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NEWPORT (AP) -- 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 of the wound, Newport police Lt. Dave Teem told The Associated Press.

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, 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."

In 1970, he started supercomputing company Floating Point Systems. A decade later he helped launch Lattice Semiconductor, which remains one of Oregon's largest tech companies, and in 1990 helped start joystick manufacturer Thrustmaster.

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."

Perry said Winningstad had recently undergone spinal surgery.

'I know he was in a lot of pain," she said.

The Winningstads moved to Newport in 1989 and kept a house near Portland. Winningstad would fly his helicopter back and forth.

Teem said Winningstad was known in Newport as a friendly man active in the community who frequently could be found walking his two bulldogs.

'We'd run into each other and sit and chat," Teem said. 'He was just a really nice guy."

When Winningstad's wife stepped out to get the mail just before noon Wednesday, she returned to find he had locked himself in a bathroom. Teem said. She called police, who found him dead.

Family friend Carol Gardner told The Oregonian that Dolores Winningstad had e-mailed her earlier this week to say her husband was not doing well.

'He loved life so much that he wanted to leave it in a good way and not in a way that would be long-suffering," she said.


Information from: The Oregonian,

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