Technology savant dies in Newport

NEWPORT — C. Norman "Norm" Winningstad, a computer entrepreneur and philanthropist considered to be Oregon's "grandfather of technology," died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Newport home, police said Thursday. He was 85.

Winningstad, who had been ill, died Wednesday, Newport police Lt. Dave Teem said.

Winningstad started computing company Floating Point Systems of Beaverton and was a co-founder of high-tech firms Lattice Semiconductor Corp. and ThrustMaster, a company that makes joysticks.

He and his wife, Dolores, were major donors to arts and education in the state. The Dolores Winningstad Theater at the Portland Center for the Performing Arts is named for her.

"Norm used his business skills and technical knowledge to successfully plant the seedlings for what we now call the Silicon Forest," Gov. Ted Kulongoski said in a statement. "Norm will be forever remembered as the grandfather of technology here in Oregon and his contributions and legacy will be realized for generations."

Raised in California, Winningstad graduated from the University of California at Berkeley in 1948 with an electrical engineering degree.

"I graduated an expert in vacuum tubes, and that's the year Bell Labs announced the transistor," Winningstad told The Oregonian in 2007. "I graduated technically obsolete."

After several years at Lawrence Radiation Laboratory in Berkeley, he moved to Oregon in 1958 to work for electronic instruments manufacturer Tektronix and became one of its chief innovators.

An avid helicopter pilot who once owned four Ferraris, Winningstad "was more flamboyant than the Tektronix type," Chuck Frost, Tek's former vice president of administration, told the newspaper. "It fit him well. It didn't look bad on him."

Carla Perry, who helped write Winningstad's book, "Area of Enlightenment: Don't Confuse Me With the Facts; I've Already Made Up My Mind," told The Oregonian he "happened to have a great brain and became an electrical engineer at a time when electrical engineering was changing."

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