Josef Kates


May 25, 2022

Josef Kates, born Josef Katz (Vienna, May 5, 1921 - Toronto, June 16, 2018) was a Canadian-born Austrian engineer. His discoveries in the electronic field led to the development of the first video game machine and the first road sign system.


Early years and education

The fifth of six children of an Austro-Jewish family, Josef Kates was born to Baruch (Bernard) and Anna Katz (nee Entenberg), who ran a grocery store in Vienna and an import / export business in Vienna. Josef flew to Italy to escape the Nazis after the Anschluss in 1938 and then, the following year, joined the rest of the family in England. Kates enlisted in the British army but, before he could take up service, he and other Germans and Austrians residing in Britain were interned as enemy aliens. Kates was deported to Canada where he remained for nearly two years until he and most of his fellow Jewish internees were recognized by the government as "victims of Nazi aggression" and released. In fields in New Brunswick and Québec, Kates fished, worked as a lumberjack, knitted socks, and studied for his high school graduation through McGill University's high school matriculation program, ranking first in provincial-level exams. Quebec. After his release in 1942, he moved to Toronto where he met Lillian Kroch, marrying her in 1944. They had four children: Louis, Naomi, Celina and Philip A. He studied at Goethe-Realschule (Vienna: 1931-1938), at McGill University ( Montreal: 1941, junior and senior freshman), University of Toronto (Toronto: 1944-1948, honors in Mathematics and Physics; 1948-1949: MA in Applied Mathematics; 1949-1951: Ph.D. in Physics).


Kates began his career working for the Imperial Optical Company of Toronto in 1942 and was responsible for precision optics for Royal Canadian Navy equipment until his departure in 1944. He then worked for the Rogers Vacuum Tube Company (later Royal Philips Electronics). ), for the next four years in the development and production of radar and radio tubes. He then went on to work in 1948 at the Computer Center of the University of Toronto, where he participated in the design and construction of UTEC, the first pilot model of a computer built in Canada. Kates also built the first digital game machine, the Bertie the Brain: almost four meters high, it was exhibited at the Canadian National Exhibition in 1950. The game was a version of tic-tac-toe, with adjustable difficulty levels. The game machine controlled the lighting of an overhead display to show the progress of the game, and was built using a special electron tube, the additron tube, invented by Kates himself. The additron tube was able to do the job of ten radio tubes, reducing the size and complexity of the machine. With the advent of transistors soon after, much smaller and requiring less power, the tube was never put on the market. Kates designed the Toronto Automatic Traffic Signaling System in 1954, the first in the world. He founded and then became president of KCS Ltd in Toronto between 1954 and 1966, which merged with the consulting arm of Peat, Marwick, Mitchell & Co. to become Kates, Peat, Marwick & Co. in Canada, with other companies in the United States and the United Kingdom, for which he acted as co-managing partner. He was a computer consultant for many Canadian and American companies and organizations and was involved in the creation of Setak Computer Services Corp. Ltd. (with the surname spelled backwards) based in Toronto; offered access to computers and advice based on Burroughs computers, such as the B5500. Later, Setak employee Barry W. Ramer founded Barry W. Ramer & Partners Ltd. and Ramer Data C