During the spring of 1949, I was notified that the telephone company (Pacific Tel. & Tel.) would not be hiring temporary people that summer I had been working there in the Line Assignment Department during the three previous summers, so I would have to find a temporary job during the coming summer.
I had become acquainted with the Tektronix oscilloscope at Reed College during my junior year, and thought perhaps I might be able to get on. I knew nothing about the company, other than the fact that the founder had graduated from Reed and had built an oscilloscope while there, the remains were still on the shelf in the Physics department. One day after school, I stopped in their facilities on Southeast Seventh and Hawthorne, and was directed to Jack Murdock, one of the founders and the general manager. He asked me about my Navy experience, both schools and shipboard, and said he would let me know.
I had also applied at the Reynolds Metals aluminum plant in Troutdale, as they were said to be hiring, and I had met Bill Noel, the manager, at some function or other. Reynolds would be the better job, as they paid $1.65/hr, whereas Tek paid $1.00, plus bonus, whatever that was.
I would prefer the work at Tek, as I knew something about it, and the Reynolds job would be on the pot-line, which would be hot and dangerous. However, we needed the money.
I heard nothing for several days. However, one afternoon, after school, I was waiting for my wife, daughter and her Mom (with whom we were living at the time) to return home, when the phone rang, and it was Jack Murdock telling me they would like me to work for them. I hung up the phone, the family returned, and I was telling them about Jack's call, when the phone rang again. It was Bill Noel from Reynolds, saying that he'd like me to come to work for them. I was so excited about the Tek job that I'm afraid I said, "You're just too late, Mr. Noel", and hung up the phone. Unknown to me, my cousin Chuck Nolan, in the Electrical Engineering Program at OSU, had also applied at Tek, and we started work the same day. We never did figure out who was No. 46 and who was No. 47. Since we were in northeast Portland, I found a ride with Pius Scherr, who lived further out. I sometimes wondered whether I would live to tell the tale, as he drove like a madman, and was blind in one eye to boot.
One of the customs I observed during my first few weeks was that when ever someone had a birthday, they bought cake for the whole crew. Since my birthday occurred July 26, I bought the cake from the local bakery on the corner behind the plant. I also volunteered to teach a class on the elementary physics of electrons, since that was the foundation of the cathode-ray tube (needless to say, I was afflicted with the Reed College syndrome).
Because Nancy was growing and maturing, and some friends had taken 8mm movies of her, we wanted a record of her development. Since I now had a job, I mentioned my interest in a movie camera to Howard, among others, and he recommended I go see Joe Freck, who had a camera shop downtown. We bought a Kodak 16mm magazine-load camera.
I was asked to plan and coordinate the company picnic, so I chose to have it at Ariel Dam on the Lewis River in Washington. We still have movies taken that day. Most of the people pictured are no longer living (2010). People seemed to enjoy themselves, although I must confess that I completely neglected to arrange for games. However, several others brought bats and balls, and we were on Merwin lake, so things went 'swimmingly'.
Since we were low on funds, I didn't return to Reed that fall, but continued at TEK.
Another year, we held the picnic at Ecola Park on the Oregon Coast. By this time, Howard had met 'Kit', whom he eventually married, and they both were along. By this time. Nancy was four, and she had quite a time getting acquainted with a fawn from the surrounding forest. The dress she is wearing in the photo was worn by her daughter when she became that age, and will be worn by her grand-daughter in a few years.
Everyone knew everyone else at this time. For example, several belong ed to the IRE (Institute of Radio Engineers) and for the monthly meetings, we 'car-shared'. Both Jack and Howard drove their own cars, and often invited others of us to ride with them. We discussed their philosophy of business, and their hopes for the company. For example, both said they felt that if they could sell a few hundred instruments a year, they would make a comfortable living for themselves and their families, provide meaningful employment for a hundred or so employees, and do their bit for society.
My first job was working in assembly, making probes, under Miles Tippery, an owner. It was a simple task, and I suffered it for a week or two. One day, Miles asked me how I liked the work, and I told him that it was OK, but I'd like something more challenging. As it happened, Logan Belleville had just released a new oscilloscope he had designed to production -the Type 512 -and I was assigned the task of testing them before they were boxed and shipped.
The Type 512 was a high-gain, low frequency instrument, meant for biological work. It had a balanced input amplifier, which could display signals as low as one millivolt and frequencies up to 2mc, and it had a relatively slow sweep that was the most linear I had seen; it was called the "phantastron" circuit, because it was so "fantastically" linear. With modification, it could attain sweeps of thirty seconds or longer.
It immediately became evident that the 512 was so sensitive that, at it's highest sensitivity, the aging of the input tubes caused the trace to drift off the CRT screen (it heated the filaments by DC, because AC would effect the signal amplification). Logan devised an aging process that would cycle the tubes forty-five minutes ON, fifteen OFF, for 24 hours. The tubes were then tested for the current required give a given deflection on the CRT, they were labeled, and then stored so that the two input stages could be supplied with a matched pair to give stable operation.
I loved this work. I corrected miswired circuits, changed wrong resistors and condensers, etc. The instrument had circuitry to stabilize the operating voltages, even in the presence of varying line voltages, and had other advantages that the run-of-the-mill competitive instruments did not have. The same was true of the Type 511, which preceded the 512, for example, RCA had manufactured their own scopes to ship with their TV Transmitter packages, but soon dropped them and, instead, provided our 511's and, later, 511A-d (at about one-third the price). Users loved them and in a relatively short time, we had the market from DuMont and all the other manufacturers.
I liked to show friends where I worked and sometimes after a concert or play, we would take them by the plant on Hawthorne. Although at that time there was no night shift, someone was always there. if it was Howard, our Nancy, who was going on three and always carried several Little Golden Books in her purse, would find him and, when we were ready to go, we would find him someplace, squatting and reading to her. This happened more than once.
About three months after I started at Tek, Frances Frost, a cousin of Howard Vollum came to work, and his first job was making probes, as mine had been. Although he and his soon-to-be-wife Margaret would play a very large role in our social lif in later years, we had little to do with each other at this early stage. In late fal!, a number of us went to Seattle to an IRE conference, and I found myself in the car with W.K. "Dal" Dallas, the marketing manager. In looking back, I think someone had arranged this so that he could evaluate me because, in a few weeks, he offered me a job in marketing as a Sales Engineer (later called "Field Engineer") Other than Dal and his secretary, Joan Richens, I was the only such person in marketing. Dal outfitted me with a luxurious wallet for may jacket, a matching leather covered, green-chalk blotter, and business cards. It was an exciting time. Although I was placed on salary, it didn't quite give us the income I had formerly, because I did not receive overtime (this caused both me and the company some embarrassment later). It was also exciting to go through the files ans see the unbelievable number of high-powered research laboratories and high-tech manufacturing firms who used our equipment.
I talked directly with engineers at organizations who wanted our products. Dal assigned me to deal with the University of Oregon Medical School, for which Howard had made some special equipment earlier. This gave me a completely different view of the enormous number of uses to which our instruments could be put. In January 1950, Margie and I started to look for property to buy and, on the 10th, we paid earnest money on a small house on Southwest Charming Way, in the community of Raleigh Hills. It sat on a .9 acre wooded lot at the end of a graveled road about a quarter mile from the intersection of Scholls Ferry Road and Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway. It was pretty primitive: the structure was a 20' by 24' converted garage, partitioned with plywood sheeting into a bath separated from a small entry hall, a small bedroom with an alcove off, where we could put a crib, and an open closet. The kitchen was a U-shaped area with shelves for dishes and groceries backing up against the bedroom closet, An L- shaped counter sat under the shelves and across under a window looking out upon trees. The sink was under the window. Against the outer wall, a washer and dryer completed the kitchen area. The rest of the space comprised a living-dining area. It was eight miles from downtown Port land. The main reason we chose it was the location and the wooded lot and, compared to other property at the same price, it was heaven. The owner was in the middle of a divorce and reduced her asking price of $4,500 to $3,500, which was all we could raise. Even then, we were short about $600, and the mother of Margie's best friend, when she heard of this, said, "We can loan them the money', which we paid back at $15/month, plus interest.
Our move to Charming Way meant that we had to have a car because there was no bus transportation to Raleigh Hills at that time. I went across the intersection from TEK to Billingsley Pontiac and bought a '38 Chev two-door sedan from Bob Herzog. However, Henry Haase picked up me and others and took us to and from work, so that Margie could have the car. There was another lot on the street with an unfinished triple garage, asking $4,500 and, when we told Bob Davis about it, he bought it and moved in his wife Elsie and small son Peter. Margie became quite close with Elsie, although Elsie's strong Christian Science faith was alien to us.
In late February or early March, Dal and a number of engineers went to New York City for the annual National Electronics Conference and Convention, where our latest instruments would be unveiled and exhibited. I was left alone, with only Joan Richens for company (and advice). One day, as I was sitting at Dal's desk, going over some material about some sales, the phone rang and this voice at the other end said, "This is Major so-and-so of the Air Training Command at Scott AFB, Belleville, Illinois. We are interested in your 512 oscilloscope for use at our training schools at Keesler AFB in Biloxi, Mississippi and Lowry AFB in Denver, where we train service technicians on aircraft radar." This was the kind of program I knew something about, as I had been through it in the Navy. I told him I thought our new 514 scope -just being introduced in NYC -would better fit their needs as it had higher frequency capabilities than the 512. After a while, I asked, "How many instruments are you talking about, Major?" He said, "About 250". You can imagine, I about swallowed my tongue; this was the largest order we had ever received. I told him I thought we ought to speak face-to-face about some of the problems of such a large order, as there would need to be trained technicians to maintain the oscilloscopes, in addition to the teachers and students. He did come to Portland to discuss these matters and I set up a rudimentary program which later grew into the program for training customer technicians in the repair and operation of our instruments. It became a model for the industry.
In May of 1950, Dal and I went to San Francisco to an exhibit put on by Neeley Enterprises. Neeley was our distributor in the southwestern United States (for whom Dal had worked before coming to TEK).
This is probably the place to describe our marketing activities. We used independent sales organizations to represent us. They were of two types: distributors and representatives. Distributors bought our products at a reduced price and resold them to the ultimate customers at our advertised prices. Representatives sold our products at the advertised prices and were paid a commission. Both had sales people who were knowledgeable about electronics. The distributors, of whom there were two, had repair facilities, while the representatives had people who could do only simple repairs.
Of our two distributors, Neeley Enterprises handled sales in the South western states, while another larger company handled sales from New England to Washington, D.C. on the Atlantic seaboard. The flight to San Francisco was my first flight, and Dal, who was a pilot himself, twitted me about starting out first class, as the Doug las DC-6 was the most luxurious plane flying. These early post-WW II get-togethers were unusual in that both executives, engineers, and sales people from the various companies represented by Neeley mingled indiscriminately, with no sense of hierarchy. I met a number of Neeley's people (and Norm himself) as well as many of his other manufacturer clients, including: Sig and Russell Varian of Varian Associates (they invented the Klystron tube which became so important to ultra-high frequency,high power radar); Bill Hewlett and David Packard of Hewlett-Packard Company (whose audio frequency generators we used in the Navy); engineers from Eitel-McCullough (who made the Eimac transmitter tubes some of our shipboard radars had used during the war);Mr. Macintosh, whose audio amplifier was the best available, and who immersed it in molten tar to prevent copiers), etc, etc.
This trip to San Francisco was my first since our seven months there for radar training during WWII. Later that year, I flew to Albuquerque, NM, to accompany a Neeley 'safari' across the Southwest to San Diego. This trip was memorable because in Albuquerque, Richard Kiley (who had been Stirling Oldberg's radio officer on the Massachusetts during the war, and was also the 'coding and decoding officer' for the ship), had me to dinner at his home. He was now working for Sandia Corporation, the people who manufactured A-bombs. I had a chance to ask him whether some of the stories Oldberg had told me were true that, among other things, I had been recommended for a commission while at sea. He said they were, and I had.
This was my first time in that part of the country. Phoenix was still a 'sleepy' little southwestern city that was just beginning to blossom into the center of high tech industry that it now is. Back at the plant, Dal had me get my hands into some of the detail work marketing involved. For instance, he had me design and produce, in cooperation with Felix Nash who did our printing, the first real catalog of Tek products; it was in colors, plastic bindings, with the various product lines in separate divisions, and complete technical description of the instruments, even to the tube complements of each one (to show that we were abreast of the very latest technology). This catalog became the model for our catalogs for the next fifteen years.
Dal also had me do some magazine ads. This was my introduction to the power of advertising! We had two auxiliary instruments, the Types 104 and 105 Square Wave Generators, which were used to test the performance of our oscilloscopes before they were shipped to our customers. Each produced a series of 'step functions' in the form of 'square waves', which were abrupt changes from one voltage to another, with no intervening 'slope'. Obviously, this is theoretically impossible, but we found that the ability of oscilloscope amplifiers to reproduce these abrupt changes accurately determined how faithfully they would reproduce any arbitrary voltage change they were investigating.
The Type 104 was used to check scope response at several selected frequencies which slightly exceeded the range of designed performance. The Type 105 was used in engineering design, to test over a wide range of performance. It was considerably more expensive than the Type 104. Since they were both auxiliary instruments, we didn't want to waste much advertising expense on them, yet we wanted our customers to know that they were available. I decided on a single column joint advertisement, designed to occupy one column in the technical magazines we used to reach our customers. I described the Type 104 as a 'production line' tool, and the Type 105 as a 'laboratory utility" tool. Imagine my surprised, yet delighted, reaction when we received two separate orders, from different organizations, one for the 'Production Line Type 104 Square Wave Generator', and the other for the 'Laboratory Utility Type 105 Square Wave Generator'.
I also used a phrase in our advertising that 'TEKTRONIX MEANS EXCELLENCE IN INSTRUMENTATION'. Whether I thought of this myself or it had been used before, I don't remember. However, -to jump ahead a bit one day several years later, I took a group of service technicians from the MIT laboratories to lunch and, during our conversation, one of them asked, "What does TEKTRONIX mean?" I responded that it was a term coined from the words 'technical' and 'electronics' with a stylized spelling, whereupon the manager of the group, a man older than I, spoke up and said, "Oh no; it means 'excellence in instrumentation'"! I nearly choked. I learned the power of advertising, which I had not respected before.
Two fellows from this group Warren Sheperd and xxxxxxxxxx xxxxx,later came to work for us as Field Engineers. Warren went to the Florida Field Office, and xxxxxxxx still calls from Boston from time to time. One of the benefits of my job was meeting people who were at the fore front of their fields in several areas of science and technology. As examples, Archie Tunturi of the University of Oregon Medical School, who investigated the audio portion of the brains of dogs, and John Brookhart, who was doing somewhat the same kind of work with cats. There were amusing stories about Archie. He was intensely interested in his work and, supposedly on his wedding day, he got an inspiration for an experiment during the reception, vanished to his lab on the Hill, and didn't emerge for several days, to a very angry bride. He also had two doctorates, a PhD in biology and the other in medicine. The story is, the faculty gave him the MD on condition that he never practice on humans.
One day, I received a call from John Brookhart, who had someone to whom he wanted to show Tektronix; "could I do it"? I picked up a Dr. and Mrs. John Eccles from Australia (who had discovered the sodium/ potassium transfer mechanism of the synaptic junctions of the nervous system), and spent the afternoon with them, delivering them to the air port late in the day. He was later given the Nobel prize for this work and was knighted by By the Queen.
I also met D.M. McKay (pronounced M'kie) from England, who was a world authority on computers. I later met another future Nobelist while at TEK, as well as meeting a third when I was teaching (but those are other stories).
Later in my career at Tek, when I was Patent and License Administrator, I was very strict about other company's use of the ending '-tronix in their company names, since TEKTRONIX was both copyrighted and register ed as a trademark. After I left in 1970, the company became more lax in their enforcement, and the ending '-tronix' became wide-spread in the high tech industry.
It was at this time (1950) that I became aware, not only of Dal's estimation of me, but of Howard's attitude toward me. Dal told Howard that he wanted to give me a raise, because of the job I had done on the catalog and other activities; Howard refused (for whatever reason I don't know). In any case, Dal later (after I was working in another department) told me that he had taken a cut in his own salary to give me the raise he thought I deserved. He was an excellent boss, and I was very fond of him.
During this time, Tek was approached by Sperry Gyroscope for infringing on a patent by Leonard Isbister, who had invented the idea of including a signal delay line in the amplifier circuit of an oscilloscope; it delayed the presentation of the signal on the sweep until the sweep was well started. Bill Webber asked me to do some research on the matter, but I was unable to find anything helpful to us.
In May of 1951, I again went to San Francisco to a another Neeley exhibition of our equipment. It was also about this time that we dropped our New York distributor, and opened our own offices to cover the same territory. Jack Cassidy and Ed Bauder, both former friends of Dai's, were hired from outside TEK to specifically man these offices. It was also about this time that we began to experience the pain of dealing with government bureaucracies; for some reason, the Air Force could not purchase the large order from the Air Training Command directly from us, it had to go through an intermediary. Lockheed was chosen by the Air Force and, in June of 1951, I flew to Los Angeles to work out the deal. What a mess! We had dealt with Lockheed as a customer many times, but this was government business and had to be done their way.
When we began to ship the instruments of this order, I took the first half-dozen to the Portland Airbase in my own car and loaded them on a B-26 bomber for delivery.
A further example of the difficulty of doing business with the government came about over a trivial matter; we received an order from the Air Force for several thousand terminal boards as found in one of our oscilloscopes. These were simple little bakelite boards, maybe 2" by 5" (and so described in the order), with a number of small metallic posts on each side, to which various electronic components were to be soldered. It was simple (we thought): we simply made an extra large production run of these boards and boxed them up, ready for inspection. The inspector (an Air Force officer) came and, first thing, whipped out his little steel ruler, measured and said, "These don't meet specifications. They deviate too much," (a few sixty-fourths of an inch!). We explained that accuracy in size had nothing to do with their function, and they did meet our specifications. Too bad. They had to meet Air Force specifications, and we had to make a special producion run which met Air Force specifications. We never -ever -took another parts order from a government agency.
By this time, we were living on the Charming Way property, and Tek had purchased property at the intersection of Barnes Road with the Sunset Highway and had completed building a new twenty-two thousand square- foot plant there.
In the late summer of 1951, I made a trip to various businesses and other organizations in Washington, Idaho, and Utah. We combined it with a personal side trip to Yellowstone Park and Logan, Utah, where we had lived during the War. The Navy was conducting its early work on adapting nuclear propulsion to submarines at their facility in Arco, Idaho, and I visited the Idaho Falls office. Also, a Neeley field engineer (who had graduated from Utah State University at Logan) had told me on one my trips with them, that the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) had established an operation on The Promontory, a peninsula extending southward into Great Salt Lake from the north. Because of our several months in Logan at Utah State Agricultural College (now USU), where I and several hundred sailors and marines had learned elementary radio and the use of electronic instruments, my wife and daughter visited with old friends from that time, while I took off for The Promontory to find this unknown AEC facility. There was simply nothing there, on either side of the peninsula! I never did find out where the Neeley man got his information. (I did find the monument commemorating the joining of the railroads at Promontory.)
The new TEK plant was far enough along that the move was made while I was gone. On my return, I made preparations to enter Reed College for my senior year, and my wife was hired to work on the switchboard evenings. Her first day there, she parked just outside and around the cor ner from the front door, When she stopped it was about two inches too late and she toppled a low wall around a planter box being built next to the building. Someone placed a sign there the next day, 'Margie, don't park here.'
At Reed, I planned to write my thesis on simple computers, with Archie Tunturi as my adviser.