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The Transition from Engineering to Computers


I was going to graduate school. (Graduate) students write lots of papers. I had purchased, for Becton-Dickinson Labware, a word processor to assist with writing much of the documentation that a medical product requires. I knew they existed but was still using a typewritter.

President Regan wanted to encourage investment in Research and Development. To do that, a tax deduction was allowed for expenditures on R&D. I ran an R&D department for Precision Dynamics at that time and was thus quickly charged with keeping track of my time, and that of those who worked for me.

At the same time, it was necessary to prepare what turned into a 75-page paper for school. I found, through personal experience, just how many hours there are between the time work ends on Friday, and when work starts again on Monday morning. During that time, a person with my skills can:

The obvious solution was to purchase a computer (with a word processing program) - or go very crazy and take the entire household along with me.

I came home one Friday with several boxes and stayed up until they were assembled into a working computer. This took until the small hours of Saturday morning. After a little sleep, I started into project #2: tracking time. I did not know, at this point (1980), that just because there was little software available, you did NOT write your own database manager. So, I did.

I surprised the people at the computer store on Monday afternoon after work. I went in there, with about six feet of printout of AppleSoft Basic behind me. I pointed towards the bottom of the listing and asked what I was doing wrong in asking to read/write to the disk drive. They were surprised that I had the computer asssembled in such a short amount of time (expectations were different then!) but agreed to help me. I was missing part of one command, which was explained to me and off I went.

The resulting program would track my "billable" time, and administrative time and track the time my subordinates logged against any of 26 projects (or admin time). Time cards were done at the end of each week, the report from my system was done alternate weeks for the prior two-week period. Time, by project, was reported as were percentages of total time for each activity.

That was my introduction to computers.


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