Read this first:
All comments are moderated. Differences of opinion, even passionate ones, are most welcome. Personal attacks against myself or any other commenter, however, are strictly forbidden and will never see the light of day. Criticizing ideas is important but criticizing the person advancing those ideas is never permissible.There are no demons, baby-eaters or despicable dastards here, only people who do not agree.
On to the blog: Wanderings.
Let me introduce myself. My name is Bill Meahan and I currently live in the odd city of Westland, Michigan. Technically, Westland is a suburb of Detroit but being located halfway between Detroit and Ann Arbor it might be just as true to say it is a suburb of the latter city. Ann Arbor is the home of the University of Michigan and is very well known for its artistic and cultural activities including the annual Ann Arbor Street Art Fair which draws thousands of artists and artisans as well as tens of thousands of visitors. Ann Arbor is also home to the University of Michigan Hospital as well as several other major hospitals. Detroit has the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital and a multitude of other major medical centers. It sure is nice to live where it is equally easy to take advantage of all both Detroit and Ann Arbor have to offer! It is trivially easy to get to Canada, too!
Biography (of sorts)
I am a native Detroiter and I say that with a mixture of pride and sadness. Pride, because the Detroit of my childhood and youth was a terrific place. My K-8 grade school (Albert Ives Elementary) was exemplary and the high school I went to (Cass Tech) was one of the very top public high schools in the country. I was fortunate to be in the “top” programs at Cass and even won a National Merit Scholarship although I was not given any money since my Dad “made too much.” Funny, we were not quite poor but were a very long way from being well-to-do. I did manage to win a competitive scholarship from the Greater Detroit Chevrolet Dealers Association and went to Wayne State University in Detroit, majoring in Physics.
After getting my Bachelor of Science in Physics (BSP) in June, I went back to Wayne State for graduate studies in Physics. I was granted a Teaching Assistantship and spent the entire time I was in Graduate School teaching the Laboratory sections of a Physical Science for non-technical majors class. After two years of school three things converged to convince me to drop out and find some other form of work than being a physicist:
- Increasing prices for food and other necessities were making it difficult or impossible to live on our income
- The research project I was working on did not work and could not work because of a slipped decimal point early in the project.
- NASA ended the Apollo program and thousands of PhD’s in Physics were contesting for dozens of job openings. No market for an inexperienced Master’s-level physicist.
I was beginning to wallpaper my bedroom wall with rejection letters from my attempts to find a job when Sharon’s brother-in-law asked if I would mind working as a Manufacturing Engineer in the same auto parts plant he worked. As long as there was a decent paycheck associated with the job, I was interested. I got the job, even though I did not have the “engineering” knowledge the other candidates possessed. What I did have was experience running a Bridgeport milling machine, a lathe and a surface-grinding machine from building my experimental apparatus.
I ended up spending 30 years at, irony of ironies, Ford Motor Company, moving into automation controls and computer-controlled testing machines after a year. I did quite a few interesting things many years ahead of their time but since these projects were “off the books” because they violated Corporate IT policies, very few people knew about them. What mainframe COBOL jockeys knew about embedded mini and microcomputers was never determined but, policies were policies.
Some things I did included:
- Installed a broadband network using CATV technology in 1975
- Assisted in the hardware design and wrote much of the code for a microcomputer-based test-stand controller in 1976
- Designed, implemented and wrote most of the code for a loosely-coupled MP microcomputer system made with single-board computers sharing a common backplane and a large (for the day) common RAM board. I also did all the hardware design for a custom interface board which connected to the test stand itself. 1980-1981
- Upgraded the CATV-based network from 100 Kbit/sec with a proprietary protocol to 10 Mb/sec ethernet-over-RF system using TCP/IP 1982
- Implemented a special system which allowed people on the factory floor to “order” production material from the warehouse and have it delivered via lift-truck-based Automatic Guided Vehicles. The overall system monitored every machine in the production area from a network of HP9000 PA-RISC computers running HP-UX (HP’s flavor of Unix). Developed several Division-wide “client-server” applications using Oracle backends becoming one of the better Oracle developers and DBA’s in the Corporation.
- Transferred to Corporate IT where I used a commercial “toolkit,” a lot of Perl 5 and an Oracle database to build a Help-Desk ticketing, assignment and communication system. I wrote Version 1.0 single-handed and continued to write the majority of the code until I took an early retirement. The system served the Corporation world-wide and was originally specified to me as needing to serve under 100 simultaneous users with 250 users in total. When I left it was serving 4000 simultaneous users and nearly 10,000 total.