Age & Intro (Long Winded)

Billy Pettit bpettit at
Tue Mar 22 23:47:04 CST 2005

After reviewing the last month's messages on the cctech archive web
site, thought I should introduce myself.

I'm racing up to 63 - wish it went slower, but that's life.

My first computer was in the Army in 1960 - an analogue manual input job
on a mortar tracking radar. That was at Ft. Monmouth; after that, I was
transferred to Restone Arsenal, Alabama and trained on the "Jukebox".
It was a vacuum tube computer with a fixed disk main memory used in
targeting the Redstone Missile.  (I think it was made by Autonetics, but
45 year old memories aren't reliable.)

Right after learning the Jukebox, was transferred to the Pershing and
trained on a transistor drum memory targeting computer made by Martin
Marietta in Orlando.  It was exciting, learning all this "new"
technology.  Transistors were just getting accepted for mil spec programs.

We even had a class from RCA for something they called Integrated
circuits - the first commercial family of ICs.  Was RTL.  I still have
the data sheets they gave us some place in the garage.

After Uncle Sam, I went to Minneapolis to work for Control Data.  That
was mid-1963 - was trained on the 160-A and 1604.  At that time, CDC
didn't make its own peripherals, so we used IBM 523s, 088s and Ampex
tape units.  The first 160s used Ferranti paper tape readers (with
thyrotrons) and Teletype punches.  The typewriter was a model B IBM with
a Soroban encoder.

A few months later, Normandale Ops came up with the 606 tape units,
followed by the 405 card reader, 415 card punch and 350 paper tape
reader.  More equipment to learn and support.

They also repackaged the 160 in an industrial cabinet and called it the
8090.  A smaller division called IDP (Inductrial Data Products) created
a tiny 8 bit version called the 8092 for some telecommunication systems
they were doing for ARPA.  Used teletypes and 101 Bell modems.  (Some
arguments abput it being the first PC like computer.)  They also sold it
to a company called Rabinow who made the first commercial OCR scanners.
(Biggest customer was the IRS - who had a policy of auditing anybody who
worked on their equipment.)

Since I was a customer engineer in the Minneapolis area, I had to
support all of these new products.  I started a new way of life - new
product training every few months, then working on the buggy new
products from the prototype on.

Eventually, I logged more than 5000 hours of class room training on CDC
and other vendors products!  All the CDC peripherals, plus IBM for unit
record, Ampex tapes, Analex printers, Holly Printers, Bryant Drums, IBM
1311 and 2311 disks, flexowriters, Selectrics, Teletype readers,
punches, Model 32, 33 and 35 I/O printers, Bell 101 and 301 modems, etc.

As CDC grew, they bought out other computer operations.  So those of us
in the field were also expected to support the Bendix G-15, RPC-4000,
LPG-30, etc.

It seemed inpossible to stay current - there were just so many systems
coming out.  For example, in 1964, I had training on the 6600.  And a
few months later, trained on the 3600.  Said training consisted of weeks
in the classroom followed by working on the assembly line debugging the
systems after they were built.

One bright light manager even had the idea to save money by using us to
support software since we were already in the field.  That way, his
programmers didn't have to deal with  customers.  It didn't take long
for this brainstorm to crash; but a bunch of us were also trained on the
software, especially the 3300 MSOS and MOS.

Over the next 12 years, I stayed in field support, first as an engineer
then Tech Support.  Was moved around constantly:  Atlanta; Huntsville;
Houston; The Hague, Holland; London, England; Detroit; Mississauga,
Ontario Canada.

At this point, I left field support and was in R&D on a machine called
the Star-65.  It was to be a smaller model of the Star 100.  The
development was in  Canada (Mississauga). When the Star was killed, we
did a rush program called Cyber 170, CDC's first all IC machine.

After 4 years in the lab, I longed to get back to the field side, so
transferred to Oklahoma City and worked on the Magnetic Periphersals'
14" cartridge drives.  Then the 8" Lark; the 940X floppies; and finally
on the 5" inch Wren series.

After 23 years at CDC, I hired on with Fujitsu and moved to Silicon
Valley.  Managed a group of enginers who supported the peripheral
products at OEM sites, primarily Sun and Tandem.  My area was disks,
tapes, MOs, printers and scanners.

Fujitsu faded away, so after 8 years I moved over to Quantum.  Again
working on disks.  Supported all the top 10 OEMs, but primarily Apple
and Compaq.  It was a matrix style company, so I was also on new Product
Teams, getting new drives through the qualification process.  Most of
these were SCSI-2 and SCSI-3 3.5".  Though we did have one 5.25" called
the BigFoot.  (A infamous legend in its own right.)

Finally, a chance came up to get away from hard drives.  I joined
Philips and managed a group supporting their OEM customers using
Philips CD and DVD recorders and media.  This was sheer joy - new
technology with fun applications.  The design work was in Eindhoven,
Holland and Hasselt, Belgium so there were some great trips.  Initially,
the manufacturing was in Gyor, Hungary which was also a fabulous place
to visit.

Even had to set up lab full of Xboxes and test all the new games to see
that they worked on the DVD-ROM!

Eventually, Philips exited the designing and manufactuing end.  All that
is left is a small sales force.  The rest of us in the Sunnyvale group
scattered.  And now some of us old timers are relaxing and thinking of
the past. Time for grand children and travel.

It was fun being on the cutting edge for 45 years.  I miss it.  Need
something to keep my mind busy.


So that's it for the classic side.  Except to add that I saved all of
the manuals on equipment I worked on.  Eventually, I had to thin them
out and dumped a lot of the wire lists, software manuals, periperal
manuals, SPAM boxes and general papers.  Excepting the
160-A/8090/8092/5101 systems.  I always loved them, so kept all the
hardware, software, listings, tapes, cards, etc.  I think I still have
schematics of every computer I worked on, but my garage is a solid mass
of books and electronics.  Before I can retire and move, it has to
shrink by 90%.  So I've been looking for a home for it.


I always wanted to have a home system, so in the late 60's I designed a
TTL 160-A.  There were already several amateur computer groups active -
ACS was the most productive.  They had a newsletter out that had several
designs using TTL and DTL.  One used some DEC modules.

And then came the famous Radio Electronics article on the Mark 8.  It
was a great milestone - a real home computer.   I promptly sent off for
it.  Bought an 8008, for $160!  But we had started our family that
year, so hobbies were put on hold.  30+ years later, 4 kids are
raised, through University and raising their own families.  Time to play

I still have the virgin Mark 8 PCBs.  In fact they are still in the box
they came in!  Along with all the components, bought new and never used.

I would occasionally pick up micro computers and PCs as they came out,
but most are now long gone.  I kept a few just because they were small:
Kim, Sym, Ebka, PAIA, MicroProfessor, etc.  I think I still have all the
manuals and software too.

I dumped the TRS-80s, Amigas, Ataris, and early PCs.  There is still a
little of SWTP 6800 stuff left, including some of the TV Typewriters.
And most of the assembly manuals.  I also keep most of the books,
magazines and newsletters from that era.

But my PDP-8s are in the Oklahoma City landfill, along with all the
discarded CDC manuals, and half a dozen other minis of that era.  At
that time, I made a little money on the side by rebuilding Teletypes.
When we moved, my spare parts and extra 33s went to the highest bidder:
$100 for 10 machines and several hundred pounds of spare parts.

The calculator collection went too, sadly.  I had two working Friden
130/132s.  I still mourn their loss.

I had picked up a lot of data manuals, parts and ICs, but also dumped
them at OkCity.  And then started again in California.  But it wasn't
organised collecting so there is only a hodge podge of products and
books filling the garage. Promised my wife I'd clean it out this year, a
chore I'm really dreading


I apologise for the long message.  Some other people not on the list
will also get this.


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