Nixie History - Inventor Hans P Boswau - Picture posted

"Randall" <rlogan@...>
 

I'm not sure just how many in this group are interested in the history of the Nixie tube but I thought I would post a bit of Nixie related history anyway.

Back in 1934 a gentleman named Hans Paul Boswau applied for a patent for a numeric tube very similar to the technology used in Nixie Tubes.

The patent number was 2142106 and many years later, dozens of numeric patents would refer to this patent as the earliest form of the numeric indicator. It's not entirely clear to me yet why this patent was clearly considered the origins of numeric readout technology, some earlier patents had very crude forms of 7 segment and dot matrix character formations. My suspicions are that Hans Boswau's patent was the first to be based on ionized gas, many Nixie patents then referred to Hans' patent, and even later technologies referred to the Nixie Patents even though they were not based on ionized gas technologies.

With a lot of digging, I located the daughter of Hans Boswau, now 83 years old, she was 8 years old when her father invented the display tube that would eventually lead to Nixie tubes. I wrote to Hans' daughter and she kindly provided an article about Hans, which I have posted in the Files/Temp section of this group. She also kindly provided her telephone number and I spoke with her about her father. I am doing research for a book I hope to complete on the history of numerical devices.

Hans was born in 1894 in Germany and came to New York in his teenage years -worked for various courier companies in New York until he went back to Germany for WW I. After the war he returned to the USA and starting working for companies that primarily developed switching equipment for various telephone companies.

According to his daughter, Hans was the ultimate tinkerer. He would often come home from work and disappear into his basement workshop and not be seen until the next day (probably trying to figure out how to make a Nixie clock with a handful of relay logic!). He has more than 30 patents in his name and many were filed for himself, after he retired. Most of his other patents are related to complex relay control logic used in the telephone switching industry.

From what I have read thus far, Hans did very well for himself. He died in the USA in 1971. Most of the family's historical records were destroyed in a flood in the late 1990's.

For more of the details you'll just have to wait until I finish the book (which could be an awfully long time unless I get some more good source info on the NU, Haydu Bros., Andrew Kay, and Burroughs stories!).

I'm hoping that others in this group know someone, who knows someone, who worked at Burroughs or other similar corporations, and worked on some early digital or numeric technologies. I hoping to hear about some more leads on reliable historic information.

Thanks for the read,

Randall

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