Retro Tech

Museum Pieces from My VERY Early Maker Days

Atari 800 - 1981

My 5th Christmas was when our family got our first computer, loaded with a 360KB external floppy drive and a ton of cartridges - including a Microsoft Basic cartridge. My love of writing code began with this machine and I still have it to this day.

Radio Electronics Magazine - 1984

Pre-Internet, the only resource I had to explore electronics was the library and subsequent magazines and books I found there. Probably the one that influenced me the most was Radio Electronics. I was a longtime subscriber until probably at least 1998.

Lasers - 1986

Around 10, I started playing with Helium-Neon lasers - well before diode based lasers were a thing. I scavenage my first He-Ne laser, power supply and a ton of first surface optics from a checkout stand scanner assembly a neighbor save from the trash after it failed at one of his grocery stores. Initially I used it for some early double slit experiments, rudimentary XY scanning prototypes and Halloween effects. My laser obsession continued to include diode based, Spectra Physics Argon-Ion, DPSS and Fiber Coupled Systems.

Real 'Laser' Tag - 1987

Radio Electronics introduced me to mail order electronic surplus companies and ordering COD. Meredith Instruments was my goto for lasers. When they had a small form factor He-Ne tube on sale, I knew exactly where I was going to install it - a Laser Tag gun. I was able to integrate the high voltage power supply and squeeze the 18 volts of Ni-Cad batteries where the original AA batteries resided using the small cells from two dissected 9-volt batteries. Before I added the charge port, loading the 12 small Ni-Cad cells in to the back of it felt like loading an actual gun.

Gameboy Backlight - 1990

Pretty much as soon as I got my hands on a Game Boy, I tore it apart and had a plan to backlight it. I found a surplus EL backlight which I quickly integrated into my Gameboy. It took two iterations. The first had the high voltage EL power supply mounted externally. The second version, I found I could remove the headphone jack and integrate it internally. I guess I was ahead of Apple! ;)