William D. Mensch Jr., 60, never thought he’d become an electrical engineer.
As a child growing up on a dairy farm in Bucks County, Pa., he figured he’d spend the rest of his adult life milking cows and lifting bales of hay — like his father and grandfather before him.
And while he performed his share of farm duties until his early 20s, the young man whom his parents and seven brothers and sisters called, "Billy," through self-determination — and a little luck — took a road not travelled before by any members of the Mensch clan:
He went to college — Temple University in Philadelphia.
He became an electrical engineer.
And today, the Mesa entrepreneur is considered a pioneer in the high-tech world of computers, electronics and is known worldwide as "The brains behind the brains in a computer."
On December 8, 2005, Mensch was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering.
He is also listed in the book, "Leaders of the Information Age" as one of the 250 individuals dating back to the 15th Century who helped establish the foundation for today’s information technology industry.
Mensch in 1978 started the Western Design Center, a large brick home with a massive garden and pool in a residential community at 2166 E. Brown Road, Mesa.
The company, which began with only two employees, a bumpy financial start and varying degrees of uncertainty today — nearly three decades later — has a maximum of 22 employees, licensed the microprocessor to more than 60 companies worldwide and gross annual revenue that varies between $2 million and $4 million.
The Mesa firm is also known by the major computer companies throughout the world as the main source for microprocessors, or, for those unfamiliar with computerlingo, the electrical devices that make computers function . . . the computer’s brains, cybernetically-speaking.
Mensch has more than 20 patents, including several for microprocessors and other equipment that have — and are — being used by Apple, Motorola, Intel and other major and smaller companies.
He is regularly referred to in technical journals and is applauded for, among several technical achievements, inventing microprocessors — an electrical creation that ushered in the age of portable computers.
"It all started back in the early 1960s," Mensch said. "A man my Aunt Ruth introduced to me while he was getting gasoline at her grocery store in Ottsville, Pa., in Bucks County said to me: ‘Young man . . . get into computers.’
"Later, after the man left, I had to ask my aunt — ‘what’s a computer?’ "
Mensch, who when he’s not assembling microprocessors and other technical equipment, enjoys skiing, golf, tennis and travelling the world.
Besides being honored by fellow researchers, Mensch in 2002 was listed in the Computer Museum of America’s Hall of Fame and singled out as a pioneer in the field of microprocessors.
He frequently greets visitors and potential customers at his home-office in Mesa from around the world and flies their country’s flag next to the stars and stripes. Last week, Korea’s flag waived next to the American flag. Here are a few things the Tribune wanted to know:
Q: Where does the United States stand compared with other countries in the world of technology?
A: "We’re graduating an average of 50,000 students each year with degrees in engineering, but countries like China and India each are graduating 500,000."
"Still, we’re tops."
Q: Where are we heading?
A: "The trend today is toward portable technology such as iPods that carry music and videos."
Q: Your company is privately owned? Do you plan to keep it that way?
A: "We may go public in the future."
Q: Why did you choose the world of technology?
A: "I didn’t get into it for the money. I did it for the opportunity to become creative . . . and, like Frank Sinatra says in his song . . . ‘to do it — my way.’ "
William (Bill) D. Mensch Jr.
Family: Wife, Dianne; children: Alexandra Orchard, 32, Elizabeth Duncan, 30, Summer Morgan, 28, David Mensch III, 28 and Katherine Mensch, 21; four granddaughters
Resides in: Mesa
Business: Founder in 1978 of Western Design Center, 2166 E. Brown Road, Mesa
Key achievements: Inventor of several microprocessors used to operate computers, provides material for computers to more than 60 companies worldwide and recently was honored with a 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award by the University of Arizona’s College of Engineering
Success Philosophy: Determination. Hard work. Vision. Find your passion in life and go after it
Information: (480) 962-4545 or www.westerndesigncenter.com