Congratulations! You have found the personal home page for Bob Armstrong and Deborah Norling.
If you'd rather learn about the gizmos that we build, you'd enjoy visiting
the Spare Time Gizmos home page.
If you're curious about the name of this domain, JFCL.COM,
then read Bob's essay
on the topic.
Bob was born in Indianapolis and graduated from Purdue University with a
degree in Computer Science. He was fascinated by electronics even as a
tiny child. At the age of six, his parents permitted him to solder but, worried
that he might set the house on fire with it, restricted him to using it only the
concrete floor of the basement. Three decades later, Bob still loves to design
gizmos and build kits. We describe many of his projects on our Spare
Time Gizmos page.
Bob has worked as both a software and a hardware engineer, both in Indiana
and now in the heart of Silicon Valley. During the 1980s, his employment at
Digital Equipment Corporation gave him an in-depth knowledge of DEC equipment.
During the 1990s, his employment in the EDA industry gave him the skills of PC
board design, Windows programming and project management. Bob's last full
time position was working on flat panel display systems at Philips Components of
Today Bob is self employed as an independent consultant in
hardware and software engineering. When he's not busy with consulting
contracts, Bob designs and builds electronic gizmos for computers, audio and
Amateur Radio. Bob sells kits and PC boards for his more successful
projects thru his Spare Time Gizmos
business so that you, too, can build your own gizmo.
And should the work-life lack variety, Bob also gets to troubleshoot plenty
of gremlins at home. He’s turned our garage
into a computer history museum, where old Digital Equipment minicomputers still
purr, Winchester drives roar, 9-track tape drives spin and teletypes chatter.
See and hear some of the equipment he’s lovingly restored. Today, old
computers are dismantled for scrap metal; their precious innards thoughtlessly
tossed into dumpsters. Bob has tirelessly scavenged, assembling much of this
collection piece, by painstaking piece.
Besides his impressive collection of DEC minicomputers and peripherals, Bob
has also collected and restored older scanner and short wave radios and many
small calculators. The calculators come from the late seventies: when
calculators were just becoming affordable but before they had LCD displays. The
radios are the solid tube models from the ‘40s and ‘50s, and he’s
especially partial to the Zenith Transoceanic models.
Glade, the golden retriever formerly worked as Debee's third
guide dog until she (Glade, that is, not Debee!) retired in February 2002.
Glade now lives with us as a pet and, although her vision and hearing are not
what they used to be and her arthritis gives her trouble getting up in the
morning, still leads an active life. Glade visits our local Veterinarian's
office twice a week, not because she's sick, but to stay in the lobby and serve
as a therapy dog for people sad over the loss of their own pets. Glade
also occasionally goes to work with Debee or Bob, especially when Bob is working
on a blindness or low vision related contract. The remainder of her time
is spent either sleeping or trying to get the nearest human to pet her.
Debee was raised in Hayward California and attended U.C. Berkeley where she
studied comparative literature. She worked for a time coordinating recreation
programs for disabled adults and as an accessibility consultant, leading
seminars across the country on making facilities wheelchair accessible. Debee
founded Berkeley’s Volunteer Exchange Cooperative which enabled mostly
low-income people to save money by bartering skills.
After bumming around rather pointlessly for five years, Debee decided to
teach herself to program computers. She hired herself out as a typist for quadriplegics
studying computer science at U.C. Berkeley. Sitting on the pedals of people’s
wheelchairs, she typed Fortran into terminals, helping students complete their
homework and exams. She went to classes with physically disabled students, tape
recording lectures and discussion and later transcribing the material.
As a blind person in the late 1970’s, there weren’t many options for
accessing a computer and these jobs were Debee's creative way to learn computer
skills without buying adaptive equipment or having access to any herself.
Better yet, not only did she get a great computer education, she actually got
paid for going to class!
After mastering the fundamentals of programming, she taught BASIC at a local
junior college, then moved on to running Grassroots Computing, her own software
business. She designed and coded Video Voice, the fourth screen reading program
to be written for the IBM PC. Screen Reading technology enables blind and
visually impaired users to read the computer screen and operate standard
applications like WordPerfect.
In the early 1990s, when Windows screen access technology was still
primitive, Debee worked a variety of technical support jobs. This gave her an
in-depth knowledge of Windows, even though her access to it was still fairly
By the year 2000, she’d held a variety of jobs in the high-tech industry.
And she’s never lost her passion for learning how to do new stuff with the
computer. Debee is also enamored with Awk, though she admits to knowing Perl.
programming in Windows with the Windows Script Host. See some of her WSH links
Debee also enjoys experimenting with low-fat cooking, gardening, reading and
ham radio. Her call is KF6BKR. Go to our ham page to see our shack!
Boston, yet another Golden Retriever, is Debee's fourth and current guide
dog. He was born July 7th, 2000, graduated with Debee from
Guide Dogs for the Blind on February 2nd
2002, and is absolutely never, ever, unhappy about anything. We call him,
among other things, "helicopter butt" because his tail never stops wagging.
Boston also knows every dog game known to man or dog.
Bob and Debee
Bob met Glade and Debee when he worked as the software engineering manager at
Telesensory, a company that designs and manufactures high-tech equipment for
people with visual impairments. Debee was a senior technical support specialist,
who suddenly discovered that she wanted to spend a lot of time consulting with
the software engineering manager.
Meetings lead to long lunches, which lead to long evenings, and Bob and Debee
soon decided to share a home together. Debee, who holds an Advanced Class Radio
Amateur’s license eventually talked Bob into getting his technician’s
license. Since then, Bob has turned his roof into an antenna farm and
discovered the thrill of ham radio satellites. You can hear some of his satellite
QSOs here on our Ham Radio page.
Today our biggest non-technical quest is to stick to a healthy lifestyle. By
regularly exercising and reducing our calorie intake we lost weight together, so
we are committed to continuing this discipline.
We also love to travel, mainly by train. These links take you to illustrated travelogues
of our adventures.
And we love Electronic Flea markets, where we bargained and haggled for the
gear residing in our ham shack.
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