Mitch Waite

Computer book author, publisher, web designer, and entrepreneur

1972 – My first article: How to Build a Brainwave Monitor

Remember 1972? Hippies? Tune in and drop out? Sideburns, boots, and VW buses? Back to the earth? Make love not war? Become one with the universe?

I was not the only one fascinated by the lure of Zen practice, nor was I alone among would-be adepts to encounter many obstacles to attaining a state of meditation. Brainwave monitors that let one tune in to hidden EEG waves were the new way to achieve a Zen state. But for a struggling college student, the main obstacle was the price–these devices cost hundreds of dollars–a month’s rent on my room. What to do?

I worked tirelessly to construct a custom brainwave monitor from Radio Shack transistors–a quest for a new technology that might empower the Quest. After a year of work, I attained my electronic Nirvana. I could journey to the stars with my mind and a 9-volt battery! But a friend pointed out the shame of not sharing this with the world. He insisted that I simply must publish the new solution. I contacted Popular Electronics.

The excited editor asked me for a “parts” kit ​to accompany the “how-to” article. I reluctantly located a small company in Berkeley to supply the kit. I then produced the article and returned to my studies in physics.

Picture this: It is December of 1972. The article hits the stands. I am proud but broke and subsisting solely on frozen burritos. Three months later, a royalties check for $10,000 finds a new home in my mailbox! Never the ‘A-List’ English student, I nevertheless now know this: I am a writer.

While the previous account of the Brainwave machine presents a seamless narrative, it omits the chaotic turbulence that characterized that time period. In the late sixties, my dream of becoming a skilled machinist at the Naval Shipyards came to an abrupt halt when I accidentally damaged an expensive lathe while manufacturing screws. As a result, I shifted my focus to designing a device that showcased vibrant lights synchronized with music, and I attempted to market it to bars in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district. Unfortunately, that venture met a disastrous end when a go-go dancer accidentally kicked a cocktail onto my light display, causing all the fuses to blow and the bar owner to drag me out of bed at 2 AM to fix it. This left me in a precarious financial situation, and the only job I could find was unloading mail trucks at the United States Post Office.

It is often said that tragedy serves as life’s most profound teacher, and the ensuing three years, from 1968 to 1970, poignantly reaffirmed this notion. During this time, I faced a challenging struggle with substance abuse and legal issues, eventually leading me to turn over a new leaf by enrolling in an engineering college that specialized in electronics. However, just as I began to rebuild my life, the unexpected death of my wife plunged me back into the depths of despair and forced me to confront adversity once more.

Now What?

During the hearing with the court over my legal issue, my brilliant attorney Gill Eisenberg convinced the judge I deserved a light punishment. So he ordered me to visit the California Department of Rehabilitation to see if I could get my career back on track.

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