A History of NADCOMMThe North American Data Communications Museum
Fallbrook, CA Prospect Heights, IL Sandy Hook, CT
What the heck is NADCOMM? Well, back in 1984 I was visiting a telephony equipment supplier in Virginia. During the tour of the facility I noticed a 35 ASR Teletype with only 50 hours on the hour meter! It was being loaded for the scrapper. I objected and the company gladly sent it to me via Roadway Express along with a second 35 ASR for parts and a 35 RO.
So, why would I want these machines? Since leaving the US NAVY in 1966 I went to work for Illinois Bell as a Teletype Repairman. I spent years working on the "beasties" and I also needed a machine to make mailing labels for our old car club. I rewired the monster for use on-line and swapped a sprocket feed typing unit for the friction feed one. As time went on, the idea of collecting and preserving older Teletype and early data communications equipment was brewing in the back of my mind. It all came together in 1996 when I let several people know I was going to establish a volunteer museum.
Many of my old friends from Illinois Bell thought the idea was unusual but interesting and several "got the bug" and assisted in finding many old and interesting items. Since I attended more than 25 training courses at the Bellcore Training Center in Lisle, IL many of these folks got to know me pretty well and decided to donate equipment instead of sending it to the land fill. I found many test sets saved from the scrapper by the owner of Radio Station WNIB in Chicago, Mr. Bill Florian. My long time Illinois Bell friends Frank Frisch and Bob Cnota helped collect and store many of these items. When I retired from Ameritech in September of 1996 the collection took up quite a bit of space in my basement and in a 20' x 30' storage facility. When we moved to Southern California it took an additional $4,000.00 to transport the equipment to Fallbrook.
In Fallbrook, we began by storing the equipment in a storage building, but the rent was $112.00 per month, which I did not want to spend, and so my wife suggested making the garage into a museum. I worked day and night to bring all of the stuff here and set it up. Many things I could not have done without the help of local friend and engineer, Bob Gordon. Then my long time friend, Roger Bindl volunteered to set up our website and the rest as they say, "is history." You can view our website at: http://www.hem.com/nadcomm.
Pacific Bell found out I was using ISDN to telecommute and asked if they could do a story on me for the Internet. I said "sure." Well when the scout came here he saw the ISDN installation, but was more impressed with the museum collection, which by then included the ex-Bellcore DDS Hub and end-office equipment and a Model 26 TTY from the Pasadena area. After both a 3 hour photo session and a 2 hour interview the feature article was put onto Pacific Bells website. You can see and hear it by pointing your browser to: http://www.pacbell.com/others/stories/story-12.htm
After several months of keeping in contact with friends via e-mail, Jim Harvey, WB8NBS told me about the "Greenkeys" reflector. I, of course, signed up right away. Through the reflector I have met many individuals who have contributed to the museum and have become both benefactors and friends. Several are people with the same ideas I have and have become members of our board of directors. Tom Kleinschmidt and Jack Hart have dedicated themselves to the effort by accepting appointments as Vice Chairmen and are making their collections available for people to see in the Midwest and Eastern regions. The preservation instinct is strong for those of us who started in the data communications business in the 60s. We are always looking to add additional equipment, supplies, literature, documentation and memorabilia. My son, Richard wrote our mission statement, which you can see on our website, however the ideas are well written and I would like to share them with you here:
"The North American Data Communications Museum (NADCOMM) is committed to the project of collecting, displaying, and operating the equipment which has powered the communications revolutions of the twentieth century, from telegraphy to digital telephony. The collection, largely donated by committed telecommunications workers and businesses, already encompasses a wide array of machines spanning the entire history of teletypewriters and the transition to contemporary digital modem technology. NADCOMM's goal is to counter the present state of communications history, marked by the quick and successive obsolescence of "last year's models," by maintaining a working collection of functional equipment tracing the stages through which telecommunications technology has passed.
Curator Don Robert House and the NADCOMM staff believe that this project involves more than the nostalgia of the technophile. The advances in technology preserved in the NADCOMM collection have shaped not only the present state of technology but economic, social, and cultural history through their use in industry and mass media. Whether or not we accept the premise that these advances mark the transition of world history into a wholly new postmodern "Information Age," their impact on contemporary culture makes the unique project of NADCOMM a vital one. Moreover, the fact that equipment is displayed in a functioning state means that the NADCOMM collection remains a valuable resource for hands-on technological training for the communications professional and the interested layperson alike."
Thank you Rich, I couldn't have said it better myself! In addition to the equipment already mentioned we have acquired many unique and unusual items. Some are ex-military and these include the CV89 RTTY FSK converters and an R-1051B receiver to receive Radio Teletype messages. We have equipment waiting to be picked up in several areas of the U.S. and hope to obtain a telegraph carrier system that is being preserved in Florida if we can figure out how to get it to one of our locations. Tom is hoping to rent a storefront location in the Chicagoland area where interested folks can see this technology without having to climb down basement stairs or fly to the foothills of Northern San Diego County.
Come on down and visit us sometime, just call or write first for an appointment.
Don Robert House