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Robert Galvin, retired Motorola CEO, dies

Robert W. Galvin, the retired chairman and chief executive of Motorola who guided his family's business into a new technological frontier and put palm-sized telephones into pockets and purses everywhere, died Oct. 11 in Chicago. He was 89.

No cause of death was reported.

Before Galvin took over in 1959, Motorola was already known as a pioneer in the communications field. But it was under his 30-year stewardship that the company would make history.

Founded by his father, Paul Galvin, and uncle, Joseph Galvin, the company introduced in 1930 the first commercial car radio, which they called the Motorola.

During World War II, the Galvins' Chicago-based company supplied the U.S. military with the hand-held two-way radio known to hundreds of thousands of troops as the walkie-talkie.

Galvin became chief executive in 1959, when his father died. Determined to expand Motorola's interests, Galvin tapped new markets in Japan and China. He invested deeply in new technology, including semiconductors and transistors. Under Galvin's leadership, Motorola became a leading manufacturer of chips and circuits that powered car ignitions, tape recorders, variable speed drills and kitchen stove controls.

Galvin also ensured Motorola's dominance in the communications field by providing NASA with radio equipment. On July 20, 1969, the grainy images and muffled sounds of Neil Armstrong planting the first step on the moon were beamed back to Earth using Motorola technology.

NASA has since flown Motorola equipment to Mars, and the majority of all police cruisers, fire trucks and taxi cabs in the United States use Motorola two-way radios.

Beginning in the 1970s, Motorola developed the first cellular phone, the DynaTac. Although brick-like by 2011 standards, the DynaTac helped make Motorola one of the world's top cellphone makers. In the 1990s, Motorola controlled 22 percent of the U.S. cellphone market. The Motorola Droid smartphones are some of the best-selling devices available today.

In the 1950s, before Galvin became chief executive, Motorola had 6,000 employees and sales of $250 million. When he retired as chairman in 1990, the company employed more than 100,000 people and had worldwide sales of $10.8 billion.

Despite his many successes, Galvin shared Motorola's flops, too. In the 1950s, he helped Motorola debut some of the first color television sets. But the devices were far too expensive for their time and didn't sell well. After years of losses, Motorola sold its television division to a Japanese company in 1974.

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