EXPERIENCED AND STILL INSPIRED!
It was the early 1970s that Nick Gartner – inventor, consultant, and founder of La Gard Inc. and Lock Technology – started making changes, many revolutionary, within the security industry. Gartner´s interest in the security industry started when he met Harry Miller in California in the beginning of the 1970s. Mr. Miller was the owner of Sargent & Greenleaf and also considered the world´s expert in combination locks and lock manipulation techniques. Miller made a bet with Gartner one evening at dinner that Gartner could not come up with a lock that Miller couldn´t beat. Two months later, the first electronic safe lock was born.
In 1974, Gartner received his first of many lock patents on an LED key, which was the forerunner of La Gard´s newest product, Lock Navigator, and Lock Technology´s Lock Pilot. LEDs were used as the small LCD display was not yet widely, or inexpensively, available. The key was plugged into a housing. The switch was moved up or down and when the desired LED number was present, the switch was pushed in. While this technology is readily available today, it was revolutionary in the 1970s. Harry Miller was so impressed with Gartner´s design that S&G made a license agreement for the lock and a consulting contract with Gartner for other electronic safe locks and access controls.
During his association with S&G, Miller asked Gartner to come up with a new manipulation-proof (MP) mechanical combination lock because of the problems with S&G´s existing one. This product is still S&G´s most secure lock and the Gartner patent issued in 1976 (see product photo). In this same time period, Gartner developed another product that revolutionized the safe deposit industry – a double key changeable safe deposit lock. That patent issued in 1978, and variations of that lock are still used through North America today.
Nick founded La Gard Inc. in Torrance, California in 1975. Although La Gard is now known for safe lock access controls, one of its first products actually changed key cutting in the locksmith industry forever – the 1200 Code Machine. The 1200 was a machine that cut keys by code cards. Gartner´s patent on this product issued in 1978. As La Gard´s focus became safe locks and the emerging ATM industry, the 1200 was sold to HPC, one of the world´s largest locksmith supply manufacturer. The 1200 Code Machine remains the most popular machine in the history of code machines; so popular in fact that within the last few years, ILCO has made an almost identical copy of the machine.
The first change to safe locks came in the wheel design of the mechanical combination lock. This wheel design is revolutionary because of the simplicity of design and reduction of parts. It contains only three pieces, the inner wheel, outer wheel and the snap ring. Although the patent issued in 1979, the wheel is still used in La Gard´s mechanical combination locks, and has been copied worldwide.
Since 1975, there has been an explosion of new products further changing the history of safe locks. Gartner´s designs have produced cost-effective, simple-to-use electronic locks. Even though La Gard was sold to Masco Corporation in February 1997, and subsequently to Kaba-Mas in 2006, Gartner continued to design and improve locks and inputs for another seven years, acquiring more patents on products such as the ComboGard and LG Basic, and now holds in excess of 50 patents.
Not content to think about retirement, Gartner started Lock Technology. Nick Gartner is planning to change the safe lock industry one more time through the power of design, quality engineering, and manufacturing techniques. Experienced, and still inspired, Gartner continues his history-making developments of safe locks and access controls.