A Bit of Analog History

During a spring cleanup, I unearthed some pictures of ancient times in Building 20 at MIT, analog design days at National Semiconductor, and also the SF Bay Area Electronics Flea Market. I will post and add commentary as time permits. Stay tuned.

A photo for a Jim WIlliams article around 1981. I forget the exact subject, but it was something about packing up all our analog test equipment and leaving town. It was taken out on Central Expressway in back of the NSC (now TI) campus. From left to right: ?, ?, Mitchel Lee, Fran Hoffert, Bob Pease, Jim Williams, Tim Regan, Len Sherman (me), Sammy Lum, Rod Russel?
Bob Pease’s commute Beetle, which he drove from SF to National Semconductor in Santa Clara. There were several editions of this over time. He moved the rooster comb to each new one. He painted one of his Beetle’s with a paint roller.
Jim Williams at the eFlea, some time in the early 80s, wondering if he REALLY needs another ‘scope camera
Me and Mitchell Lee at National Semiconductor, posing for an author photo for an April Fool’s EDN article we wrote about how “Analog is dead”. To “prove” it, we included an audio amp design made entirely out of TTL. I think we might have been a bit ahead of our time 😉
Looks like this photo was taken at the same time as the above one, but I have no idea what breadboard I’m sitting in front of. It might be a prototype for National’s DNR noise reduction chip. I had nothing to do with DNR, but I guess it made a good prop.
I took this great photo of Jim Williams with a Tek scope camera sometime around 1977 or so. There was no digital (or analog) manipulation. It was a simple double exposure. I first shot a scope waveform, then just to see what would happen, I pulled the camera off the scope, stuck it Jim’s face and snapped another shot before pulling the film. I never expected it to look this good….a view from inside the oscilloscope!

The following pictures are from 20B140, the lab I occupied with Jim Williams at MIT. I was there from 1975 to 1980. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the best “1st job” and electrical engineer could have hoped for. All the really smart MIT grads were hired by HP, as was the guy I replaced here in 1975, Tom Durgavich. I had middling grades at best, so no HP job offer for me. I ended up working here for $8900/yr with no clue where it would lead. Building 20 has a pretty notable history, but sadly no longer stands:


Must have been a VERY important phone call!
“Working” with the door closed, usually meant the project might get us into trouble 😉
A stack of primordial Beckman counters. I turned one into a digital clock as a fun project, but couldn’t bear to leave it running day/night because of the power it ate.
The wall behind Jim’ desk in MIT room 20B140. I wish the shot was clearer because there is probably gold in those pages. That’s not Jim sitting there however.
Pile of Minuteman guidance computer boards spilling out from under a table
View toward back of lab in 20B140. Dinosaur boat-anchor equipment at every turn.
The somewhat famous 20B140 “Christmas Tree’ of dead parts. Whenever something blew up or failed in a notable way, the offending part was hung from it’s dead forebears in the middle of the lab. The entrails of a spectacularly abused electrolytic capacitor can be seen decorating the left side. I regret not saving this sculpture and bringing with me when I moved west.
The “bins” in the back of the lab. Opamps and other parts were not that cheap in the 70s, so anything that was a likely donor candidate, was tossed back here.
Jim Williams’ bench

Nick Mango, a part time denizen of 20B140, sitting at Williams’ desk
Read the Dymo label on the box “THIS IS THE BEST THERMOMETER IN THE UNIVERSE”. It might have been correct. IIRC, it could resolve 3 micro degrees. We build a lot of sensitive bridge-type instruments using cool looking zero-center null meters and ESI Dekavider voltage dividers (concentric dial gizmo on the right of the box). They were sort of 100k count manually-controlled DACs before 16 bit DACs and ADCs existed.