SDM in the 1980s: An Expanding Industry
As the security industry expanded during the 1980s, SDM reflected the changes. Now under the new management â€” having been acquired in 1979 by Newton, Mass.-based Cahners Publishing Co., but published out of its Chicago office â€” SDM got a new staff as well as a new look during the 1980s. Susan Whitehurst was named editorial director in mid-1981, a position she held well into the 1980s and beyond that as the publisher â€” and a familiar name to many readers. Les Gold began writing the legal column, “Security & the Law,” which he continues to write this day. SDM’s current editor, Laura Stepanek, joined the staff in 1984 as a wide-eyed journalist taking on her first assignment as a proofreader.
A modern new logo was added to the cover, and under the direction of a professional designer and production manager, the layout and art design were improved and updated. A far cry from the inaugural edition in January 1971 of 32 pages, each issue of SDM now approached 200 pages, sometimes greater.
And there were plenty of stories to fill the pages. Security endured the growing pains that all flourishing industries undergo: training, licensing, community relations, marketing, unfair competition. For example, a story in 1981 titled, “Cable Security Reaches for a Mass Market,” outlined how various cable providers across the United States were planning for a mass-market approach to home security installation and monitoring via their cable customer account base and cable television infrastructure. Further, SDM reported on new telecommunications legislation and the break-up of the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), which would open the door for competition under David versus Goliath type circumstances.
The themes of the decade revealed how technologies were unfolding new opportunities. For instance, the invention of the digital communicator in the 1970s allowed monitoring to be done over long distances, thus spawning third-party central stations and new dealerships that opened practically overnight. Coupled with the miniaturization of motion sensors and door/window contacts, and greater use of wireless controls, the industry was ripe for a mass marketing effort in home security. The opportunity to penetrate the residential marketplace didn’t present itself only to local, small dealers or professional installers. SDM’s coverage throughout the 1980s showed that retail businesses like Sears Roebuck and Radio Shack tried out the market â€” each for a time.
Along with so many new, small security dealerships opening up, the issues centered on training, licensing, and in other ways encouraging professionalism. The National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association created its National Training School (NTS) to provide a fundamental level of education for installers and technicians. In 1985, three NTS instructors spent a week at SDM’s offices in Chicago, training and certifying the editorial staff as Level 1 Alarm Technicians. As the number of installed security systems surged, so too did false alarms and the industry began to take giant steps towards managing them by dedicating professionals to educating the industry.
Advertisements placed in SDM transitioned from static black-and-white in the 1970s to brilliant color in the 1980s â€” just as it became routine for dealers to leave behind B&W CCTV cameras for color cameras during the 1980s. To keep readers up-to-date with the changes in technology, SDM published reader favorites such as the departments of “Kinks & Hints,” “Installation Report,” “Equipment Overview,” and “Workbench Review.” By the end of the decade, computers were beginning to be more commonly employed for not only communication and accounting tasks, but also for technical procedures such as remote panel uploading and downloading.
Little did SDM or its readers know at the time, that the next decade â€” the 1990s â€” would usher in a whole new world with the Internet. n