HAL Communications Corp’s history as a world leader in the development of high-quality, value-priced hardware and software radio data communication products stretches back five decades, the brainchild of a collection of graduate students and ham radio enthusiasts from the University of Illinois in Urbana.
The company has gone through a number of restructures and rebirths in its 50-year history, but each iteration was just one step along the path to the reputation and legacy HAL enjoys today.
Beginnings – HAL Devices
Initially starting as HAL Devices in 1966, the loose partnership between several students was purchasing HF radio equipment parts from a number of sources for resale at “hamfests” – meetings of people interested in amateur radio. After some success as resellers – primarily of then-popular Fairchild 900 RTL chips – HAL Devices’ first genuine product was a double-balanced modulator circuit board that utilized HP hot carrier diodes, based on an article in Ham Radio Magazine.
After being based in a number of locations – everywhere from an unheated garage, a basement and a kitchen belonging to various members of the organization – HAL Devices finally settled in a dedicated space on Locust Street in Champaign, Illinois.
The spirit and enthusiasm that drove those early days of HAL Devices would come to define the organization’s future, with commitment to quality products, easy-to-use systems and excellent customer service. From humble beginnings, three founding members of the company soon gathered to relaunch the endeavor.
Transition to HAL Communications Corp.
At the beginning of 1972, Bill Henry, George Perrine, and Paul Tucker – founding members of HAL Devices – gathered in Champaign to discuss the future of the business. After two days of debate, the trio emerged under the new banner HAL Communications Corp.
The following year HAL Communications Corp. outgrew its existing 2,000 square-foot facility in Champaign and purchased a larger building in Urbana. For seven years the former grocery store site served them well, but in 1980 the company’s growth called for another upgrade, this time to another location in Urbana where the facility remains today. Following the departures of George and Paul in 1976 and 1983, Bill took charge of the company until 2012.
Formative products from HAL Communications Corp.
After cutting their teeth as resellers of amateur radio equipment and the early success of their modulator circuit board, HAL Communications Corp. turned their attention to something more ambitious – the Mainline ST-6 RTTY Demodulator. Considered the company’s first major success, the ST-6 remained in production for almost a decade and is fondly remembered in ham radio circles.
Following that success, HAL’s team also developed the RVD series of video display generators, and a range of terminal products that provided strong sales well into the 1980s. The business continued to evolve as the product and customer base increased. After moving into the first headquarters in Champaign, the assemblers finally had a place to work other than their kitchens or basements.
In the years since the launch of HAL Communications Corp., the company has devised and developed hundreds of products. Some of these were immensely successful – such as the CLOVER range of modems and CLOVERMAIL Radio Messaging Software – and some less so, but full of innovative ideas that were important learning experiences.
HAL Communications Corp. and Barrett Communications
A new era for HAL Communications Corp. began in December 2012, with the acquisition of the company by Australian-based Barrett Communications, designers and manufacturers of HF and VHF radio equipment for specialized, autonomous, medium and long distance radio communications.
Recognizing the legacy and value of the company’s hardware and software products, Barrett continues to operate HAL as a stand-alone business unit, incorporating the technology into their own products while still supplying to other manufacturers.
With five decades in the radio communications industry, HAL Communications Corp. is considered a world leader in HF radio modem and digital transmission technology, and remains committed to its core values – quality products, easy-to-use systems and excellent customer service.