1970's and Earlier

I was born in 1957 in Evanston and grew up on the north side of Chicago. I was interested in nature and spent many days hunting for snakes and mice along the railroad tracks. In 1969 we moved to the suburbs where the corn fields and woods beckoned. During high school I was actively involved in falconry, fast cars and fishing. High school left a bad taste in my mouth and instead of going to college I wanted to go live in the woods like Thoreau.

At 17 I set off hitchhiking and riding freight trains around the country with the goal of going to Alaska. Once in Alaska I planned to homestead in the wilderness where I would be free of the stress of metro life. I got stalled trying to hitchhike across Canada and turned back. On my travels I met many people from all walks of life. I met the very rich and very poor, the motivated, the delusional and everything in between. I learned that life is what you make it and came home with a new plan to start a business and avoid the middle of the road.

In the late 70's I tried the mail order business and developed Windy City Wind in a Can. It was short lived and I learned that marketing was not my thing. I next designed a product called the Latch Trap Spring. It provided positive latching for dog kennel gates. I built the machine at right to economically make them. The machine worked great but the product didn't sell. I could tell that a machine could make a lot of money so I built a second spring machine for my supplier. He had a job that had been running for 16 years and we were going to split the money he saved with the new device. Three months after I finished the machine, he lost the job.

windy city lrg
Latch Trap Spring machine

Undaunted I looked around for a job that could be automated AND was permanent. I found it in assembling locks. I worked for a year building the most complex thing I had ever attempted. I was pretty far along when I realized that I would need a computer to control this thing. Not having any idea on how they worked, I went to Radio Shack and bought a computer chip. I brought it home and ground off the top of the chip looking to see how it worked inside (don't laugh no one knew what they were about in the 70's). I ground the chip completely into dust without seeing anything at all. At the end of my road, I looked at the back of the package and saw that it had some symbols and it looked pretty simple.

I bought several books on computer chips and quickly realized what a computer could do. I dropped the machine I had a year invested in and started working on robotics. My first computer controlled machine was a robot to play the then popular Simon game that required you to replay a series of notes. From this beginning I went into industrial robots in the early 80s'.

Lock assembly machine
Back of Radio Shack IC card that sent me in a new direction.