Enter to Win an Autographed Copy of The Digital I/O Handbook

A picture from 1977 sure brought back memories.

I was at Virginia Tech working on an engineering degree. Susan and I had our son, Ben, and I needed to work part-time. In a town the size of Blacksburg, Virginia, good jobs were hard to find with the school there. I lucked out somehow. My first job was at Scotty’s Lafayette Store. We old guys remember Lafayette stores as THE place for electronics, way before Radio Shack. I sold stereos, CB radios and lots of electronic parts. I could also buy things at a discount. One day we were looking for something in the back, and I came across some Dynaco kits – a tube preamp and tuner. I was in heaven, and thus started a long love affair with tube amps. You know? Those funny looking glass things that preceded transistors?

Back to the picture. Lafayette closed later that year, so I had to find other employment. I remember my mother saying that I should take any job, such as washing dishes. I held out and looked harder. I had read Jon TitusBugbooks, particularly the The 8080 Bugbook. These were hands-on, experiment based books that combined with “trainer kit” electronics to teach fundamentals of microprocessors and interfacing – new stuff in 1976!

Jon and his brother Chris ran a little electronics and software company called Tychon, Inc. Sound out that name – its derived from “Titus”, “Chris” and “Jon”. Chris’ wife, Sarah, was the glue that held it together. This was an early example of small business, high-tech entrepreneurship at it’s best.

Well, somehow I talked my way into a job there. It didn’t hurt that I’d spent the summer of ’76 immersed in the 8080 Bugbook. That book opened my eyes (and brain) to how a microprocessor worked. This new job was like working for the Allman Brothers Band after spending time admiring their work and wanting to play like them!

I swept floors, soldered (a lot) and maintained equipment. I eventually learned to lay out circuit boards with black tape on mylar. Wow! I couldn’t help learning to program 8080 assembler. Back then, octal notation was popular. Hexadecimal replaced it soon thereafter, thank goodness. For example, the decimal number 255 is 377 octal and FF hex. Old DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) equipment used octal, and the Ph.D chemists-turned-8080 programmers that I worked for liked it.

One of the products that Tychon made was a keyboard/LED readout board that allowed you to plug chips into a breadboard and then perform experiments with software op codes that you entered on the little keypad. That was cutting edge back then! And what a way to learn! The picture included in this blog is me sitting in front of a CRT, a luxury in those days, and Jon leaning over explaining something.

I eventually graduated from Virginia Tech. My son Ben, now president of Sealevel, was there at two years old. I’m extremely proud that my kids have taken such an interest in the company. Of course, they grew up with Sealevel discussions at the breakfast table every day!

Those years were inspirational for everything I did after that. I went to work for NCR upon graduating. I stayed in touch with Jon, and eventually started Sealevel with the confidence I needed. Chris Titus had an unfortunate accident that left him unable to continue the work he and Jon had started. Chris was absolutely brilliant, and Jon loved to argue with him (sometimes even when he agreed with him) because Chris would get so into it. I owe volumes to both of them. Jon later helped me write The Digital I/O Handbook.

Thank you for reading this, and thanks especially to all those brilliant people that have influenced my career!

Win an autographed copy of The Digital I/O Handbook

To enter leave a comment below telling us who or what inspired you to become an engineer. The top ten responses will be selected by January 31, 2012. Winners will receive a receive a free, autographed copy of The Digital I/O Handbook.

Questions? Email community@sealevel.com


  1. Dave
    Posted January 17, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I was motivated to become an engineer to find broken links such as the one at the bottom of your post above 😉


    Oh No! You’re Toast!
    The page you’re looking for has been fried.
    Try entering a keyword in the search box above.

  2. Posted January 17, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I have 11 years like an engineer and day to day the technology and permanent invotations to become me an engineer everyday. Sea level is a product tried here in our instalation it is good it was fine years ago. Now we think to use for new proyects your new sealevel tech like are seaI/O mobile modules.

  3. Joey Mayconich
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    When I was little and watched willy wonka and the chocolate factory. I wanted to know and learn how things worked and finding out why things did not work also. That is why I became an SMT Manufacturing Engineer.

  4. Joey Mayconich
    Posted January 19, 2012 at 5:02 am | Permalink

    Sea Level do you need a SMT Manufacturing Engineer. Let me know.

  5. Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Thanks for entering! And thanks to Dave, the link has been corrected.

    To find see a list of our current job openings, visit our Careers page at http://www.sealevel.com/company/careers.html.

  6. Posted January 19, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Thanks to everyone for responding. I appreciate all the feedback. Please feel free to comment on your opinions of us, our products and any suggestion you have. You can also follow Jon Titus in ECN magazine (www.ecnmag.com). I’m sure he would love to hear from you guys as well. Cheers!

    News Flash! Check out the February 10th showing of the Grammy awards. Our good friend Chuck Leavell will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for work with the Allman Bros Band! Congrats to Chuck, who is finishing his own CD, as well as waiting to tour with John Mayer, whose new CD he plays on. You can also congratulate Chuck here or go to his website (www.chuckleavell.com).

  7. Walter Hoppe
    Posted January 24, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    I got my ham license when I was 12 years old. (WA8KBU). I knew I wanted to be an electrical engineer. When I graduated from high school, I went to work for Keithley Instruments in Solon, Ohio. I worked there summers and during vacations while I went to Case Institute of Technology for my EE degree. Keithley sponsored my Senior Project while at Case in 1972. My project was to build a general purpose computer using the Intel 8008 microprocessor. It had two kilobytes of memory made up of 64 Intel 1101 memory chips. Joe Keithley hired me as a full time engineer when I graduated from Case in 1973.

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