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AV Hall of Fame: Robert Brockman

Early driver of the projector market By Denise Harrison

Robert Brockman was one of the early drivers of the projector market. In fact, it was his notion that started the famous InfoComm Projector Shoot-Out, the annual event that put InfoComm on the map as the best and only place to compare projectors in side-by-side comparison.

While Brockman left a legacy in the AV industry, he in fact also left his mark on other industries as well.

His interest in technology appeared early and he remembers that while growing up in New York City in the '40s and '50s, he was into fixing things, was always "the AV guy" in school, getting the films, setting up and running the projector.

"I've always asked a lot of people about that - 'were you the AV guy in school?' and you'd be amazed how many say yes," says Brockman.

Brockman did so well with technology that he was later admitted to the prestigious Brooklyn Technical School. He commuted by subway an hour each way daily from Manhattan to Brooklyn.

"The ride from 77th Street to 42nd Street was totally packed so you had to squeeze in with every type of human possible," remembers Brockman. "After 42nd, it would thin out so I could study."

He remembers a funny French and German teacher, Mr. Berman, they nicknamed German Berman because the teacher got a kick out of giving the students nicknames, then using the nicknames to command them during class. "For some reason he named me Bruck, and if he wanted me to go up to the blackboard, it was 'Bruck, UP!' That kept the class entertaining - you have to love a teacher like that."

He also remembers that the school had, during World War II, been a training site to teach how to repair engines. So, says Brockman, there was not only an aviation shop where students learned to build and repair engines, there was also space enough for building an entire house inside the school. Every semester a new house was built by those studying carpentry.

After high school, he was off to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Upstate New York where he studied electrical engineering. He said college was tough academically and it was a constant grind in order to stay on top of it all, as is true in most top engineering schools. Brockman does, however, remember some lighter moments.

"One of my fraternity brothers just didn't want to take humanities courses, a feeling most engineering students shared," he says. "He signed up for a course in Shakespeare but he cut every class. He just wasn't interested.

"One morning at breakfast, he read that today was Shakespeare's birthday so he figured he'd finally go to class in his honor. But when he got to the class, there was a note on the door that said 'Class cancelled in honor of Shakespeare's birthday!'

"We were also lucky in that we knew a guy we called The Tool," says Brockman. "We called him that because he studied all the time, from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. taking few breaks. He was one of those guys who did every single problem in the textbook when only some of them were required. When we were studying for a dynamics course, he had done the hundreds of problems in the book but there was one he couldn't get. The next day he asked the professor for help on the problem but the professor looked at him in surprise, got defensive in his body language and said 'sorry, I can't help you right now.'"

The fraternity brothers knew immediately that that problem would be on the test so they worked it through together and sure enough, it was on the test and all the brothers aced it.

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Related Keywords:AV Hall of Fame, Robert Brockman, projector market, InfoComm Projector Shoot-Out, side-by-side comparison, technology


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