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Happy Anniversary Gas Lasers

Eidetical

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This month is the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the first laser with a visible and continuous beam, the Perkin-Elmer / Spectra-Physics model 110 He-Ne. Though the ruby laser (invented in 1960 and first sold in early 1961) had a visible beam, it was pulsed. He-Ne lasers were available that year too, but with an infrared output. Lasers in general were essentially experimental devices until Dane Rigdon and Alan White got He-Ne to lase at 6328 Angstroms in '62.

Spectra-Physics was already in production of their first product, the model 100 IR He-Ne, and were therefore first out with a visible beam version. They had a deal with Perkin-Elmer to be partners for the first 75 lasers made (or 3 years, whichever came first). This is one of them. The laser was RF-excited, and powered by a Lambda model 71 dual-voltage power supply with an inline RF level control. While the model 100 had mirrors attached to the ends of the plasma tube, the model 110 used a resonator structure to support the mirrors. This particular laser was modified by the addition of a gas fill valve by a previous owner, which has since been removed.

The continuous beam of visible light is what really kickstarted the laser industry. For example, alignment applications for industry and construction needed such a beam to make them practical. Interferometry applications like holography as well. The "new product introduction" below is from Electronics World Magazine, December, 1962. Below that is a picture of Dane Rigdon.

PE-SP 110 System (1).jpg

PE:SP-110 EW 12:62 (1).jpg

Rigdon with Tube (1).jpg

PESP-110 Head Rear.jpg
 
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paul1598419

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I saw the ruby laser in 1965 at my high school. It was a military laser and they fired it at a blue balloon which turned bright red right before it popped. I was hooked from then on. I got my first 632.8nm HeNe laser in 1980 in order to make holograms. I eventually gave it to my daughter, but she broke the tube when it fell out of the top of her closet. :(
 

Eidetical

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The long-tube version that came out next in 1962 from Perkin-Elmer / Spectra-Physics was the model 111 RF-excited He-Ne. My laser collecting began in the mid-'80s when I saw a model 111 on the floor of a laser industry dumpster-diver's warehouse in Oakland (I think). Dale Robertson would get lasers in Silicon Valley and drive them to LA. I got the head from him because I liked the model number and figured it was really old. It wasn't until around 2007 that I learned it was one of the first 75 He-Ne lasers with a visible beam that were sold. In 2012, I found its matching power supply at Holospectra in Van Nuys. It was great to reunite them!

The pic in the center shows the glass supports for the ballast tube. The pic below that shows it in use, and is the only reference I've found to this laser. It was used on the cover of the book "The Story Of The Laser" by John Carroll (1964).
PE-SP 111 system final final.jpg
PESP111 Center.jpgPESP111in use.jpg
 

Eidetical

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Another gas laser that was available in 1962 was this model GL-6211 He-Ne from Sylvania. With an output at 1153 nm, it wasn't suitable for holography but did allow experiments in laser communications. Below is a picture of it from one of the first trade shows featuring lasers, and a page from the brochure used at the show.

Sylvania Laser Pic (1).jpg

4.3GTE Sylvania Laser.jpg

Sylvania Laser Experimental.jpg

4.4Sylvania Laser Demo.jpg
 

CurtisOliver

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I might not always comment, but I appreciate your historical laser posts Eidetical. It’s really cool to see lasers in their infancy being experimented with by the founding fathers of modern laser physics.
 

Ears and Eggs

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Not sure if anyone else has seen this laser, but it was the very laser that first got me interested in the hobby. I saw it when I was around 10/11 when my family took a trip to the Science Center Museum in Toronto. Apparently it was made back in the 60's by General Electric. They could change the color of the light in the tube by putting different gasses in as the laser was running. At the end of the demonstration they burned audience members' names into a piece of wood, it was a 100 Watt laser after all! I still have my burned piece of wood. Was hooked on lasers ever since the day I saw this. :D



sciencecenter.JPG
 

CurtisOliver

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Not sure if anyone else has seen this laser, but it was the very laser that first got me interested in the hobby. I saw it when I was around 10/11 when my family took a trip to the Science Center Museum in Toronto. Apparently it was made back in the 60's by General Electric. They could change the color of the light in the tube by putting different gasses in as the laser was running. At the end of the demonstration they burned audience members' names into a piece of wood, it was a 100 Watt laser after all! I still have my burned piece of wood. Was hooked on lasers ever since the day I saw this. :D



View attachment 74940
As a kid and as a new sci fi like technology. I can totally understand why you got hooked into lasers experiencing that. That sounds amazing. You won’t experience that in a science museum these days.
 

Eidetical

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There's not much anyone can say about the old lasers I post, and I totally understand it. But what makes it all worth the time is hearing stories about interactions with them like the one above. That's freakin' great!!! I'm certain I've seen other pics of that GE laser. I wish I could get the old laser postings where 80-year old guys would see them.
 

Ears and Eggs

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If anyone has any more pictures of that laser, I'd love to see them. Unfortunately I can't find any we took during the trip. I'm 34 now, so would have been around 1998/9 that I saw it. Sadly I have been to that same museum a couple times since then and the laser exhibit wasn't there anymore. :cry:


Was pretty impressive in hindsight how good the technician was at etching people's names in wood, would be much harder doing it with a large fixed laser and moving the wood than with a portable laser on a stationary piece. This easily took them less than 10 seconds to etch this.


1.jpg


2.jpg



3.jpg
 

Eidetical

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Took some digging, but I found the two mentions below of that CILAS laser from April and October, 1967.

CILAS Laser LF4:67.jpeg
CILAS laser  LF10:67.jpeg
 
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Sowee7

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I managed to find this old helium neon show laser! It isn't as old or interesting as some of the other lasers posted here but it is still quite near, it uses two large, oddly-shaped helium neon laser tubes, they are rated at 10mw each and the tubes features a full glass construction!

 




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