Hatteberg's People - Bill Kastner

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December 12th, 2010

On Hatteberg's People, Wichitan Bill Kastner is an electrical engineer, whose work has helped the hearing impaired all over the world. For years, he was quiet about it he gave a speech to a Wichita church group and it was only then that his friends found it he had designed closed-captioning for the hearing impaired. Now that is used in every television around the world.

"Engineering is fun for me."

When you visit with Bill Kastner in his workshop, it is a world he loves, but not many of us understand. Surrounded by the technical apparatus that he has used all his life, this electrical engineer spent much of his life in the digital hardware design field. He loved working at Texas Instruments with one of the early supercomputers.

"It would have taken a room about 40 foot by 40 foot. That's what it was in Texas when we finished the machine and had it running."

This was one of the many 'logic' boards in that computer. Today, that room full of computing power is in your Smartphone.

"It would have more processing power than that supercomputer that took a megawatt of power."

Specializing in 'logic' design, he received a special assignment from Texas Instruments. PBS wanted to build a decoder so that words would appear on a screen to help the hearing impaired. That is now know as closed-captioning.

"It was just a project really, we didn't have a number during the design of how many hearing-impaired people there were in the world."

He designed the system that is now in every television made....but insists he is not the inventor because an inventor would hold the patent.

'Calling me the inventor is really wrong because there were no U.S. Patents on this because I didn't think my design was that significant of a change in technology to have applied for a patent."

His modest ways belie the fact that his work has helped millions across the world.

He has hobbies too --- like amateur radio, most all of his interests are related to engineering or electronics. He's currently refreshing himself with instruction DVD's on Einstein's theories, calculus, and higher math equations.

In his workroom, much of his early, now outdated, amateur radio equipment is on display....it's like a small museum. And if something doesn't work, he sees a challenge."

"If it doesn't, I'll go through and make them work."

Bill Kastner, still seeking life's answers in the world of digital logic.

"I try to keep them going."

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