. pp. 79–84. 
  2. ^ Open Business Directory, Akama. "Hoffman Video Systems". Company Founding. Akama.com. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  3. ^ "Corporations: A Brilliant New Name". 1950-10-23 (Time Magazine). 1950-10-23. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  4. ^ 1950-1959 TV's, Hoffman. "Television History- The First 75 Years". TVhistory.tv. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  5. ^ D (Mr. CT100), Steve. "Hoffman Easy Vision". AntiqueRadios,com. Retrieved 2013-02-23. 
  6. ^ Advertising, Newspaper (1953-12-16). "Don't Buy TV Eye Strain". Spokane Daily Chronicle. Retrieved 2013-02-24. 
  7. ^ Inventors, About.com. "History of Photo Voltaics Timeline". About.com. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  8. ^ Hoffman, H. Leslie. "1959 Winner of David Packard Medal of Achievement". 1959. Tech American Foundation. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  9. ^ Asimov, Isaac. "My Son, the Physicist". 1962. Scientific American and Hoffman Electronics. Retrieved 2013-02-20. 
  10. ^ "Home Page". NavCom Defense Electronics. Retrieved 2013-02-21. 
  11. ^ "H. Leslie Hoffman and Elaine S. Hoffman Foundation Pasadena". faqs.org. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  12. ^ Honorees, USC Marshall. "Celebration of Leadership". USC Marshall School of Business. Retrieved 2013-02-22. 
  13. ^ Times, Los Angeles (1989-08-12). "E. S. Hoffman Gave Millions to Assist USC". August 12, 1989 (LA Times). Retrieved 2013-02-21.