April 13, 2010
John E.D. Ball Emmy-Winning T.V. Engineer
John E.D. Ball, 77, founding president of the National Captioning Institute
and two-time national Emmy Award winner for his television engineering work,
died March 25  at the Fairfax Nursing Center of complications from a
stroke suffered in November at his home in Vienna.
Mr. Ball was a native of Scotland who came to the United States mid-career
in the 1960s.
In 1971, he joined the Public Broadcasting Service and helped implement the
first domestic satellite distribution system. That project, completed in
1978, won Mr. Ball his first Emmy award for engineering.
His second came two years later for his efforts to develop closed captioning
for television programs. About the same time, he became president of the
brand-new National Captioning Institute, a nonprofit entity that worked to
expand the availability of closed captioning.
During his 15 years at NCI, real-time captioning was improved and the first
live news broadcasts were captioned. At the urging of NCI and others,
Congress passed a law in 1990 that required new televisions with screens
larger than 13 inches to be equipped with closed-captioning technology.
Many in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community applauded the work of NCI,
and Mr. Ball was awarded an honorary degree from Gallaudet University in
Washington. He also received a distinguished service award from the
John Edward Dewar Ball was a native of Glasgow, Scotland, and a graduate of
Glasgow’s Royal College of Science and Technology.
He served two years in the Royal Air Force as a radio signaller and 13 years
with the BBC before a doctor misdiagnosed rheumatoid arthritis in Mr. Ball’s
wife and advised moving to a warm, dry climate.
Mr. Ball promptly sought work overseas and in 1966 landed a job at the
Computer Science Corp. in the District. He later worked for Intelsat on a
global satellite distribution network.
He was a member of many telecommunications industry groups, authored
numerous papers and held multiple patents. He was a member of the Cosmos
Club and Vienna Presbyterian Church.
Survivors include his wife, the former Elizabeth Rodger of Vienna; three
sons, Norman Ball of Leesburg, Adrian Ball of Arlington County and Evan Ball
of Vienna; and a grandson.