Before Its Time . . . An Update

These are two related blogs I posted back around the first part of 2020, ending with a revelation about a hammer, a brutal murder, a psychotic doctor, and 25 years in prison.

Then yesterday I got a comment from someone directly connected to this case.

But first catch up on the whole story and the big reveal at the end.


February 5, 2020

This was a Peloton before there was a Peloton.

Bally LifeCycle

In January 1987 I left the NASA contractor where I working on the Space Shuttle and moved over to Krug Life Sciences where I was working on the first iteration of the Space Station, then called Space Station Freedom.

I was the computer/video interface guy in a small group headed by Dr. Pat Doyle, tasked with designing exercise equipment for the astronauts to use in space. We brainstormed for a few weeks, tossing around ideas for things what would work in Zero-G.

I mean, weight-lifting was out, as well as pushups. Even running on a treadmill wouldn’t be a worthwhile effort. Finally we settled on the idea of an exercise bike of some sort. The effort needed wouldn’t change under Zero-G conditions, and the astronaut wouldn’t float away if he was strapped to the seat.

In addition, we were also told to find a way to make the exercise ‘entertaining’. Getting started, our first job was to get an exercise bike to work with.

At the time Bally was the manufacturer of one of the top-of-the-line computer-controlled exercise bike, the Bally Lifecycle. So we called and appealed to their patriotic inclinations. Well, that and the promise of being able to advertise it ‘As Used On The Space Station’. And with some subtle threats, ‘possible IRS audits, etc.’ I was able to get a complete set of schematics and manuals on the bike.

As far as the ‘entertainment’ part of this, we decided to try and interface a video disc player to the unit that would play back biking videos, touring places like Hawaii, Yellowstone, and Yosemite. After a lot of work we came up with a way that the astronauts could take different routes and the video disc would sync up with their turns, so they could take a different route every time they exercised. And they could also speed up, slow down, or stop. All of this viewed on a monitor mounted over the bike’s handlebars. Remember this was long before DVDs, etc. There was just VHS tapes and video discs.

And it was all controlled by a Commodore 64 that I had removed from the case, disconnected the keyboard, and mounted the circuit board inside the bike. The program was stored on a game cartridge so that when you turned the C64 on, it booted up directly into the program.

The only unknown at that point was to fly the video disc player on the Vomit Comet to be sure it would work in Zero-G. But while we were waiting for our slot to come up on an upcoming flight, Krug lost their contract on this project, and I move on to another contract.

The bike and our mods went back to Bally and disappeared. But then about 10 years, our concept was resurrected by Bally and others, utilizing the new DVD players that had just come out. We were just ahead of our time, and the technology.

Maybe later I’ll tell you the rest of this story. About a hammer, a brutal murder, a psychotic doctor, and 25 years in prison.


March 2, 2020

At the end of that blog I mentioned the rest of that story, involving a hammer, a brutal murder, a psychotic doctor, and 25 years in prison.

I started working with Dr. Patrick Doyle in the late 80’s working on a number of computer-related projects out of his psychology office. At the time I was doing a lot of computer consulting utilizing Commodore computers, both the Commodore 64 and the newer, much more powerful, Commodore Amiga.

I had started out writing software to allow the Amiga to control and record data from his Biofeedback machines. But my big project for his office was to build a machine to grade his Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) tests that he gave to patients. At the time the testing service was selling a grading machine for about $6000, and this was in 1987 dollars.

These tests ran between 400 to almost 600 questions and were a real pain to grade by hand, you know, those tests where you use a #2 pencil to fill in the little bubbles. But after thinking it over for a while I came up with an idea.

I tore apart an old Epson dot-matrix printer, removing the printhead and replacing it with a photocell. Then I wrote a program in Assembler to move the photocell back and forth. stopping at each bubble to record light or dark at each position. Then it moves down one line and does it again.

By placing the test in the sheet feeder, it could grade a test in a just of minutes. I charged him $1000 plus the cost of the printer, which I believe was $200 or so, which he was happy with.

But during all my work with Dr. Doyle, I always thought it was strange that a person who specialized in Angry/Stress Management, among other things, would get so mad about some little thing that he would have to go off into a corner and mumble to himself for 10 minutes or so until he calmed down. And I saw this over and over, even when we were working at NASA a couple of years later.

10 years or so later, I was WebMaster for the School of Business at University of Houston-Clear Lake, where Dr. Doyle had been an Associate Professor for about 15 years or so. So it was not surprising that I would occasionally run into him in the hallways.

And in a way I was not really surprised in 2001 when another professor, who knew I knew Dr. Doyle, ask me if I had heard the news about him. When I said, “No”, he told me that Dr. Doyle had been arrested for a brutal murder up in Kentucky.

He had been visiting his mother in Bowling Green, got into an argument with his new stepfather, and beat him to death with a hammer.

UHCL Professor Held in Kentucky for Slaying

It wasn’t until 2 years later that he pled guilty and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Doyle enters plea in murder trial

He had been diagnosed as ‘vastly psychotic and suffering from several brain diseases”, and was considered a suicide risk.

And according to this, it looks like he could be getting out in a couple of years.

Offender Information

Guess I should be relieved that I never made him really mad.


Then yesterday I got this email from the granddaughter of the murder victim.

Have you heard if he (Dr. Doyle) passed away?  I am the granddaughter of the man Dr. Doyle murdered and received a victim’s notification that he was moved recently and to not be concerned.  When I search the inmate listing, he no longer appears.  My suspicions are that he passed away in January 2022.

He would be 79 now so it’s not out of the question, I question.

I’ll keep you updated if I hear any more.


Thought For The Day:

“The truth shall set you free.” Unless you’re in a court. Then you should probably shut up.

 

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