October 04, 1976 12:00 PM

A non-lazy Susan devises a voting machine

Susan Huhn’s voting machine looks like a winner. It is an electronic marvel that works like a sophisticated calculator, weighs only 35 pounds and costs $2,775, about the same as a mechanical voting machine. Huhn’s device is easier for the voter to operate and is more efficient—it detects voter errors instantly.

“The idea for it came like a bolt of lightning,” says Susan, a 35-year-old Barnard graduate who studied both math and government and now runs her own election-consulting business in Concord, Mass.

The machine has switches for as many as 512 candidates or questions, and can handle a ballot 32 pages long. The voter simply turns the pages of the ballot, which is attached to the machine (see picture), and registers his choices. It’s easy for a voter to change his mind, too, after he has flipped a switch.

Susan, whose father is in the mechanical voting machine business, started her company two years ago. She now employs six full-time and 15 part-time workers who have helped set up and monitor elections at unions in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Nevada. “I’m interested more in running good elections than in the voting machine itself,” she says.

Susan, recently engaged, lives in a cottage on an island in Groton, Mass. 15 miles from the office. She skis and sails a 19-foot sloop, but allows little time for either. She works from 8 a.m. until midnight every day. “I can tell when it’s the weekend,” she says, “because no one else comes in to work.”

Darbo meets grill

Rolf Darbo may be the most radical thing to happen to outdoor barbecues since the charcoal briquet.

Darbo is a 69-year-old retired real estate agent who likes broiled meat when he camps out. To free like-minded people of the weight and bulk of grills and charcoal, he has invented a fold-away grill called Broil Pak, which collapses to a thickness of one-half inch and cooks with the rolled-up morning paper instead of briquets.

The grill, which is made of metal and weighs only three and one-half pounds, also works with grass or leaves. It is only the latest brainstorm in Darbo’s inventing career. Behind him are eight other patents, some deservedly forgotten, like the vacuum cleaner attachment that dries a wet shoe in minutes. To support himself, Darbo runs a mausoleum-crematorium in Madison, Wis.

Still in the R&D stage are a diary-lock with a combination that can be set by the owner and a do-it-yourself test for marital compatibility which matches up computer punch cards. “I have shelves of things waiting to be invented,” Darbo says.

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