Years before Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit, the future Nobel Prize winner was learning about electronics at a Radio Shack at 12th and Monroe in Great Bend. Now the Barton County Historical Village and Museum is displaying some of the objects that sparked young Kilby’s interest in science.
“The Inspiration — How a Ham Radio Sparked the Internet Age,” offers visitors a rare opportunity to view first-hand objects never displayed to the public, said Beverly Komarek, executive director of the Barton County Historical Society. Included in the exhibit are two ham radios that belonged to the J. Roy Evans family, who ran the store.
“They were the first two ham radios that Jack Kilby ever laid his fingers and eyes on,” Komarek said. “They were his first taste of ‘electronics,’ and that was in the 1930s.”
Dr. Donald Walters of the Post Graduate Naval Academy in Monterey, Calif., is the grandson of Roy Evans and has loaned the radios to the Barton County Historical Society. Evans will visit the museum the morning of Saturday, April 28. Doors will open at 9:30 a.m., and at 10 a.m. he will talk about how a family friendship encouraged young Jack Kilby to pursue his passion for science and technology. Included in the morning’s events will be a hands-on demonstration of an original calculator and a discussion of the 1933 and 1938 Sky Champion ham radios to be displayed at the museum. In a letter to Walters several years ago, Kilby mentioned that he himself had purchased a Sky Champion after he got his amateur radio license.
The event is free and open to the public. Following the presentation and demonstration, there will be a recognition event in honor of the Evans-Walters family in the museum’s Ray S. Schulz Research Library.
“We are grateful to the Evans-Walters family for sharing their rich legacy with the community, especially when larger museums in our nation’s capital had expressed interest in these ham radios and the stories connected to them,” Komarek said.
The Barton County Historical Society and Village is located on South U.S. 281 at the Arkansas River Bridge in Great Bend. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
On the evening of April 28, there will be a ceremony in the courthouse square to unveil “The Gift,” a Kilby memorial consisting of three bronze sculptures. The actual unveiling is expected to happen around 9 p.m. to show off the special lighting that will illuminate the bronze figures of Kilby and two children