From the early days ...

I had my first contact with Irwin in 1983 when I was at high school and wanted to build a bleeper. At that time there were not many magnetometers around and hence I wanted to build an acoustic proton-magnetometer (for those of you who don’t know what a bleeper is). I wrote him a letter and got a response about hundred times longer than what I had written. He explained all the details and gave a lot of tips in this first letter and all the others following. I was really surprised that one of the most advanced scientists in archaeological prospection helped me so much (we only met in person much later). The first letter I wrote was in German but he answered in English and this has not changed until today.

Later on I visited him at the Landesmuseum in Bonn and I remember very well the lunch we had together. I expected that we would go to a restaurant, but Irwin simply took some sheets of the coloured printer paper (see scan below) used it as a tablecloth in front of the screen and started eating... Life can be so easy.

Living with computers was very different in those days. The printing paper mentioned above, for example, had grey and blue stripes. Some of these sheets survived and so that I can show one of the email replies from Irwin. As you can see the Internet was very difficult to navigate as there were different independent networks. Sending a message from one network to another was a complicated affair. You had to know the path of your message in advance and then use the appropriate syntax using semicolons or commas instead of a point etc. Therefore there were complete Internet Mailing Guides you had to consult before sending a message.

Apart from this printout, also a magnetic tape survived, which I have kept . It is labelled: ANSI LABEL, magpic, FILE=MAG.FTN, Block Size 4096. It was the main software Irwin used to create for the greyscale images out of magnetic data that were published in several of his papers and books. Of course the program was written in the most advanced language at that time, in FORTRAN. All his code was running on a big VAX, an excellent computer that continued working for a very long time. Unfortunately during one night the museum raised the mains voltage by 5 V. This was a very bad morning for Irwin: When he started his old workhorse at the start of the day, instead of the normal start-up there was only a distinct smell and some smoke…

Nevertheless Irwin never gave up and switched to more modern computers. After geophysical data processing and seriation he started working on aerial photo rectification and lately satellite data. Most of us will know the program AirPhoto and he also realised the potential of structure-from-motion at the very beginning. Today this technique is used by many people to create 3D models of any type and size in archaeology.

Irwin Scollar is an archaeologist by profession and decided to use his sound technical background to help archaeologists with modern techniques, whatever that was in the period. I am very glad to know him and I am deeply grateful for all his personal help and support.

Juerg Leckebusch
(W├╝est Engineering AG)