My time at Accelerators, Inc., Austin, TX
My name is Tom Cloud and these are my memories of the two years I worked at Accelerators, Incorporated. I decided to write them down when I recently found pictures I'd taken those forty some-odd years ago. I'm thinking of my kids and grandkids as I write this, but also of the people I knew when I worked there, so I'm writing it to both audiences. In no way do I consider myself anything special or that I played any substantial role at the company, nor do I intend to diminish anything anyone else did there. These are just my recollections and I hope they are of interest to you and perhaps bring back some memories. I would like to hear your experiences also.
My background preparing me for this job is as follows. When I was thirteen, I got my ham radio license (K5OBF). That hobby typically consisted of one ham contacting another and talking about where they lived and what equipment they used, but that didn't interest me. I preferred designing and building transmitters and the like and it helped me learn about electronics and R.F. applications. During junior high and high school, I worked at a grocery store and then for a veterinarian as an assistant, but all the while building more transmitters and related gear. When I entered college, I worked summers at Jefferson Chemical in Austin as a still operator and then a pipe fitter, which was useful knowledge later at Accelerators. Also in college, I helped a friend engineer two radio stations in Brownwood, Texas (KBWD and KEAN), where I learned more about R.F. circuitry and its peculiarities. (I had a 1 KW transmitter in my dorm room.) I then went to work at Geophysical Services, Inc. in 1965 (the parent company of Texas Instruments) in Louisiana as an instrumentation engineer and then as a computer operator in Houston. I moved back to Austin in 1967 and went to work for Tracor on a DOD contract which required a security clearance. I was a test technician there and we blew things up and instrumented rocket engines which were intended to be decoys to protect our Minuteman missles from being intercepted and shot down. This was during the Vietnam war and Tracor was humming with numerous DOD contracts and a lot of money was being spent. I was responsible for purchasing a lot of expensive equipment for our Ground Test Group and that's where I met Paul Cardwell, a purchasing agent, whom I later saw again at Accelerators. I also met Bob Herbert there and he also turned up at AI. A friend called and offered me a position in the electronics shop of the Physics department at the University of Texas and I took it. Our job was to design, build and instrument different kinds of equipment and experiments for the graduate students and professors in their research. I got to see and learn about a lot of interesting things there, including mass spectrometers and particle accelerators. I aspired to higher things, so I transferred to another department, but then their grant was cancelled, so I needed to find other work. That's when I was hired by Accelerators.
I came to work at Accelerators in March of 1973 as a field service technician. I wish I could remember all the friends I had there. I was surprised to see Paul Cardwell there because he was a purchasing agent I had known at Tracor, and I was also glad to see my friend Bob Herbert working in the shipping and receiving department. I learned a lot and had a lot of unique experiences I wouldn't have had at any other job. How many other jobs have you in airports so often you begin to recognize people you've seen passing through on other occasions and even stop to chat and make acquaintances of them? See my pictures from some of the maintenance and install trips.
For an example of the field service engineers' work schedule, see the 1973 schedule.
I don't remember who interviewed me when I was hired or who I worked for, maybe Lee Parslow, who was the engineering supervisor at the time.
When I came on board, Dr. Norman A. "Norm" Bostrom was the president and his wife Joan was his secretary and the receptionist and performed other duties. (Joan died 2010 in Georgetown.) Norm had been president at Texas Nuclear Corp. in Austin, which he co-founded in 1956 with Dr. Ira Lon Morgan, Dr. Emmett L. Hudspeth and Dr. John T. Prud'homme. It specialized in neutron generators, particle accelerators and mass spectrometers. Accelerators had been a subsidiary of Picker X-Ray Corp. before Norm came there. (Simply put, an ion implanter is a high power mass spectrometer which is a specialized particle accelerator. The end goal is to "throw" atomic particles at high speed at a silicon target in order to change its makeup so it can be turned into semiconductors. The particle accelerator makes them go fast. Then we need to choose which particles we use and the mass spectrometer separates the particles using an electrostatic or magnetic field to deflect / separate the particles according to their mass. Accelerate those particles to high energies and you can "crash" or implant those particles into the surface of a silicon substrate and you have an ion implanter, and that is what allowed semiconductors to progress from being a few transistors on a chip to thousands, millions and now trillions of transistors.)
Al Noonan arrived around the same time I was hired. He was Vice President of manufacturing and Bob Cheatham was his production supervisor. Dr. Lawrence "Larry" Cranberg was a physicist there, I think in charge of research. Dr. Cranberg would have been in his late fifties when I met him at Accelerators and he was an internationally respected nuclear scientist. He died in 2011. See his daughter's notes about him.)
Right after I started working at Accelerators, another field service technician, Dan Amato, and I were in a back room of the company assisting one of the scientists. He was testing some sort of device which emitted a focused radiation beam (I don't remember what he was working on). Someone came back and with great alarm said he had taken radiation measurements in the front office where the secretaries were and the readings were exceedingly high. I don't remember anything more about that except, a few weeks later, I didn't see that scientist anymore.
I went along on a trip to a classified installation at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. I believe Dan Amato was also on that trip along with several other people. Our car was stopped at every intersection and we had to show a photo I.D. to the guard and then we were escorted to and from the lab by armed guards and were told to not look around and to not talk to anyone. This was the highest level of security I had experienced to that point. I later made a trip to a major semiconductor manufacturer near Los Angeles, can't recall which one, perhaps Signetics, and I was surprised to find their security was even more stringent than what I experienced at either LLL or Fort Monmouth. They constantly checked IDs and inspected pockets, satchels, boxes, etc. even as you were walking down the hall. While at LLL, I was in training and therefore the designated driver to go get parts and one supplier was a hundred or so miles away. On the way back, I drove past stands selling vegetables and fruit and stopped to buy a big bag of cherries, which we feasted on back at LLL.
IBM Vermont, March 1973
For my first installation I accompanied another tech named Lynn Heubinger to the IBM plant in Burlington, Vermont to install an implanter. This would have been in March or early April 1973 and it was cold and there was snow on the ground. This was my first experience with labor unions. OMG there were "specialists" for everything, none of whom had any idea what we needed. After the electricians and plumbers muddled their way through hooking things up, we went back, when they weren't looking, and corrected it.
I learned about maps while in Vermont. Lynn wanted to go to a movie we found in the paper. It was a drive-in and, on the map, it was two or three inches north of Burlington, so these two Texas boys stopped and stocked up for the trip. We bought a styrofoam cooler, Lynn got a six pack and I bought cokes and ice and we allocated about an hour for the long drive to the drive-in which was just the other side of a town called Winooski. Right after we got on the highway, I saw the sign for Winooski flash by and then we saw the drive-in. Turns out Winooski is about two miles north of Burlington. We had to wait over an hour before the movie started. Distances on a Vermont map are much closer together than places on a Texas map (An inch on a Vermont map can be about 4 miles whereas an inch on the Texas map is about 25 miles.). I learned to look at the scale of miles when visiting new places.
We wanted to go to Stowe to see the place where Sound of Music was filmed and to see a ski lift. When we arrived, the lift was closed and the gate to the road leading up the mountain was locked. There was a small church to the left of the gate, so I drove around it through the parking lot and, sure enough, there was access to the ski lift road behind the church, so I drove up that narrow access road to the top and we got out and looked around. We noticed clouds forming below us and decided maybe we ought to get back down. As I drove down, the fog became so thick we couldn't see the hood of the rented Buick, much less the road. Lynn got out and walked in front, thumping on the hood and yelling directions at me. Those were some tense moments. I got some nice pictures around Stowe, but that roll of film was never returned to me from the processor.
I also learned a little about cultural differences on that trip. Lynn wanted to go to Montreal, about 100 miles north of Burlington, to the clubs on St. Catherine Street. When we got there, we wanted something to eat and Lynn suggested the A&W Root Beer shop. I thought we ought to eat somewere more Canadian than that, so we did. After we ate, I missed the cherries I had just eaten in California and wanted some, so I stopped in a shop that had them. There were two men inside talking in English, until we came in. They immediately began talking in French and, when I inquired about the cherries, the proprietor pulled the price tag and replaced it with one having a higher price. I wasn't aware of the French Quebec distaste for English-speaking people, but I learned first-hand that day. I didn't buy any cherries. The next day, I took a Gray Line Tour of the city while Lynn did his thing. I saw some beautiful woodwork in historic churches, took a lot of pictures and visited Mount Royal, for which the town is named. I remember the tour bus driver bragging that Canada wasn't like America where a more qualified person, like a teacher, might earn less money than someone less qualified, like a technician or athlete, as the wages were controlled by the government.
Another friend was Pete Mongrain. I don't recall traveling with him (we did meet once in Los Angeles and might have worked on a machine there), but we worked together there at the shop assembling and testing implanters. Pete's hobby was making custom fly-fishing rods. He left and went to Canada and I don't know where Dan Amato went, but I think he left shortly after Pieter deBruijn came as sales manager (he is not on the 1973 schedule, so he must have left early in 1973).
I recall a new hire to field service, Stan Meyer. I had a well used brown Pontiac and he wanted it for some reason. I tried to talk him out of it because it was on its last legs, but he persisted and offered me $150 for it. I don't think it was worth half that, but I sold it to him. Last I saw Stan he was still driving that Pontiac, but I think he got transferred out of field service. Another new technician was sent out on a call and the customer called a day or two later and asked where he was. He should have been there the next day. Turns out he drove because he said he was afraid of flying. I believe he got transferred to test or manufacturing "so he could drive to work".
Changing of the Guard
Joan left, followed later by her husband Norm, who was replaced as president by Bill Bratton, former executive at General Precision's Librascope, Ampex, Guidance Technology, General Dynamics and Theta Cable and a share holder in Accelerators. Bill owned the Stagecoach Inn in Salado and he invited me and my wife to come dine with him, which was very nice. He later hired his friend Bernie Peskin to replace him and Bernie hired Dr. Roy Harris, a productivity expert, to streamline the operations. We (the field service techs) didn't care much for the things Roy implemented – specifically more difficult access to the parts bin – but I respected both of them. Later, when I was running an electronics shop at the University of Texas, Roy was chairman of the U.T. Business Department and we visited and reminisced about our experiences at Accelerators. I last saw Roy about 10 years ago when I invited him to offer suggestions on the Electronics Department at Austin Community College where I was teaching elecronics. The dean, department chairman and I met with Roy and asked him about his thoughts on a new direction for the department. (His suggestion was to shut it down as it wasn't serving any purpose.)
Sales Manager & Field Service Supervisor
Pieter deBruijn came on as sales manager and he hired a pretty blonde secretary named Linda Didonato. He was made the supervisor for the field service technicians. I remember travelling with Pieter as a technical consultant as he made sales calls. He would put formulas on the blackboard and erase them as he was writing the next one. The engineers would try to copy what he wrote, but couldn't. At one place, one obviously frustrated scientist or engineer pulled me aside and asked why he did that.
Pieter sent me to several companies to try to convince them to pay their invoices. They were waiting for manuals and I was told to tell them the manuals were soon to be delivered. I sat in front of several upset boards of directors and promised them delivery. So far as I know, there was never any manual for any of the implanters, but I didn't learn that until later, so I was truthful in what I told them. I think the most they ever received was some engineering drawings and equipment manuals and some filter papers with burn marks allegedly made by the ion beam, but sometimes made by a field service technician with a cigarette. This was to show that the beam was focused and wasn't scattered.
Al Noonan left in early 1974 to start his own company, Eltek. Pieter deBruijn and Linda Didonato followed shortly afterward. Lee Parslow, Paul Chamberlain, Monty King and Jack Hahn also went with them. Eltek was sold to Cutler-Hammer in 1977 and became Kasper Instruments, headquartered in Sunnyvale, California. It was later bought by Eaton and Al and Pieter and the others worked there. (Per information from Al Noonan.)
A retired colonel came to work at Accelerators. He asked to be called "Mac" and I wish I could remember his full name. He told me his job was to contact and negotiate contracts with U.S. government agencies. In the picture, he is in Al Noonan's office, so he was apparently hired after Al left, which was in 1974. I didn't have much interaction with him, but he was a friendly man.
Jackie – July 1973
There was a girl named Jackie who operated the blue-line machine for the drafting department. I didn't have much interaction with her, but I liked her. She was "ebullient", for want of a better description, and on one of my trips to the San Francisco area, in July 1973, I saw the boat pictured here – the "Wacky Jacky" – at Fisherman's Wharf. It made me think of her so I took the pictures and took them back to her. I wish I could remember her full name and I can't find anyone by that name on the directory. (I am told her last name was Spears and I've added her to the directory.)
I don't remember all the trips or when they occurred, but I remember going to Glen Burnie, Maryland to work on an implanter at the Westinghouse plant (the schedule says it was in September, 1973). I landed at Dulles International Airport and had booked a room at the hotel just outside the airport. When I arrived, they told me that a delegation of the secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, had arrived and had taken all the rooms. They said they had one room left, which looked to me like a revamped broom closet near the front door. I had no other options, so I took it. The next morning I got to witness Dr. Kissinger leaving along with his security detail. I believe it was there at Dulles International that I had to crawl through the baggage portal behind the baggage claim area to retrieve my luggage. If not there, it definitely happened at some airport that my flight was delayed until the wee hours of the morning and my luggage wasn't in the baggage claim area and no one was around to help. I worried about getting caught, but did manage to retrieve my luggage.
Some of the techs liked to go to the clubs when they were off work, but that didn't do anything for me. At first, I spent a lot of time at shopping malls, often at Sears, where I'd look at the tools. I think I eventually owned every tool they sold. On weekends, I started taking Gray Line Bus Tours so I could take pictures and learn about the area. I did that several places, including Montreal, Canada and the Washington, DC area (i.e. the trip to Glen Burnie). I visited Fort McHenry in Baltimore and George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. I spent a lot of time near Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, San Jose, etc. and I liked to go to the mountains and walk in the woods. I also visited the Redwood National Forest north of San Francisco.
One day, we were testing a 200KV implanter in a back room located behind the manufacturing area. There were wires everywhere and everything was open. The high voltage terminal / ion source was not enclosed in the lead-lined room – and the bullet-shaped metal terminal surrounding the ion source and accelerator tube was completely exposed. A custodian came in sweeping the floor. He had his head down and wasn't paying much attention to where he was going, and we didn't pay him much attention either. I looked around and his head was no more than three feet from the terminal. It was probably set at about 100KV and would certainly have seriously hurt or killed him had his head touched it. I yelled at him, but he was humming to himself and paid no attention. We stopped him just in time. We never expected anyone to come back there because the door was closed, so we put ropes around the unit and locked the door.
Another time, just for fun, I made a ramp generator gizmo (using a 555 timer and 741 op-amp as a current integrator) and connected it to the magnet power supply of an implanter and hooked up an oscilloscope to read the beam current. The ramp swept the magnet current and the ion beam so that the implanter regressed back to being a (very large) mass spectrometer. The magnet thumped when the current was reset back to zero. I remember Norm and some other people discussing the peaks and the elements they represented.
I got frustrated leveling the beamline with a carpenter's level and then spending hours trying to fine-tune it so the beam wouldn't hit the beam-line walls and scatter. I experimented with a length of clear tubing filled with water and one end taped to the beamline and using the water level at the other end to check for level, but that was awkward – the tubing had to be filled with water that easily leaked out, it had to be fairly long and it had to not change shape or compress as it was moved around. I later rented an engineers' level at some shop in California. That worked great – I could level the beamline in an hour or so and it was dead on, though the horizontal placement of the beamline still required "fine tuning" (i.e. bumping the frame).
Harvard Physics, Boston, July 31, 1973
I repaired something at Harvard University Physics Department – probably an accelerator or mass spectrometer (I think I had to replace the high voltage supply). See my pictures from that trip. Pieter deBruijn was the sales manager at the time and my boss. I asked him about driving in Boston as I'd heard it could be a problem and he said "no problem, rent a car". It was an evil trick and he laughed when I returned and told him the trouble I had with the one-way streets and then being forced to go through the tunnel under the bay. You could see where you wanted to go, but you couldn't get there. The graduate students and I were going to lunch one day and were standing outside the physics building while they decided where to go. I offered to drive and one student told me the place he wanted to go was within walking distance but he had never successfully managed to get there by car.
Delta Flight 723
I doubt I'll ever forget that trip to Boston. I know exactly when it was because I have the Boston Herald newspaper from the day after I landed.
Late Monday evening, July 30, 1973, I flew from Austin to Houston and then to Logan International on Delta Airlines, landing the morning of July 31. The plane didn't have many passengers and we couldn't land at Logan International because of fog. The plane circled for hours and I slept off and on and visited with the stewardesses who were all standing in the aisle talking. I remember them saying they were all from Houston, as were the stewardesses on the flight waiting to land behind us. (The three stewardesses on flight 723 were also from Houston.) They said we would have to go somewhere else to land if the fog didn't lift soon. Finally we got notification we were landing. It was very early in the morning. I had rented a room at the Holiday Inn in Peabody (pronounced pibidy). As I drove away from the airport, I remember seeing what looked like warehouses on my right and on my left was the airport. The runway was empty except for some lights flickering in the distant fog, but I thought little of it. I was unaware of what had happened as I got up and went to Harvard.
Later, I learned that flight 723 that landed after we did that July 31, a Delta DC-9-31, had hit the seawall and all 89 people aboard were killed (two survived but later died). I recall reading somewhere that the tower lost contact with the airplane and they didn't know it had crashed. Someone doing maintenance on the runway discovered the wreckage. I've always thought the lights I saw on the runway as I was leaving the airport might have been fires from the plane that had crashed, but the plane crashed at 11:00 a.m. and I'm pretty certain my plane landed much earlier than that, though I remember being delayed waiting for luggage and a rental car, so I could have been that late leaving. I bought a paper the next morning at breakfast (the Wednesday, Aug. 1 Boston Herald American) and I was astonished to see they had printed, on the front page and on page 2, pictures of dead bodies on the runway. I'd never seen any Texas paper publish such horrific pictures.
Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, January 1974
I installed a 500 KV implanter at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey in the winter of 1973 (actually, January 1974). I stayed in the Molly Pitcher Inn, about two miles north of Fort Monmouth. It was cold, icy and snowing and the river my window overlooked was frozen over. People were skating on it and vehicles were parked on it. This guy from Texas had never seen anything like that. I put my six-pack of cokes out on the balcony to keep them cold and they had ice slush in them when I brought them back in.
Scientists William B. "Bill" Glendinning and Albert "Al" Mark were in charge of that operation. They told me the installation was in the lab once used by Julius and Ethel Rosenberg who were executed in 1953 for giving atomic bomb secrets to the USSR. Somewhere I have 8x10 pictures of that installation. I gave copies to Accelerators, but I relayed to them that I had been told the installation was classified and they couldn't publish them.
I don't remember much about Bill, except what he looked like and that he was a kind and friendly man, but Al and I became friends. He was of slight build and had a nervous, perfectionist personality. He was very proud he had invented the epitaxy process. His grave plaque reads "Albert Mark, 1915-1997; Research Scientist who is Recognized as the Sole Inventor of the Silicon-Epitaxy and Who Advanced the Microchip Industry by 10 Years".
(Some papers by Dr. Albert Mark: 1960: Growth of Single Crystal Silicon Overgrowths on Silicon Substrates; 1961: Single Crystal Silicon Overgrowths; 1965: Thin Films Grown on Silicon Surfaces by Excess Nitric Acid Process .)
Al took me to lunch and to run errands on several occasions. He drove a small, stick-shift foreign car and, when stopping – which happened quite often in that traffic – he would take it out of gear and take his foot off the clutch. It looked like a nervous habit to me and I asked him why and he said he didn't want to wear out the throwout bearing. He invited me to dinner at his house in Toms River, NJ and I remember he had a very impressive model train setup.
From earlier trips, I had learned to have the bulk of what I needed shipped to my destination so I didn't have to lug it through airports. When I arrived at Fort Monmouth and cleared security, I found the boxes in the lab. I moved them out into the hall to make room for what I had to do. They contained things like needle valves, pipe fittings, pressure switches, connectors, and other things I might need. The two scientists, Bill Glendinning and Al Mark, invited me to lunch and, when I returned, the contents of all the boxes was gone. I was very distressed. They told me the tradition was that anything in the hall was assumed unwanted and was up for grabs. They put out the word and it slowly returned.
It was here that I re-learned a lesson on thermal coefficient of expansion. A valve in a liquid nitrogen line was leaking so, rather than dismantle the feed line and replace the valve, I chose to repair it. It was a stainless Whitey valve and, without thinking, I replaced the valve stem with one from a bronze valve. I opened the valve on the LN2 dewar and adjusted the needle valve to slowly fill the cold trap above the diffusion pump and left the room for a short time. When I returned, there was a cold fog on the floor and the cold trap was running over. I went to turn off the valve but it was stuck and wouldn't turn – due to the difference in the expansion of stainless and bronze. (I turned off the valve on the dewar and corrected my mistake.)
Arab Oil Embargo
While I was at Fort Monmouth, I got stuck in a line of cars waiting for gasoline for well over an hour during the Arab oil embargo of the winter of 1973. It was dark, cold and icy. I sat in a freezing cold car with the engine off (to keep from running out of gas and therefore had no heater), and they limited the amount of gasoline you could purchase (I think a half tank) and then refused to give me a receipt, which meant I wasn't reimbursed for that partial tank of gasoline. (Back then, there was no "self service" and the attendants weren't too happy about being outside, walking in the ice slush and the freezing wind, so they weren't accommodating to things like requests for receipts.)
I believe the travel pay for room and meals was a flat $50 a day and later $75 and they paid for the air fare, the car rental and gasoline. I would shop for less expensive rooms and skip meals so I'd have money left over – some of which I spent on tools at Sears. I always got my cars at National Car Rental because they gave double green stamps. My wife and I got a lot of stuff from those green stamps.
Accelerators installed at least one other 500KV implanter while I was there, but I don't remember where it went, maybe to Japan. I think my first trip to the IBM plant in Burlington, VT may have also been a 500 KV implanter. Some of the high voltage supplies were in large metal enclosures, maybe 8 feet square and pressurized with, as I recall, sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) gas for insulation.
Brookhaven Instruments Current Integrator
One of the problems we continually had was arcing inside the lead-lined high-voltage terminal room. We also had a problem with failures of the Brookhaven Current Integrator model 1000, but the two seemed unrelated problems.
The current integrator measured the implant current for the wafers, and the failures were because the input MOSFETS, which were matched sets, would have their gate insulation punctured, which could be caused by input voltages of no more than 60-80 volts. Ed Rogers, owner of Brookhaven Instruments Corporation, an Austin company, came to Accelerators several times trying to resolve the mysterious failures. It was an expensive piece of equipment and we needed to find out what was killing them.
While I was at Fort Monmouth, the extremely high (500KV) voltages caused frequent arcing. I also experienced several failures of the current integrator and new ones had to be shipped overnight to me. It occurred to me the failures happened about the same time as the arcing. I puzzled over this and then realized the ground connection from the base of the Cockroft-Walton voltage multiplier to the base plate ground was little more than a piece of hookup wire. My previous experience with grounding techniques for high power R.F. circuits made me realize the sharp rise time of the arc made it appear for that instant as a very high frequency wave that would be reflected by the impedance of the ground wire. Perhaps it was finding an easier path through the instrumentation cables to the current integrator and perhaps even traveling over the outside of the cable tray / conduit. I asked Al Mark to make me a metal sheet "ground plane" to go from the high voltage rectifier assembly to the base plate. For some reason, he had it gold plated. The approximately 18" wide metal strip replaced the wire as the ground return for the terminal and the arcing and the current integrator failures went away. I was told to submit an ECO (Engineering Change Order) and Accelerators began using some similar grounding method for all their other units (I think wide braided wire).
At another installation in California, I observed that the plate used to block the ion beam developed a purple glow around it as it was moving up to block the beam. The way it worked was the current to the wafer was measured either from the wafer on the carousel or from that plate, and the plate lay down horizontally for the beam to hit the wafer and then was drawn up to vertical for adjusting the current. In the upright position, it blocked the beam from hitting the wafers and made contact with a spring that sent the current to the current integrator, but during its travel to the upright position, it wasn't connected to anything. The plate was attached to and insulated by a teflon rod and it seemed to me it was being charged to a high voltage by the beam and then was discharging into the current integrator when it made contact with the spring, essentially the same thing that happens when you walk across a rug on a cold day and experience an arc from your fingers when you touch a doorknob or other object. The purple or blue glow must have been because the beam was reflected away from the charged plate, forming an ionized cloud of gas particles. I wondered if the discharge of the plate could be contributing to the failures of the integrator. I installed an NE-2 neon bulb from it to ground and the blue glow disappeared and the integrator stopped failing. The neon bulb was perfect as it didn't cause any measurement error when it wasn't ionized, but it limited the voltage on the plate to about 65 volts when it was ionized, and there were no more failures of current integrators at that site. Another ECO was filed for this.
We continued to have arcing problems and finally discovered that there was arcing inside the fiberglass rods used to support the high-voltage terminal. Another technician (I think Pete Mongrain) and I discovered that by sitting for hours inside the lead-lined terminal room while our eyes adapted to the dark, with the unit powered up to full voltage so we could try to determine where the faint arcs were occurring. We had to remove our radiation badges and put them in the toolbox as they would have been over-exposed – I wonder why I'm not dead or have cancer because of all the radiation I encountered, including looking through the beam-line glass port directly at the ion beam source. Another ECO and an attempt was made to replace the fiberglass rods with teflon ones, but they had their own problems and they finally settled on nylon rods which corrected the problem. (The teflon rods apparently had too high insulating properties as the number of arcs increased. They also suffered from the problems of teflon – they sagged with time and the bolt threads in the ends cold-flowed and failed.)
When I came on board, the accelerator tubes were being assembled out in the open manufacturing area. Some customers asked why it wasn't done in a clean room, so they proceeded to build a mock "clean room". I believe this was after Dennis' first trip to Japan. I remember the looks of some Japanese visitors when they saw the room – they were not fooled or impressed. It was soon replaced by a more professional-looking clean room.
New Field Service Supervisor
After Pieter deBruijn left to join Al Noonan at Eltek, Jim Brooks became field service supervisor, working for the engineering v.p. Virgil Simmons. I don't remember the chronology, but Jim left and one day Bernie told me a TV technician had worked on his TV and he was impressed with him and asked me to train him. I think I was out on a service trip when Bill Faul was hired. He then joined me at one of my installations.
Jim Brooks either left or found a new position and, some time after he worked with me, Bill Faul was made the field service supervisor. Shortly after that, they moved me from field service to engineering. The engineers had a small office near the break room. Two of the mechanical engineers in the office were Texas A&M graduates, Dave Evans and Roger Gault. They had quite the sense of humor and Dave kept us up-to-date on trivial factoids. Another mechanical engineer was named Earl Lawler. He was always late to work and we gave him a lot of grief for that, but he just laughed. Another employee, whose name I can't recall, patented a mat to place under a car that absorbed oil spills and he told me, when I saw him years later, he never realized anything from it. I saw something similar for sale many years after that and wondered if it was his or if someone else had benefitted from his idea.
Halting the Production Line
Soon after I began designing circuits in engineering, Accelerators lost their printed circuit layout person. I asked my contacts and they told me of a lady who did very nice work and showed us samples of them. Someone, I believe Larry Keutzer, and I went to visit her. She worked from her home, but she had good references and she was knowledgable and she did excellent work, so she was hired to lay out boards for Accelerators. I had been tasked to design a specialized thermocouple vacuum gauge readout. After I finished that design, I moved on to another project and drafting took the design and had this lady lay out the PCB. Several weeks later, someone came back and told me the production line was idle because my vacuum gauge instrument was being assembled and the first unit off the line wasn't working in final test. It turned out that she was unaware of the convention where power supply lines were not drawn on the schematic but were listed on a separate sheet, so there was no voltage to any of the integrated circuits on the board. This was embarrasing for me and cost the company money in lost time on the production line and for correcting the circuit boards.
Dual-output 15 kv supply
Bill Robinson was a friend and a scientist working for either Dr. Cranberg or Joe Cecil trying to increase the output of the ion sources. (We normally used a cold-cathode ion source then and 5 mA was the max we could get out of them.) I was doing power supply design at that time and Bill asked me if I could design a variable voltage power supply capable of producing zero to plus and minus 15 KV. He said they wanted to prevent damage to the components and could I include a current limiting feature. I did that – a voltage and current regulated 0 to +/- 15 KV and 0 to, I believe, 10 mA. power supply. After a couple of weeks he came back and asked me to remove the constant-current feature as it was supporting a continual, albeit low-current, arc and plating the inside of their vacuum chamber with metal. I don't remember what I did, but I think I made it trip on over-current. One of Bill and my friends was another field service technician named Dennis Wagner. He bought a brand-new Datsun "Z" sports car (probably a 240Z) and we were all jealous. The company selected him to represent them in their venture into Japan and Dennis met and married a girl he met there. He also moved into engineering.
Aggie Woodburning Award
In the picture above is a white bucket. It had oil in it to cool the load resistors used to test the power supply. When I first started testing it, I just put the resistors on the wooden desk top and put a sign there to warn people there was high voltage present. The resistors only got warm and should have been no problem. One day I was letting it run for an extended test period and went to the bathroom. When I got back, there was the smell of burning wood and Roger had unplugged it. There were two burn marks the length of the resistors, about 8 or 10" inches long on my desk. Something had failed and the supply had gone to full voltage. A day or two later, Roger and Dave awarded me the "Aggie Woodburning Award". After that, I put the resistors in a bucket filled with oil (the white bucket in the picture above).
New Engineering Manager
After Virgil Simmons left, Don Orr became head of engineering, but Accelerators was having financial troubles and soon after there was a blood-letting, probably unrelated to Don's coming on board, as something like 30% of the employees were laid off (I believe in February of 1975). Don laid off all non-degreed engineers and that included me and Richard Young who had been there a lot longer than I had.
I saved some of my airline tickets – it's interesting to see what they cost back then:
- 1973-07-09 8:00 p.m. – Austin (Braniff) -> San Antonio (AA) -> San Francisco; $111.28
- 1973-07-17 – San Francisco (AA) -> Dallas (BN) -> Austin; $111.27
- 1973-07-19 – Austin (Braniff) -> Dallas (AA) -> San Francisco
1973-07-20 – SF (AA) -> Dallas (AA) -> Austin
My note on it says it was a sales meeting with Pieter deBruijn and it is paid for with his AI credit card; total round trip cost: $224.56
- 1974-01-04 – AUS -> JFK (Braniff / BN); depart 7:00A; $117.64
This was for the Fort Monmouth install.
It was easier, at that time, to let a travel agency book tickets. They could get better rates and sometimes even get first-class seating for business class prices. I used Braley World Travel in Austin to book my flights.
- 1974-01-25 – JFK -> AUS (BN); depart 4:10P, arrive 7:41P; $117.64
Bill and Al used Monmouth World Travel to book their flights and they offered to have them get my ticket for me.
© Tom Cloud 1973-2021
Pictures taken with Canon FT-QL 35 mm camera, except Pete and +/- 15 KV supply taken with a Polaroid belonging to Accelerators.