On January 21st of this year I celebrated my 50th year in computing, so I think it’s fair to say I’ve see a lot of changes.
Without being specific in general there have been a lot of superior computers, software and other inventions but it’s not always the best idea that wins but the company with the best marketing of their product. So many good products have come and gone I’ve lost count. Once in a while when cleaning house I’ll come across some old product catalogs which make for fond memories.
So here is a brief timeline: My first job started in January of 1963 with Curtis Wright as a flight instructor for the B52 Bomber and F4 fighter. My job was two fold in that I had to maintain the flight simulator which was an Analog computer that was about two 18 wheelers in length and also as an instructor.
During lunch breaks I would jump into the old B25 or B26 simulators, go up to about 35,000 feet and wait for the wings or carburetors to ice up and go into an uncontrollable spin. The object was to pull out of the dive before I smacked into the ground. 50% of the time I did and 50% of the time I crashed. Another stunt on the simulators was to rig the simulator so I could do a barrel roll (said at the time to rip the wings off) at about 250 feet off the ground.
Next I moved to Boeing Vertol to work on the testing of the flight control systems which also were analog for the CH-47 and as a special mission to outfit the 2 of the first four ACH-47 attack helicopters. Eventually received my flight certificate, as a reward I was stuck on the night shift in case there were any emergencies that required getting the chopper ready for the next morning, none ever occurred so life was dull.
I then moved from Boeing to a company developing stealth technology. No computer work here, end of subject.
In 1967 I started work for a business sector (Printer Reader) at GE making and developing peripheral hardware for computerized numerical control equipment. Received a design award for a small part I played in the construction of the reentry heat shield for the man on the moon Apollo space craft. There were 3 of us assigned to the project, a mechanical engineer, an electronics design engineer and myself for the electrical wiring. First the electronics engineer quit and I was assigned his task. Then the mechanical engineer quit and I now had all 3 tasks. The award and a lot of other items were later lost (2 boxes worth) moving from an apartment to a house.
The toilet paper caper: Part of the business was printers, one such design was a high speed printer that the project engineers bragged about was that the printer could even use toilet paper to print on and it actually did. One day some high level GE personnel paid us a visit and after one look at the size of this monstrosity (about 20 square feet, at that’s no lie) they flushed the printer and about 20 engineers down the toilet.
Later I worked on building a digital computer designed for production line testing and fiber optic data transmission. Finally as a manager in my spare time I did presentations at marketing seminars, take note of this as there is significance to this as time goes on. In early 1970 GE decided to get of the computer business as “there were no future business opportunities”. Boy did they make a mistake.
While all this was going on I also worked as a part time DJ at a radio station, also collaborated with my brother as a songwriter (BMI) and as a hobby auto racing (SCCA, Nascar and not drag racing).