The RoboCut Company was founded in 1984 by Alfred Natrasevschi, Ph.D., EE, former Research and Development Engineer with Hewlett Packard for 14 years, author of several US and European patents and numerous published technical articles.
Alfred came to Fort Collins in 1977 as a political refugee after two attempts to escape from Ceausescu's Romania. Long story, but the Black Sea escape is unusual:
Alfred designed a "Freedom" escape recipe. Ingredients: a country with the army on the borders, facing in to keep'em from escaping; Ceausescu! the "most beloved son" and "wisest father" of the nation, president forever; a Secret Security apparatus brutal, skilled at turning even family to inform on each other; a former Electrical Engineering assistant-professor, interrogation tenderized, marinated in damning party meetings, kept under heat, closely watched, and now aggressively recruited. Preparation: Cool it, act interested in sports, girls, fishing, no politics. When ignored, compress into a beach toy an inflatable raft, a stick(mast), a cloth(sail), some food and water, rocks.
Test neutral buoyancy in salt lake-ghiol, no soldiers there. Do it: Walk the "toy" nonchalantly across the guarded beach, hide it under water. Hidden in waves (do they have radar?), snorkel toward international waters until nightfall. Surface in the dark, untangle the bundle, drop the rocks, and blow up the raft. This is tricky: using your breath to inflate a raft works contrary to staying alive in rough sea. On the spot the recipe was amended: "process large amounts of salt water" meaning swallow, inhale, cough-it-up, throw-it-up but keep blowing-up the raft. Roll in and paddle the rest of the 20 kilometers. Easier than snorkeling but have to be in the international waters by daylight. Whew, good recipe! It worked! Out of Romania, no bullets, not much harder than that white-water run on river Cerna. From here it's easy: library books say wind and current will take the raft to Bosforus and freedom.
Sun warms up nicely, shaking subsides, lay for a nap. Suddenly, big noise! Peer over raft edge: a patrol-boat bristling with guns is approaching at great speed. All is lost! But raft is color of the sea, water is choppy, lay still on the bottom. The noise gets louder, louder, then fades. Peek again, those guns look better pointing away. Better stay down. Tired. Sleep. Suddenly voices, yelling. Don't even need to sit-up to see the towering white ship. It dwarfs the raft, scores of people and sailors lining the edge. They yell to come on board. They want to save the distressed guy lost at sea? After an hour of pleading, yet never menacing with force, the "Latvia" makes a graceful slow turn and leaves. In later interrogation, they say the Russian ship radioed to shore about the encounter. Military searched, returned empty. Sea is a good hiding place.
So start 7 nights and 7 days of exhilarating slow-sailing, harrowing paddling, journey to Bosforus. The sea mostly mountains of water, the raft bobbing up and down like a fishing-cork, yet happy for the wind pushing the makeshift sail. One day, scary still water, slow paddling by a junkyard of rotting crates. Strangely in the summer heat, the wet cold, the uncontrollable shivering is the worst enemy now. Exhausting. One night huge dolphins use the raft as toy, bumping it back and forth. Can they puncture it?
The seventh night Alfred drifts in an out of consciousness. It seems so real, if he would just step out of the wobbly raft, walk on the firm yellow path the moon shines on the water! Could quickly reach shore... he slaps his face hard to lessen delirium.
The 7th morning brings choppy waters. The wind changes from salty to fragrant, the little raft is nearing Bosforus, Mediterranean. But so is a Bulgarian tanker ship. Unceremoniously, the tanker plucks on board the mollified guy and the raft. The captain admonishes about throwing things in the sea, need to preserve all evidence. The huge tanker turns around and back-tracks to the Bulgarian waters. A speedboat and some rough guards meet the ship and provide the last leg to land. It is Burgas, an ancient city. It is an underground, Roman times prison-cell. Carved in rock, with rotten straw on the floor and blood splattered walls. From the look of it, from the smell of it, freedom would have to wait.
... More of Alfred's long journey to America will be added. Please visit again sometime.
Around 1979 a pet peeve became his inability to get the same haircut consistently. At the time, HP had a liberal policy of offering the company shops for tinkering after hours. Soon, a haircutter was taking shape alongside computer related research.
A history of RoboCut:
..1981: first RoboCut prototype
..1982: The first "volunteer" (roommate) gets a haircut.
..1983: RoboCut will never sell, give up!
..1984: First RoboCut patent is submitted
..1984: Pilot run is on sale
..1984: RoboCut Starts advertising in Popular Science and Popular Mechanics Magazine.
..1986: the Flowbee® founder buys a RoboCut from magazine ad.
..1986: The Flowbee® founder submits Patent for Flowbee®.
..1986: The RoboCut Patent is granted.
..1987: Flowbee® is Patent is granted.
..1988: RoboCut develops a battery powered model for NASA.
..1988: First RoboCut DeLuxe starts selling
..1988: RoboCut 15min Infomercial
..1989: Flowbee® 30 min Infomercial
..1990: RoboCut 30 min Infomercial
..1992, the European and United Kingdom RoboCut models start shipping
..1993: Wal*Mart starts regional testing of RoboCut sales
..1994: first exports to Japan, Japanese Ministry approval is secured
..1994: Wal*Mart starts national distribution of RoboCut
..1995: haircut.com is registered, first sales on the Internet
..1996: shares of RoboCut start being purchased by invest
..1997: HairLine starts selling
..1997: RoboCut discontinues Wal*Mart distribution, focus on Internet sales
..1998: Mitsubishi starts distribution of RoboCut in Japan
..1999: Models R28 and R28DL start shipping.
..2006: Precision-dial with click latch is introduced
..2007: Model R39 Automatic is introduced.
..2008: Laser blades start shipping