HAVE YOU EVER BEEN TO MAHWAH?

Computer History Vignettes

By Bob Bemer

In 1969 there appeared at General Electric one Richard S. Bloch, whom I had known from earlier days. He intended to design a new line of IBM-compatible computers for GE to market. I was assigned to his team, despite an overwhelming aversion to such an approach, due to:

Designing the content of the ACM 70 conference proved a fine way to avoid being stigmatized by actually working on the project, particularly during the "Shangri La" design concentration camp in Florida, where I only had to spend two or three days.

In late 1969 I made a special trip to Schenectady, ostensibly to brief GE management on the purposes and content of ACM 70. But there I took the opportunity to defend a number of memos I had circulated to high GE management, in which I took strong issue with the prevailing plan.

My audience was primarily a Dr. Jack Music, famed as the "nose" for Hilliard Paige, one of the three high-level GE executives deciding on the viability of Bloch's plan. Music added me to the investigative team. As far as I know until now, I was the only member of that team actually working for the GE Computer Department.

Another team member was Mike Kami, formerly head of long-range planning for IBM. I was enjoined by Music to not tell my manager where I traveled or what I was doing, causing our expense account approval lady to scold me for turning them in so late.

But the reason for this short memoir is to show how very complex the computer business is, and to restate my theme that it is unlike most others, in that to be successful it must be run by a management team that is fully experienced in that field. I.e., contrary to GE's theme that "A manager is a manager is a manager ..."

So on 1969 Oct 14 I found myself, as Mgr. of Systems and Software Engineering Integration for the GE computer business, sitting in a Bridgeport, Connecticut, conference room with the chief planners of this enterprise.

On my left was the man (name mercifully forgotten) who was to head the field support group for software. During a lull, this ensued:

For some reason he avoided me after that. And (strangely) GE sold its computer operations to Honeywell that next June.

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