Me, My Family and My Hobbies

ti-58.jpg (47623 Byte)sr-50a.jpg (36473 Byte)I was born in the Summer of 1960 and grew up in the southern part of Germany. From my earliest days I was interested in both mechanics and electronics and was fascinated from the upcoming portable electronic calculators. Unfortunately, it took years before I could afford in 1975 my first own electronic wizard, the legendary Texas Instruments SR-50A. Suggested sales price in Germany was DM 299.00, even the discounted DM 252.00 I had to pay for it was a lot of money for a 15-year old teenager. It was an expensive but very sophisticated calculator and yes – it survived my various attacks with the screwdrivers. The SR-52 Programmable was a dream but with an SRP of DM 1198.00 completely out of range. Nevertheless was the newly announced SR-56 Programmable (SRP: DM 598.00) reason enough for me to work some small jobs for the next years and save the money I earned on a bank account.

Texas Instruments introduced in May 1977 with the TI Programmable 58 and TI-59 the successors of the SR-56 resp. SR-52 and I was able to acquire the amazing TI-58 end of 1977. Yes, we wrote these days a lot of programs on our calculators, all time favorite was the simulation of the lunar landing.

In the same time frame, probably early in 1978, a local department store (Hertie in Boeblingen) sold for DM 5.00 a five year old Texas Instruments Datamath calculator, a real bargain. The rechargeable batteries were already broken but I was experienced in soldering. 

But why collecting calculators and such an extreme focus on Texas Instruments products?

Two major incidents influenced me in the 70s towards the company Texas Instruments in Dallas, Texas. 

Dice-Kit2.jpg (92527 Byte)ELO-Magazin.jpg (99851 Byte)In Summer 1974 a newly released magazine for hobbyists published the schematics of an electronic dice. The project used three TTL integrated circuits of the 7400 family and seven red light emitting diodes arranged in the classic dice face to see the dice roll, slow down and stop on a number at random. The circuit worked but due to my fault the counter circuit, a Texas Instruments SN7492 device, broke. To get an answer about the problem I sent the chip to the German HQ of Texas Instruments, located in Freising. Within a week or so, the day before leaving to our family summer vacation in Switzerland, a small box from Texas Instruments arrived at our home. The contents?

TTL-Kochbuch.jpg (15267 Byte)SN7400.jpg (64261 Byte)One signed copy of the famous “TTL-Kochbuch” (The TTL Cookbook) and a set of 75 different integrated circuits. What a find for a young hobbyist! This was the reason behind my decision to purchase a Texas Instruments SR-50A calculator in 1975 and not a calculator manufactured by Commodore, Lloyds, Privileg or even Hewlett Packard. The impact of this unexpected gift was probably substantial for my future, I bonded for decades with “Digital Electronics” and designed in the 80s and 90s microcomputer boards, ASIC’s and other electronic products. 

TI-2500-II.jpg (29806 Byte)TI-2500-V2.jpg (29162 Byte)
Chip-1978.jpg (118047 Byte)Some years later a magazine for computer aficionados celebrated “20 years of Microelectronics” and I noticed in one article a picture of the first calculator built by Texas Instruments, the Datamath. I immediately pulled my above mentioned bargain calculator out and compared it with the pictured one. I guess you know the “Spot the Differences Puzzles”, but this one was easy! The pictured Datamath calculator featured a [%]-key, my bargain Datamath not.

I wrote again a letter to Texas Instruments in Freising and they told me that they manufactured different versions of the calculator and my unit (a TI-2500 Version 2) is indeed older than the pictured one (a TI-2500-II). 

I finally decided to collect calculators, starting with bargains and today (as of January 2010) I own some 2,000 specimen and like to share them with you.

And the real life?

I earned my degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science in Stuttgart, Germany and Zurich, Switzerland and worked for Mikrap AG and Kodak AG before joining in 1992 Leuze electronic “the sensor people”, a leading manufacturer of optical-electronic products for factory automation.

I was married to Barbara, a biologist and we have four children Andreas, Manuel, Stefan and Jana. Barbara received end of the 90s a degree as a PR-consultant, together with her perfect sense of style, design and presentation the foundation of the Datamath Calculator Museum. Our four kids usually “test drive” the products featured in the Online Museum, their main interests are the educational toys and speech products.

Any other hobbies?

To be honest with you, calculator collecting is definitely not our common family hobby! We love to travel the world and purchased in the 90s a huge trailer to accommodate a party of six. We toured with it some of our neighboring countries, e.g. Belgium, Denmark, France and Netherlands. To be prepared for the midlife-crises, which starts in Germany according to some urban legends with the 40th birthday, we three (Me, I, and Myself) purchased on June 5th, 2000 a Land Rover Discovery. This fantastic truck is able to tow up to 3.5 tons and we travelled even some longer distances. The Land Rover brought us on the Pyrénées in Spain, on the Velebit in Croatia and to the highest mountains in Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. Other countries we visited so far? Family trips to Czech Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, Mexico, Monaco, Portugal, Thailand; couple trips to Sweden and United Kingdom; solo trips to Greece, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand (Barbara) resp. The Bahamas, China, Finland, Kuwait and Taiwan (Myself).

Joseph Lucas, the founder of Lucas Industries was humorously known as the Prince of Darkness in North America because of the electrical problems common in Lucas-equipped cars, especially British Leyland products.

After some OFF-ROAD experiences between 2000 and 2006 we did some research and can confirm:

Land Rover ranked last on the US J.D. Power and Associates Vehicle Dependability Survey for 2005
   but was never affiliated with British Leyland.
Most of the electrical equipment of our Discovery was manufactured by Robert Bosch Ltd. In Germany. 


PART II: Our Great Adventure


Liberty.jpg (208518 Byte)It was around October 2005 when we started at Leuze electronic to discuss the idea of a new Research & Development center situated in Rochester, NY. Yes, "the" Rochester known from these companies like Kodak, Xerox, Bausch & Lomb, and the famous RIT (Rochester Institute of Technology). Insider call Rochester simply Optical City and this makes it desirous for a manufacturer of optoelectronic products like Leuze to be there. It took just a short trip to Detroit, MI and Rochester, NY to convince the family that I should apply for this challenging opportunity. A few weeks later were the business plans finalized and our project "Liberty - or Move 'Em" was released on January 2nd, 2006.


The year 2006 started with a tough project plan and we affirmed by ordering 6 One-way tickets from Frankfurt, Germany to Detroit, Michigan. My wife Barbara once again demonstrated outstanding talents in organizing "events". She was responsible for taking care about reducing our inventory to fit into one of these 40-ft shipping containers. We sold or donated lots of stuff and even trashed about 7 cbm (200 cubic feet) of items not so useful in the US. 

We really had to rack our brains about my huge calculator collection. With more than 200 boxes it added about 10 cbm (almost 300 cubic feet) to our inventory and the additional shipment costs were estimated to about US$ 2,000. Selling for a good money failed, but finally Texas Instruments agreed to pay for these expenses. A big Thank You to Dallas, TX!

You need another real experience in your life? Think about shipping all of your belongings with a container vessel over the sea. You kiss a lot of your memories in a few moments Good Bye when the truck leaves your home.

Living some days homeless in a comfortable hotel was a good experience, you really feel pampered these days. In the midst of the German Soccer Championships we had plans for every evening before the day of the departure. A company driver brought us in a van to the airport of Frankfurt with only few belongings:

5 backpacks
9 suitcases
3 cages for our Thai cats
1 cage for a Rabbit

The trip itself was smooth and comfortable, we even knew our pilot and managed to raise the temperature in the freight department a few degrees for our little animals.

Buying a home in the US is pretty easy, we finished a deal already 2 month before we moved. But the sellers cheated on us and sold the house twice. Three weeks before we arrived in Rochester, NY a family from Florida moved into "our" house. We started over with the search again and opted in the meantime for a wonderful furnished apartment in West Henrietta, a suburb of Rochester. 

Actually a win-win situation because the kids made immediately friends and had a wonderful summer there and we found a house fulfilling our requirements even better than the original purchase.

We sold our cars, a Toyota Corolla and a Land Rover Discovery, in Germany and thought about their successors. Despite all rumors about US cars, discovering the high price tag of German brands the decision was easy: Barbara loved the Chrysler PT Cruiser from the very first day she noticed it in Germany and I was just looking for a mid-size SUV to accommodate 2 adults and 4 kids.

You remember our hobby? Travelling around Europe with a camper. That's history but we have now about 48+ States to discover....   

+++ UPDATE 2009 +++

Fusion_2010.jpg (170780 Byte)Family_2009.jpg (97555 Byte)May 2009: Gas prices soar, one kid on college, traveling far more than expected - we traded the Ford Explorer for a Ford Fusion 2010 and spent $100 less for the monthly gas supply.

November 2009: It's obvious - the kids outgrow their parents and we had to update the family picture.

+++ UPDATE 2010 +++

June 2010: Barbara graduated with “highest academic honors” from Monroe Community College on June 3rd, 2010 and dozens of Schools, Colleges and Universities tried to attract her.

September 2010: Barbara finally decided for the Healing Arts and Massage School in Raleigh, North Carolina and we have since September 2010 a secondary residence in the Southeastern United States. What a relief for winter depression …

November 2010: High gas prices and long distance travelling (Rochester, NY – Raleigh, NC equals 630 miles one way) take again their toll and we traded the gas guzzler Chrysler PT Cruiser (25 mpg) for the new Ford Fiesta 2011 (40 mpg). By the way, the color is called “Lime Squeeze Metallic” and looks really fresh.

+++ UPDATE 2012 +++

May 2012: I did it again! Once in every twelve years I have to treat myself with a nice car. A dream car.

Just go back twelve years in my timeline and you'll find the Land Rover Discovery, another twelve years and there was this amazing Honda Accord Aerodeck. And between these remarkable cars? Follow this link and you'll find all my cars between 1978 and today.

It was love at first sight when I visited in July 2006 our local Ford Dealer to negotiate the best deal for our Ford Explorer. Imagine an otherwise boring showroom with a 2005 Ford Thunderbird right behind the entry door. But the dream had burst like a bubble. Two seats, $45,000 and we are looking for a family car. Fast forward to Summer 2011 and our wonderful road trip from Upstate New York to the Yellowstone National Park visiting the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Thousands of Harley's parade through the town but hundreds of convertibles in the parking lots. Heart to brain: This is it! Two kids on college, wife and daughter in Raleigh, NC. You do it now or never...

+++ UPDATE 2013 +++

February 2013: Gas hovers around $4.00 in Upstate New York and I have still to travel a lot. With the 05' Thunderbird this is my second 3.9l car, instead of engine displacement we talk now about mileage: 3.9l per 100 kilometers or around 47 US mpg.

+++ UPDATE 2014 +++

June 2014: I still travel a lot - and the Ford C-Max is a perfect car for the City. With the T-Bird a great cruiser for nice Sundays, I was looking into something different: Angular, bold and mean.
Think more about a Black Widow. Think Cadillac CTS Coupe AWD 3.6-liter V-6. Think highly responsive 318 horsepower 3.6L direct-injection engine.


+++ UPDATE 2015 +++

August 2015: I'm finally a proud American Citizen. Actually I have Dual Citizenship.

September 2015: On the 9th day of September 2015 my first Granddaughter Ella Madeline was born to the proud parents Kristin and Stefan.

October 2015: We decided to trade the Ford Fusion for a Mazda CX-5 - Ella is growing fast...



+++ UPDATE 2016 +++

December 2016: I decided to say goodbye to my Cadillac CTS Coupe and trade it in for a Cadillac CTS Sedan. Way more practical...
And a heated steering wheel.
Follow this link and you'll find all my cars between 1978 and today.
And Ella enjoyed Christmas under the tree. 15-Month-Old.









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© Joerg Woerner, January 13, 2001. No reprints without written permission.