Defense Supply Agency
Defense Contract Audit Services Organization (DCASO)
This was my first job after college. As a recent graduate from the University of Colorado, I accepted this particular offer because I needed a job. It wasn't easy to get jobs in 1972 and I intended this to be a "foot-in-the-door" kind of job anyway.
I didn't expect much, and I wasn't disappointed. The government was training me to inspect concertina wire, with the promise of eventually inspecting nuclear weapons components (because my degree was in physics). In any case, it was not a place in which I though I would learn much, other than interpreting contracts and inspection protocols. When I got an offer to work with computers, I immediately accepted.
Indian Head Naval Ordnance Station
Central NOMIS Office (CENO)
Naval Ordnance Management Information Systems
Indian Head, Maryland
My first real job. I was hired to maintain financial programs written in COBOL. Fortunately, when I first got there, they didn't have a place for me to sit in the Financial Applications Branch, and I was given a desk with the Systems Programmers who maintained the Honeywell H200 mainframe. I quickly learned JCL, read voracioulsy about what made that computer work, learned the H200 assembly language and developed a rapport with the systems staff.
It took the government some 3 months before they were ready to move me to the Financial Applications Branch. Having become interested in the internals of the H200 computer, I asked for and received a transfer to the Systems Progamming side of the office. And so began my career with large scale mainframes.
I knew FORTRAN when I started this job. COBOL was easy to learn and I needed to know it because that was the language used by the programmers. But my real interest was assembly language, and I learned it better than anyone else there. Eventually, the H200 was replaced by a H2000, a bigger, better, faster machine, manufactured by Honeywell. Still, this was an underpowered and somewhat primitive machine compared to what was starting to come on the market: namely the GE machine running GECOS (which Honeywell eventually purchased) and the Univac machine which was in use at the Naval Command Systems Support Activity.
Washington Navy Yard
Naval Command System Support Activity (NAVCOSSACT)
This was an attempt to learn something new. After being at CENO for almost 3 years, I found the work to be routine and not much else was expected of me. I had mastered all that was required of me.
But NAVCOSSACT turned out to be little more than a bureaucracy in which I was the new guy. While it was interesting to work on a new mainframe (a Univac 1100, which was much more sophisticated than the Honeywell 2000), I found myself missing the people and the work I had left behind at CENO. So after a year I went back.
Indian Head Naval Ordnance Station
Central NOMIS Office (CENO)
Naval Ordnance Management Information Systems
Indian Head, Maryland
Back at the old familiar place. It was good for almost another 3 years. But still, after awhile, there was nothing new left to learn here. I liked the people, I liked the work, but I missed being more challanged. The world was changing rapidly, and I finally decided to leave the cocoon of government and try something else.
I was offered, and accepted, a position with GE Information Services. The offer was for a position as a developer using GMAP to work on the GE Mark III Operating System. This was a proprietary OS running on Honeywell hardware. After accepting the position, I decided to decline it, mostly because I had never heard of Mark III. But, since nothing else was coming along, after a few weeks I called GE back and asked if I could have the job. They said, no, not in Mark III, but they did have something for me in the GCOS group. I accepted.
GE Information Services (GEISCO)
401 N. Washington St
Initially, this job was a challenge. There was a lot to learn and the people were bright. GE taught me GMAP and a little bit about the GCOS Operating System. I say a little bit because GE used GCOS as an auxiliary service to its main interest, EDI on Mark III.
Both Mark III and GCOS (GCOS3 at the time) ran on Honeywell 6000 hardware. I was coding modules called DIP and DOP (Directive Input Processor and Directive Output Processor) that lived on GCOS. Their purpose in life was to send directives to Mark III from GCOS. After awhile, GMAP, DIP and DOP was pretty much all I knew. It seemed like that was all I was ever going to know. But still, it was a good place to work and I was working with current technology.
But then Mary Howard, my boss, was transferred and replaced by Jim Porter. Jim was a really nice guy, but I did not have the rapport with him that I had with Mary. I learned how important it was for me to connect with the people with whom I was working. Perhaps if Mary had never not been transferred, I might have stayed at GE. Although, in retrospect, I suspect I would have been laid off much sooner than 2001.
United States Secret Service (USSS)
1801 G St NW Washington, DC
This turned out to be something I didn't particularly like. Harry Williams liked to do everything himself, so little significant work came my way. And the people I worked with were not really on the same wavelenght as me. I remember they liked to throw spit wads at pigeons during lunch. I didn't last long here.
Plus, after having worked at GE for awhile, working for the government was not particularly rewarding or challenging. Mostly, I was under-utilized and had uninteresting work.
And there was little opportunity to learn.
National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
1776 G St NW Washington, DC
Here, finally, I found a job that was worthwhile. I worked with Frank Augustosky and Jeryl Fish in the Systems Support group. This is where I honed my GCOS3 skills, perfected my GMAP coding techniques, and generally learned how the Honeywell mainframe actually worked.
The job was really good and I worked with good people. But I could see that the end of the mainframe, at least at NCUA, was rapidly approaching. NCUA was still running GCOS3 and GCOS8 had already been realeased. Frank was getting bored and decided to go work for Chris Bowers at GSA. He lasted only about one or two months before he came back. (This should have been a warning to me much later when I ended up working for Chris at GSA).
Frank's departure and subsequent return (which was followed by retirement not too much later) convinced me, along with the fact that NCUA was not going to go forward with mainframes, that I should go elsewhere. I found a job with the Inter-American Development Bank, a place that wanted to migrate from GCOS3 to GCOS8, and I was the guy hired to do it.
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
1300 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC
This was, initially, one of the best jobs I had to this point. I Bill Tresky, my manager, let me do all of the technical work with little interference and trusted my skills and decisions. I converted this site from GCOS 3 to GCOS 8 and tuned the machine so that it ran like a fine Swiss watch.
I developed and enhanced my GMAP coding skills, my knowledge of the OS internals. I developed an automated utility that enabled users to restore their own files from the backup tapes. I developed relationships with Honeywell engineers and marketing personnel. I met Roger Bolles here, who was a terrific site engineer, as well as a couple of marketing people.
I had an office overlooking the inside fountain when we moved to the new building on New York Avenue and worked with Manuel Rosal, who was my counterpart for communications (mostly telephone systems). The Honeywell mainframe was my toy and my responsibility. I took care of disaster recovery planning, updated the OS, wrote utilities. And I was well paid. But I didn't stay. As I learned more and more, there was less and less to do. Moreover, IDB, especially Rene Moline, wanted very much to get off Honeywell and move to IBM. They bought an IBM 4030 and hired consultants to run it. I could see my days were numbered unless I switched to IBM. But doing so would have meant that a large portion of the specific knowledge and expertise I had with Honeywell would go by the wayside.
Using my Honeywell contacts, I applied for, interviewed with and got an engineering position with Honeywell in Phoenix.
Honeywell Bull / Bull HN
13800 N. Black Canyon Hwy, Phoenix, AZ
This was my first real development job. I was working with the people who designed, built and wrote the OS. I started working on STARS (System Technical Action Requests). This consisted of responding to customer issues, whether a bug or an enhancemente request. Finally, I was working on the internals. Along with internals came specialization. My area was FMS (File Managment Systems).
Somewhere in my second year, I became the project leader for the conversion of FMS to FS8. Allen Blum was designing a new file system for GCOS which would retain all of the current features and add new functionality to extend the filesystem to include all of the new things that had been though of since the original design. It was also around this time that Honeywell was bought by Groupe Bull and became, first, Bull HN, then Bull Worldwide Information Systems. However, the writing was on the wall. The market for mainframes was not going to support 3 mainframe companies. IBM was going to be the survivor and this was very apparent to all of us.
I eventually made the decision to return to Washington because I knew that a job with Bull was not going to be a long term affair. My training was by now almost exclusively in GCOS 8, almost entirely GMAP and extremely specialized, in a time when mainframes were out of favor. The only job I could find was my old job at IDB. But they insisted that I had to migrate to IBM when I got there. Still, I thought the security aspects of this were well worth it.
Inter-American Development Bank/COMTRON
1300 New York Ave NW, Washington, DC
What I didn't mention about IDB above is that it was a corrupt institution infested with cronyism. And now that I was back, I was no longer an employee, but a contractor. While the basic unfairness inherent in IDB was apparent to me when I was an employee, now I was here doing something I didn't want to do and being treated like a dog.
When I found a job at GSA, I left. And the reason I found the GSA job was because I knew Cliff Bowers. He was Frank Augustosky's friend. Plus, having worked for Honeywell/Bull, Cliff was confident in hiring me.
General Services Administration (GSA)
18th & F St NW, Washington, DC 20405
And this could arguably be the worst job I ever had.
Forget the corruption and cronyism of IDB. Forget the bureaucracy of the Navy Yard. This was incompetence at its finest. I spent 4 long years here trying to find a job. The only saving grace was that this is where I began learning Unix in earnest.
I sat in an office with 5 other people. Ann Zeck is the one name I remember. Here was a career biddy. She had been there forever and was certainly going to die there, thinking she was actually doing something of value. The others were equally worthless. Never in my entire life had I seen such incompetence, laziness and cluelessness.
13873 Park Center Rd, Suite 230, Herndon, VA 22071
Finally back at a real job. Paul Guthrie was the most knowledgeable person I had ever met about Unix. He told me he hired me because I read a lot and because I was thorough and conscientious. Unfortunately, I was a little in over my head. Visa Interactive was a small startup company and I was the only Systems Administrator with any training, other than Paul. And Paul had lots of other duties to attend to with the developers, so I was left floundering a little.
Still, this was a good job and I learned a lot. But it was, after all, a start-up company, and the focus was on getting things done, and/or fixed, and fast. If it could be done right, so much the better. But it was not a good training environment.
I was a little dissatisfied, but probably would have learned more had I stayed. The reason I didn't stay was because Frank Meyer called from GE in Rockville and asked if I was interested in working on Mark III.
General Electric Information Services Company (GEISCO)
401 N. Washington St, Rockville, Maryland
100 Edison Park Drive, Gaithersburg, Maryland 2087
This was probably one of the best jobs I ever had. I was working on something I liked. I was working with bright, intelligent people. I was able to contribute to the development of Mark III as well as learn more about Unix.
Since Mark III was GE's proprietary OS running on Bull mainframes, I already knew the assembly language (GMAP). So I made the decision to accept the offer and again began working on mainframes. Although the Operating System was different (and far inferior to GCOS), the hardware and the assembly language were familiar, and I thought that GE would be my final job. Stability at last.
I was willing to make this my "last" job. But GE had other priorities. GE liked to be number 1 or number 2 in every business in which it participated, and GE Information Services was not one of those. Over the years, as profits declined and as the overall contribution of GEIS to GE's bottom line became a smaller and smaller percentage, GE began looking for a buyer. That buyer was Francisco Partners, and it was finally able to achieve what GE could not: get rid of the mainframe and migrate the entire business to Unix.
So in mid-2001, I was among those caught up in the downsizing that was a natural result of the decline of this business. I became un-employed for the first time in my life.
Management and Data Systems
15050 Conference Ctr Dr., Chantilly, VA 20151
After 6 months of unemployment, I was finally picked up by Lockheed Martin. I spent 3 months in the "tank" waiting for my security clearance. The customer was going to be the CIA. I had no idea what I would be doing and the only thing to do was wait for the clearance.The clearance process involved a polygraph. The CIA did not like my answers to their questions regarding whether or not I had smoked marijuana. In an attempt to seem like the pristine type they were looking for, I simply said I hadn't had any since college. Which was untrue, since from time to time I'd take a puff or two when it was present. The CIA called me in for a second polygraph, during which I changed my story. This however, was considered worse than the original denial, because now they suspected that if I was not completely candid with them the first time, well then, perhaps I would not be candid sometime again. Needless to say, my clearance was not approved, and Lockheed Martin had no further need of me.
Military Traffic Management Command
Computer Sciences Corporation
200 Stovall St, Alexandria, VA 22332
12343 Sunrise Valley Dr, Suite G, Reston, VA 20191
It took another 11 months to find a job. TEK Systems contracted me out to some DOD component in Alexandria. I was destined to go to Iraq to provide some computer support. Needless to say, when NASA called to offer me a position, I quickly accepted. I wasn't here long enough to make any conclusions about the work, but the few meetings I attended as a contractor reporting to the vaunted U.S. military machine did not inspire the confidence one would expect from being associated with the finest "warriors" America has to offer.
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Inspector General's Office
300 E St SW, W
Washington, DC 20546
Yet another "winner". It started out OK, but few places have the management or expertise or mission to sustain anything meaningful for a long period of time. The Inspector General's Office at NASA was filled with old, incompetent career "civil servants" who imagined they were doing something useful. Or at least had to pretend that such was the case in order to maintain some semblance of meaningful employment.
It started out with some semblance of purpose and was populated, at least in my branch, by conscientious people who were willing to contribute, had there been something meaningful to contribute to. I learned more UNIX, more Windows and was prepared to try to make a go of this. After all, it was a government job, and would therefore be secure long enough for me to retire.
But then the guy who ran the branch left to go somewhere else. He was replaced by Lawrence Anderson. Here was a pompous ass. He came from the Red Cross, and I guess since he had now found a management position at a government agency, proceeded to attempt to impress. He was absolutely the least qualifiied, least skillful people-manager I have ever encountered. First, Scott Oglesby, who expected to get the job, left. Louis inherited the slot. But he soon left as well. Larry continued back filling as people left, and those he hired were tweeds who played his game. This was the most antagonistic, dysfunctional environment in which I had ever worked. I could not imagine being here for another 3-4 years working for this insane idiot of a manger. So I voluntarily left government and found a small company that was looking for a UNIX Administrator.
100 Carpenter Dr, Sterling, VA
And so here I am. This is not the most exciting job I've ever had. Nor is the most challenging. Nor does it particularly exercise my abilities. But it does give me a fair degree of independence and allows me some time to look at things that I want to look at. I don't have a lot of exposure to the latest technologies, mostly because I need to do the job that is expected of me, which takes up some time. But on the other hand, the relative independence does afford me the opportunity to study and learn what I want.