Generation 2 - Francis H. Gerhard

Frank enlisted in the Navy when he turned 18 and gained experience as a Radar Technician aboard the USS Baltimore.  After the end of WWII, Frank followed in his father's footsteps and entered the field of Electrical Engineering.

Immediately after the war, he worked for the Autonetics Division of North American Aviation.  Starting in Downey, then moving to the Anaheim facility, he served as a Senior Research Engineer.  Much of his original inventive work in analog computing equipment received national recognition via invitational papers at major technical conferences.  He played a key role in the the development of solid state inertial autonavigator equipment and performed airborn tests in the Douglas C-47 (aka DC-3) aircraft.

It was during this period he that he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Southern California while working full time. 

Article in Electroncis Magazine by Frank Gerhard - April 1959

Want Ad from 1953 LA Times

Ad in the Indepent 1957

Article in Flight Magazine 1959

XN-1 in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Article regarding the move to Anaheim 1963

Autonetics - Anaheim, CA

North American Aaviation Legacy Foundation

Frank then moved on to a position at Astrodata, Inc., where he held the title of Chief Scientist.  During his nine years with Astrodata, the bulk of the applied research for his 35 member R&D staff was devoted to voltage measurement equipment, analog computer elements and carrier telephony apparatus.

Astrodata Company Overview Brochure

Astrodata Flyers

Astrodata Trademarks

Astrodata causes traffic problems

Astrodata SEC Filing 1965

Astrodata ad in Electronics Magazine - Jan 24, 1966            Full Issue

Mariner Venus Mission - Astrodata - Time code translators, time code generators, and spacecraft signal generators for ground telemetry equipment

Project Gemini - Astrodata - Equipment for test on spacecraft

Apollo Subcontractors - Astrodata - Integrated computer complex

Press Kit for Ranger Moon Photography Program - Astrodata - Time Code Translators, Time Code Generators, Ground Command Read/Write/Verify Equipment

Apollo 12 Contractors List - Astrodata - Doppler Digitizing Systems, Camera Control Timing and Sequencing System

Astrodata - Nixie Tube Time Code Generator

Astrodata - ID Plate 1966

Frank left Astrodata in 1968 and became one of the founders of DATUM, Inc. As Vice President of Engineering, at DATUM, he held direct responsibility for engineering management within a 500 man, high technology, engineering oriented firm.  While much of his experience has been concentrated in energy conversion systems, instrumentation electronics and servomechanisms, the range of his successful projects has provided a diversified base from which to assault a wide spectrum of assignments.

During 7 years with DATUM, he personally designed the complete line of data system measurement assemblies.  Other assignments included total redesign and pilot production responsibility for a new magnetic drum memory.

He guided the technical growth  of the  corporation, organizing and establishing a field service group, production test department and other additional technical support activities to assure sustained profitability.  Mr. Gerhard had profit and loss responsibility for the technical aspects of more than ten million in annual sales (early 1970's).  Elected a Member of the corporate board of directors, Frank also served as Corporate Secretary.

Datum General Catalog

Datum Ad - Computer World Sept, 1976

Datum Ad - Computer World May, 1978

Datum - Video Time Inserter 1          Datum - Video Time Inserter 2

Article on spin-offs LA Times Aug 18 1991 - Mentions Astrodata and Datum

The Datum HQ Building today

When he founded Gerhard Engineering in 1975, Frank Gerhard was a seasoned professional and worked mainly as a "hired gun" - someone who was called in to solve the most difficult of problems.


Frank worked on a number of spacecraft projects including power supplies flown on the Space Shuttle, the Scientific payload for the Delta Star Satellite program and the Mars Observer Spacecraft Camera. 


Delta Star 183 on Pad


Delta Star 183 Launch


Commercial Spacecraft Hearings - Delta Star


He was called in to take over the design of the Mars Observer Camera electronics after the original designers bowed out late in the project. There was little time left and the problems were extensive, but Frank and his team were able to deliver a working camera, ready for launch on schedule.


Mars Observer Rendering


Mars Observer Mission Patch


Mars Observer Camera Photo


Design and Development of the Mars Observer Camera - Mars Observer Camera (MOC) - Mars Observer


Reports on the loss of Mars Observer


Frank designed a line of Emergency Vehicle products for an industry leader including a siren / PA system that was the first with microprocessor generated siren sounds and digital control.


Touchmaster Series Sirens


Frank designed a family of laser radar systems used for precision three-dimensional measurements and imaging.  It was a very elegant and innovative solution for complex electro-optical system that resulted in several patents.    


His electronic fluorescent lamp ballast designs pushed the state of the art to new levels and one design included a semi custom IC that he designed.

Click the links to view some of Frank's US patents:

3003122 - Low Level Transistor Switching Circuit

3007116 - Chopper Stabilized Direct Current Amplifier

4168453 - Variable Intensity Control Apparatus for Operating a Gas Discharge Lamp

4230971 - Variable Intensity Control Apparatus for Operating a Gas Discharge Lamp

4253046 - Variable Intensity Control Apparatus for Operating a Gas Discharge Lamp

4980837 - Circuit and Method for Automatically Sweeping Through a Plurality of Siren Modes

5422545 - Closed Loop Feedback Control Circuits for Gas Discharge Lamps

5831719 - Laser Scanning System

5940170 - Laser Scanning System

6115114 - Laser Scanning System and Applications

Some additional design examples:

Orbiting Satellite Data Acquisition System - Delta Star 183

The system consists of an experiment tray and associated electronics. 60 channels of data on strain, temperature, radiation, accumulated mass, and ablation are collected and formatted for transmission to Earth.  Gerhard Engineering's portion of the system is the transducer signal conditioning, analog multiplexing, and analog to digital conversion. This circuitry occupies three of the five printed circuit boards comprising the system.  The entire project, from the first meeting to discuss specifications to successful completion of acceptance tests of 2 systems, spanned only 12 weeks.  One of the systems subsequently passed qualification testing to the applicable environmental specifications with no additional rework.  The second system was launched in early 1989.

Dimming Electronic Ballasts for Fluorescent and HID Lamps

This 7-year project started with several years of basic research on the adaptation of switching power supply techniques to powering gas discharge lamps.  Meeting the stringent price/performance criteria necessary to be competitive with conventional ballasts required development of innovative circuitry and resulted in several U.S. and foreign patents. The effort included design of a semi‑custom control chip. The ballast line is currently being produced by a leading manufacturer of switching power supplies.

 T-1 Interface

Innovative design extended the permissible input signal range of the interface by  a factor of two.  The interface is incorporated in the Data Multiplexer of a leading manufacturer of DEC compatible products.  Sales of the multiplexer are currently $2 million per year.


Designed all electronics for an electroencephalograph with closed‑loop servo‑controlled pen motor employing an innovative Hall effect device feedback sensor.  Designed all analog electronics, including amplifiers, analog filters, interconnection subsystems and specialized high impedance recording technology.

 Carrier Telephony

Headed a design group that developed a carrier telephony total system.  This very successful design resulted in a new company that manufactures 30 million dollars worth of this apparatus each year.

 Data Acquisition Sub-Systems

Total detailed design of a complete line of measurement assemblies for high speed data acquisition systems including programmable gain differential low‑level multiplexer, sample‑and‑hold amplifier, precision analog‑to‑digital converters (high speed successive approximation and dual slope integrating type), digital‑to‑analog converter, transducer excitation power supplies, and signal conditioning.

This comprehensive family of analog subsystems formed the basis for data acquisition system sales of 4 million dollars per year.

Computer Rotating Memories

Direct technical management responsibility for a computer rotating memory design team developing magnetic drum memories and magnetic disc mass memories.


Updated = 06/20/2020

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