History of Dichromates

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Richard D. Rallison


The term "dichromates" may have started with Lloyd Cross, all I can recall is that I traded him a pocket full of "dichromates" for a "kiss". We were at the school of holography on the Santa Monica beach at the time. The first recording in Dichromated gelatin that I was privileged to see was made a year earlier by Mike Foster in the city of salt and he may also have used the term "dichromates". Mike and I were both working rock concerts in Utah from about 1965 to 1972 and got together from time to time to discuss science stuff and in particular an article in Popular Science written by Harry Knowles of Metrologic Instruments detailing the procedures for making a simple transmission hologram. I helped Mike prepare a lab and he made the first silver grain hologram I had ever seen. He chose a metal pig borrowed from the desk of weird Harold, who paid for everything at the time. I set up my own sand box lab after that, studied as many holography papers as I could find, made phase gratings, wrote my first paper on holographic gratings and then moved to LA to work at Hughes as an EE. A year later, 1974, I began production of the first dichromate jars, followed by the ubiquitous dichromate pendant, watch face, key fob and belt buckle in 1976. At my first SPIE meeting in San Diego in 1977, I sold dichromates in the halls. I carried a briefcase full of pendants with a covered display on the outside. Sales were brisk and I often had to retreat to my van to restock the briefcase. SPIE policy forbade such activity so I had to move around a lot to avoid Sue Davis. That was pretty much the beginning of a cottage industry.

Hooked on Optics

This paper is a brief journey from my first introduction to display optics to a career in holography. It is anecdotal experiences more or less presented in order of occurrence and has no technical merit. It represents my best effort at story telling and may not even be accurate. My journey began at the New York world fair of 1965 at the General Electric exhibit. GE had constructed a huge color organ using Rolux multi-lens sheeting to give the back lit screen a three dimensional appearance. I went home to Utah for my second year at USU and duplicated the device with help from a GE engineer and began selling them to bars. In 1966 I saw my first professional light show produced by Jerry Abrahms called "head lights" and quickly copied his equipment and made up some new effects of my own. Fred Unterseher was a part of Jerry's crew. I had built a large color organ in the likeness of an umbrella over the audience and so I called my show the "Electric Umbrella", a name I continued to use through my early years in holography. This was really fun stuff, I used colored oils and colored water between large clock faces to make dynamic amoeba looking projections onto screens, walls and ceilings. I cut holes in colored gels and rotated them slowly in front of de-focused slide projectors to create a flowing, ever changing colorful background and then superimposed sharp exploding images strobed by faster wheels and multiple projectors. Then I made slides from birefringent tapes and spun polarizers in front of projectors and I had built a few strobe lights from surplus electronics to annoy everyone with. I was probably born to be a photon junkie.

RDRLightshow.jpg RDRFred77.jpg
RDR in 1967, operating a light show projector, (oils), in a very

tiny projection booth.

Fred Unterseher in 1977, San Diego SPIE

Mike Foster

There was another light show operator in Utah at that time and I managed to meet him sometime during or between gigs. He was a fascinating and very sharp character named Mike Foster and his show was known as "five fingers on my hand". He had all the right stuff and knew how to use it and his connections were good. Eventually he helped me get a gig with the Steve Miller band in Feb of 1969 and allowed me to play with his new He Ne laser at a Pink Floyd gig in about 1970. Light shows went all Laser sometime after that and our projector based shows faded out. In 1972 I was building my first dye laser and Mike had just built an Argon laser (neither laser ever worked). One day he brought in a copy of Popular Science that had an article on how to make a hologram. We built a little black room and placed a granite slab on an inner tube and he made a hologram of a metal pig, borrowed from weird Harold's desk.. I thought it was cool but he saw a future in it. I continued on with EE studies and graduated and moved to LA to work at Hughes where I could play with more lasers and maybe make some that worked. My first trip back to Utah to ski I stopped in to see mike and he had made an 8 x 10 dichromate of David and finally I saw a future in holography.

I had done some initial library research on all that was published up to 1973 and had passed it on to Mike and he had reproduced literally everything and already had developed proprietary and novel methods of making embossing masters. He was way out there.