Alcorn got into the industry by accident back in the early 1980s. His wife, Linda, (his high school sweetheart) was always "passionate about Disney" and became an Imagineer after her college graduation, signing on as an electronic project engineer in charge of 10 projects at Epcot, then under construction in Orlando.
Alcorn became an Epcot consultant himself and, among his tasks, was helping design the control system for Epcot's American Adventure, "probably the most complex theme-park attraction ever done," he said.
"My passion was always product design. At Epcot, I learned about theme parks while doing what I fundamentally wanted to do: design a bunch of products from scratch. Equipment in theme parks is fairly specialized. We needed equipment that was rugged and well suited to control theme-park environments; we needed to create elements that pulled things together and synchronized them. At Epcot we were inventing products on a one-by-one basis."
After Epcot opened, Alcorn, whose first love had been the music business, did a stint as COO of Linn Electronics, inventor of the digital drum machine. But it was an era when American-made electronic instruments were being usurped by products from overseas, and Linn folded.
"We concentrated on equipment in four areas: audio, video, lighting and show control. Each was designed to replace what, at Epcot, had been individually engineered from scratch or borrowed from another industry," he says. "What was different about our equipment was that it had no moving parts. It was designed to be installed and ignored for 20 years. We still have equipment out there that's been running for two decades without a power cycle or a reset, something you'd never achieve with a PC."
Alcorn McBride, which was initially staffed with former Imagineers, took over larger offices in Glendale, CA, where the company focused even more on the theme-park business. But Alcorn had always wanted to return to Florida, so he moved the company to Orlando, its location since 1989. "From the facilities we own in Orlando, we focus on our strengths: engineering design, customer support, marketing and sales."
Alcorn pointed out that "because our engineers go out in the field to support our integrator customers and are familiar with those customers' working environments, operational information funnels back to us. I've often used a piece of equipment and felt its the designer never had to use it. But that doesn't happen here. We understand how our products will be used; that helps us design products to satisfy the needs of our customers."
Although many of Alcorn McBride's products remain in active service, that doesn't mean equipment improvements are at a standstill. "The latest software downloads and firmware updates are available free on our website - they will turn a 15-year-old product into a new one," said Alcorn.
"Our new designs are driven by improvements in technology. Our first HD video player was out 10 years ago, long before the Blu-ray player. We have now migrated all our HD players to Flash memory and are developing higher and higher resolution products to accommodate theme parks' 4K - and above - projection."
For more information, please visit www.alcorn.com.
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