Hawes Electronic Television Archive by James T. Hawes, AA9DT

Lucitron®: Flat-Panel, Plasma TV, Photo Scrapbook

♦ NOTICE. You may click any footnote number for related information, links, etc. (For example: (14.) To return to the story, click < (back arrow).

Lucitron Group Picture, 1986

Photo: Lucitron people, group photo about 1986

(A) This is how the group looked in about 1986, after staff reductions in about August, 1985.

Front row: Alan Sobel, Margaret Hultquist.

Middle row: Norman Zuefle, Bill H. Irvin III, Cary Stone (1.), Ralph L. Meyer.

Back row: E. Douglas Yates, C.R. Waldock, Joe Markin (2.), Joe Singer (3.), Bob Mitchell, Emil Walker(?), Fred (Alfred) Schreier. Our two Doall milling machines are behind Bob and Fred. (Rear, toward the right side.)

Fig. A. Several Lucitron people that I knew are absent from the happy group photo above. Some of the absent people had resigned or left during the staff reduction in late summer, 1985. See Of Missing Persons below for a list of these folks.

A Panoply of Panel Pictures

Photo: Lucitron 34B panel, front view

(B) Lucitron 34B panel display, including control console, front view.

Fig. B. I'm happy to see that the panel and its console were complete sometime after I left Lucitron in 1985. Here is the panel (right) in its sparkling new frame. (Fancier than the temporary wooden frame that we had when I was with the company.)

The power supplies and drive electronics are in the console below the tube. Nice packaging, surviving Lucitron members!

Pump Room. The panel still seems to reside in the “pump room,” where it was during tests while I was with Lucitron. Apparently, the panel is still on the turbo pump that Jeff Gwilliam bought in 1984 from Sargent Welch.

Photo: Manager views his own image on 34B panel

(C) Bob Mitchell views his own image during development of 34B Lucitron panel.

Fig. C. Showing off. Bob Mitchell demonstrates both our handsome Lucitron 34-B panel and our typical method of promoting our product before potential backers.

Whee! We're on TV! Nothing like seeing yourself larger than life on the incomparable Flatscreen® panel! Lucitron's VIP visitors loved this demonstration.

Photo: 34B panel as picturephone

(D) Alan Sobel calls Mike DeJule. DeJule's image displays on a Lucitron 34B panel.

Fig. D. Picturephone! Alan and Mike demonstrate a typical application for the Lucitron 34-B Flatscreen® monitor. Hard to believe, but videophones were once fodder for science fiction and lab experiments: Beginning with the 1927 picturephone by AT&T, using mechanical television. AT&T exhibited a much improved version at the 1964 New York World's Fair in New York.

Category AT&T 1927 AT&T 1964, 1969 Lucitron 34B, 1985
# Scan Lines 50 250 256
Interlacing? No, Sequential Yes, 2/1 No, Sequential
Tube Type Plasma CRT Plasma
Picture Size 2 screens: 2x3', & 2x3" 7.4", diagonal (1969 model) 35", diagonal
Scanning Technology Mechanical TV Electronic TV Electronic TV
(4.), (5.), (6.), (7.), (8.)

Photo: Recent Toshiba LCD panel (top) vs. 1986 Lucitron 34B plasma panel

(E) Top: Recent Toshiba® LCD panel. Bottom: Lucitron 34B plasma panel (1986, handmade).

Fig. E. The surviving Lucitron® Flatscreen® panel, is on the bottom (left photo), as the panel looks today. Bob and his staff sealed off the panel in the 1980s. A testament to the integrity of Lucitron work: The panel is still under vacuum, even now. Unfortunately, Bob doesn't possess Cary's drive electronics and my eight power supplies.

Let's see if I can remember the grids that the eight supplies powered: (1) Cathode, (2) Shield, (3) H-scan, (4) V-scan, (5) Column drive, (6) Row drive, (7) Video, and (8) Anode. (I wasn't responsible for the anode grid supply: Incidentally, this supply ran at 4,000 volts, if memory serves.)


Photo: Hand wiring for Lucitron 34B flat-panel plasma tube.

(F) View of hand wiring for pixel matrix inside Lucitron 34B monochrome plasma tube (1986) Despite row and column matrixing, there are hundreds of wires!

Photo: Tube side, showing pump linkage

(G) Linkage to turbo pump, on side of Lucitron 34B tube.

Photo: In Lucitron's turbo pump room

(H) Bob Mitchell & Mike DeJule in the pump room with a Lucitron 34B.

Fig. F. Hand-Wired! Growing out of the panel were hundreds of leads. Bob provides the figure: 352 wires. There would have been many more wires (thousands), but the Lucitron panel matrixed the electrodes.

The leads penetrated the frit that held the front, back, and side glass panels together. That meant that the leads had to survive the oven cycle and “bake” along with the panel. And because baking caused expansion and contraction, the coefficient of expansion (EC) for the leads had to equal that of the glass and frit: More critical engineering considerations!

Our engineers discovered that a particular Nichrome® wire was the EC match for the regular window glass that we used. But Nichrome was notoriously difficult to solder. Bob's team welded the Nichrome wire to wire-wrap wire (visible in the photo). Next, the team soldered the wire-wrap wire to the PC board. (9.), (10.)

Soldering experiments. I was then studying ultrasonic soldering at NRI, and thought that maybe this technology would help. The theory is this: Ultrasound produces cavitation (waves) in the liquid solder. Cavitation cleans the surface more than just fluxing would. After this cleaning, the solder should readily stick to the cleaned and burnished work surface. Val Chishevsky and I investigated ultrasonic soldering equipment at a manufacturer near Peterson Avenue (Fibresonics®).

Soldering tests. Val used Fibersonics' U/S rig to solder some nichrome wires that we brought along. I think he tried both 60-40 and silver solder, with flux. We returned to Lucitron with Val's soldering tests. Unfortunately, the solder joints weren't up to Cary's standard. He decided that there was no advantage in the fancy (and expensive) ultrasound soldering rig. (Fibresonics also manufactured an instrument for kidney percutaneous nephrolitho-tomy (PK). This device was the size of a fireplace poker. Other-wise, the PK rig resembled the soldering pencil.)

Be It Ever So Humble

Photo: Lucitron location (front), Bob's 
       photo, from 7-27-2022

Photo: Lucitron location (rear), Bob's 
       photo, from 7-27-2022

Fig. I. Lucitron's old home, where I worked in the mid-1980s. The location hasn't changed. The overflights of vintage jets from Glenview Naval Air Station have stopped, of course. For years, the Glen, a vast subdivision of Glenview, has filled the site of the former airbase. The control tower remains a landmark there. Glenview relocated the base chapel, now Schram Memorial Chapel, to Patriot and Chestnut. Schram welcomes memorial services, weddings, and other events.

Inside our front door were the executive and general offices. A hallway led to test labs and electrical engineering. To the rear were Bob's tube fab area, the machine shop, and the dock.

(I & J) Photos, left: Top view, Lucitron front door. Bottom, complex rear and dock. (Photo date: 7-27-2022.)

Of Missing Persons

Absent from the Group Photo, Fig. A, above. (Borrowing the title from a famous sci-fi story by Jack Finney.) Among the absent are Val Chishev-sky, Rudy Guzik (11.), James Hawes, Al (Alfred) Hollander, Michael Klemm (12.), N. Moore, W.K. Morrison, Mary Francis Porter, E.M. Saulog, Adolph W. (“Schmitty”) Schmitt, S.B. Wisper, and Karen Yates.

Lucitroners from before my time. Kevin Gilmore, David Glaser, Wendy Ward, Charles J. Whelchel (13.), Leonid Tartakovsky(?). Dave and Charles developed a method to connect wires to a flexible-back (compliant seal) version of the panel. (14.)

Drawing: Compliant seal, patent art
(K) Right, above: Drawing of compliant-seal panel, from patent. (15.)

Perhaps I've missed a few people. Former Lucitron folks: If I've overlooked you, please drop me a line and I'll add you to our story!)

Acknowledgment: Bob Mitchell

Thanks to Bob Mitchell for sharing this page of photos from his Lucitron collection. Bob directed the crew that assembled Lucitron panels. After I published the first page of Lucitron history, he contacted me.

Without your generosity, Bob, compiling my Lucitron documentation efforts would be much more difficult. I'm grateful that you've made this photo scrapbook possible.

EXCLUSIVE! “How We Built Lucitron Panels”

INSIDE OUR R&D LAB. Memories of ex-Lucitron engineers: •Fabricating glass cane. •Inserting electrodes. •Testing water for phosphor deposition.

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Footnotes & Obituaries

1. Chicago Tribune, “Cary Stone, 1957—2017,” access on April 20, 2022:
Short URL: https://is.gd/8kw0fA
▶Re: Obituary for Cary Stone. Cary died in 2017, while residing in Wheeling, Illinois. Cary was my boss at Lucitron. A masterful engineer and a talented programmer, he inspired us all.

Photo: Cary Stone

Cary designed and constantly improved the timing circuits for the 34B panel. On breaks, he was an ace at Microsoft's Flight Simulator. I watched him loop-the-loop under the Golden Gate Bridge. Cary was also a devoted fan of Star Trek, the original series. (Then the only Star Trek series.) Long before “library sets,” Cary had taped the complete series on Betamax. Staunch Chicago Cubs fan, he loved to gently needle our diehard Sox fan Mike Klemm. Cary died young, at 59.

2. Bruce Zatz, “Joseph Markin,” access on June 20, 2022:
Short URL: https://is.gd/kNeEgq
▶Re: Obituary for Joe Markin. Joe was Lucitron's president for many years. With Alan Sobel and Michael Dejule, Joe founded Lucitron.

Photo: Joe Markin

Before Lucitron, Joe was a prominent engineer at Zenith Electronics. In his spare time, Joe was an accomplished gardener, and a avid follower of Nathan Pritikin's nutritional program. Joe died in 1987, at 72. (Obituary site of Findagrave.com.)

3. Tribute Archive, “Joseph Singer, Chicago, Illinois, October 30, 1931 - December 11, 2020,” access on May 28, 2022:
Short URL: https://is.gd/z8vUMY https://www.tributearchive.com/obituaries/19260627/Joseph-Singer

Photo: Singer, Joe

▶Re: Obituary for Joe Singer. Joe was an inventor, and a jack of all trades. He died in 2020, with military honors. Joe lived to age 89. (Sponsor organization for obituary: Anello Funeral & Cremation Services, PC.)

4. Albert Abramson, The History of Television, 1880 to 1941 (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 1987), 99-101.
Short URL: https://is.gd/ADaq8Q
▶Re: AT&T-Bell Labs picturephone from 1927. Groundbreaking demonstration by invention team, including lead engineers Drs. Herbert E. Ives & Frank Gray. Transmission both by wire & radio frequencies. Summary account.

5. H. Horton Sheldon & Edgar Norman Grisewood, Television: Present Methods of Picture Transmission (New York, D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc., January 1, 1929), 132-158.
Short URL: https://is.gd/5UijSv
▶Re: AT&T-Bell Labs demonstration of picturephone, 1927. Drs. Ives and Gray presided. Pictures with 50 lines. Far more in-depth account than Abramson account, above. Many figures.

6. ‘New York to California “Picturephone” Scores Hit at World's Fair’ (in “News Briefs”), Radio-Electronics, July 1964, 6.
Short URL: https://is.gd/9StZjF
▶Re: Picturephone at AT&T exhibit of NY 1964 World's Fair. Provides technical specs: Picture was about 7-1/8" diagonally, with vertical aspect ratio. 275 lines per frame. Interlaced pictures at 30 fps.

7. Irwin Dorros, “Picturephone,” The Bell Laboratories Record 47, no. 5 (May/June 1969): 139.
Short URL: https://is.gd/vfwZXH
▶Re: Re: Specifications for AT&T-Bell Picturephone. (This article pertains to an updated model of the picturephone from 1969.) Picture was just under 7-1/2" diagonally, and slightly wider than tall. 250 lines per frame. Interlaced pictures at 30 fps.

8. Alan Sobel?, Model 34V-131 Flatscreen® Panel—A Supersize TV/Computer Display (Northbrook, Illinois: Lucitron Inc., 1986).
Short URL: https://is.gd/NdOzWB
▶Re: Four-page Lucitron brochure with technical specifications for panel. Includes 2 photos of Alan Sobel with panel. According to brochure, panel has only 79 leads. (The author of this Web page added page numbers to the brochure.)

9. Bob Mitchell, e-mail message to author, May 5, 2022.
▶Re: Answers to author's questions about panel construction and Lucitron people.

10. Bob Mitchell, e-mail message to author, May 25, 2022.
▶Re: (1) Joe Singer memories. (2) Joe's glass cane-pulling unit. (3) Answers to author's questions about Lucitron panel leads and phosphor testing.

11. Chicago Tribune, “Rudolph Guzik,” access on April 20, 2022:
Short URL: https://is.gd/kO9cTf
▶Re: Obituary for Rudy Guzik, including short biography. For many years, Rudy was the Chicago chapter president of the Society of Professional Image Engineers.

Photo: Guzik, Rudy

Rudy mentored new talent as a science fair judge. He also taught young artists electronics at the Chicago School of the Art Institute. And he was a jazz pianist. Rudy died at age 75, in Frankfort, IL.

12. Ken Nagel, “Michael Klemm,” access on June 19, 2022:
Short URL: https://is.gd/dnVQBG
▶Re: Obituary for Michael Klemm. Michael was our draftsman. His dazzling talent is obvious in Lucitron's intricate patent drawings. Mike, Vietnam veteran, was also dedicated fan of Chicago White Sox. He & Cubs fan Cary Stone enjoyed friendly “jousting matches” over which team was superior.

Photo: Klemm, Mike

As a side hustle, Mike and his late wife Patty raised pedigreed cats. Mike died in 2020. He'd been a resident of Beach Park, Illinois. He was 70. (Obituary site of Findagrave.com.)

13. Tribute Archive, “Charles Whelchel,” access on June 10, 2022: Short URL: https://is.gd/MjwtPF
▶Re: Obituary for Charles Whelchel. This is an undetailed document, without a portrait of our friend Charles. Apparently, Charles died in 2020, at Vancouver, Washington. (Obituary site of Tribute Memorial Gardens.)

Photo: Whelchel, Charles
Whelchel (proxy)

14. David Glaser and Charles J. Whelchel, “Method and Apparatus for Making Electric Connections Into a Compliant Sealed Package,” patent US4,550,039 filed Mar. 1, 1984 & issued Oct. 29, 1985.
Short URL: https://is.gd/EIG815
▶Re: A compliant-sealed Lucitron display panel. This panel had a thick foil back, instead of the rigid glass back of the 34B panel. The patent covers a method of wiring the foil side of the panel to the drive and signal electronics.

15. Ibid., 1, and Fig. 1, 2.
Short URL: https://is.gd/EIG815
▶Re: Drawing of a Lucitron panel with a compliant seal. Margaret Hultquist showed me an example of this panel from our lab at Lucitron.



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(Photo retoutching by James T. Hawes.)
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