My Journey Into Radio, NASA, and Engineering

In celebration of Engineers Week, Design News invited its engineer contributing writers to tell their personal stories. In this installment, Fred Eady recalls the most important engineering people in his life.

February 24, 2016

4 Min Read
My Journey Into Radio, NASA, and Engineering

[Editor's Note: In celebration of Engineers Week 2016, Design News invited its engineer contributing writers to tell their personal stories. And don't forget to read our special readers submission series: Why I Became an Engineer]

My life and success as an engineer is all about the people that propelled me along the way. My journey began with my father, Robert M. Eady, and his stereo system. In the 1960s it was not unusual to assemble a hi-fi system using individual tuners, preamps, turntables, reel-to-reel tape recorders, and power amplifiers.

Dad’s hi-fi preamp was a Knight Kit, and his power amplifier was a tube unit built up on a piece of sheet metal that was formed at a friend’s radiator shop. My dad’s buddy, Leslie Armos, a lead electronic technician at Redstone Arsenal, did all of the soldering. Dad and Leslie observed that I was really into hi-fi, so Leslie began tutoring me on analog electronics on the weekends, collecting fallout transistors, capacitors, and resistors from work and keeping a bushel basket of parts at his shop for me to experiment with. My electronic adventures with Leslie led to my love of scratch-building electronic gadgets.

My interest in electronics and model rocketry fueled a friendship with one of my classmates, James Porter Clark Jr., aka Porter. Porter’s father, James Porter Clark Sr., owned the local AM radio station. He “hired” us and proceeded to guide us through getting our Third Class Radio Operator’s licenses. While working at the radio station, I befriended the Sunday morning engineer, James Fife.

Every Sunday morning, James would tutor me on digital logic. I found out later that he was the technician who strapped the first monkey into a spacecraft. Porter’s path took him to NASA, where he is currently a rocket scientist. My path landed me behind a studio television camera, before I landed at a FM radio station, WLRH, in Huntsville, Ala. I was one of the original NPR crew members at WLRH, hired as a news reporter. Naturally, I gravitated to the engineering department, obtained my First Class Radio Telephone License, and ended up for a brief time as the chief engineer.


As fate would have it, I also ended up working around rockets at the Kennedy Space Center. I worked as a communications systems engineer and had the opportunity to say good morning to every orbiter that rolled through the Vehicle Assembly Building.

During my stint at Kennedy, I met Bill Green. Bill was writing for Radio Electronics magazine at the time and introduced me to microcontrollers. His favorite at the time was the Signetics 2650. Bill also introduced me to technical writing, and I published my first technical magazine article under Bill’s tutelage.

While Bill was moving to the Z80, I was moving to PIC microcontrollers. I recall Bill telling me that those PICs were just a fad. Well, Eric Lawson, my man at Microchip Technology who is now at ON Semiconductor, and I begged to differ.

Dad, Leslie Armos, Porter’s Dad, and Bill Green are no longer with us. But Eric has been directly responsible for the Design News Continuing Education Center e-learning webinar lectures that I teach, and the technical articles that I am currently producing. What I have done and what I continue to do as an engineer are all about those people who helped me become me.

Fred Eady is the owner of EDTP Electronics, which was established in 1988 following the publication of his first magazine article. Since the formation of EDTP Electronics, Fred has written thousands of magazine articles. He has written for all of the major electronic magazines, including Radio Electronics, Electronics Now, Nuts and Volts, Servo, MicroComputer Journal, and Circuit Cellar. To date, he has authored four books and contributed to a fifth. He currently works as a PIC microcontroller consultant and is a Microchip Authorized Design Partner. Fred also authors monthly columns in Nuts and Volts and Servo magazines. His customers include machine shops, specialty startup companies, medical machine manufacturers, coin-operated device businesses, and various other research and development companies. He has a very close working relationship with Microchip Technology, the manufacturer of PIC microcontrollers, and has taught Ethernet and WiFi classes at Microchip's annual Masters Conference.

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