One of my favorite places at the University of Colorado was the High Voltage Electron Microscope lab in the Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology building.
I spent a lot of time there helping my father and the techinical team while in high school, then later when I worked at CU as a lab technician I ran a project that used the HVEM – full circle!
Sitting at its console, looking into the vacuum behind the viewport at the phosphor screen, my hands on the controls for the sample stage and the magnification I literally could see the unseen on the glowing surface. Being fully aware that there were million-volt x-rays bashing around just inches from my treasured brain, held back by inches-thick leaded glass and metal added to the thrill. The click of relays and the faint chugging of vacuum pumps mixed with the curls of vapor from the liquid-nitrogen oil trap completed the atmosphere of super-super-high-tech. And I was driving!! Hard to forget being at the controls of a building-size microscope.
Heady stuff for a young man very taken with science fiction – this was science fact! I’ll never forget the faint, high-pitched whistle the high-voltage system generated. I’m sure it still echoes in the walls even though the massive machine itself has been disassembled and gone for years now.