09 April 2018
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Two Toms and an Eric

Eric Small

Eric was a buddy of mine back in the '60s and '70s, and we kept in touch, sometimes fitfully, until about a decade ago. We both had a lot of new people and activities in our alleged lives, and my last (remembered) contact with him was when we did a gear swap for some unremembered purpose. He got an Eclipse, I got a Spider Vision. Eric was quite the broadcasting guru. He was on standards committees and very deeply into the infrastructure of broadcasting in the US. I remember one of his early digital projects back when digital was exotic. He showed me a hand-wired system capable of measuring the power spectral density of a radio station's modulation. This was a new and interesting way of measuring modulation as opposed to the FCC regulations. This was supposed to help understand the "loudness wars" which continue to this day.

Eric was the founder of Modulation Sciences, a broadcast equipment manufacturer. It had many years of success, and perhaps still does. They gave up the US market because they were doing so much better in Latin America, while broadcasting here in the USA was being nibbled, hopefully not to death, by the internet.

I mention this today because I was asked to contact Eric to check on an applicant's references. Easy! Go to modsci.com, find a current phone number, and put him to the question. Except, it seems the web site has been converted to what appears to be Chinese. Whether the company was sold or the site hijacked, I don't know, since there doesn't seem to be any further reference to it on the internet. Call the company? Their local number doesn't answer and their 800 number seems to be a scam.

So I looked Eric the person up on the internet and found an obituary*. Whoops. I remember him surviving a serious auto accident a couple of decades ago—lots of broken bones around his eye but a good recovery. Turns out he wasn't so lucky after another, more recent accident. Eric a pedestrian. South Florida. Old person "driving" an out of control car.

When? After a decade of casual non-communication I was very much looking forward to a chat, but he was killed just a couple of weeks ago. Sigh.

Tom Preston

Another buddy, this time from college, has a pretty interesting blog called Sisyphus Project. While looking up my own blog's references to the final Tom, below, the Tom Preston blog came up as well. Which reminded me that Tom often mentions my blog on his blog. Gosh! Maybe if I return the favor, this cross-linked mention of his blog will bring us both to the top of the Google search results!

I'm glad to say he "has" a blog instead of "had." As far as I know, he remains very much alive. We rarely see each other since we're separated by two or three time zones—it varies here in Arizona. He's another guy who enjoys the oddities of language. I'm sure we could and possibly some day might debate the "very much" in the second sentence of this paragraph. And I'm glad we'd both be able to have that debate even though we aren't likely to do so.

Tom Lehrer

He was to be the sole subject of this blog until I realized that there was little I needed to say. For one thing, he has received several mentions on the RIKLBlog:

This Tom and I go 'way back. Back further, in fact, than any of my current friends, associates, or acquaintances. How so? Tom Lehrer and I attended the same summer camp! (And I have another connection, although I'm still working on suspense and won't detail it here.) To be sure, I was a young camper and he was old. So old that he was beyond being a counselor and would have counted as a grown-up. He visited, I'm sure, at the invitation of the camp owner and Tom volunteered to produce a play. It was to be The Wizard of Oz. I auditioned and, in those days in which kids could be turned down or rejected, I was turned down and rejected. I don't think I was permanently scarred, but don't know for sure. Tom also performed for us on at least one occasion. He sang Minnie the Moocher, which Wikipedia accuses of having nonsensical lyrics, and also The Irish Ballad / Rickety-Tickety-Tin. I enjoyed the latter so much that I made the (successful) effort to find and purchase Lehrer's 10-inch LP as soon as I got out. I mean got back home.

I also got to see him live at a solo performance,** if memory serves, at Carnegie Hall! That was the first time I heard The Element Song. I think I must have learned it within weeks. In my (hopefully pre-) dotage I use it as a memory test as well as a party trick. Which brings me to what would have been the only reason for this blogitem if I didn't distract myself so readily: Unlike the two other unwitting participants, who are or were my age, Tom Lehrer is still old today, his birthday. I would have tried to do something typographically festive with the wish, below, but, out of curiosity I looked up "Happy Birthday Fonts" and found hundreds of them, every one too tacky even for me. So:

Happy 90th Birthday, Tom Lehrer!

*In the obit he was described as "humble." For a moment I was hopeful that it was a different Eric Small who died, but too many other details did match.

**Yes, solo. He even introduced himself.

Richard Factor

"My Friend Jack"
The Smoke



This Westlake Audio T-shirt which I obtained in the '70s just happens to have a pocket, suitable for my three pens.

Very serendipitous given the subject of this blog.

Westlake was one of our first and best customers. Of course things have changed in the ensuing four decades.


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