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And Now, Eight Seconds Of Blue Screen

February 16, 1994

BOSTON (AP) _ Jerry Iggulden had a tired fast-forward finger.

So he invented relief with a technology set to hit stores in June that he says will automatically zap advertising from videotaped television programs.

Iggulden, of Santa Clarita, Calif., said the inspiration for ″Commercial Free″ came to him two years ago, when he realized he had to watch commercials more closely than usual simply to to fast forward through them.

″For the thousandth time I was trying to play this video game with my VCR, and it just seemed silly,″ said Iggulden, 44.

Iggulden’s idea is being manufactured by Arista Technologies as a flat, rectangular box called ″Commercial Break″ that hooks up to VCRs. Arista president Richard Leifer said the product should be in stores by June and sell for $199.

″When sales go up, we’ll actually run a television commercial for a product that gets rid of television commercials,″ said Leifer. ″It certainly does leave itself open for some wild puns.″

The idea of zapping commercials from recorded television programs is not new, said Iggulden, but earlier attempts failed because inventors tried to zap the commercials while the VCR recorded.

Although it is easy to make a device that senses when a commercial starts, it is more difficult for the device to tell when the commercial ends, he said.

Instead, Iggulden’s device allows for the entire program to be recorded, including the ads, and makes a map of where the ads are. Then, when the viewer plays back the recording, the device locates the ads and fast-forwards past them. All the viewer sees is an eight-second-long blue screen.

Iggulden, who expects a patent in a few weeks, owns the technology with Arthur D. Little Enterprises Inc., a Cambridge-based company that helps inventors commercialize their ideas.

ADL President Bernie Lacomis said he and Iggulden are trying to license the technology to manufacturers who could build it directly into their VCRs.

Industry analysts say VCR commercial control is just the beginning of a growing trend.

″There’ll be a time when cable companies will say ’Give us an extra 10 bucks and we’ll screen the commercials for you,‴ said Michael Schrage, who writes a column for AdWeek on the future of commercial media.

Schrage said as ad zapping methods become more sophisticated, advertising agencies will have to get more creative.

Bob Igiel, director of broadcasting for the ad agency Young & Rubicam in New York, agreed.

″We have always been challenged to make commercials more compelling. We have always had to face the greatest zapper of them all, which is the human mind,″ said Igiel, whose clients include Colgate, Dr Pepper and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

For those still baffled by VCR programming instructions, Iggulden insists his invention is easy to use, requiring only a few cable connections and the flip of a switch.

And, of course, you do have to know how to record.

″If you can pull that off,″ he said, ″then you need not do anything else.″

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