Ray White, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class RCN (Retired), worked at many of Canada's former Supplementary Radio Stations. He describes the use of the Kay Sona-Graph Sound Spectrograph. "It was certainly an invaluable tool for the analysis of telegraphic systems and, in many cases, the encryption of voice systems. The recording was displayed on a piece of paper called a sonogram which showed a 2.4 second sample over an 8 kHz frequency range.

One of the basic ways we analyzed a frequency shift (FSK) system, for example, was to zero beat the signal, offset the Beat Frequency Oscillator by 3 kHz or so (so the signal would be near the centre of the Sona-Graph and then record it for playback.  The result would be a 2.4 second X-axis and an 8 kHz Y-axis pattern. With this display it would be possible to get a fairly accurate estimate of, say, the frequency shift of an FSK signal as well as the makeup of the telegraphic component in Mark and Space conditions and such things as speed in operations per minute, etc..

We had several at the school in the communications school at Gloucester and they were also used in Aklavik, Inuvik, Churchill, Coverdale, Ladner, Leitrim, and Alert.  Not forseen by the manufacturer, was the usefulness of this tool in signals intelligence analysis.

The recording drum was a stainless steel item that was kept quite clean. The turntable had an iron-oxide magnetic recording medium on the circumference. Like any magnetic recorder, the head picked up the signal and played it through the amplifier and then to the variable frequency control, which controlled a screw-driven stylus which "burned" the frequency information on the special paper which had been attached to the outer part of the drum.
Basically, the length of the "sample" from a recorder etc, was 2.4 seconds, and the width of the recording medium was 8 kHz."

This graphic illustrates the principle of the Sona-Graph sound spectrograph.  (Graphic courtesy Sonic-Studio) 


The company was founded in 1947 as Kay Electric Co. by Elmo Edward “Bud” Crump. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 1, 1916, Mr. Crump graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in electrical engineering. Throughout World War II, he worked at Bell Telephone Laboratories on fire control radar for the U.S. Navy and held numerous patents in this field.

In 1948, Mr. Crump, along with a partner, founded Kay Electric Co. in Pine Brook, New Jersey. Kay Electric became a major innovator in the electronics field and a supplier of instrumentation to industry and the US government. In 1951, Kay Electric was licensed by Bell Labs to develop the first commercial version of the sound spectrograph called the Sona-Graph. The Sona-Graph became the preeminent instrument in the acoustic analysis of speech, signals intelligence analysis, and animal vocalizations such as whale, bird, and dolphin communications. Most major universities throughout the world also used the Sona-Graph for linguistic analysis.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Kay was mostly active in radio frequency (radar and TV) industrial electronics. RF attenuators, which originated during this period of the company's history, continue to be a part of Kay's
product line today. By 1970, Kay Electric was incorporated as Kay Elemetrics Corporation with Mr. Crump as its president. It was then that Kay began to develop the speech therapy, voice, and swallowing analysis instrumentation for which it is so widely recognized today.

In 1987, after more than forty years in Pine Brook, NJ, the company relocated its headquarters to Lincoln Park, NJ, located 25 miles (40 km) west of New York City . Mr. Crump officially retired in 1994 but remained active in the business for consulting and selected engineering projects until his death on February 22, 2002. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Mary; a brother; two sisters; nine children; 25 grandchildren; five great-grandchildren; and one great-great grandchild.

On March 17, 2005, the PENTAX Medical Company announced that it had acquired all of the operating assets of Kay Elemetrics Corp. Kay will continue its operations under the new name KayPENTAX, a division of the
PENTAX Medical Company.

Credits, References and Notes:

1) Ray White, Chief Petty Officer 2nd Class RCN (Retired) <r.p.white(at)sympatico.ca>
2) Sona-Graph image courtesy: http://www.sfu.ca/sonic-studio/handbook/Spectrograph.html
3) Kay Pentax http://www.kayelemetrics.com/companyhistory.htm
4) Kay Pentax http://www.kayelemetrics.com/Publications/comkay82.htm#Kay%20Founder%20Remembered
5) This document is part of the web page titled "Radio Communications and Signals Intelligence in the RCN" by Jerry Proc.

Back To Alert

April 19/06