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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Microcomputer Computer Museum curator looks at old times, David Larsen KK4WW

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When writing one of my blog post or working in the computer museum I always think about events in my past various careers. This may be of interest only to me however here are few milestones that came to mind tonight. My wife and I also get to talking about old times now and then and it is fun to look back over my 76+ years.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David Larsen W7VZW
My growing up years were in Oregon during the 40's & 50's.

This photo is my amateur radio station in 1954. My interest in electronics and amateur radio would determine my career for the next 51 years.

Graduated from Oregon State University in 1963 after a 2 years of duty in the Navy.

To enlarge "CLICK" on photo,s
Bugbook Computer Museum
David Larsen 1957 computer school
Started Navy duty in September 1957 and was sent to school at Remington Rand Univac in St. Paul, Mn. This was so long ago that the famous Dr. Grace Hopper was there at the same time working as senior scientist developing computer programming. She wrote the very first compiler program. Dr. Hopper was 51 years old at the time I was at Remington Rand Univac. She retired from the Navy in 1986 at 80 years old as  rear admiral and lived until 1992.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David did complete the training 

While in training for the Navy at Remington Rand Univac I did manager to complete several courses of study.

This was my first experience with computers and it created a curiosity about computers that has lasted to this very day.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David's First design project at VT
After graduating from Oregon State University in 1963 I worked as an engineer for several companies before my 31 years as a faculty member at Virginia Tech (VT).  The companies were Raytheon, Konel, Fairchild, and Varian Associates then on to VT in 1967 as a faculty member.

This photo taken in 1968 was one of my first projects at VT. I designed some circuits that would take the output of a digital multimeter and print & punch out the information on  paper tape using the ASR33 teletype. It may not seem like much now but data was read off a strip chart recorder and then manually digitized for computer entry before I designed this automated digital data logger.  A few years later I did some consulting for IBM and Analog Devices and they both built and sold commercial products using my ideas.

Bugbook Computer Museum
David teaching PDP-8
Interfacing workshop 1970
During my 31 years at Virginia Tech I taught many short courses in "Data Automation and Computer Instrumentation.  These workshops were just great and also provided travel to dozens of countries. Tonight just received an email from Nick Cloyes who attended one of our workshops in 1976 - a lot of reminiscing with this.

This photo is one of the early workshops using a PDP-8L Minicomputer about 1970. I did not do this work alone and was joined by various faculty during the 31 years at VT. Some of my colleagues were professors Dessy, Rony and Field, Jon Titus & Chris Titus at the Blacksburg Group and others on various occasions.

Teaching / Outreach award in 1995.
Virginia Tech, VT
David Larsen Outreach Award in Spectrum
It does not seem like 20 years ago - I was awarded the one of two of the very first Outreach awards at Virginia Tech ( VT ) . This was a real highlight and honor for me my last year of active teaching as a faculty member of the Chemistry Department at VT. Here is a little more information about this award.

Bugbook Computer Museum
Outboards - digital teaching aids

About 1974 I designed some very simple digital teaching modules and called them "Outboards". They were marketed by E & L Instruments of Derby, CT along with the Bugbooks and other products developed my colleagues at the Blacksburg Group.

Bugbook Computer Museum

A catalog page from E & L Instruments showing a few of the "Outboards" in 1975. E & L also sold most of the digital products developed by our "Blacksburg Group" - some of the products were the MMD-1 computer, Bugbooks, Outboards, and other digital teaching equipment. See more here "CLICK"

Bugbook Computer Museum
teaching a digital electronics workshop 
Digital electronics were new to everyone in the late 60's and we taught many short courses to Virginia Tech faculty and researchers in digital electronics - learning all about Gates and Flip-Flops.

These folks are using the Outboards and powering the experiments with a 6 volt lanter battery.

That is me leaning over at the back of the room near the screen in 1974.

Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Bugbook Historical Microcomputer Museum
Their are many more milestones and stories along the way for me however; I have ended up at this time with a wonderful collection of microcomputer memorabilia and writing this blog. A small part of the collection is displayed in the " Historical Microcomputer Museum"  Floyd,Va.  I sure have lots of fond memories working with these old computers.

David G Larsen
David G Larsen

 "by David Larsen" KK4WW Computer Collector / Historian 
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