When I arrived at UNIVAC to take charge of their software operations, I
inherited one C. L. McCarty, who had rather wanted the job himself. He had
made some preliminary negotiations with CSC to do the software suites
for both the 1107 (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and UNIVAC III (Blue Bell).
Approving or disapproving such contracts was an early and priority task.
Before I could get out to Los Angeles, however, I fell out of a tree at
my Weston home while trying to saw off limbs with tent caterpillar
infestation and broke several lumbar processes.
But the decision could not wait, and as soon as I could get discharged I
was on a plane to Los Angeles with many pain pills. That was on May 27
of 1962. I went to the CSC offices, which were then in a small building
on the Palos Verdes peninsula. Presentations were made by Joel Erdwinn
re operating systems (EXEC II), Lou Gatt (formerly Los Alamos) for
FORTRAN, and Dave Ferguson re assemblers. I was much taken by the PROC
capability that Ferguson presented, and it was probably in view of that
(plus my knowledge of insularity in both UNIVAC software locations, and
prior acquaintance with most CSC personnel) that I approved a contract.
This despite the fact that I had once fired Fletcher Jones, the
millionaire chairman of CSC.
I caught much flak from Univac Marketing people at first, at least until
the software was operable. But it had a slow start. I kept a suitcase
with a set of clothes in my New York office (Sperry Rand Building on the
Avenue of the Americas) for fast emergency trips to Los Angeles.
Our major problem was that CSC management thought they had UNIVAC in
their pocket, and could take their time making the software. Maybe they
assumed it because I knew all three of the principals -- Fletcher
Jones, Roy Nutt, (and Bob Patrick at the start). And they were also
doing the software for Philco computers, whose local representative,
Caral Samson (now Giammo), we called "Miss Philco".
It finally got so desperate that UNIVAC ordered me to take up residence
at CSC to control the work. At first I went for a single month (from
1963 Mar 08 to Apr 02), and then for a 3-month period (from 1963 Jul 02
to Oct 08).
It was in the second sojourn that I found my leverage. Our Joel Boardman,
reporting to C. L. McCarty, was in charge of our local liaison operation
at CSC. Boardman kept complaining about his salary, as though it was
more expensive to live in LA than New York. He got me seriously
concerned about this, so I went to the real estate office that had
rented him a house in the Palos Verdes area. Was he behind in his rent?
The agent said "Oh no, the rent has been paid a year in advance!" "How
could that be?", I asked. "Oh, it was paid by a check from Computer
Jackpot! That could cause a lot of slowness. Two things resulted. First,
I fired Boardman on the spot, He complained to the California
Commission concerned with this, which queried me. I told them that he
had behaved improperly as a manager; this was a good enough reason for
them. The second was that UNIVAC now had a large lever to pry work from
CSC. The key was that they were about to go public with a
stock offering! They couldn't afford to have a scandal known.
We confronted Fletcher Jones. UNIVAC VP Lee Johnson flew out, as did
Milt Bryce of my operation, to help audit. UNIVAC demanded, and got,
access to their books, and a written commitment of certain percentages
of each of the key programmers' time to be applied to UNIVAC software
fabrication. We signed up x% of the time of Erdwinn, Gatt, Ferguson,
Owen Mock, and others.
Even then it wasn't easy going. We were still behind. John Butler,
caring for our interests at U. S. Steel, had been pestering me for
completion of Gatt's 1107 FORTRAN processor. When it was finally
doing well, I called Butler very late one night from the machine
room, saying "Listen to FORTRAN run", and put the telephone to the
printer recording the compilation. His wrath subsided.
That FORTRAN processor was so good that IBM later let a contract to
Ascher Opler of CUC (Computer Usage Corp.) to see why Gatt had succeeded
so well. In a talk to FORTRAN Pioneers, Fran Allen of IBM, who later
made a scholarly study of software processors (under John Cocke, who
invented RISC processors) said it was due to bidirectional tape read.
Eric Clamons and I thought it was clever use of the drum, which showed
up at the right place just as needed. I believed that so strongly
that I inspected the makeup of the first seven 1107 systems that had
gone out. NONE had a drum! So I made an edict that ALL 1107 systems
were to have a FASTRAN drum to make a good match with the software. The
salespeople grumbled mightily until they saw how much the performance
When the FORTRAN processor got to the field, a FORTRAN session at a
UNIVAC Scientific Exchange (USE) meeting heard some complaints that
could have led to a sales flap, so I offered a free diagnostic service
for user programs evincing apparent bugs. One(!) was sent in; our
reply showed their misuse of the language. I was always proud of this
device to deflect customer complaints.
The CSC experience held many good moments. Wanting a Model 33 Teletype
to communicate with my New York office, I called Pacific Telephone
and Telegraph one morning to order one. They said I could not get
one under any circumstances in less than three months. Wanting it
now, I called John Auwaerter, V. P. Engineering for Teletype
Corporation, creator of that series of equipment, who had led the X3
Committee in making ASCII a standard. Hearing my story, he said that
he had just had lunch with AT&T's Vice President of Marketing, and would
see what he could do. About two hours later I was besieged by calls from
PT&T. My Model 33 was delivered the next morning!
Fletcher Jones was also interesting. He was a high flier in more than
one way. And he had a thing for airlines stewardesses, especially
those of TWA. While we were still in the smoke and mirrors period he
invited my wife and me to his (rented) estate on the Palo Verde
peninsula. A department store magnate and his wife were there, and
Fletcher had the usual stewardess, who doubled as kitchen help. I said
later that I was the only non-millionaire there.
About the shenanigans, Roy Nutt or Bob Patrick would never have been
involved. Very straight shooters. Patrick had probably left by that
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