The Man Behind the Yellow First-down Line

Photo: Courtesy Stan Honey

At 6 years old, Stan Honey, MS ’83, could sail his father’s boat. By 16, he’d learned how to navigate at sea by measuring the distance of celestial objects from the horizon with a sextant. “Navigation in those days was more of an art than a science,” says Honey, whose dual passions for navigation and technology led him in 1983 to co-found Etak Inc., a company that would pioneer the first commercially available navigation system for cars. It was based on equipment he’d used to steer his own boat to victory in a long-distance yacht race.

Honey went on to co-found Sportsvision, where he developed various enhancements for sports television broadcasts, including the superimposed yellow first-down line that any football fan knows well. In May, Honey was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in recognition of his career of innovation. Also a record-setting professional navigator, Honey became a member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame in 2012 and Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2017.

Ron Rivest Photo: Gail Rivest

The National Inventors Hall of Fame this year also inducted Ron Rivest, PhD ’74, who co-invented RSA cryptography, a method that is used in almost all internet transactions to keep sensitive information safe, and Stanford emeritus research professor of electrical engineering Arogyaswami Paulraj, for inventing multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), a wireless technology that has increased transmission speed and expanded coverage for all broadband wireless communications in use today.