Anecdotes: In Von Braun Country
Original Publication Date: 1989-Dec-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Software Patent Institute
Herbert R. J. Grosch: AUTHOR [+2]
Abstract37, ru du village 1295 Mies (D) Switzerland
THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.
Copyright ©; 1989 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.
Anecdotes: In Von Braun Country
Herbert R. J. Grosch
37, ru du village 1295 Mies (D) Switzerland
I had done what I promised Baker and Oldfield I would do. I had brought a hard-to-get 704 out to virgin territory. I had installed it in an elegant but practical setting at the college, the center of intellectual excitement in the Phoenix area -- which, with all due respect to my new friend Grady Gammage, was not saying much! And I had done it without spending important GE money or time.
I had staffed it, in an area where computer experience and professional expertise were as scarce as forest glens and sparkling brooks. And not just with Evendale veterans like Charlie Asmus and Dan McCracken, or Lynn veterans like Al Benson, but with sharp Easterners who had not worked for GE before, and with a little group I had stolen away from Tucson (and in a sense, to Grady's considerable pleasure, from his rival institution).
The computer and the people were ready to go -- ready to do heavy design work for the Computer Department's engineers, ready to help Arizona State in administration and research, and to contribute at least some specialized instruction.
And when we were ready, Oldfield and his poor second-rate crew didn't want us! The engineering gang in Tempe hadn't the faintest idea how to use a computer to design another computer, and were too busy doing it by hand to find out. The group Bob Johnson had pulled together independently in Palo Alto, which included the young and pugnacious Joe Weizenbaum (and Arnold Spielberg, father of "Jaws/Close Encounters" Steven Spielberg), was a different matter. Egged on by Oldfield, they regarded us as competitors rather than as powerful and friendly asset. They used local 650-size computer facilities at SRI.
So here we were, costing the earth -- $43,000 a month IBM rental, just for starters -- and producing almost nothing. We did a few things for the college, notably a very early automation of their convoluted fall registration process, and tried to do a traffic flow simulation for the community, but those were gratis. It was clear Oldfield would like to shut us down, and eliminate my croaking about IBM research and IBM design techniques and IBM marketing skills, and Computer Department deficiencies. He was waiting for his boss, GE Industrial Electronics Division vice president Harold Strickland, to order him to do so for cash-flow reasons, thus avoiding any suspicion that Barney had hung it on one of Jim LaPierre's bright boys.
Toward the end of the Evendale operation we had been doing a rather sizable service business for other departments of GE, and (cautiously) for a few outsiders, mostly educational or governmental, and often gratis or at special rates. And for many years I had been aware of Comrie's London outfit, and of Bill...