Spectron Awakens

-Gathering of Spectronites, March 2016

Nearly 41 years ago, Chris Busch and James Trolinger founded Spectron Development Laboratories Inc. to, among other things, develop and apply laser-based measurement technology. Looking back at the time, before personal computers, before internet, FedX, Skype, etc, it was insane to think we could compete with TRW, Hughes, Lockheed, Bell Labs, etc in selling applied laser research. Within five years we had an internationally recognized world class research team, offices in 4 states, and won more small business R&D contracts than any other company in the nation. At the same time, we became a big happy family that worked and played together intensely. At 10 years we drew enough attention to be acquired by a large company, Titan Corporation. Within a few years the entire operation disintegrated, individuals bailed out, were kicked out, started new companies, took on new challenges, and built new empires. At least five very successful high tech companies can be traced to Spectron. Things that continued after Spectron’s demise was the family feeling, individual respect, and friendships that had evolved in the first 10 years. Individuals continued working with and/or doing business with each other.

In 2007 we held our first reunion, known as Spectron Reloaded, named after the Matrix movie. In March 2016 came Spectron Awakens, our second reunion, named  after Starwars, bringing back 20 Spectronites to reminisce, tease, marvel, and look at old slides and Spectron history with fondness and sometimes a bit of horror. We shared old memories, stories, and ideas.

Pauline designed and acquired a traditional reunion cake, shown below, which we shared while toasting the Spectron family.

The Spectron Awakens Cake

Cutting the Spectron Awakens cake and toasting our Spectron Family

This is the closest thing to a group shot taken during the evening. We were having too much fun to think about photography.

Pauline  had also created a celebratory hat, which was a take-off on the ongoing Trump campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”. Attendees enjoyed posing with it for posterity.


Tim Wilmot, left, Fred Mason right sporting Pauline’s “Make Spectron (America) Great Again” hat.

Various games had been created to entertain anyone who found themselves short of memories or otherwise bored with all of the reminiscing. Robert created a trivia quiz that he had based on articles in the Spectronicle, with questions like, “How much each did Spectron’s first brochure cost?” (~$5) or what was the tail number of the USAF KC135 on which Spectron flew a holocamera (371). Pauline created a crossword puzzle and a hidden word puzzle. Although many Spectronites deferred these until later, Tim Wilmot won the trivia quiz and received a prize, a book “Painting in Death Valley” by Jim T.

Mary Nichols, being a professional caterer, pitched in and assisted Pauline with kitchen services, party set up and breakdown tasks, taking an occasional wine break with her special party glass, plucked from her purse.

Pauline had assembled over 200 slides describing Spectron’s history, both technical and social, starting with our first birthday and continuing on through the Titan days (A few are shown below). The collection comprises contributions from Anthony, Fred, Jim, Tim, Roger, and many scanned photographs, since most of Spectron’s history took place before digital photography. This provided continuous entertainment and laughs. A few of the slides provided a clear example of how times change, especially after work wine and cheese parties, cake fights, and a few ladies tearing off men’s shirts.

Another highlight of the reunion was a complete collection of Spectronicles, provided by Robert. The Spectronicle was Spectron’s (sometimes) monthly newsletter. It serves as a valuable source of historical information as well as a lot of trivia and memories. These included birth announcements, successful achievements, and company plans. The infamous April’s Fool Day issue drew many a laugh, and a few of us remembered how upsetting it was to at least one very serious person when it first surfaced. We are still trying to work out who the genius was who penned it.  

Mary Nichols

Pauline enjoyed a great reunion with Toni Koch, one of her first American friends and who supplied her with a low cost, used Chevy shortly after she arrived from England in 1978. Fred introduced us to his wife Kathy.

Toni Koch, left, Pauline Abbott right, wearing her now famous Spectron T shirt. Toni sold Pauline her first car after she moved to USA in 1978.

Kathy Mason

Donn Silbermann and Robert Nichols

From left, Jim T, Bob O, Daryush M. , Marilyn Doherty

From left, Robert N, Will Mayo, Anthony S.

20160318spectronp008.JPGBob O and Daryush M.
JimT and Mary Rickey

Tim Wilmot and wife, Laura

Roger R and Robert N. toasting friendship

Will Mayo and Anthony Smart.
Looking at old brochures featuring Tim as the model

20160318spectronp022.JPGIn Spite of a broken neck, George Johnson made it to the reunion.

Colleen Fitzpatrick and Marilyn

Roger and Marnie catching up on old times.

The poster on the wall was from Spectron‘s first brochure
Daryush, Jim, and Toni interpreting Spectron artifacts

Robert and Marnie catching up on old times. Notice Roberts Spectron T-shirt

Anthony and Jackie

Daryush, Tim, and Bob watching the Spectron Awakens slide show, over 200 slides assembled from contributions of Spectronites.

Spectron Slide Show-The event shown was from one of Spectron’s infamous Halloween parties. A few slides were rated R and are not included here.
Toni, George, Jackie, Marni, Spectron’s Administration team.
Anthony, Will, Fred, and Daryush examine Spectron records and old news articles


Pauline and Jim hosted Spectron Awakens. Notice Pauline’s T-shirt

From left, Jim, Fred, Robert, Tim, the old holography field team. We made holograms in unbelievable environments and discovered things never seen before.


A few highlights from the Spectron Awakens slide show.
How many do you recognize?
Cindy McBride holding up our first birthday cake
Chris Busch opening a bottle of champagne


Will Bachalo operating and experiment and Chris Busch working at his desk

Carolyn Greenwood and Cindy McBride
Bill Mayo on the phone and Roger Rickey designing an experimental setup

Toni Koch and Bob Oeding
Fred Mason testing a ruby laser holocamera with a customer


Jim Trolinger, V.P. and cofounder at his desk

Anthony Smart

Carolyn Greenwood programming a correlex

Fran Feather

Toni Koch

Will Bachalo working with particle sizing interferometers. Will left Spectron and started his on particle sizing company.

Joe Weurer working on a DOE combustion experiment taking holograms of coal particles burning

Marissa, Anthony, and Vicki during one of Spectron’s infamous wine and cheese events. Every Friday we broke out the wine and cheese.

Diane and Cindy sitting in Jim’s office.

Fred and Tim clowning in front of a Spectron holocamera. We sold about 10 of these holocameras to customers for make particle field studies. University of Michigan
bought one for their combustion lab.

Cecil Hess at his desk. Cecil took over particle sizing from Will Bachalo

Cecil playing accordion at a Spectron picnic. We had such outings often.


Jim and Fred Way training to be flight crew members. We did survival, vacuum, and parachute training so we could fly on  Air Force airplanes doing experiments.


Marissa, Anthony, and Vicki

Roger Rickey

Fred Mason. No one recognized him at our first reunion.

Bill Mayo at one of our  wine and cheese parties




Robert and Marissa at one of our infamous Halloween parties


Anthony Smart with a laser transit anemometer mounted in an aircraft for testing


Jim Trolinger and Navy customer sparring over a Spectron field holocamera in place during FEA (Free explosive atmosphere) testing  at China Lake. These explosives could take out a take, but the holocamera survived.

Bob Oeding and  Joe Wuerer with spouses

Anthony, Marji, Cecil, Jim Doty, at one of our frequent birthday parties.