A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO POMONA!


Yesterday in a phone conversation with a Friend in Arizona, I was reminded of a funny incident which happened about 1964. In 1963 I left Burroughs Corporation and joined Ramo-Wooldridge Corporation (later TRW) to help set up a Test Lab for the first militarized (MilSpec) minicomputer, the AN/UYK-1.  That is where I was working the morning that JFK was shot.

After the Test Lab was operational, I transferred into Field Engineering and also spent time helping in the Training Department.  Probably the most interesting AN/UYK-1 I installed was aboard the USNS Kingsport Satellite Tracking Ship which controlled the Syncom 2 Satellite.  In August 1963, President John Kennedy made the first intercontinental satellite telephone call between heads of government via the Syncom 2 Satellite.  It was made to Prime Minister Abubakar Balewa aboard the USNS Kingsport which was docked in Lagos Harbor, Nigeria.

But back to the funny incident I flashed back to yesterday.  When I was working in Field Engineering, one my our customers was Honeywell Corporation in Pomona, California.  One day I received a faux panic call from the lady who was the chief programmer on the Honeywell project.  She told me, "Bill, my AN/UYK-1 is pregnant!  (short pause)  It has everything but a period!"

As you can see from the photo below, the only console input/output device on those computers was an IBM Selectric typewriter.  And her IBM Selectric would type any character - except a period.  Therefore, her computer was pregnant!  Hey, those are the days which made working long hours fun.  And believe me, I have never forgotten that phone call.

God bless, have a wonderful, blessed day,

Bill Gray

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15 Mar 2019


By Bill Gray
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