circa 1998: Pictured are the Symbol innovators with the most patents at the time. Ed is seated at the right end of the front row. Standing behind him is Howard Shepard. Two people from Howard’s right is Jerry Swartz, the founder of Symbol Technologies. Second from the left, standing, is Dave Goren who, along with Ed, is still employed by Zebra.
Drawing from experience
As a teenager, Ed worked in a machine shop, giving him an appreciation of how parts should be designed for ease of fabrication. Early in his career he designed servo motor drives for numerically controlled machine tools, which helped tremendously later on when Symbol needed to buy, and eventually design and build, specialized scan actuators for laser scanners.
He also had opportunities to design production fixtures for manufacturing, construct lens grinding equipment and work with lasers.
"Symbol was a very small business in 1977," Ed explains. "It was important to have people who could operate over more than one engineering discipline, and who could contribute to many parts of the complicated products we were creating. We had to invent it as we went along.
The fact that I was exposed to this variety of engineering and manufacturing disciplines enabled me to be as inventive and productive as I have been. I feel lucky to have had that opportunity, and believe that it is this broad range of experience that allows me to do what I do."
Leading the pack
Being conversant across a variety of engineering disciplines and having a firm understanding of how to design easy-to-assemble products allowed Ed to contribute to many product designs, from the world's first handheld laser scanner (the LS1000) to OEM scan modules. During his tenure, Symbol became the first technology provider to make mobile computers with embedded scanners.
"I'm proud to say that I was the first to insist on the relentless pursuit of simplicity in our designs, and that this design philosophy permeates our product offerings today," Ed explains.
Between 1980 and 2003, Ed and his team created dozens of scanners. Building the LS 2208 is one of his most memorable experiences. Still in production, there are roughly seven million of these scanners in the field today.
"The LS 2208 incorporated a bunch of ideas that we had been saving up over the years and finally put all together into one scanner," he says. "The result was a scanner that was less than half the cost but just as good as anything we'd ever made."