By Gary Zellerbach on May 19, 2007
My long time friend from the hologram business, Barry Boulton, recently posted a fascinating historical retrospective on the time he made a hologram of Princess (later Queen) Beatrix of the Netherlands. It was the early 1980's when I was very active in the hologram business, and I can relate to many aspects of his enjoyable tale. He was kind to not name some names in there, though it's easy to tell who "the Company" was, having worked with them many times myself. It was an "unusual" operation, part science, part voodoo, part general insanity, but they had a unique product in demand worldwide.
I had many similar high stress moments working with them, which is partly why I can relate so well to the story. The worst moment for me was when I had a huge order for "multiplex holograms" from my largest customer in Japan. I had a letter of credit in hand for about $20,000 (which, in the hologram business at the time, was a VERY large number) with strict deadlines, and I couldn't reach the owner of the business when the holograms were due! It seems that when he got depressed, he would get in bed, turn off the phones, and stay there for 2-3 days. I got the holograms eventually but not without an undue amount of mental anguish!
Speaking of the history of holography, the definitive history was published recently, "Holographic Visions: A History of New Science" by Dr. Sean F. Johnston of the University of Glasgow. This is a true scholarly history book, published by Oxford Press. Having lived through most of the history of holography myself, it is utterly fascinating reading and a unique experience to read a history book that I was a part of and in which I knew so many of the actors. (Disclaimer: I have to admit it's pretty cool that I'm in the book too!)
Johnston's timing was impeccable. While some would say it's a bit early to write the definitive history, the other side of the coin is that many of the pivotal persons in the field have unfortunately passed away in the last couple of years (e.g., Stephen Benton, Emmett Leith, Yuri Denisyuk). Sean was able to interview all of them, fortunately, and include their personal insights and historical retrospectives in the book -- that opportunity will never present itself again. The book is extremely well written, thorough, accurate, and insightful, proving "scholarly" doesn't have to mean "boring!" If you're at all interested in the subject, get the book!
Moving from history to the present, I wanted to point out that many of the talks from the recent Display Holography Symposium in Wales are now online thanks to the great efforts of Kaveh Bazargan. If you'd like to see what's going on currently in the medium (and there are some great things happening in spite of holography's pointedly low profile nowadays), you should check out some the videos and related information.
Finally, in the just for fun category, I recently showed Martin his first "shakeygram" by another old holo buddy, Mark Diamond, and Martin got a real kick out of it. It is a pretty amusing "art form" -- here's a shakeygram of me, my wife Linda, and probably the world's greatest hologram collector, Jonathan Ross, taken at the aforementioned conference in Wales last July.