Friday, November 14, 2014

Visiting Home: Lasers, Computers, & Sweatshirts

I spent the last two weeks visiting my mother in my childhood home. It's been a long time since I've spent that much time here. Tonight, as I was packing up, I came across a few things from decades ago.


The first thing I came across was my prep school sweatshirt from NAPS. At a quarter of a century old it still looks as good as new.

Naval Academy Prep School


After seeing my old sweatshirt, it piqued my interest to take a peek in the attic. I found my first two personal computers. A TRS-80 Model I and a Model III. I spent many hours writing BASIC and Z-80 assembly on these machines. Without a doubt, these two computers formed the foundation of my career. The Model I was first manufactured in 1977 and the Model III shipped about three years later. The year 1977 was the defining moment for the personal computer industry; it's the year that the first personal computers shipped with a keyboard, monitor, and tape deck for persistent storage. It's the year of the Apple II, TRS-80, and Commodore PET. Out of the gate, Apple set the standard for a personal computer with upper and lower case text and color. I gravitated to the TRS-80 simply because they were sold in Radio Shack computer centers which were easily accessible to me via a two mile bike ride. The only store that carried the Apple II was twice that distance. 

Wrapped up TRS-80 Model I on the left, Model III on the right.

Metrologic He-Ne Lasers

Last, but not least, I came across my two helium-neon lasers that I purchased in junior high school to make holograms in my basement. The process of making my holograms was fairly simple. The most important thing was that there could be no movement more than a half-wavelength of light, otherwise the hologram would be ruined. I wrote about my first hologram a half dozen years ago.

I unboxed my two lasers, tonight, and I was astonished that, after more than 30 years, they both still worked. In the 1980s, laser diode technology was nonexistent for consumers – there were no laser pointers. Helium-neon lasers cost a few hundred dollars and they were the least expensive lasers that I could buy that could be used to make holograms. I spent many months delivering Pennysavers and newspapers to earn enough money to buy the two lasers.

I doubt I'll be using them to make holograms anytime soon. But, who knows?

More than 30 years later, my two He-Ne lasers still lase. 

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