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The Testbench

Bob "X." Milne: Pease, Jung, and a basement full of test gear

This morning, to my surprise, an email arrived from Walt Jung, who long-time Electronic Design readers and industry vets will remember as a popular ED columnist (“Walt’s Tools and Tips”) and audio op-amp whiz at LTC and ADI. Walt wanted to alert me to a tribute he’d posted on his blog. The subject of that tribute is Bob Milne, who passed away, too young at 70, on February 14, 2011 in Florida. Bob was a colleague here at Electronic Design for many years. Although most people wouldn’t know it, Bob Milne was the man behind Bob Pease and Pease Porridge, and spurred by Walt's email, I'd like to belatedly remember him here for a bit.

When I joined Electronic Design in 1986, one of the first people I met was Milne, who was a big bear of a guy with a generally unkempt beard and an even more unkempt office. Bob always seemed to have a cigar (unlit) clamped firmly between his teeth. In those days, Bob was the test and measurement editor. He’d later move up into management positions but he never stopped being a T&M man. Bob once worked as a field engineer for Fluke in New Jersey and had a huge collection of vintage test equipment, stuff from Ballantine, National, RCA, Triplett, and so on, along with Hickok tube testers and RCA tube caddies full of tubes. Bob and I used to go to local hamfests together; he’d come home with more old receivers and test gear, more tubes, and more tube caddies. He would be thrilled when he found a tube caddy in decent shape, as they were getting harder and harder to come across anymore. Sadly, he lost almost all of that beautiful gear when his basement flooded literally to the ceiling.

Bob Milne wasn’t the guy who landed Bob Pease as an Electronic Design columnist (the late Frank Goodenough coaxed Pease over from EDN), but Milne was tasked with “handling” Pease and overseeing the editing process on his columns. They developed a strong working relationship and fast friendship (Pease had his own thoughts about Milne). I remember how Pease used to send Milne fat envelopes full of disks with columns, printouts of letters for “Bob’s Mailbox,” books, magazines, etc. Every envelope from Pease was addressed to Milne with a different middle initial: “Bob Q. Milne,” “Bob X. Milne,” and so on. This was an inside joke between them.

Bob saw his work with Bob Pease and other analog greats like Jung, Jim Williams, and Jerry Graeme as the highlight of his career. Those men were his heroes. He was endlessly proud of their work and of his role in bringing their columns and articles to Electronic Design’s audience.

In the early 1990s, I began evolving a long-standing interest in shortwave listening into an interest in Amateur Radio, eventually earning an Extra-class ticket. Bob Milne, who had a collection of shortwave receivers himself, was enormously helpful to me in my career as a ham and QRP homebrewer. He would patiently help me troubleshoot local oscillators and homebrewed mixers that I couldn’t get going and lent me all sorts of bits of gear and test equipment. I’ve still got some stuff of his (sorry about that, Bob!) out in the station. He was generous to a fault with his time. Being a bit of a procrastinator, he’d always prefer fooling around with ham gear or circuits to doing actual work.

I could go on a lot longer, because Bob was a unique man. He really loved the electronics industry and the people who comprised it. And he really loved Electronic Design and what it stood for. He was a good friend to my wife Lisa and me. We miss him.

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