Supporter Spotlight – Peter Eckhoff

Kramden is an organization that depends on the generosity of our donors and the hard work of our volunteers. It is their support that enables thousands of students to bridge the digital divide every year. Each month, we like to take a moment to get to know one of our longtime supporters and share that conversation with our community.

This month we sat down with Peter Eckhoff.  Peter has been a fixture in our warehouse for the past two years. Part of our regular group of daytime volunteers, he often helps out with special projects and shows off his Super Geek skills while leading volunteers during corporate work days. He can usually be found near the Triage benches with a big smile on his face.

We asked him to share a bit about his experiences as Kramden volunteer.



How did you first get involved with Kramden?

I first became aware of Kramden when I was dropping off used computer equipment at semi-annual recycling events held at the old Nortel site in RTP.  After retiring, I looked Kramden online and made a point of participating in a Wednesday Work Night session.  I really liked the program. I was hooked.

What keeps you coming back? 

There are a number of qualities about the Kramden program.  It is well organized with very congenial staff.  The core mission of refurbishing computer systems for vetted but needy school age kids is something that is needed.  The recycling of e-waste in the near triple digit tonnage keeps a lot of this material out of our landfills.  To me, the whole program is a win-win-win situation.

I’ve done computer programming for a long time and I am well aware of the positive impacts that computers have made on our society.  This program affords kids the opportunity who would not have that opportunity to explore the use of computers and to discover their own positive uses along the way.

What do you like most about volunteering at Kramden?

I find the tasks challenging but not daunting and I like working with the staff and other volunteers.

The whole program has been designed so that someone without much experience with computers can walk in off the street and not be overwhelmed by a lot of technical hurdles.  There are tasks that are non-technical in nature to somewhat technical but very doable by a neophyte.  The Wednesday Work Night program is a great way to be introduced to Kramden and its mission.

While I’ve been designated a “Super Geek”, I find the staff a lot more knowledgeable and accommodating.  Between the staff and online resources, I can generally find a solution to any stray issue that comes along.

Is there something about Kramden’s work/mission in particular that you connect with? (e.g. computers for kids, recycling old computers, etc.).

I think it is in seeing the kids eyes light up especially when they were not expecting a system. I like the idea of doing something for a student who does not have the means to buy a system but has earned the respect of a teacher says a lot about us as a people.  It’s payback for all those who have done something for someone else who at the time was not in a position to repay a kindness.

Any fun / geeky facts about yourself you would like to share?

I purchased an Apple back in ’78 and wrote a simple program in BASIC. I used it to teach my kids to type their names and spell before they could even write words on paper. The kids enjoyed it a lot.  It was fun watching their eyes light up and seeing them have a sense of accomplishment.

I purchased an A to D converter board for the Apple.  I intercepted and recorded a weather FAX signal off a HF radio station.   I wrote an assembly language program to process the signal and send it to a printer “in real-time”.  I was able to actually read part of a weather chart but the problem was that the signal faded in and out.   It was a great exercise, learned a lot, but the signal was not all that reliable.  I’ve been hooked on computers and their capabilities for a long time.

Before retiring, what did you do?

I worked as an Environmental Scientist with the US EPA.  I did some related computer programming and compared modeling results with ambient measured air pollutant concentrations.  I was always surprised at how well the models did overall.

When not at Kramden, what do you like to do?

I like to read and there is a wealth of information on the internet. This helped me to track down a lot of my high school classmates for a 2001 multi-class reunion and later, for my class’s 50th high school reunion. I also like studying up on our energy and transportation situations, and in finding some fantastic minds out there with a great deal of insights and varied opinions.

I still like to program and have been slowly learning Python.  However, it’s easier for me to revert back to BASIC (and Fortran) but the capabilities of Python far exceed the capabilities of BASIC.  Once into Python, I can see having a lot of fun with various Make[magazine]-type STEM projects.

Anything else you would like to share?

I always wanted to find employment where I loved the work and got paid.  This is the next best thing.  P.S.  They’re promising to double my salary!! 😉

Thank you Peter for all of the amazing work that you do!