Until he was about forty years old, Lou built dozens of electronics projects, many from his own designs. His projects covered the realm from telephones to radio transmitters to computer system add-ons. Many of them are described below:
When he was ten or twelve years old, Lou built several projects from parts discarded by Bell Telephone. In the days when most homes had a single black telephone, Lou and Bill McFarland built a private phone line between their houses, with several extensions on each. In those days it was illegal to connect your own equipment to the commercial phone lines, so the private lines were never tied to the network. Right.
Lou's first major project was a superhetrodyne short-wave receiver, built from plans in The Radio Amateur's Handbook. It had four vacuum tubes, and was built from parts gotten through mail order and from Cameradio in Pittsburgh. Bands were changed by plugging in home-wound coils. The receiver worked fine, and Lou used it until he got a Hallicrafters SX-28A.
It was common in the 1950s to build electronic gear from kits. Lou's first kit was an amateur radio transmitter—a Johnson Viking Adventurer, a multi-band rig with three tubes and crystal frequency control (right). Lou built it over the Christmas holidays, and used it when he was licensed as WN3BOA in March, 1955. One of the biggest thrills of his life was using this transmitter to work European DX on 15 meters, with no VFO and only an attic antenna.
A year or two later, Lou mowed lawns to earn $169.95 for a Heathkit DX-100, an amateur AM and CW transmitter covering the 160 to10 meter bands (left). The DX-100 was the most challenging kit then available. Lou later built two more of these units, for friends who lacked his equipment-building skills.
When Lou's active ham radio period ended in the mid-1960s, he had built dozens of electronics projects large and small, from transmitters to receivers, including VOMs, VTVMs, grid dip meters and other items of test equipment.
In 1971, he built a Heathkit Color Television Set (photo below). Like most Heathkits, it was very advanced for its time.
As time went on and electronics developed, kits disappeared from the market and it became less and less practical to build one's own equipment. Lou's last kit project was a small 300 baud modem for his Commodore PET computer.
His last built-from-scratch project was his biggest—a printer for the PET, using self-designed circuitry to drive a mechanically modified IBM Selectric printer. Lou wrote printer drivers in a combination of BASIC and machine language, and the result was a superb letter-quality printing system. MICRO magazine published an extensive article about the project, complete with photos, schematics, and source code listings.
The photos at the left show the modified Selectric printer and the add-on board containing Lou's driver circuits.
Photo of a Heathkit GR-295 25" color television set. Lou built a set like this in 1971.
GR-295 control panel. Note the rotary channel selectors. No remotes back then!
Updated April 12, 2016