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Information Technology (IT) Pioneers

Retirees and former employees of Unisys, Lockheed Martin, and their heritage companies

People Anecdotes, Chapter 21

During our gathering of artifacts, articles, and career summaries - some retirees and employees have offered personnel tidbits, some with humor. These are captured hereunder for posterity.

Our staff always enjoyed an opportunity to smile or to laugh.  Even in our periodic newsletters, we often fill blank spaces at the end of columns or pages with an occasional 'Lighter Side' quip or tidbit.

2. HSA Recollections

2.1 A first HSA story by Lowell Benson

     In September 1970, Ernie Lantto led a Univac team of Lowell Benson, Jim Gannon, Tom Kratz , and Al Rudman to Hengelo, Holland to install and support the German Navy's Fast Patrol Boat software development center in a Hollandse Signal Apparatan (HSA) facility. HSA was the 'defense' organization of Phillips Global Techniques.

We installed and integrated two 1830B computers, 1840 magnetic tape units - S/N 1 & 2 transports with S/N #1 controller, a 9300 printer/card reader, and associated documentation. The adjacent programmers' room housed our two American programmers, four French programmers, seven German Navy programmers, and about two dozen Dutch programmers. Dick Lundgren, Ron Trowbridge, and Rick Denson came a month later to conduct training classes.
     Each week we Americans had a status meeting with the Dutch management team. Whenever there was a sticky issue, the Dutch would pause the meeting for a 'side-bar' in their language. Then they would ask another question or give their decision about the issue.
     Jim Gannon had been a German Language major in college - Lowell Benson had learned to speak some German when with the U.S. Army in Germany. Both had started studying the Dutch language on their own time. After about six weeks the Univac team was a bit frustrated with the Dutchmen's side-bar behavior.
     So one evening Jim and Lowell wrote and practiced a short script in Dutch, about an issue expected to come up the next day. The issue arose, Jim said "just a minute!" then he and I proceeded to speak our script to each other in Dutch. When done, we switched back to English and said: "The answer is ...." The Dutch management stared, gaped, then gasped: "You already speak our language?" They never again held a 'sidebar' in Dutch during the weekly meetings! [lab]

2.2 Money Exchanging? by Richard 'Ole' Olson

     As part of my transfer to the Univac International Systems Division at Corporate Building C, under George Workman, I was given a trip to Europe. This trip supported the sale of AN/UYK-7 and AN/UYK-20 Military Computers to HSA a Division of Phillips. HSA was on one of two German teams bidding for a German Navy Project. This trip lasted 2 weeks ending just before Christmas. I knew that this was going to be a difficult assignment when our German Marketing Man barely stayed long enough for introductions to the eight Dutchmen with whom I would be working.
    They had a 3-foot pile of Univac documents which they had been studying extensively. On the back of each document was written all pages which had questions, several hundred in total [enough to fill 8 long working days.] I was a relative expert on the AN/UYK-7, having started programming on Serial Number zero. I was the Project Engineer for Common Program, which later became the Standard U.S. Navy AN/UYK-7 Real Time Multiprocessing Executive. I knew little about the AN/UYK-20, never having programmed it. About 1/2 of the documents that I was to answer questions about I had never seen. I decided immediately that my strategy was to assume that the document was correct, and to challenge why they thought that it was wrong. Whenever I challenged them, they went flying through the documentation, which usually allowed me to see how to explain it. I considered the trip a success, in spite of the contentious environment because I came home with only 12 unanswered questions [6 of the 12 which the author could not readily answer either.]
    Due to a family emergency at home, I was late getting to HSA. The very day that I arrived an HSA Executive called the German Prime to complain that the Univac Engineer did not know anything. Fortunately Jerry Meyer and John Spearing, Univac Executives who knew Ole, were sitting in the German Prime's Office when the call came. After finding out that Ole was there, they asked the German Prime to call HSA and ask which questions that I could not answer. Problem was successfully addressed.
    On the weekend, I decided visit Amsterdam. Holland is such a small country that is was only a 2 hour drive from Hengelo [East central] to Amsterdam (Northwest). Prior to leaving for Amsterdam, I went down to pay for the duration of my hotel stay. The desk would not do it, the safe was closed for the night. So I went to my room, hid enough money to get out of town, and drove to downtown Amsterdam. The ring of canals all look the same, so I could not find my car when it came time to leave. I saw a policeman and told him that my car had been stolen. The cop said: "Walk another hour looking for it, and if you don't find it, I will help you". Well then I found it. When I looked for my money stashed in my room, it was gone. I went down to the desk and berated the desk help since that day was Christmas Eve Day. All they could say was that you have to go to the Embassy. As I was walking away, a brown skinned porter who had overheard the conversation came over to me [it is now 3 a.m.] and said that if you come down at 8 a.m. I will get you the money. I came down at 8 a.m. and he was no where to be seen. I asked another brown skinned porter where he was. "He is upstairs with a bag, he will be down shortly". I told him the situation, asking: "Why would he loan me the money". He replied: "Not only that, he borrowed the money from me." "Why would you loan him the money?" "He is my brother." "Why would he loan me the money?" "He was a stranger here once too." Soon he came down, loaned me the money, and I rushed to the airport the catch my Christmas Eve plane home.
    My wife watched as I wrapped $20 Bills in an envelope to send to him. Don't you want to be sure that he gets it? If he does not get this I will send him some more cash. Sure enough a letter came later, thanking me for staying at his hotel and encouraging me to stay there again. [OLE]

3. Musings by Jim Rapinac

3.1 Dog Robbers

Red Phillips had two 'dog robbers', Floyd Pnewski and Jerry Green, who povided 'midnight supply' mechanical and electrical parts for use by design engineers. You could always get a resistor, capacitor, or connector from these two guys. They were a legend during the 60's and 70s. Jerry was heavy set and Floyd was skinny so Jerry would hoist Floyd up on his shoulders so he could crawl over the manufacturing crib walls, which at that time, did not go all the way to the ceiling. Many a computer development schedule or an urgent field repair was completed on time after Floyd and Jerry supplied the parts! Their careers and reputations were curtailed after crib walls were extended to the ceiling. I am sure someone remembers these Plant 2 DSD legends. I do but can't provide many more details. Ed Nelson or Don Vizanko might have more info.
3.2 Gas Can
     Dick Gehring, then Vice President & General Manager, DSD, was forced into landing his Mooney aircraft in a field in Wisconsin after running out of gas. At the annual Marketing Conference in San Diego, 1969, I presented him a 5 gallon gas can at the awards banquet. The guest speaker, Bob McDonald, didn’t understand the roars of laughter from the crowd who knew about the emergency landing. Mr. Gehring’s face turned beet red because he knew about the corporate rule that prohibited senior executives from flying private aircraft. Being thrifty, Gehring kept the gas can!
3.3 A true Ming Chang story 

  Admiral Ming Chang (ret.) was assigned to lead the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) transfer of NTDS systems to the German Navy. Jerry Meyers was assigned to travel with Chang and introduce him to German Naval Officers in Wilhelmshaven. After initial introductions, two German officers cornered Meyers privately and expressed concern at having to work with a Chinaman. Jerry's response: "You said you wanted a Chinese copy of NTDS so the U.S. Navy assigned a Chinese-American Admiral". That ended the discussion!

3.4 Soapbox Derby Too  

Univac sponsored soap box derby car wins the Long Island championship and advances to the National Soap Box Derby Championships in Akron, Ohio. Circa 1965
     Univac supplied 1218 computers to PRD, Westbury, Long Island, the prime contractor for the U.S. Navy VAST (Versatile Avionics Shop Tester) system which was carrier based. Raleigh Strickland, PRD program manager was the chairman of the Long Island Soap Box Derby Club and he discovered that the wooden crates that the 1218 computers were shipped in made excellent Soap Box Derby car frames and panels. Strickland asked DSD marketing rep Jim Rapinac if he could buy five 1218 shipping crates. Rapinac replied that DSD did not sell shipping crates and suggested that if Strickland bought five 1218 computers that day, Univac would sponsor Strickland's son's Soap Box Derby car. Rapinac, to the amazement and chagrin of DSD marketing veterans, returned to St. Paul with a firm purchase order!

The 1218 was supplied with a paper tape bootstrap but DSD charged about $5K for an optional magnetic tape bootstrap. Strickland and his engineers studied 1218 schematics and discovered that by connecting two external test block points with a hair pin that the paper tape boot strap would work as a magnetic tape boot strap.  PRD Engineers 1, DSD Design Engineers 0!

3.5  Schmoozing with Lockheed

     I was re-reading the Hargesheimer interview and was amused by his comments that I was an MC at a Lockheed-Contractors annual fishing trip banquet. For the record, these were always held in Ensenada, Mexico, not Monterrey. The first trip began years ago with Lockheed and their important F-104 program sub-contractors and continued through the P-3 and S-3 programs. Pat Casey and others attended this trip in recent years although I don't know if it is still ongoing.
     At the 1968 or 1969 gaggle, Lockheed did ask me to MC the awards banquet and they hired a Mariachi band who were behind me on the stage. I told a couple of jokes, sang a few songs and then presented the fishing contest prizes to the winners.
During this time Lockheed was close to bankruptcy so I closed with this line:
"I want to deny a vicious rumor that was being passed around the crowd tonight. Sperry has no plans to buy the Lockheed Aircraft Company!"
     I left the stage as the crowd jeered and gave me many index finger gestures, all in good humor. [I thought!] It was a great trip and a great night with good friends a lot of fond memories.

3.6 Certificate Awarded to Vern Leas 

This is an award presented to Vern Leas was to commemorate the contract for the CP-823U computer used in the ANEW P-3C development program. This led to the development of hundreds of CP-901 production computers.

Navy Signers on the left were Bill Morris, NADC ANEW Technical Manager, Joe Kacergis, NADC Engineer and Bernie Zempolich, NAVAIR Computer Manager. Univac signers were Avionics marketers Paul Hensel and Jim Rapinac, Randy Williams, Secretary, and Marwood Clement, Marketing Director.

The real story was that Vern had given an incorrect quote to the Naval Air Development Center, Capt. Ed Skidmore, of $1 million for 2 computers. He had to call Skidmore to explain that the price quote should have been $2 million for 1 computer. Somehow, Skidmore accepted Vern's explanation!!!!!

We were awarded a sole source contact at that price and the rest is history.

Ciao for Now! Rapp

3.7 ANEW Mod 3

    Bob Blixt and I wrote a song in 1964 called ‘A-New We Love You’ which we sang at company dinners and at social evenings with NADC and NAVAIR customers. Curt Nelson might recall the song. Bob gave me a gold record plaque of this Univac hit song when I moved to Salt Lake City in 1974.

A-New we love you
You sent all your money to St. Paul, (cost plus!)
A-New we love you, love you the best of them all
A-New you love us, we just don't really know why
Even after we delivered the 100 pound power supply!

Verse 1
We drive up 611
We're on our way to heaven
We get such a thrill
When we get to Johnsville
Sole Source is Easy Living

Repeat Chorus

Just wish I could remember the other verses but it has been a long, long time.

   We also wrote a parody of ‘Green Green Grass of Home’ called ‘Green Green Grass of Pax’, a song about the Mod 3 flight test center at Patuxent River, MD. I forgot the words. Rapp

4. Recollections by John Alton

  • 1104 Project – A mechanical engineer [name forgotten], during a slow time for him, decided to compute how much was a fly power. Flies were plentiful in the office area because of wide open shipping doors and other openings. For example: people would dump a 2 pound coffee can full of fly carcasses over a schematic on the project engineer’s desk as a hint. This mechanical engineer became an expert at catching flies in the air. He would use airplane glue to attach a thread to the fly’s leg, release the fly, and estimate the angle of thread dangle. The object was to use this data in computing fly power. During the election campaign, he shortened up the thread and attached a tiny scrap of paper to the end of the thread with “I like Ike” written on it. Many flies made it over the wall to entertain the assemblers working in the next room.
  • 1104 Project - Same engineer surreptitiously soldered low value resistors over a substantial voltage point on circuit development breadboards while most all of the project people [as was their daily habit] were in the Plant 2 cafeteria for coffee break. As the engineers returned from coffee break and powered up their breadboards, he would blow a giant puff of cigar smoke through a long plastic tube that he had run from his desk to the circuits.
  • Sea Surveillance Project: The Stromberg-Carlson engineers were having trouble getting their displays to check out with our equipment. They made a bet with Len Henrickson, our project administrator that they would be home by Thanksgiving. When Len, and the rest of us, returned to work after the holiday, there was the biggest, meanest turkey tied by its leg with a rope to Len’s desk. The floor was a slippery mess, and there was much discussion about how to approach the turkey.
  • I suspect others have reported how the water coolers were spiked with gin at Christmas time.

5. Jerry Green's Legend:

Jerry Green was legendary as illustrated in these cartoons submitted by Jeff Parker - received by him from a customer. Refer also to the stories on this page by Markfelder, Rapinac, and Ole.

 6. John Markfelder's Favorite

Jerry Green and Floyd Pnewski were helping Ernie Hams find parts in plant five. The technicians and engineers started locking everything well when they left their day work shift. One night they failed to lock up but Green didn't notice it so as usual took the hinges off and this big door fell on him. Pnewski asked why he took the hinges as it was not locked.

7. About John Markfelder:

As an aside, I remember when John was sent to Keflivek, Iceland to solve a U1500 system problem. While there he bought a fur hat to keep his head warm. During his return home he made a discovery. When the temperature in the plane turned warm, John noticed that the fur hat had a strange 'odor'. Apparently 'Salt' was in shortage in Iceland at that time so the locals had used urine to cure the hides. [Lyle Franklin]

8. Marketing Stories by Lyle Franklin


On one occasion I was delegated to attend our annual Christmas party held in Bethesda, Md. It was my first outing at this type of function. After I arrived I was standing near the door talking to my fellow marketing representatives, Jules Smith and Ray Smith. Just then a distinguished looking gentleman and his bride entered. I was then introduced to Adm. Sir Levering Smith and his wife. I took the opportunity to explain that I was from St. Paul and that this was my first outing at this type of function and didn't realize it was a wild party. Mrs. Smith then asked why I said that and I explained, "Smith, Smith, Smith Smith, Franklin. Am I the only one using my right name. With that she burst out in laughter and granted me permission to call the Admiral "Rosie" and her "Boots". I never did call him Rosie but twenty years later while at Naval Weapons Center in China Lake, I was talking to Ed Romero. He was Caesar's younger brother and a civilian scientist there. He mentioned he was headed to San Diego to spend a weekend with the Levering Smiths. I took the liberty of asking him to say hello to Rosie and Boots for me. He turned red and told me he was not at liberty to call him Rosie.


Another occasion there was a black tie affair in DC - Howie Stenzil, Contracts, Bill Kailey, Navy Systems and I in Marketing were selected to represent DSD. As neither Bill nor I had ever attended a black tie function, we asked Howie to make the arrangements. We went to the shop and were measured and picked up the outfits before leaving St. Paul. Upon our arrival in DC we opened the packages and found our outfits came with blue paisley jackets. Our thoughts were that Howie with his experience knew what we should wear. This affair was in the summer. Upon our arrival the dress code was uniform summer whites and white tux jackets. As we entered I heard one officer's wife comment to her husband, "I thought you said there was going to be recorded music but look - I think the band is arriving." As we knew no one there the tendency was to stick together. However, after that overheard comment we agreed to part and not get together until we left. Many years later I discovered Howie had left the tux selection up to his secretary. She was from a small town in rural Minnesota and blue paisley was in at her high school prom.


Another memorable occasion was our first lobbying trip to DC for the standard Navy mini procurement. The then CDR Hager was changing the requirements. We had already made significant investment to meet the 30 day delivery requirement. Dick Seaberg was VP Marketing. Don Greenwalt was DC Marketing Director. The decision was made to call on our senators and representatives and complain about our investment and changes to the procurement package. I was instructed to prepare a white paper. Fortunately our first meeting was with Sen. Bennett of Utah. At that time SLC reported to St. Paul. We were greeted warmly as we were the largest commercial employer in Utah. I went through the items in the briefing paper and Dick amplified the importance of the program to St. Paul and Salt Lake and our purpose was to inform the Senator. With That Senator Bennett asked what we wanted him to do. He stated he would do anything to help us as long as it was in his power and his code of ethics. Again Dick stated we were there to inform him. With that the Senator told us he would file the paper in his keep informed drawer which he emptied every Friday. If there was something he should do we should tell him. After departing his office a quick side meeting involved what we should be asking our representatives to do.


In the early sixties I participated with the American Management Association giving three and five day PERT Seminars. I was privileged to meet their founder, Lawrence Apply. He stated that management was the art of getting work done through people. He also stated that management had the obligation to create the environment in which people would perform. I was not too successful in doing this but I tried.
Mentioning the AMA I received a call from the AMA concerning a three day PERT Seminar in New York City. My boss at the time was Sid Green of Plans and Policies. Sid reported to Probst who led engineering. Sid told me the budget could not support a trip so I advised AMA that I had a funding problem. Their response was they would cover all expenses and would send me a plane ticket. I agreed to do the seminar. They sent me a first class Jet ticket, met me at the airport and took me to the newly built Americana where my room was ready. Upon entering I found a stocked bar as well as a refrigerator. From my window I could see the Stage Door Deli. I lived on exotic sandwiches and good refreshments for my time there.

After the seminar I was chauffeured to the airport where I checked in early and wandered about. When I returned to the gate I witnessed an uproar at the ticket counter caused by a very upset gentleman. He recognized me and came over and started a conversation. It appears he too had a first class ticket and all the seats were taken so he would have to ride in the back of the plane. He did mention that if we were close maybe we could sit together and talk. I did not offer to give him my seat number. After he was on board then I boarded. As soon as we landed I quickly exited. I wonder to this day if my career pattern would have been different had I given Bob McDonald my first class seat. Lyle

9. Environmental Laboratory

  I worked in the Environmental Test Laboratory run by Paul Welshinger. I was a beginning technician working with Dick Roller and Al Neiters. An initial job was to operate the shock testing machine which lifted objects then dropped them into a sand pit. Space was at a premium so some office desks were quite close. When I first dropped the fixtures to the sand pit bottom, the person sitting close by jumped about 3 inches. At another part of plant 2, George Zieski had a vibration table which could hold an entire cabinet. After one test, they ended up with dozens of loose screws, nuts, washers, and bolts at the base of the tester.

     An incident which I can't forget - There were several hot laboratory ovens in our area, a very cute young naive new secretary opened an oven, took out the components under test, and inserted her noon pizza lunch - I wondered why I didn't see her any more thereafter. Submitted by Ray Schleski.

10. NTDS Software Debugging

There were three of us with responsibility to develop automatic tracking for NTDS: Ray Kot, Al Magnuson, and me Gerry Pickering. There was a junior programmer or two in our tracking group, but it was the three of us that carried the load. Al had been on the project the longest so I guess he was sort of in charge of our group, and the group reported to Dr. George Chapine. Our desks were on the second floor of Plant 2, the old glider factory. The NTDS computer on which we worked was in an adjacent building. Feeding the computer through a video processor was a shipboard radar installed on Plant 2 premises.

It was in the middle of the night. We had our scheduled computer time, always it seemed in the middle of the night. We had loaded our program into the computer via the paper tape reader. The three of us were gathered in front of the display watching the radar sweep, hoping it would pick up a live track. And we could then determine if our program acquired the target, and tracked it.

    All of a sudden, a blip appeared, traveling at an extremely high rate of speed. A very bright radar blip, impossible to miss. And at that very high rate of speed, it suddenly did a right angle turn, traveled in a straight path, and then another right angle turn. Our program, which was designed to track speeds as high as Mach 3, locked on. The target was traveling at near Mach 3. But what was it? It had to be an UFO. We started calling every radar site in the proximity of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Nobody had the target on its radar. We ran outside to see if a flying saucer or something was visible to the naked eye.

   Al, Ray, and I checked and double checked. What could it be?

     Oops. We had inadvertently forgot to turn off the track generator which fed a signal to the video processor to aid in debugging NTDS programs. Not having been set to generate a specific target flight plan, the track generator was out of control, sending sporadic signals of its own makings.

Though a little embarrassed, we had the satisfaction of knowing our automatic tracking program could acquire and track anything those Russians could throw at the Fleet. We were ready for Service Test. [Gerald Pickering]

11. The SHINPADS Demo by Ron Schroeder.

During the early 1980s, Sperry Univac received a contract from the Canadian Government to build a Shipboard Integrated Processing And Display System (SHINPADS). It was designed to integrate the ships combat system as well as marine and administrative systems. The architecture of SHINPADS was unique in that it was a triple-redundant bus design that provided redundancy and system survivability.
Seizing the opportunity to demonstrate the SHINPADS to the U.S. Navy as a candidate for future U.S. Navy construction, the marketing department at Sperry Univac set up an elaborate demonstration at plant 8. As a member of the Univac product marketing team, I was to view the demonstration and take some of the Navy participants to lunch. As the morning session of the demonstration was concluding, I approached one of the engineers who was responsible for the setting up the equipment and running the demo. Pointing to one of the AN/UYK-502 computers I asked him what would happen if I switched it on and off rapidly, thus simulating a power fluctuation or failure. He replied that this was not a problem that the system would reconfigure in a matter of seconds and go back into the operational mode. Of course I couldn’t take his word for this, so I rapidly switched the computer on and off and watched as the system faltered and fell into an extended state of chaos. Feeling a sense of helplessness and having the common sense to know when I am not wanted, I quickly exited the scene under the glaring stares of several panicking field engineers.
After an extended lunch consisting of Dagwood Sandwiches and martinis with Roquefort stuffed olives at the Parker House my customers and I returned to the afternoon session of the demo. Using my customers as shield I attempted to escape to the back of room unnoticed. Instead I was met by a couple of the field engineers who quietly and quite tactfully told me that they had spent the whole time that we were gone troubleshooting and rebooting the system and that if I ever went near another piece of equipment while they were around, it would be very unpleasant to say the least. I believe somewhere there is a lesson in all of this, but I have never been able to figure it out!


In this Chapter

  1. HSA by Lowell Benson and Dick Olson
  2. Musings by Jim 'Rapp' Rapinac
  3. Recollections by John Alton
  4. Legend of Jerry Green
  5. John Markfelder's favorite
  6. About John Markfelder
  7. Marketing stories by Lyle Franklin
  8. Environmental Laboratory by Ray Schleski
  9. NTDS software debug by Gerry Pickering
  10. SHINPADS DEMO by Ron Schroeder!

Chapter 21 edited 2/26/2022.