Q & A with Carl Moreland, Director of Engineering, First Texas

Carl Moreland, 2010

I first met Carl Moreland in 2010 when the White’s V3 (Vision) was introduced to the metal detecting fraternity. I had been field testing it at the time and went to the Texas Council convention where Whites would be giving seminars and demonstrating its features.  Since then Carl has moved on to First Texas but I will let him tell you the story….

Also this my first Q&A with an engineer and I’m sure there are more questions I should have thought of and asked. If YOU have any questions for Carl ask them in the comments section and Carl will answer…

Q & A – Carl Moreland

Q. Carl, would you be kind enough to tell everyone a little about yourself…i.e. your current position/title and a little about your employment history and how you got to where you are today.

A. Currently Director of Engineering at First Texas (4 yrs), previously Director of Engineering at White’s (6 yrs). Before that I was a chip designer at Analog Devices (18 yrs) and app engineer at Maxim (3 yrs). And a short visit at NASA-KSC.

Designing microchips is a computer-intensive job with not a lot of hands-on electronics work. You design a chip (all on computer), test that it works, hand it off to production, then go design another one. To satisfy my craving for hands-on electronic work, I started building metal detector circuits on the side, specifically PI. I chose this because my favorite detecting venue is salt beach hunting and wasn’t satisfied with the detectors I had.

One thing I quickly discovered in 1998: there wasn’t a lot of information about metal detector design floating around. The old Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics had occasional metal detector projects, so I started there. I also got copies of any relevant patents I could find. Then I got the idea: why not put all this in a single on-line repository? A year later I started my Geotech web, and was smart enough to include discussion forums. Learned a lot from a lot of people over the years. Next year it will turn 20, I should throw a party.

 

Q. Are you married and if so any children?

A. Partner, 2 adult kids.

 

Q. Does anyone else in the family detect?

A. No

 

Q. Can you tell us how and when you got involved in the “metal detecting” pastime/business?

A. I think I was 12, and a friend of my Dad gave me a stack of old True Treasure and Treasure World magazines. Those articles got me excited about treasure hunting (much later I learned they were mostly fabricated). I already liked to collect coins, and used to often visit a coin shop in Tallahassee, the “Treasure Hut” in the Northwood Mall. They sold the very metal detectors shown in the magazines. Cool! So I mowed yards all summer and saved up my money, but not enough for a decent brand name detector. I got a mail-order cheapy. It served the purpose of getting me started and eventually I got a quality detector.

I’ve metal detected on-and-off ever since. Sometimes I went for years without picking one up, but I always loved finding a good place to hunt and seeing what I could pull out of the ground. From the previous question, I eventually turned my electrical engineering toward metal detector design, and I got good enough to land a job at White’s.

 

Q. I’m somewhat familiar with your work at White’s Electronics and the introduction of the V3 but tell us what other products you’ve designed, had a hand in creating, etc.?

A. I didn’t have a hand in the V3, other than drawing a line in the sand and getting the thing released. Engineers have a Bad Habit of continuing to design and “improve” well beyond the stated goals of the project. When engineering has overstayed their mission, there is a saying, it’s time to “shoot the engineer.” I probably need to shoot more of them.
What I did work on are the following:

TDI-Pro – just minor improvements

TDI-SL – complete redesign of the TDI, and incorporating some ideas from Reg Sniff.

TDI Beach Hunter – this was released long after I left White’s, but when I designed the SL I specifically made the PCB to fit either the metal box or the Beach Hunter box. I built a prototype TDI-Amphibian but management didn’t care for it, so it was shelved.

TRX – Analog design (not the firmware)

MXT-Pro – I came up with the idea & definition but didn’t write the code. At first management didn’t like the idea but we did it anyway, and got overwhelmingly positive feedback.

MX5 – again, my concept but another guy did the firmware. This was a case of taking the venerable MXT and converting it to a modern 32-bit processor and “C” code. Plus lots of feature updates. This became the basis for all subsequent “MX” products. I consider this to be my most valuable contribution at White’s because it took a high-performance but dead-end platform and made it something that could continue to be developed into new products.

• A lot of involvement in other products, plus a lot of work that hasn’t (so far) made it to a released product. There are hints in some patents I did for White’s.

At First Texas the only released product I’ve designed is the pinpointer. About to release a multi-zone security walk-through. Lots of other things going on that I can’t talk about.

 

Q. First Texas is the manufacturer of Teknetics, Bounty Hunter and Fisher. Are you involved with all three or just one in particular?

A. Bounty Hunter, Teknetics, and Fisher are just brand names, all the engineering is under a single umbrella. However, they are separated by price ranges (and therefore performance somewhat) and, with Fisher, there are also utility products (line tracers, etc) and security products (walk-throughs).

For the most part I’m working on higher-end designs, so probably most of my stuff won’t see a Bounty Hunter label. Ferinstance, my pinpointer design was released as a Teknetics and a Fisher, but not as a BH. But I have another model I’m working on that might end up as a BH model, I don’t know. In any case, the direct answer is “all 3.”

First Texas products

 

Q. Being deeply involved in the design, creation and development of metal detectors, where are we headed now? i.e., what do you envision for the hobbyist five years from now?

A. I look at it as two market segments: the mass market, and the serious detectorist. In 5 years the mass market will mostly look the same, it’s really not a very sophisticated market. People want to buy something decent but inexpensive, and 90% end up in the closet or at a garage sale. One thing that might finally see the light is a “cell phone” detector, sort of a Deus design that just uses a cell phone app for the user interface. This idea was kicked around at White’s, and also FTP, and I assume every other detector company. There is a guy in Eastern Europe who has actually developed one and is currently showing it off at detecting venues.

The serious market is seeing some real changes. The obvious is the move to waterproof and wireless, those will become as standard as tone ID. Another is a faster move toward multifrequency. Minelab made an uncharacteristic move (for them) with the Equinox, and set the bar in a similar way Garret did with the Pro-Pointer and AT-Pro. I expect that multifrequency will eventually push even lower in price and become the norm for serious detectorists, but probably not in 5 years. Detectors that have selectable frequencies (but not true MF) will also become more prevalent. My guess is this will push detectors more & more toward multi-mode does-everything-pretty-well so serious detectorists don’t have to have an armada of detectors for different hunting venues.

There are also technology changes that are blurring the lines of terminology. We currently think of “VLF” and “PI” technologies, but they are gross simplifications of what is actually going one. Some of the newer designs are getting even farther away from these terms, and this will continue even in the next 5 years. I can say that with confidence, I hope.

 

Q. Why has wireless taken so long when it comes to metal detecting?

A. Until recently, off-the-shelf solutions (like Bluetooth) have had too much latency for metal detecting. A fast audio response required designing a custom protocol wireless system and companies like XP and White’s eventually did that. Low-latency Bluetooth is now fast enough for detectors, so it’s starting to show up and will become the norm.

 

Q. Okay, this may seem like a strange question but do you metal detect?

A. Yeah, though not as much as I’d like. Mostly restricted now to field testing my own designs. I haven’t done much “just fer fun” metal detecting in the last few years, and I really need to do more of that. Especially with competitor products; I learn a lot from hunting with them.

 

Q. What was your very first metal detector?

A. Haha this is a little embarrassing, but it was a Jetco BFO, the “Gold Star” model. I was 12 and it looked just like a White’s (big blue metal box) so I naively thought “it must be as good as a White’s.” Uh, no. It was bad enough that I quickly did an even trade for a Jetco TR Gold Star which was a little better, and kept me going for a few years.

In 1978 I got a Kellyco catalog and decided what I really wanted was a Red Baron. A new VLF with something called Synchronous Phase Discrimination, which just screamed “awesome.” But, again, I couldn’t afford one. My second choice, a White’s 6000/D, popped up one day in the Tallahassee Democrat classifieds (remember those?) for, as I recall, $200, which was a steal. A 16-yr-old me met a guy in the McDonald’s parking lot and the deal was made. I hunted the heck out of that 6000.

There is a bit of irony in all this. I ended up working for the company that made my first serious detector. And then I ended up working for the company that is a step-child of Jetco. The “JET” in Jetco is John E. Turner, who bought Bounty Hunter and Teknetics out of bankruptcy, ran them for several years, and then sold them to First Texas.

Today in my detector collection I still have that same 6000/D, and I’ve re-added both the Jetco BFO and TR Gold Stars. I also still have those treasure magazines and that 1978 Kellyco catalog. And I finally got ahold of a brand spanking new Red Baron.

 

Q. Carl, care to tell us about any of your finds?

A. Nothing to really brag about, I don’t get to do a lot of detecting and so my finds are pretty average.

 

Q. This ought to be interesting….what would YOUR ideal detector look like and what features would it have?

A. I’m a tech nerd, so the White’s V3 was a step in the direction I would go. I like having complete control over the operating parameters. Most people don’t understand the interactions so for them it becomes a guessing game and they get frustrated. The V3 demonstrated that. Beyond that, it’s difficult to discuss because I’m actually working toward my ideal detector, and the cat ain’t ready to come out of the bag just yet.

 

Q. Besides metal detecting I know you are an avid outdoorsman/hiker. What would a full week to yourself look like?

A. Probably backpacking from Broken Top to Mt. Jefferson and summitting the 7 peaks in between. Preferably in the snow. I especially like a mountain that includes some technical rock climbing and most of these peaks provide that.

Q. Any other hobbies?

A. Yeah, way too many. Restoring a 68 Mustang. Woodworking & carpentry. Writing books on detecting technology. If I had more time, Scuba diving & flying. OK, the last 2 are really ‘sports’ but I would also like to build an airplane.

Thanks Carl!

*************

12 Comments

Filed under Metal Detecting

12 responses to “Q & A with Carl Moreland, Director of Engineering, First Texas

  1. Paul Southerland

    Great interview Dick. I enjoyed talking with Carl while the MX5 and TRX pinpointer were in development and wrote reviews for White’s on both. Carl is very knowledgeable and I wish I still was in contact with him. Would love to pick his brain on detector issues.

    • Thanks Paul. You might want to check out Carl’s Geotech page (link above). The forum there is filled with good info and it might be the place to pick his brains….

  2. Ron

    One of your best interviews!!

  3. Gold Finger

    Fantastic questions and answers.

    I too wonder how future detectors will look and more importantly their capabilities. They’ll still, need a human brain to make the decision, as to whether to dig or not to dig and I reckon we and our machines become a little too clever for our own good at times.

    Bring on the future and let’s see.

    • Gold Finger I’ve been at this now for almost 45 years and despite all the advances I’m delighted I started when I did. I also still have a fondness for those early machines.

      • Gold Finger

        Yes, me too, but not quite so many years swinging.

        Strangely brain, combined with machine, in uniform synchronisation was very rewarding to those gifted.

        Somehow these skills are lost with modern machines, although depths have increased hugely with a vastly improved discrimination system.

      • “Strangely brain, combined with machine, in uniform synchronisation was very rewarding to those gifted.”

        Yes indeed. Every target told a story and gave a report. Today everyone is preoccupied with pushing touchpads, changing modes and coils. More is not always best IMO.

  4. Les Johnson.

    A very good interview Dick,
    Even though I’m from England and I have never heard of some of the machines and people mentioned In the interview, I still enjoyed the read and I was pleased to see that carl was such an easy going guy, he must have been a pleasure to interview.
    Best regards Dick.

    Les.

  5. Bob K

    Another great interview, the boss needs to give you a raise. Bottle of wine? Maybe 2 glasses.

  6. Tony from Bayonne

    Wow, terrific interview, he is a real life Steve Jobs but for metal detecting!
    Thanks, I enjoyed this Q & A.
    All the best – Tony

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