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Don Gillespie of Eldon Lasers Passed Away

Eidetical

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Don Gillespie was a gas laser builder from the very beginning. He and Lloyd Cross were students of Chihiro Kikuchi when he built the first ruby maser, and the two started a business called Trion Instruments to make parts for them. When the ruby laser was invented in 1960, they switched over to make those instead. A couple years later, helium-neon lasers became available and Don left Trion to focus on them. He built his own He-Ne before buying one, and used it to make what was probably the first hobbyist holograms (of his mother's Hummel figures). He was always proud of the fact that he was the first to offer holograms commercially.

Don eventually started Jodon Engineering Associates with his brother John, but by the mid '70s they parted ways and he started Eldon Lasers to refurbish He-Ne lasers. Throughout the rest of the '70s and following few decades, he regassed many, many lasers for struggling holographers and others on similarly tight budgets.

Don left a facility full of old electronic, vacuum, and glassblowing equipment that all needed to be cleared out. Casey Stack of Laser Compliance (and general laser safety fame) flew out immediately and secured a big pile of such things and some of Don's oldest remaining holograms, including a 120 degree Multiplex type hologram portrait of himself probably made in the mid '70s. This week I flew out to pick it all up and bring it back to join the Vintage Laser Archive for eventual display in a proper Laser History Museum. The stash also included two Spectra-Physics model 185 Helium-Cadmium laser heads. This was the first commercial He-Cd, developed by Spectra-Physics.


He-Cd Truck.jpg
 
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kecked

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What beside lots of money do you need to get this museum going. I think it’s getting critical in time to telll the story before it’s too late to be told. Might be time to start a campaign to fund something too. What universities were most involved could start there. They might pony up space at least. Smithsonian? Not sure but yup we’re all getting old too fast.
 

Eidetical

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The laser industry is enormous. Big physics, communications, medical applications, and big industrial materials processing. A proper laser history museum will incorporate all that as well as holography, light shows, and pointers. That goes waaaaaay beyond a simple although large collection of old lasers and related artifacts. It needs a big building in a very expensive populated location, a professional and motivated staff, and displays, events, and programs to bring people in. I set up the exhibit "Vintage Lasers & Holograms" in Tempe, Arizona to get the ball rolling and there is serious effort underway to make it happen, but it will still take a few years to organize.
 

RedCowboy

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How many people will ever go to a physical location like that and how often ? Maybe once ?
Wouldn't a laser history website be a better option ?


Are you affiliated with this ?

 

Eidetical

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A web site can't store hundreds of lasers and thousands of related artifacts in a proper environment. You loose a sense of scale by going through a camera lens. And pictures on a TV screen can't show the unique magical presence of laser illuminated deep image holograms.
 

Eidetical

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Logging things from the trip in and I came across the introductory article for the model 185 in a August 1969 Laser Focus graciously donated to the archive by Chicago holographer Ed Wesly, from the office of Tung Jeong (a significant figure in the story of holography). Cover pic too! Ed's donation filled most of the gaps in my Laser Focus collection from the late '60s through the '70s. Tons of info and pics not on the internet. The lasers I got on this trip put my collection of them to over 500, with 82% being unique.

SP-185 LF Cover.jpeg
 

Eidetical

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Included in the boxes of holograms left by Don were samples of the first holograms offered for commercial sale. The "Hummel Figures" and "Micrometer Tools" seen below were first advertised in an electronics publication, but then by the newly formed (by Don and his brother John) Jodon Engineering Associates in Laser Focus of July 1966.

Gillespie Hummel Figures.jpg

Gillespie Micrometers.jpg

LFJUL66 Jodon HologramArticle.jpeg

LFJul66JodonHolograms.jpg
 
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Something about that personal touch. It is amazing to think that some of this stuff was made, tinkered on, repaired by, such esteemed people! I remember getting into holography as a kid, and although we ended up using a different book as a guide, I swear I remember seeing those pics of the micrometer and figurine holograms in my reading.

Usually, people in the books are inaccessible, almost to the point that they may as well be fictitious characters. Your collection makes a kind of real-world link to reinforce that these pioneers were indeed just ordinary folks with extraordinary interest and drive.

I thought about commenting in your other thread that it's a shame you can't find someone with the tools and expertise to regas some of those old HeNe beauties. But perhaps fate has dropped the tools in your lap, as a way to nudge you to "take up the torch" ;)

Thanks for sharing!
 

Eidetical

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Something about that personal touch. It is amazing to think that some of this stuff was made, tinkered on, repaired by, such esteemed people! I remember getting into holography as a kid, and although we ended up using a different book as a guide, I swear I remember seeing those pics of the micrometer and figurine holograms in my reading.

Usually, people in the books are inaccessible, almost to the point that they may as well be fictitious characters. Your collection makes a kind of real-world link to reinforce that these pioneers were indeed just ordinary folks with extraordinary interest and drive.

I thought about commenting in your other thread that it's a shame you can't find someone with the tools and expertise to regas some of those old HeNe beauties. But perhaps fate has dropped the tools in your lap, as a way to nudge you to "take up the torch" ;)

Thanks for sharing!
It's been nice to be part of a technology where many of the real pioneers were accessible, to get a sense of the humans behind the stories in books. I'll always remember Yuri Denisyuk (inventor of the reflection hologram) teaching me to drink vodka from my elbow.

The glassblowers of the laser industry are quickly falling away as all those lasers are being replaced by semiconductors and fibers. End of an era (to a large degree) I suppose. Still hard to beat a He-Cd for making holograms in the deep blue.

By the way, the tube in one of the SP-185s above was broken in a few places, but the other has a tube that's still intact.
 

Eidetical

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Here's a picture of the image reconstructed by a 4x5" actual hologram made using a pulsed ruby laser (by Hans Bjelkhagen). Well, double-pulsed in this case.

Chest Double Pulsed.jpg
 
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Have you seen the one of Dennis Gabor done with a ruby laser...single pulse? That was the first one I ever saw. It was much larger than 4 X 5 inches though.
 

Eidetical

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Yes, I installed and lit it (with about 150 other holograms) in the Canadian "Images In Time & Space" traveling exhibit when the show was in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early '90s.
 




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