Tom Noe went from building smart bombs to making telescopes. photography by Elizabeth Lavin

Meet the Dallas Inventor Who Built a Better Telescope

Tom Noe, a former TI semiconductor engineer, invented the word’s first collapsible reflector telescope.

Tom Noe often holds concerts on his homestead outside Wylie. He sings inspirational songs, though not the kind you might think. The former Texas Instruments semiconductor engineer sings songs evangelizing the glories of science; songs like “Do You Really Want to Know?” and “Did Galileo Pray?” Galileo holds special significance for Noe. This year marks the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s use of a telescope to study the skies. The 66-year-old Noe, who worked on laser detection systems used in the Vietnam-era Paveway smart bombs, builds telescopes. He builds them by hand in a small factory near his house. Noe’s scopes are unique: the first collapsible reflector telescopes, scopes that use parabolic mirrors instead of lenses. An avid motorcyclist, Noe invented his precision scopes for easy transport on the back of his bikes. Hence the name: Teleport. Since 1997 Noe has built some 110 Teleport scopes sold at prices ranging from $4,200 to $7,800. Used Teleports sell for even more. His waiting list stretches four years. Among his most enthusiastic customers is Allan Sandage, son of the astronomer of the same name who was protégé to famed cosmologist Edwin Hubble. Yet Noe insists he barely breaks even on the scopes. “They’re a labor of love,” he says.