Remembering Mike Dorffler, Cineroc Creator

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Remembering Mike Dorffler, Cineroc Creator

A few days ago, one of our contributors, Stefan Jones, sent us a lovely piece he’d written, an ode to the 1970s Estes model rocketry catalog. We’ll be publishing that piece in the near future. The manuscript completely inspired my own nostalgic longing for my model rocketry past. I was a dedicated rocket geek for much of my childhood. I vividly remember that edition of the catalog, and looking through an online copy, made me almost tear up with memories of sitting in my bedroom at night, pouring over every page, graph paper and mechanical pencil in hand, carefully planning my mail orders with the modest money I made raking leaves and mowing lawns. One thing Stefan mentions specifically in the piece, and which my meager yardworker’s salary could never afford, was the Cineroc, the 8mm movie camera-equipped rocket nosecone. I was shocked when I saw in the archived catalog that it only cost $19.95. To a kid in 1970, I remember thinking it was a King’s ransom.

In my nostalgic revelry, searching online for more on the Cineroc and Camroc (its still-camera sibling), I was saddened to discover that Mike Dorffler, the inventor of the Cineroc and many other hobby model rocket innovations (for Estes and then Apogee Components), died of pancreatic cancer last fall. Before he blasted off for that big Tilt-a-Pad in the sky, the NAR (National Assoc. of Rocketry) gave him a lifetime achievement award which was presented by none other than Verne Estes himself (yes, Verne, the godfather, is still with us)! Rocketry Planet has a nice tribute article to Mike (linked below).

I like this comment left on the piece:

His designs were the inspiration for me to follow his path and become a rocket designer and eventually run a rocket kit company. Godspeed Mike.

Mike Fisher
Binder Design

Mike Dorffler, a Unique Visionary Whose Life Mattered

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

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