AVS Historical Persons | Len Beavis - 1998

Len Beavis - 1998

Oral History Interview with Len Beavis

Interviewed by Rey Whetten, October 1998
beavis.JPGWHETTEN: I'm Rey Whetten, and we're here in Baltimore at the AVS Convention, 1998. and with me is Len Beavis. He is going to say a few words about his career and experience with AVS. Len is a great friend of mine. We've been on a lot of hiking trips. One of things I know most is each summer he organizes and leads a group of Explorer Scouts, and mostly friends from AVS, around the mountains in Colorado, and we've had some tremendous experiences. 
Len, when did you get started in the vacuum field?

BEAVIS: Soon after I graduated, I went into the Air Force for a while, and when I came back, in graduate school, my initial assignment was to try to keep this glass and mercury pumped electron microscope running for one of the physics labs. I did that for probably two or three weeks, and I soon found that there were better paying jobs as a graduate student in electronics. So I had that responsibility only for a very short time. And so that was my sort of first exposure to vacuum. Then, my next exposure was really when I went to work for Sandia, where my laboratory was next to the laboratory of a colleague, who was really the one and only vacuum expert at Sandia at that time, in the early '50s. And seeing our labs were adjacent to each other, I got exposed to vacuum. That's where I really learned it. He was an ex-RCA Princeton guy. And so, although I had certain responsibilities with respect to electronic issues at the lab, I sort of realized that I had some exposure, and I already had a little exposure, of course, with the electron microscope, and then I found it was very interesting to watch the stuff that he was doing. He taught me essentially all of vacuum technology that was available at that time. That's sort of where I got started.

WHETTEN: That was in the early '50s, before the high vacuum Bayard-Alpert gauge and so on?

BEAVIS: Yeah, it was right at the time Bayard-Alpert came along, and of course, all of our work, and the work that we did after that, was really pushed towards ultra-high vacuum. So we used valves that were made at MIT that were sort of the predecessor of the valves that Dan Bills ultimately got into. And these are big, old clunky things [chuckles]. We used those, and they all, of course, had glass. All of the seals were all metal, but the attachments were always glass, because nobody at that time thought about making all-metal vacuum systems. They were all glass. There were some advantages to that, because of course, glass you can make in any old shape and size you want. So we had a lot of glass ultra-high vacuum systems that we developed. Actually, I sort of was the guy that pushed most of that, although a fellow that I worked with, his name was Gary Krieger, was involved with a lot of this stuff. We had a lot of interesting characters that were involved with that. We had people who, of course, didn't know anything about vacuum at all, and we had characters that would come up and put wrenches on these vacuum systems with the predicted results [chuckles]. There were all kinds of minor disasters of one sort or another with people that were just starting. At that time, vacuum was not all that common. In fact, I found that I had, even though I only worked two weeks with an electron microscope, I was really an experienced vacuum worker [chuckles].

WHETTEN: Yes, all of our systems were also glass, and you find that the glassblower is your best friend.

BEAVIS: Yes, that's right.

WHETTEN: You were totally dependent on the creativity of this glassblower that makes up your system and repairs all the leaks, and so on.

BEAVIS: Yeah. Well, it turns out, Gary was actually a glassblower himself.

WHETTEN: He did. Yes, right.

BEAVIS: Right. So he taught me how to do all those things. So it actually meant to…

WHETTEN: Did you do them yourself?

BEAVIS: Oh, yeah. I did.

WHETTEN: You did your own glassblowing?

BEAVIS: Yeah, yeah, my own.

WHETTEN: Good for you.

BEAVIS: Yes. I glassed the metal seals, and glass-blowing and stuff like that, that I had learned. I don't know if I could do it today, but I suppose I could pick it back up again, because I did a lot of it in the early days. Of course, as time went on, we actually did get professional glassblowers, people coming out of Corning. After a few years, we had those guys around and that made life a lot easier, because they did it all the time. You know, we sort of did it, just to get things started, then you worked on the apparatus, and it might be months or years before you had to go do anything again, fortunately. It wasn't easy. It's like a lot of the things, though, I learned with respect to vacuum. I actually ended up doing them all, the brazing and welding, and things like that, we did with metal systems, for instance. I actually learned how to do that and would do it myself; and that experience has kept me in good stead. There were a lot of disasters that people get into, even today. But they are things that I probably encountered at one time or another, back in the early days. So it's easy to point out that there are some things that you don't want to be doing.

WHETTEN: Your entire career was at Sandia. Is that right?


WHETTEN: What projects did you work on?

BEAVIS: Well, let's see. I started out in the neutron generator business, and actually, that's where I first met Jim Lafferty, as well as Herb Pollock. We worked quite closely with the research lab at General Electric. So I met those folks and actually spent time back there, as well as people at the Lawrence Berkeley lab. So between the two, that was where most of the neutron generator experience came from, either of those two places. And also the Milwaukee facility of General Electric, which is their Medical Systems, I think now. At that time, it was the X-ray Department.

WHETTEN: That's right. They did a lot of industrial x-ray...

BEAVIS: Oh, yes, humongous, big, whole things; there's a lot of vacuum involved with that, too. But they were sort of the supplier of neutron generating tubes, and even the electronics that went with it for a number of years. Then, of course, that facility eventually moved down to Pinellas County in Florida. So the Milwaukee people got out of it, although we still have some contact with folks in Milwaukee, but mainly about their medical stuff that they are doing; some of the technology is now flowing the other way again. 

WHETTEN: What other projects have you worked on since then?

BEAVIS: Well, after that, I worked on the solar energy work at Sandia, and we actually built our on solar cells and that, very obviously, is very much like the semiconductor work. Well, the features are not as fine as they have presently in semiconductors, but, on the other hand, there are other things that are more stringent, including taking large currents out of these solar cells, so the contacting is particularly important. Current densities tend to be high, so you have to be careful about things warming up and diffusing the electrical conductors into the junction area in the solar cell, which immediately kills it. So that was the sort of the thing that I was involved with; working on those connecting schemes. And the part of the solar energy that I worked on was actually concentrated solar energy. Occasionally, you see something about that now, and I guess they're still working...

WHETTEN: The reflectors, that concentrate the...

BEAVIS: Yes, reflectors and lenses both, Fresnel lenses, large Frenel lenses. So everything tended to get pretty hot, of course, because you run the solar sun energy up by a factor of 100. Actually the solar cells are more efficient as the sun's concentration goes up, so you gain two ways: because you need a smaller cell, and in addition, the efficiency's running higher as the cells-- yeah, typically...

WHETTEN: Because it's warmer?

BEAVIS: No, no, just because under the concentrated sunlight. This has been eight or nine years ago now, but one-sun solar cells typically ran at, oh, 8 or 10 percent efficiency, and we had concentrator solar cells that would run over 20 percent. In fact, for a while, the record was held at Sandia with respect to those concentrator cells. A guy by the name of Harry Weaver, who I'd worked with, he was a NMR guy, but he got involved in solar cells. He actually developed these cells that were 21, or 22 percent efficient under 100 suns and things like that. So most of them ran at 100 suns. But then you've got to worry about the contacting to carry the heat away, because they wouldn't be that efficiency if you allowed them to get hot. It's important to keep them close to room temperature anyway. And a lot of the equipment for doing the deposition, of course, is done in a vacuum. The cell patterns and things like that, where the conductors that are on the cell, is done typically in a vacuum. I was involved with the design and care and feeding of a lot of that equipment when I worked in that organization; as well, I had responsibilities with respect to the contacting schemes, which were mainly metallurgical issues.
Then when I left that organization, I went to a thing called the Process Development Laboratory, which at Sandia is an organization that does both development and research in developing processes. It's sort of an adjunct to the materials research group. But we did the research in how you process copper; brazing, or welding, or, you know, all sorts of things are in the group. So that meant that I consulted with all kinds of people all over the laboratory on issues which were not only vacuum-related, but a lot of them had to do with, well, for example, one of the last ones I had before I retired was involved with very fine features, one-tenth micron features, that were going to be used in solar cells and ways of generating them; of course, x-ray exposures is how they do that. Then, there is the question of how do you move this cell so that you can expose everything and get registry with respect to the masking and all those techniques. I was involved with it, because that involves lubricants that are actually used in order to make sure that you don't have things hanging up, and yet you can't allow those lubricants onto the semiconductor because these really are computer chips. Solar cells have no need for things like that! But computationally, how do you move registry very precisely, and there are lubricants that are used in order to make sure things don't hang up, and the whole thing is done in a vacuum because you have soft x-rays that are doing the exposure. So it's a rather complicated thing. I remember the apparatus involved a granite block about the size of this table, and that was the biggest part of the whole thing, the vacuum system and all the rest of the stuff. They were isolating this, because even building vibrations and things like that would cause things to get screwed up.

WHETTEN: Yeah. Well, tenth micron is really state-of-the-art even now.

BEAVIS: Yes, that's right.

WHETTEN: It's not easy.

BEAVIS: It was tough.

WHETTEN: Are you still consulting on this work?

BEAVIS: I'm not consulting on that. I'm back consulting with the neutron generator project, because that was all shut down at Pinellas and moved to Sandia. So I had opportunities to consult. In fact, I consult out there a day or two a week. In addition, I still consult with them concerning the high-speed switching devices, which are things that, of course, Jim1 worked on during his career. They're still working on things like that.

WHETTEN: We should get Jim in on this conversation. 

BEAVIS: Right. Yes. There are the switch tubes, and I still work with those folks some part of the time. I still talk to the people over in the solar energy group occasionally, although most of my money comes from the neutron generator folks. But they say, "Well, you know, as long as you're not spending more than a day a month or something like that, doing these other things, we'll continue to pay you for coming out here to consult on it." Sandia is very much of a matrixed sort of organization, so you may be working for some particular organization but that doesn't mean that that's who you really are doing work for. You're working for all sorts of other people. We had a project that I'm also involved with, which is called the Magic Tritium Project, where some guy in Holland thought he had discovered that the half-life of tritium could be modified by putting it in a particular matrix.

WHETTEN: Oh, really?

BEAVIS: Yes. Right!

WHETTEN: So all of these nuclear properties would be changed by the chemistry of the material?

BEAVIS: By the solid state... Yes, right. 

WHETTEN: It sounds like cold fusion to me.

BEAVIS: Well, in fact, it was related to that project in some respects, although people didn't want to use those terms, because there's a certain bit of skullduggery that's figured that's been involved with the guys who originally proposed cold fusion.


BEAVIS: But the thought was, was that because tritium is a component that's used in a lot of things, not only weapons, but also in things; like the exit lights here probably have tritium in them. But when the power goes off, those things are activated by the tritium there. So the thought was, if we could demonstrate that this really works, then-- I'm very skeptical of it, quite frankly, - but if we could demonstrate that this really works, then we could save billions of dollars in terms of the defense need for tritium, because you just store it that way until you need it, and then you bring it out. The speculation about the magic tritium, in other words, modifying it's half-life and it was actually a large modification, like a 50 percent increase; the half-life of tritium went from 12.3 years, which is where everybody thinks it is, out to something in the order of 20 years. Of course, I keep telling these guys, "You guys are really nuts!" I said, "We've had all kinds of experience," because the place that they wanted to store it was in a matrix of titanium. But it's at a very low concentration, which is not the sort of thing where we've always worked. We've worked with high concentration so the arguments were, "Well, it's because of this low concentration," and there's some sort of nuclear spin modification things that go on, which sounds like black magic to me. In fact, that's why I call it the "magic" tritium. I think that's my terminology for it. But nonetheless, there's a fair amount-- The experiments that demonstrate that this actually works or doesn't work are going to be carried out between Sandia and Los Alamos.

WHETTEN: So this is still ongoing?

BEAVIS: Yeah. The project is still going on, and the guy (gosh, I can't remember him, the Dutchman), he worked at Philips when he discovered this. He's retired now, and he was looking through some of his old notebooks, and he said, you know, "Here's this sort of phenomenon that I observed, which indicates that the half-life of tritium…" So I talked to him a few times on the phone. He was supposed to come to the United States; in fact, he came once. He was supposed to come again, because we were describing to him how we were going to do the experiment to confirm his results, and he came to the United States as a guest of Sandia and Los Alamos and talked to us. He was really convinced; what he measured, actually, was an apparent decrease in radioactivity, which he then ascribed to being the half-life extending. The tritium, of course, when it decays, there's something in the order of 18 keV, as it goes to helium 3, and you get on the average a 5-keV electron. So I proposed all of these thoughts as to why this was happening, because his vacuum system was maybe screwed up a little bit, or things like that, where he was getting coatings on stuff and so he couldn't see, because a 5-kilovolt electron is, not very penetrating and the other particle is a 2 or 3 eV He3, but the third particle is a neutrino, of course, which you're not going to see at all. And he, you know, he thought he had evidence to refute all of my arguments. So we'll see, I guess, sooner or later about exactly how that works. I'm still involved with that project; occasionally I get a phone call from the guy that really looking after it, wanting to know this, or that, or the other thing. You know, if I've thought of this or that.

WHETTEN: Let's talk about AVS. When did you first get involved with AVS?

BEAVIS: It was in I believe 1958, so it was 40 years ago. I'll be a 40-year member this year. That meeting, I remember, was held in San Francisco. Paul Redhead, I remember, was talking a lot about his new ionization gauge, and some of the things that he was doing. The thing that was really the talk of the trade right then was the ion pump. And at the time, I was thinking "Well, you know, this Penning ion pump, we were using those on neutron tubes at the time; they were the things that..."

WHETTEN: You...?

BEAVIS: Yes, the little Penning discharge pumps. They actually had been developed at General Electric, so I said, you know, "What's so new about this?" because we'd been using them since I first went to work at Sandia in '54, I guess, when I went there.

WHETTEN: Oh, that's interesting.

BEAVIS: And they were a little appendage that sat on neutron generator tubes in order to, really, to pump the helium 3 that was generated from the tritium that's in those devices. So I was always amazed that there was all this big furor about ion pumps when we had been using them already for several years, and I suspect that General Electric had been using them for even longer than that. At any rate, that was the topic, and Lou Hall, of course, was the guy from Varian who was involved. That's, H-A-L-L, not H-U-L-L. So there was a lot of talk about that.
The other thing there was a lot of talk about, I remember at the time, was the non-evaporable, or evaporable getters. della Porta and George, from Italy, I remember had papers on those and things that they were talking about. We use those yet, too, by the way. In fact, I plan to talk to the folks about that while I'm here. So those were sort of the early things in 1958. It was a small meeting held in San Francisco, and it probably had maybe 200 or 300 people there.

WHETTEN: That was the Annual Symposium?

BEAVIS: Yeah. It was just very much smaller, you know, no parallel sessions. You got to see all of them. I think they probably only lasted three days or something like that. So it was interesting. Although at that time, of course, the vacuum technology was really growing, very, very rapidly. It was clear that there were many aspects of technology that really required vacuum of one sort or another. Everything, of course, from the freeze-drying where Lew Hull was very much involved, to the ultra-high vacuum. Because by that time, of course, the ultra-high vacuum gauges and stuff like that were known and used. It was about the time that NASA was having large vacuum systems built.

WHETTEN: The space program, too, about then, I guess, was really using a lot of equipment.

BEAVIS: Sure, yeah. Yeah, big vacuum systems, yeah. Although I was involved with the space program on a couple of occasions, it was never very much of a thrust in my career.

WHETTEN: How did you get involved with management of AVS, with committees and things like that?

BEAVIS: Well, it turns out that the guy who was teaching, Gary Krieger, and I mentioned him before, was the guy that taught vacuum technology at Sandia, and we had in-house vacuum courses. The first one of those was actually offered in 1961. Then they wanted to offer that again, and he just refused to do it. So the labs came around and were looking for other people who knew about vacuum technology. I said, "Gee, you know, I can probably teach that course now." So I think the next time we taught it was probably '62 or '63, and at that time I taught it. Actually, I taught it out of Dushman and Lafferty, the book that I think at that time was a year or two old. Now we have a brand-new version of that, of course, which is very nice. I taught that course. And at that time, New Mexico was part of the thing called the Midwest Section, I think. It was the Midwest Section of the Vacuum Society.

WHETTEN: Mm-hmm [yes]. Was it the regional group, was that part of the region?

BEAVIS: Yeah, right. 


BEAVIS: Yeah, right, which included everything from the Mississippi River to, I think to California, and essentially everything in the Mountain States and the Midwest. And Paul Bryant was the Chairman of that group. I don't know if you remember Paul or not.

WHETTEN: Slightly, yeah. Yeah.

BEAVIS: Yes, he was the Clerk of this organization, I think back when. So of course there was such a large concentration of vacuum technology that was growing in Albuquerque, and Los Alamos primarily, in New Mexico. But that sort of included people down at Las Cruces and at Texas El Paso, and Oklahoma, and neighboring states. So in the middle '60s, about 1964, by that time, we were using residual gas analysis a lot. In fact, I think that was the main reason I went to the '58 meeting, was to see what sort of equipment was actually available to do that sort of thing. In fact, by 1964, of course, we were using quadrupoles. You couldn't buy them in this country yet, I don't think. All of ours came from Germany, actually, either from Seimens or Atlas Werke. And they were very nice instruments. Of course, they worked well, although they didn't use any semiconductors. It was sort of sort of strange that they used all electron tube circuits, still,, in those days. The first of those devices that became available in this country were already switched over to semiconductor drive circuitry. So being sort of the resident expert on residual gas analysis, I was dragged into the local symposium in Albuquerque, which was held first in 1964, and I spoke on the use of residual gas analysis. Of course, you were, by that time, I'm sure, involved in all this stuff. 
So we were using these instruments, and we organized our own chapter then, because I gave these tutorials on residual gas analysis, not so much from the aspect of the instrument design itself, but in terms of "when you see the data come out, what the heck does that mean?". In fact, that's always been more my interest than the fundamental instruments. So they found out, then, that I was teaching vacuum at Sandia, and so they asked me, "Why don't we have courses in the local chapter?" So I got involved with the education organization of the local chapter and taught courses then. It was either '66 or '67, sort of the first time I taught for the Chapter. And at that stage, they said, "Gee, you know, we think that you ought to work in this Chapter a little more." So I became part of the Chapter, and I think I was the Chairman of the Education committee, there. Then of course, I taught courses. In '69, by that time I think I was the Chapter Chairman, so they said, "You ought to go to the national meeting to represent us at the national meeting." 
So I went there and they found out I was teaching courses and so I got put into the Education Committee on the national level. At that time, John Dillon was the Education Committee's chairman, and I think, as I recall, the first courses were actually sort of run by the Instrument Society of America for the American Vacuum Society. Some of the connections of that organization with the AVS didn't work as well as they should. So the thought was "By golly, you know, we ought to be teaching our own courses and not have these other guys from outside, that don't know nearly as much about vacuum as we do", because they were using our own AVS people, actually to teach these courses. I don't even remember who the first instructors were, but they were people who were from the Vacuum Society. It's just that ISA sort of organized things and did the bookkeeping and collected their share, I'm sure, of the income. So in 1970, when Ron Bunshah became President of the Vacuum Society, John Dillon by that time had become Dean at the University of Louisville and he didn't have time to be the Education Committee chairman. So Ron went to the next most eligible person, who was Vivienne Harwood, and asked Vivienne to become the chairman of the Committee. She said, "Well, I'm sorry, but I'm pregnant, and so I'm not going to be participating in this activity for a year or so." And so Ron then came to me, although I'd been to one meeting of the Education Committee, at that stage, and he said, "Well, you know, you're the Education Committee chairman in New Mexico. Why don't you do this for the national, too?" And because Vivienne was having a child, Ashley Kyle is his name, and in fact we still see him and everything because they live in Albuquerque, and he stops by every now and then to say hello. He's learning to be an attorney now. He's been backpacking with us, too, I think probably one of the times when you were along.

WHETTEN: Yes. Yep. Yep. He was the youngest member at one time, if I remember. His pack was larger than he was.

BEAVIS: Yeah. So because of that circumstance, I became Education Committee chairman, and of course, I had to present to the Board of Directors the justification for why we needed a large increase in our budget. We were nearly going to triple our budget, I remember the year that that happened, and it was with great trepidation! And with these guys I thought "We need three times as much money, and they're going to go right through the ceiling." And I went in and sat down and explained, you know, that this was an investment in the future, and etcetera and etcetera. And there was no discussion at all. They said, "It sounds like a great idea to us," which I always thought rather incredible that these folks, guys like Dan Bills and Lou Hull, you know, who were in business, would put up with what I considered to be a rather far-out suggestion. So at that time, I, of course, organized the original meetings, or the short courses. And I think we had one or two short courses. We had a General Vacuum Technology course and that started it. As I recall, the first time we did that was actually in Washington, in 1970. It was so successful, of course, that their investment was paid off by a factor of three; up until that time, the Education Committee was a sink for money [chuckles]. And so all of a sudden, it became a source for money, and that factor of three actually paid off all of the previous investments in the Education Committee in one year. So, from there, of course, I got on the Board of Directors.

WHETTEN: It's still a big business for AVS. I mean, that was what really started it. 


WHETTEN: It's now well over a million dollar business.

BEAVIS: Yeah, well, let's hope it stays successful [chuckles].

WHETTEN: It teaches an awful lot of people about vacuum technology and other things.

BEAVIS: Yes, and quite frankly, I think that's one of the goals of our society, and should be.

WHETTEN: Sure, to be educational, yeah.

BEAVIS: It should do that. It's their responsibility to do that. And it's their responsibility, in my estimation, to even do things which may not look terribly profitable at this instant in time, but if it looks like it's something that's coming to the forefront, that should be addressed, I think, in not only technical sessions, but anything that has to do with the technology aspects where you need new technicians and new people to get involved. It's important that they do that.

WHETTEN: So then you were involved on the Board?

BEAVIS: Yes, I was on the Board from 1971 to '75, and I think you were President in '75. As I recall, I was elected once and then re-elected. And then I was the Vacuum Technology Chairman for a year. And at that time, because of things that were going on at Sandia, it looked like I might get out of vacuum technology. So I was a little unsure; in fact, I was asked to run to be President at one time, and I said I didn't think that was a good idea because I might not even be connected to vacuum. But it turns out that that was sort of a temporary perturbation in the system and I was back in the technology. So I ran to become President-elect in 1977, and was President in 1978. After that, at Jim Lafferty's request, I became the representative to the IUVSTA2. At that time, Maurice Francombe was the representative, and Maurice, I guess, got totally disconnected from vacuum and put off on other things, and so I took over sort of in the middle of his term and then served two terms of my own. Then of course, you succeeded me as the IUVSTA representative back in 1988 and that was very interesting in terms of working with international people. Because they look at things quite differently than the way we do. Things tend to go a little slower. They don't move as quickly as we do.

WHETTEN: As I recall, you were the General Chair for the international IUVSTA3, which was right here in Baltimore, this convention center, in '86.

BEAVIS: Yes, the last time we met here.

WHETTEN: The last time we were here. 

BEAVIS: Yes, twelve years ago, yes. Yeah, that's right. I was the General Chair.

WHETTEN: Yeah, I remember that was an interesting...

BEAVIS: Yeah, there were some interesting things that occurred [chuckles].

WHETTEN: [Chuckles] Maybe we shouldn't go into that.

BEAVIS: Yeah [chuckles]. There were issues!

WHETTEN: The treasury, then, I remember was a tremendous financial success, just a complete surprise to us. We had estimated how many pages we would publish and what that would cost, and then I think there was something like a thousand fewer pages actually got published. Which left us with quite a surplus. We then divided the money from that '86 conference with IUVSTA, and that still is probably a large fraction of their total assets.

BEAVIS: Yeah, that was interesting, because that was the year that we actually changed the requirements on papers published. Up until then, essentially any paper that was given at the technical sessions had to be published. And I remember I think it was John Vossen, who was, at that time, the Publications Committee Chairman, who said, "You know, I don't think that's a terribly bright idea, because some of this stuff is really garbage." Or, that we would have a great deal of difficulty getting it refereed so that it would be acceptable. And rather than bringing the quality of the journal down, we allow people to publish or not, and not only that, but not just say that papers had to be rejected, but give people the option of not submitting a paper. That was extremely successful. It was extremely successful for the foreign papers, because I'm sure that a lot of people, where English is not their first language, really have trouble. Having refereed a few of them, I'm convinced.

WHETTEN: Right, no question.

BEAVIS: Right, that's a difficult situation. So that was a smart move.

WHETTEN: Yes. Well, what do you think about vacuum science and technology? Where are we going?

BEAVIS: If you look back over what happened, and of course, early on, everything was sort of related to the vacuum technology and the Vacuum Technology Division. I remember at the time when I was President, it was Charlie Duke and Bill Spicer said, "Gee, you know, we ought to get this bunch of people that are working on integrated circuits, because so much of their technology is related. So we ought to have this thing called Electronic Materials and Processes Division", which at the time was probably about the fifth division, I think, because we had Surface Science and we had Thin Films. But that would be a smart thing to do, and I said, "You know, it sounds good to me." So you never quite know where some of this stuff is going to come out of the woodwork and all of a sudden be a prime thing. It's nice that the Vacuum Society looks at that in terms of integrating everything together. I think it's one of the strong things about the Society, that they do integrate not only science and technology, but all of these rather diverse technologies and science disciplines into an organization. I know when I attend the meetings, I find that they're quite stimulating; to go to things which are not things that I'm particularly familiar with, or even terribly interested in, but you'll find that there's a lot of interesting work going on there. 
With the great increase in the life sciences and biological sciences that is going on right now, I would suspect that there will be, probably, some things there that would be amenable to the technologies that are associated with vacuum technology. So I think we'll see more of that. It's interesting that every now and then people say, "Gee, do we really need a Vacuum Technology Division anymore?" But I find that they're sort of a good nesting place for a lot of these sort of minor things. And the folks that run that division, I'm not a member of that group any more, but they tend to be innovative and willing to put things on that maybe nobody else would think of right away.

WHETTEN: Well, it's sort of been a-- I mean so many things have come out of that group. I mean, when they do get something that really flourishes, then they become their own group.

BEAVIS: Yeah, sure.

WHETTEN: So it's been a seedbed, sort of a nursery for so many of the other Divisions and Groups.

BEAVIS: Yeah, yeah, that's true. I think that's a very sensible thing. And from that perspective, of course, they're a useful thing to keep around. There are still a lot of members I know, in the Vacuum Technology Division. It's the second or third-largest division, I think, in terms of membership. So there are a lot of people who are still interested in that.
The other thing I notice, or at least I perceive, and that is that the National Symposium is every bit an international meeting as the IUVSTA meetings. I think that's good, too. I'm not quite sure what the IUVSTA's perception of that is, but we have our meeting at least once a year. Now I notice that AVS is going to a semi-annual meeting. There's going to be a meeting in the Spring, and this may not be the most opportune time to do that, because there has been sort of, or at least I perceive, a slight downturn, and it's because of the world economy. That's typically, when...

WHETTEN: Which, when it hits, hits semiconductors, particularly hard!

BEAVIS: Yeah, and when we see that, and this is cyclic. I mean, we've seen this before. This is not the first time this has happened. Typically it tends to hit us before it does other people. So if you watch what the AVS is doing, you may be able to predict the national or international economy a little better. But I'm sure it will bounce back, too. That's the other thing. It always comes back, so the people that support the AVS I think have to recognize that we go through these cycles. It's like my son, he works for the Ford Motor Company and he's a manager for a truck dealership in New Mexico. He says, you know, "It's just as regular as ...,". In talking to his boss, the guy that owns the place, of course, says it's a seven-year cycle. He says every seven years that you go through these things, and he says that as far as he knows, and the guy that owns it's been in the business for over 40 years, he says every seven years. He says, "So I don't even worry about it any more." He says [chuckles], "It's a bit disconcerting the first time or two, and you wonder if you're going to recover." And he says, "But it always comes back." It's just a cycle and he said that that's just the way, particularly the automobile business, not so much in the truck business. The trucks tend to be more stable than automobiles, at least in New Mexico. I don't know what they are back here, but in New Mexico the truck sales tend to be not as influenced. The highs and lows are more moderated, whereas automobile sales really follow these cycles rather wildly where they, you know, go down to 20 percent of their sales, or something like that.
So my observations over time, are that the AVS sort of sees those same sorts of cycles, not having to do with the automobile cycle, particularly, but on the other hand, there are times when things are very good and then things tend to slow down a little bit. I noticed that slow-down when I was talking to the vendors in Albuquerque this past Spring, that they were perceiving this slow-down in the vacuum business. But most of them looked at it as, "That's another temporary perturbation on what's going on. Shall I wait?" [Chuckles]. 

WHETTEN: Okay, any other comments?

BEAVIS: No. I think we've been talking long enough.

WHETTEN: We certainly thank you, and we've enjoyed it.

BEAVIS: Yeah, good. I've enjoyed it, too.

1. Jim Lafferty
2. International Union for Vacuum Science, Technique and Applications
3. International Vacuum Congress, held every three years

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