My Journey Into Radio, NASA, and Engineering

[Editor's Note: In celebration of Engineers Week 2016, Design News invited its engineer contributing writers to tell their personal stories. And don't forget to read our special readers submission series: Why I Became an Engineer ]

My life and success as an engineer is all about the people that propelled me along the way. My journey began with my father, Robert M. Eady, and his stereo system. In the 1960s it was not unusual to assemble a hi-fi system using individual tuners, preamps, turntables, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and power amplifiers.

Dad’s hi-fi preamp was a Knight Kit, and his power amplifier was a tube unit built up on a piece of sheet metal that was formed at a friend’s radiator shop. My dad’s buddy, Leslie Armos, a lead electronic technician at Redstone Arsenal, did all of the soldering. Dad and Leslie observed that I was really into hi-fi, so Leslie began tutoring me on analog electronics on the weekends, collecting fallout transistors, capacitors, and resistors from work and keeping a bushel basket of parts at his shop for me to experiment with. My electronic adventures with Leslie led to my love of scratch-building electronic gadgets.

My interest in electronics and model rocketry fueled a friendship with one of my classmates, James Porter Clark Jr., aka Porter. Porter’s father, James Porter Clark Sr., owned the local AM radio station. He “hired” us and proceeded to guide us through getting our Third Class Radio Operator’s licenses. While working at the radio station, I befriended the Sunday morning engineer, James Fife.

Every Sunday morning, James would tutor me on digital logic. I found out later that he was the technician who strapped the first monkey into a spacecraft. Porter’s path took him to NASA, where he is currently a rocket scientist. My path landed me behind a studio television camera, before I landed at a FM radio station, WLRH, in Huntsville, Ala. I was one of the original NPR crew members at WLRH, hired as a news reporter. Naturally, I gravitated to the engineering department, obtained my First Class Radio Telephone License, and ended up for a brief time as the chief engineer.

As fate would have it, I also ended up working around rockets at the Kennedy Space Center. I worked as a communications systems engineer and had the opportunity to say good morning to every orbiter that rolled through the Vehicle Assembly Building.

During my stint at Kennedy, I met Bill Green. Bill was writing for Radio Electronics magazine at the time and introduced me to microcontrollers. His favorite at the time was the Signetics 2650. Bill also introduced me to technical writing, and I published my first technical magazine article under Bill’s tutelage.

While Bill was moving to the Z80,

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