Don Lancaster, 83, passed away on June 7, 2023, in Mesa where he was undergoing physical therapy after hip surgery. He lived the past 44 years in Thatcher, where he served as a trainer on the Thatcher Volunteer Fire Department and faithfully attended Tuesday-night meetings.
Gila Valley residents who have attended presentations at Discovery Park will remember Don’s fascination with the prehistoric canal system in the northern foothills of the Pinaleño Mountains. The combination of his engineering expertise and his never-ending curiosity and desire to learn resulted in decades of research and mapping of the prehistoric canal system which he dubbed the “hanging canals” for their locations on hillsides.
Don referred to the hundreds of miles of canals as “spectacularly engineered and woefully underappreciated,” and was committed to increasing public awareness of their importance, as evidenced by a front-page story in the Arizona Republic and his coverage 10 years ago in USA Today. He coauthored scientific papers about them with Dr. James Neely of the University of Texas-Austin, and was always in search of new canals, most recently hiking with his dog Sally.
Don was truly a microcomputer pioneer and held a patent for one of the original Apple parts that he developed. One example of Don’s genius is his creation of the “TV Typewriter,” as it was originally called, which used TTL (transistor-transistor logic) to allow words to be seen on a TV screen. This forerunner of the modern computer keyboard was featured in Popular Electronics magazine in 1973; Don’s prototype TV Typewriter is on display at the Computer History Museum.
Always glued to his computer, either researching or writing, Don authored over 2,200 technical papers. and was a contributor to major electronics magazines. He wrote an incredible 44 books related to computers and electronics including the million+ seller TTL Cookbook and a unique self-help book, The Incredible Secret Money Machine.
He taught electronic microprocessing at Eastern Arizona College and, with his wife Bee, also taught Postscript design and publishing. Don also produced several videos and was an avid blogger. He was especially proud of his website, Guru’s Lair Resources at www.tinaja.com, a sometimes-overwhelming compendium of computer topics, hanging canal research, access to his books, and one of his favorite topics, Gila Valley Day Hikes.
Before their move to Gila Valley, Don and his family lived in Parker and Goodyear, Arizona. He attended Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in Electrical Engineering. He graduated from Arizona State University with a Master’s degree in Engineering while working for Goodyear Aerospace Corp., and nearly completed a second Master’s degree in Archaeology at ASU.
Don is survived by his wife, Justine (Bee); his daughter, Cathy (Shawn) Mahoney; his grandchildren, Kira and Kenan Lancaster; sister, Carol (John) Hendler, and brother, Jeff (Linda) Lancaster.