Apollo Guidance Computer Project - MIT Conference Series, Part 3
BROWN: The reason we've got people here today is that this is part of a series of, I guess, group oral histories, where we're trying to get people together who were involved in the Apollo guidance project and just get you to tell us a few of your stories. Just tell us a little bit about your experiences, what you really like about working on this particular project.
This is part of a larger, a much, much larger project, which breaks down into five units of which we are one. We're studying the Apollo guidance computer. There are also projects that are studying the history of materials science on the rise of bioinformatics, on the dispute of the physics about the process of renormalization, and there is one other one--
MINDELL: Material science, renormalization.
MINDELL: Bioinformatics, molecular evolution.
BROWN: Molecular evolution.
MINDELL: Pretty broad coverage in the history of science, but we're really the only engineering one.
BROWN: And this is part of a project that has a couple of items. The first one is really to figure out how to do research into very large projects in recent history of science and technology. Historians tend to find that the further back they go, the easier it is to manage your sources. There are a lot less things to deal with.
Once you start to deal with projects in science and engineering post the Second World War, it starts to become a problem of how to manage the huge amount of information that you have access to and huge amount of information that might bear on your particular project.
So one of the things that we're doing as part of this exercise is really an investigation. How do we tell the history of such a large scale project, as something like the Apollo guidance computer? And another thrust of the project is really to figure out what use the world wide web is going to be in helping us with these kinds of things.
And as you can see, and I know that some of you have seen this, we have put together a website, which is an ongoing project, which is gathering together the information that we gather, and the results of these kinds of conferences, to make this available both to us through our research, and to other people in the historical community to do their research, and to people in the wider community.
You'd be surprised how much interest there is in the wider community. Since we put this web site up, we would get emails, some random emails, from members of the public on a regular basis, either asking us about the website, telling us about information that's out there, asking questions about the information that's on there. There was a guy who was attempting to rebuild one of these machines, and he's had some communication with us. There's a lot of interest there.
HALL: Lots of luck.
BATES: Was he the guy in Venezuela?
BROWN: No, this is a different one.
SPEAKER: This is a different guy. There's one trying to program the simulator--
SPEAKER: --on the PC too. Did he contact here yet?
BROWN: He sent me a very brief email saying, this is what I'm trying to do. But he hasn't send any results yet. We shall see.
BROWN: Yeah. There's a guy who actually, apparently, judging from the email that he sent me, actually wants to rebuild with the hardware. He wants to go from scratch.
HANLEY: You can never do that.
SPEAKER: Don't tell him.
SPEAKER: We don't even know how we did it.
HANLEY: A good example is when Eldon was the Trident program, and he had to get diodes. And he went to Fairchild and he wanted diodes with given specs for the Trident program. And they couldn't do it. They said they couldn't do it. And then he pulled out of his pocket a whole bunch of Fairchild diodes from the Apollo program that met all of the specifications. These people just don't know how to do it anymore. I'll keep quiet.
SPEAKER: We're recording some of this.
SPEAKER: We are.
BROWN: I thought I'd jsut very briefly run through the website and explain one or two things that we are doing here. We've already run a couple of conferences, and I know there are people here today who should have been at the first conference. It's surprisingly difficult sometimes to track them down.
So as we hold these conferences, we put these up on the web. So there are lots of familiar faces there. Then we make the transcriptions of those conferences available. We also are gathering documents and scanning these and putting these on the web.
This is, I guess, perhaps a sort of complement to the oral histories, the accounts, where you can actually get your hands on--
SPEAKER: What kind of documents?
HALL: There's a whole bunch of them on the web.
BROWN: I can give you an example.
HALL: I assume NASA still has a library of [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER: No, they founded that. They did have a library.
MINDELL: NASA is-- yeah, actually. I was down at NASA last week, and actually, they're very happy and very supportive of this project.
SPEAKER: Down in Houston?
MINDELL: No, not in Houston. In Washington at the [? first ?] place. All the good stuff's in Houston and all of the bureaucratic stuff's in Washington. It turns out we have to get NASA to let Draper have us, to tell Draper they let us have access to a lot of paper archives as well. Even though NASA doesn't think so. But that's another story.
POUNDSTONE: Does Draper still got all the drawings archived?
HALL: We're trying to find the drawings at home. I don't know. It seems like they should be there someplace. Nobody there knows, even they run the Apollo program. So they don't know where the drawings are.
BATES: Well, it's the same problem in Raytheon. I tried to go in and find archives in Raytheon and they're worried about tomorrow, not yesterday.
POUNDSTONE: But I do know the aperture cards were saved.
HALL: Well, they were, but where are those aperture cards?
POUNDSTONE: They were shipped to NASA.
HALL: You think so?
POUNDSTONE: Yes. It was a contract requirement.
HALL: Well, I would think so. Then NASA must have them someplace. But I had a copy that I sent to the American Computer Museum up in Bozeman, Montana. And I can get those back, if necessary. It's better to send those aperture cards.
POUNDSTONE: For some strange reason, back when I was working, I got picked to go to a conference in Washington that held by the Smithsonian, a similar organization. I forget what it was, but it had to do with archiving and maintaining the history of all kinds of various special projects. And they had representatives from Boeing and Grumman and Lockheed, and everybody in the country was there.
And I learned about some of the details of how they do it and all the problems of storing documents, and all that. But the one you spoke of is a common problem in the whole aerospace industry. Although there are historians and archives who would just love to get a hold of this stuff, the companies could care less.
There's a few companies that do it. Boeing had done some on theirs. But most companies, they're, you know. And when I went back to my company and tried to report that there was a lot of interest in the air, I got the same old, who cares?
MINDELL: Most history of technology ends up getting written about government and universities.
POUNDSTONE: Well, you can't make any money doing it is the problem, and we're money making people.
MINDELL: The companies are classically--
POUNDSTONE: Is that Cline?
SPEAKER: That's Cline.
POUNDSTONE: Jack Poundstone.
FRASIER: Hi, Jack. Long time, no see.
POUNDSTONE: Good to see you.
BATES: Dave Bates. How are you?
SPEAKER: He's not here yet.
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] is coming, I know.
SPEAKER: Oh, he is?
SPEAKER: Yeah, because I generally [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER: Bart said he was coming?
SPEAKER: OK, good.
BATES: I ran into the same thing as he just said. I mean, they're worried about tomorrow. They're not worrying about yesterday, OK. And I couldn't find any pictures, or anything else like that.
POUNDSTONE: Well, I know in our company, Raytheon, is now-- there is a retiree who's working up in Lexington who is actively trying to develop a-- I guess it's more of a museum.
BATES: A museum, yeah.
POUNDSTONE: Of hardware and pictures and things. He's been on the phone with me several times, wanting me to produce stuff like this, which I never got around to until I got ready to come to this meeting. But I don't know if he ever got a hold of you or not. I gave him your name.
BATES: He's only open on Thursdays.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah. Well, it's a retiree who's not being paid. All the company ever did is giving him a little space in the building they didn't know what else to do.
SPEAKER: Who is that?
POUNDSTONE: I forget his name. Smith?
BATES: Yeah, Smith, I think.
POUNDSTONE: Some guy from [INAUDIBLE].
BATES: [INAUDIBLE] in Lexington.
POUNDSTONE: But anyway, I think that's typical of what-- the only reason it's happening is because the retiree is interested. The company could care less.
MINDELL: More often, companies actively-- I mean, they worry a lot about liabilities. And they destroy as they can.
POUNDSTONE: Well then, of course, the government policy say you're supposed to do that anyway. You almost have to cheat to keep an old piece of hardware. Of course, that never bothered Draper. I notice you guys used to do it all the time.
FRASIER: Actually, the guys at Delco managed to find all the pieces, I think, for a complete system for one of the reunions they had about three years ago. So at their reunion in Milwaukee they had laid out on the table all the major pieces-- I think they had a computer, too.
POUNDSTONE: I remember one time, somebody went to one of these junkyards and found a PIPA. And they picked it up for $1 or two and gave it to the gentleman and me.
BATES: It was right over here in the back area. He used to buy it by the pound.
SPEAKER: Do you remember what the name of that was.
BLAIR-SMITH: If you talk about old-time packaging, do you remember Dimitri Grabee?
BLAIR-SMITH: Dimitri Grabee.
SPEAKER: Grabee, yeah.
BLAIR-SMITH: He was the one that holds the patent on the multi-layer board technology.
SPEAKER: Yeah, we made the [INAUDIBLE] out of their boards.
POUNDSTONE: Who did he work for?
POUNDSTONE: Who did he work for?
BLAIR-SMITH: Photocircuits, I think, at the time. Anyway, the only reason why I mention that is he has a fantastic museum, of all types of [? patented ?] stuff. Anything that he ever met with.
HALL: And one of these, he walked out of the lab with the logic tray at block one. Now, how he got out of the lab, I don't know.
POUNDSTONE: Like I said, Draper was never too particular about the rules.
HALL: I would have gladly walked out with it if I could have.
BROWN: So as I--
HALL: He did. OK.
BROWN: Oh, I'm sorry. So as I said, we're collecting documents. We're collecting photos. So I guess I'll put out a plea at this point. If you guys have documents or photos or anything in your basement or any memorabilia that you might have, we would love to see this. We'd like to scan it, put it on the web, make it available for posterity.
POUNDSTONE: Did you ever get a computer?
BROWN: No, we did not manage to get a computer yet.
POUNDSTONE: [INAUDIBLE] the Smithsonian has a bunch of them.
SPEAKER: We shipped five down out of the Smithsonian, as I remember. They've got one on display. They used to have it working. And we had a contract to service it.
SPEAKER: I think they actually have a computer on display, don't they?
BATES: That's right.
SPEAKER: If you went down and asked, you might get one.
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] a long time ago. They had a block two, you know, the gold anodized one. [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER: It's not there anymore, I don't think.
SPEAKER: Oh, really?
BATES: Did you ask him about looking into their warehouse? Because that's where they shipped them all.
SPEAKER: Well, they also sent one of them back up here. MIT Museum has one.
SPEAKER: Well, is complete now?
SPEAKER: Just the memory tray?
SPEAKER: Just memory tray.
HALL: Well, did you check that?
HALL: The [INAUDIBLE] Bell, out there in Moffett Field, that museum.
BROWN: No, [INAUDIBLE].
HALL: That's amazing. Where's that one then?
SPEAKER: Well, I had one once. I don't where it-- but [INAUDIBLE] probably [INAUDIBLE].
BATES: We had a display case. Jack wanted the display case with all the stuff that we had. We have brought people in. You could show him what we had. And he had all the stuff from the standpoint of the integrated circuits and the diodes and everything else, both raw and plastic that we got from the lines that we had there. But we also had an Apollo computer. And what happened with that Zagrodnik should know because he was the last program manager, I think.
POUNDSTONE: No, it was right in front of my office.
POUNDSTONE: Perhaps it's still there. I don't know.
BATES: No. I've been in there lately, yeah. It's not there. Let me run it down. Just give me the assigment, and I'll go ahead and do it.
SPEAKER: Let's just finish up with our [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: Excuse us, Alex. We talk a lot.
BROWN: So as I said, we're collecting documents. There are other features of the website, which include comment forums, in particular. So once we've had this conference, we would like to invite you guys to go to the website, log on, and just pass comment, if you have any comments to make, about the transcripts. And this is part of the exercise is to encourage this online interaction so we can get a little bit of debate and a little bit if [INAUDIBLE].
HALL: On that point, it's not clear to me, even, how do you make comments? Even though I've been supposedly on the inside.
BROWN: Yeah, this is kind of embarrassing. This is not an aspect of the project that we have a great deal of control over. I'm assured by the people who manage the larger website that they are putting time and effort into making this more user friendly.
HALL: Because I can put in quite a few comments.
POUNDSTONE: I assume at the moment, you could email him.
BROWN: You could certainly email me. As you can see, the transcripts are already up. And so if you would like to read those and email me comments, I would be more than happy to [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: Well, I notice there's quite a few question marks in places where you couldn't understand what they said. Somebody can fill those in.
MINDELL: The website requires that you log in. So if we have all your email addresses, you just log in with your email address, make up a password. And then when you log in, it allows you to comment in their discussion forums. And a lot of the idea is that of the projects that are on the site, the other scientists people are studying, we're fortunate that we have the only one that's really inherently localized to Cambridge, Massachusetts. And so we figured we'll start by getting everybody, as many people as we can, who are around here, in a room talking and then hopefully make a clean segue to either you guys or other people who are not able to come to Cambridge, who can then participate in the conversations as well.
So in a way, everything we do here today and what we've already been doing is intended as a starter for a national or global comment network. And this is part of the research part of this program. So we don't know how well it's going to work yet. And we have the fortunate, also, of having all engineers pretty much were involved in our project. So we figure if these guys can't make the thing work, then we've got to go back to the [INAUDIBLE].
BLONDIN: You're kind of on the tail end of the distribution group. It's dropping rather rapidly.
BLONDIN: If you don't do it quick, there'll be nothing left.
MINDELL: So Sandy will show you some of the documents. and hopefully by later today we'll have the web working. We can do a demo of the actual comment site. And as usual with programmers, it's a little more sophisticated than it needs to be. And we're spending a lot of time beating on them, trying to tell them. If the engineer with 40 years of experience can't make the thing work, then what are the chances that a material scientist is going make it work or a biologist?
HALL: Or even an expert on the Apollo computer.
MINDELL: Well, exactly.
BLONDIN: Is this a scientific endeavor or a historical endeavor? Are you people historians or scientists?
MINDELL: Well, that's a good-- I'm actually both a control engineer and an historian. And so some of the background for this project comes from I'm just publishing a book on the history of control engineering from 1915 to 1948, which is all sort of before classical control theory really kind of jelled and has a lot of the early Draper stuff during the Second World War, with the Mark 14 gun site and a lot of computing in a whole bunch of different ways. And basically it's turned out to be mostly antiaircraft fire control and early radar during the Second World War. And that's been a seven- or eight-year project that I've been working on. And coming to the close of that project a couple of years ago, we sort of decided what's next. And I'd always thought that the right way to end that book would have been with Apollo because it was a very logical, consistent set of progressions there. Cline's actually read the book.
FRASIER: I was going to say, I highly recommend the book when it comes out. I've thoroughly enjoyed it. They gave it to me to read because I worked on antiaircraft fire control systems that he's had in the book.
MINDELL: And if I had gone all the way through Apollo, it would have been 1,000 pages instead of 500 pages, and nobody at all would have read it. And so what we're doing here is sort of-- we're going to skip a little bit in the middle, unfortunately.
POUNDSTONE: Your book is all analog.
MINDELL: It's actually about-- it's about the role that control engineering played in the emergence of digital computing and about how people began to think about the relationship between analog and digital, in the context of design and control systems.
FRASIER: A lot of history about Doc and Webb, and the interaction is Sperry, too, that I found very interesting. I read Webb's book, the biography of Webb just before. And how it all fit together was quite--
MINDELL: And a big part of it is manufacturing. And one of my arguments in the book is you can't really understand this history until you look at the manufacturing issues that came up. Because during the Second World War, a big reason that people started moving toward electronic analog computing had less to do with anything like accuracy or speed. It had everything to do with the problems of manufacturing mechanical computers and at that time, the relative ease of having Western Electric build the computers instead of people like Chrysler.
So we've extended that basic approach into this project. And we're saying, the Apollo computer is generally under appreciated by historians of computing because all they tend to care about is architecture. And they sort of work out of this very abstracted framework. And we're looking at it saying, we think the Apollo computer's important for several different reasons.
Obviously the integrated circuits aspect of it is important, the general manufacturing aspects, the human-machine interface control systems, et cetera, et cetera. And so in some way, this is the climactic chapter of what's sort of a century-long development of feedback control computing human-machine interface and advanced manufacturing techniques for controlling vehicles of various types.
HALL: And have you seen the latest Scientific American and their article about the development, or the history of the development of PCs?
HALL: It's interesting, except they've completely ignored just what you said about the Apollo computer. I would think it was one of the first that really had human interaction with a visual computer, and they don't even mention it. But there's other interesting things in there. It goes way back to Whirlwind.
MINDELL: I will check that out. It is-- I mean, we're trying to change the categories so that people think about history [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: From a manufacturing point of view, to talk about the evolution of Apollo, you really have to start with Polaris.
SPEAKER: Exactly. Yeah, that's why I wish--
POUNDSTONE: It was the genesis of-- not only from a manufacturing technology, but from the people. Those guys all worked on Polaris.
MINDELL: And one thing we're very interested in is the people side of it, actually, because there, again, people are far too easy--
POUNDSTONE: Stay out of that.
MINDELL: Well, we went into politics too. People tend to be far too simple about looking at influences of technology. They say here's a computer. What was the influence? And they go, what other computers did people design with that computer?
As opposed to saying, here's a project. People built this project. What did those people learn from the project? And how did that carry on in the rest of their careers or in starting a company or later projects they did? This is something that actually-- when I was at NASA last week, they're very interested about this project because they're always being pinged on to document their influence. And they have this really kind of dumb idea of spin-off. Like, the astronauts drink Tang, and then everybody on the ground drinks Tang. And there are some of those, but they're not nearly as significant as the companies who got involved in Apollo.
They did things in a new way. People learned things. They move on. And that's a lot harder to document. But it's a lot more meaningful because you got to follow the people around. And sometimes it's within the same company. Sometimes they move on to other companies. And so they were very interested in that part of this project. And as we go around, we'll ask you to introduce yourselves and say something about both how you got to the Apollo project, but also where your career went afterward. And we may, then, interview individually in more detail about this because we're very interested in exactly those kinds of developments.
BATES: Well, they can't fire us or put us in jail now.
MINDELL: So the site is up on the web. How many of you have seen the site already? So a good number of you. And we'll send you the address. And it's about to be updated again. And what we'll do from today-- as you can see, we're recording it-- we're going to make a transcript. And we edit the transcript to make it a little more readable just because conversation tends to be very verbose. And we compress it a bit. And then we'll send it to you by email or however where you like so that before anything goes on the web that you've said, you have a chance to review it, correct to it, add to it, if you choose. And then we recompile it and put it on the web in this conversational format.
So sometimes people remember things that they didn't remember when they were here. And they go look something up. And so what you do see on the web-- everything that you see on the web from our previous conferences has been signed off on basically by the participants.
HALL: I didn't get a chance to do mine. And I need--
MINDELL: Oh, you haven't done yours? Okay.
HALL: I wasn't [INAUDIBLE]. I wasn't here--
MINDELL: Oh, right.
HALL: --when it was available. So I need to be able to do that.
MINDELL: Okay. We should talk to [INAUDIBLE] about that, who I thought I was going to be here today. So what I think we'd like to do to start, and it may take up a lot of the morning, is just have people go around and tell your own version of the story, or at least say who you are, what your background was, how you got here. We'll get into some of the more detailed stuff later-- where you worked, for how long. We have Raytheon people here and [? IL ?] people here. And so at least everybody here gets a sense of, if not a refresher for who else is there. And then when we complete that, we'll get into some specific questions.
But usually that process itself generates a lot of interesting conversation. And I'll be taking pictures just for conversation, the web-based part of the conversations so get a sense of what we're doing.
BATES: You got a time limit for each interview? Because we could stand here and sit forever.
MINDELL: Right. For the first go around, five minutes would be great. And then we can-- that'll certainly generate questions for us. And I think we'll start to hear patterns of [INAUDIBLE] things. And that'll enable us to get around the room and get a sense for who's here and [INAUDIBLE]. We can start here or wherever. Maybe Clyde, do you want to start?
FRASIER: Sure. I'm Cline Frasier. I got to the Apollo program by the Army and Sandia Corporation and then to NASA in Houston. Got involved with the guidance system work in about 1963. And my role into that was I was the instigator of the change of the spacecraft guidance and control system configuration from basically an analog system on both the command service module to using digital autopilot, and incurring Eldon's wrath because we moved from two guidance computers to one guidance computer in the process. And I talked for quite a while in the last interview.
So why don't I just let it go with that. Well, to add that, then from there I went on and ended up as the program manager for the guidance and control system, primary guidance and control system. As a result, I had a lot to do with MIT and with Raytheon and all the other people.
TURNER: I'm Bard Turner. And I kind of go way back to the Polaris days. I worked for Raytheon Chapel Street in Newton, who were, at that time, making tubes, welding. And this was back when the lab had started repackaging the Polaris guidance computer, which was all discrete, into what was called cord wood modules and welding rather than soldering them. And so that was sort of my entry.
I was sent by Raytheon as a resident and working for Ed Duggan doing design work on this thing because I had applied for it.
TURNER: Polaris, yeah. In fact, I have-- this really, as Jack said, goes back. This is really the start of the basic physical organization of the Apollo. In other words, the concepts that we learned on Polaris really was the one that tracked the key points up through Apollo.
So when that Polaris program was done, I did leave Raytheon and went to work for the lab directly, just at the start of the Apollo program. And was pretty close to the design of the logic section of the Apollo computer.
From the first version, I have two modules here, which was the Block one Which still retained a welded interconnect, but it had the micrologic integrated circuit NOR gates back in the cans, to the final version, which was interconnected with the multi-layer boards, which were hard to make, and made by one place, mainly, in Virginia.
And significant also, backline interconnected with an automatic wiring machine made by Gardner Denver in Michigan, and clearly was involved with the transition over the Raytheon, to the manufacturer.
So I have been around this program all the way back to before Apollo, which was Polaris. So that's where I am.
BATES: Yes, my name is Dave Bates. I go before Polaris. When I got drafted in the Army and sent to Huntsville, Alabama, they took it any guy that was a mechanical engineer that came from Sperry Gyroscope must know all about gyroscopes, which show was kind of difficult, because I was a structural engineer.
But anyway, I was assigned to the guidance and control laboratory under Dr. Heusermann, and I was in charge of the guidance and control laboratory from a military standpoint.
MINDELL: Could you just back up a little bit?
MINDELL: When were you at Sperry, and where, and what'd you work on?
BATES: I was at Sperry from about '53 to '55. Got drafted in the Army and sent to Huntsville, and I was lieutenant the Army in charge of the guidance and control laboratory, as I said.
We were working on the Redstone, Jupiter, Pershing. And as you probably well know, Von Braun was very much interested in space exploration, so we were building the explorer satellite in the back room.
So I worked on that and a program for Hardtack, which was an atomic firing of a Redstone missile. They would always revert back to the V-2 type of hardware, so it was kind of difficult to work as to what was going on.
So the old Redstone computers were analog, and they used ball and disk integrators, which held me from the standpoint of being on the mechanical side.
MINDELL: Ford Instrument Company make those?
MINDELL: Was it Ford who made it?
BATES: Ford Instrument Company made the first ones, yes. In Long Island City. So then what happened, was the Navy got interested in the Polaris program, and they decided that they were going to use the Jupiter A-- we had the Jupiter A, B, and C.
The Jupiter B was the first forerunner of Polaris, the Mariner ships, and they were first talking about taking a Jupiter missile and putting it aboard a ship. Aboard a submarine, which is kind of ridiculous, because they used liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen, and air-bearing gyros, which made it rather difficult.
My job through this whole thing was not only from the mechanical engineering standpoint, but when the head of the project office had a heart attack, I went over and took over the project office for Von Braun, and for the people there.
So I was assigned the job of working with the Navy to try to determine how the Jupiter B would be utilized in the next generation of Polaris. And I worked with all the people that came down from the Instrumentation Laboratory, like Davey Hoag and Ralph Ragan, and the rest of them. And the people in the Navy, like Sam Porter.
So what happened was that the Navy decided that, since the Army was having a problem with the Air Force on a Jupiter versus the Thor, that they would pull out. And so they pulled out of the Army in Huntsville, but we kept an awful lot of the people down there in Huntsville to work on the program.
One of them, Jim Matthews, who finally came with me to Raytheon, worked on the early guidance scheme from the standpoint of the trajectory, and what was going to be done. And actually, he was the guy that worked with Dahlgren and determined those equations.
When I got to my end of time at the Army, they wanted to stay there, but my home was in Boston. So I took a job at GE in Pittsfield, who had the Polaris program, and I was program manager for the Polaris guidance system. At that time we had the Mark 1 system, working with the Draper Laboratory, and that was an instrumentation laboratory during that time.
My main responsibility was the coordination of all the components from the standpoint of the first EA there was worked on with the Mark 1, and then all of the IMU, which we built at GE in Pittsfield.
The next thing was, when Polaris Mark 2 came, we kept on going. The situation became, it didn't look like Polaris was going to go much further than that. The guy that hired me for GE in Pittsfield knew I came from Huntsville. He came down and worked for Raytheon.
The problem that Raytheon had at that time, and also the Instrumentation Laboratory, was a working relationship between Nasa Huntsville and NASA Houston. I, having been a NASA Huntsville for a long time, and being in charge of the guidance and control laboratory, knew the people down in Huntsville.
So I was hired in my first stint in marketing and advanced program development to work at Raytheon, to look at how Raytheon could work with both Houston and with Huntsville. So it got to be more a working relationship and an interface to try and do that.
So I work well with customers, and with the people who are building the hardware and designing the hardware, which included the Instrumentation Laboratory and the people in Waltham, and the rest of it. I went through a number of jobs in that area, but finally ended up working for Jack Poundstone in the area of advanced program development. I retired about 10 years ago, and now I'm a consultant to a number of companies. That's about it. That's all. And I did it in less than five minutes.
MINDELL: Yeah, those comments. The Sperry gyroscope is of great interest to me, because a lot of the first book is about the Sperry gyroscope and Ford, and the relationship--
BATES: I'll bring in one of his first auto-pilots. I bought it as junk at $5 a pound.
MINDELL: I bought a Mark 14 gunsight. A brand new for $100 on eBay. It's in my office downstairs, actually.
BATES: That's how I learned about gyros, because you could blow into the end of this thing, and you could see the way that the gyro was precessing when you moved the thing.
POUNDSTONE: Has anyone looked on eBay to see if there's an Apollo computer there?
MINDELL: I have actually looked there. There's a lot of little junk. Some of the really big auction houses, like Christie's, have auctioned hardware, but it's all a glove here, and a mission card there.
BATES: As a side thing, they had come down to Huntsville at one time, to the museum that's down there, and go up into the third floor and look at all the hardware. And if you've never seen a lot of junk, there's a lot of junk up there.
And you'd go around and you'd point at each one, and what it was. The AB-5s, the old gyros, the all accelerometers, the old lateral and range computers. What we used-- LEV-3 was the old platform for the Germans on the V-2.
MINDELL: This is on display, or in their back room?
BATES: In their back room, but there are some on display, now that they've figured out what they are.
MINDELL: I've been there, but not for a long time.
BATES: There is a blockhouse that you can go to with the Cape, which you can get into, which has got an old LED-3 system in it, plus a whole bunch of hardware. And they use it for VIPs. I brought, who was it, Dennis in there, one time. So unless my memory goes bad, you can have me for historical stuff.
MINDELL: I'd love to.
POUNDSTONE: All right, my name is Jack Poundstone. I got on the Apollo program by another devious route. I was a graduate mining engineer from West Virginia University. And after spending about a year, year and a half as a sales engineer crawling around in the coal mines of Kentucky and West Virginia, I decided that wasn't the thing do.
I went in the Army, got drafted, or volunteered for the draft. And through a bunch of strange circumstances, I ended up in Huntsville at the missile guidance school down there.
I ended up being an instructor teaching guidance on the Corporal missile, and also on the Nike-- I guess it was Nike Ajax, I think. Corporal had an analog computers doing everything, so I sort of cut my teeth on analog computers, in those days.
When I got out of the Army I went to work for the Westinghouse in Baltimore, and I worked on the Bomarc project, which was a very early missile program for this country. And the Bomarc was one of the first digital computers being used. You may recall that IBM had a big computer in Kingston, New York, I guess it was, SAGE, and they were somehow processing all the radar data that came out of Eglund Air Force Base.
But my job was developing simulators, because the IBM computer was so far behind in schedule, there was no way you'd eve be able to test this missile without something to simulate those computers. So I got a touch of working in physical computers there.
And subsequently, after four years there, and getting a high school degree in electrical engineering, I went on to a small company in Huntsville for about six months. And when NASA was formed and Huntsville almost died, it seemed like it was time to leave. And I ended up working with Raytheon up in New England. And I got there probably about a month or two after they had gotten their first Polaris contract.
So I was probably the only guy in the Raytheon company, at that time, who'd ever heard of the word digital computer. It was a very analog kind of company. So I was sort of in the right place at the right time.
Since Raytheon got the contract to be an industrial support contractor to MIT instrumentation lab, I ended up working with Eldon Hall starting almost from the day I got there. And I was a project engineer Raytheon, providing support to the instrumentation lab and the development of Polaris. And ultimately, we produced the machine in our manufacturing plant, and, as several people have said, the evolution of Apollo really started from Polaris.
So when Apollo came along, after Doc Draper had done such a great job of getting Draper the responsibility for the guidance system on a sole source basis, without a competition, they decided they needed some industrial support contractors. There were several aspects of the program, the IMU, the computer, some of the analog electronics, quite a few things.
So we ended up bidding on it, and thanks to a gentleman across the table, Mr. Hall, Raytheon was able to win that contract, and I then became the Raytheon technical director for our efforts to support Draper and Apollo. And I spent four years on that program doing everything that had to be done to make sure that all of the resources at Raytheon were applied to the program as effectively as they could be. I spent four years that-- I don't even remember my kids. We worked so hard.
And after that, I became so close to Draper Lab, that I became-- well, they said I didn't have the right attitude, or something like that. Because NASA had decided to organize the program. After we'd been gone for four years, it was time to get organized. So they took Raytheon and Kollsman, who were contractors for the optics, and said they had to be subcontractors to AC Spark Plug. And that was done by decree.
So we did that. The contractual arrangements changed, but Eldon and I kept doing the same thing we'd been doing for years, which was to try to get the job done, and do it in an efficient manner. And after a few months, AC Spark Plug decided that I was much too close to Draper Labs, so they fired me, or they told me to get off the program.
Now that was probably the luckiest thing that ever happened to me, because I got off just as all the fun was over, and was able to get onto the Poseiden program and the rest of the Navy programs, when a lot of people here got stuck in a program that was sort of going downhill.
But anyway, at the time, I thought it was earth-shattering. But certainly, Apollo was a wonderful experience. I have never seen such a group of dedicated, hardworking people that work between the contractors and the instrumentation lab, at that time. I don't know if NASA ever appreciated how hard everybody worked, but they certainly did. And successes come from it.
I've got a lot of pictures here, we can show maybe at a later time, but maybe that's good enough for the biographical sketch. Mr. AC Spark Plug is now up.
SPEAKER: We'd even forgotten he worked for them.
BLONDIN: My name is Ed Blondin. I got involved with Apollo in the early '60s. I was superintendent of manufacturing at AC Spark Plug in Milwaukee, which was the defense electronics division of General Motors. It was odd, because we'd go down to Cape Canaveral, they'd say, where are you from? We'd say, AC Spark Plug, and they'd say, what are you contributing? Spark plugs. Big ones.
I was working on all the manufacturing tests for the Titan program, and the Apollo program at AC Electronics, where we built the IMU and we integrated the IMU with the new with the optics and the computer, was behind schedule. And behind schedule mostly because we were not producing welded, encapsulated modules fast enough.
So I got transferred over to that, and about a year after that we were back on schedule, and we had tested our first guidance system. We also made the ground control equipment. Tested that, and tested our first production system, and we were shut down because we didn't have computers.
So Hugh Brady was our program manager at AC Electronics, we had changed the name by then. Later on we changed it again, to Delco Electronics. I wasn't there at that time. Hugh would ask me to come here to be in residence at the manufacturing arm of Raytheon in Waltham. I was delighted to do that, because I had grown up in the area, I went to Boston College.
And I came out here and it was a real culture shock for me. I was used to the General Motors production ethic, which was things moved from manufacturing. And the worst curse that could happen anywhere was shut a line down.
And I got out here, and I found out that this was like getting something through Congress. We had NASA, and we had MIT, and we had Raytheon, and we had my bosses back in Milwaukee. But I got to know some people in a hurry, and I found that was the key. Eldon Hall was one of them, and he goes down in my book as one of the finest gentlemen I've met.
Cline Frasier was outstanding. If you had to buck something to Cline Frasier, he would make a decision. That was not something that was easily done. There were an awful lot of people who seemed to feel that it was their job to say what all the reasons were why you shouldn't do so something. Lots of them.
But finally, you had to dig out what your options were and you had to move. And Cline Frasier was excellent, and my boss, Hugh Brady, was good. And at the time I got involved with Apollo and Raytheon, Jack Poundstone had just got transferred off, and so I didn't get a chance to meet him much. At that time our program manager was a guy named Bill Kurtz, I don't know whatever happened to him.
BATES: He's down in Arizona. I saw him, he moved down there from Colorado.
BLONDIN: He'd come out of the Navy, was a Navy captain, and he worked for another guy named Gus Guidi. Gus was the second person on whom AC Electronics pulled the trigger.
POUNDSTONE: I was the first. Gus told me to leave, then they told him.
BLONDIN: Apparently we had a clause in our contract that said that we had approval of Raytheon program managers. And Gus was one of those guys that just loved stirring up trouble. He was a brilliant guy, and everything was in a constant state of argument. So it wasn't long before AC asked Raytheon to remove him, and he got out of there.
And they put another guy in as head program manager, Ron Greenslade, another real gentleman. From this point on, I'm dealing with Ron Greenslade, Hugh Brady, Cline Frasier, Eldon Hall. It didn't matter how many different hats they were wearing, things moved.
I also found out how critical it was that the hands-on manufacturing people were properly used. It wasn't long after I got here-- I got here '66, early '66-- when Raytheon went on strike. And they had that strike for years, and it was a total shock. And I remember driving into the plant with picket signs, but we had a sign in our window that said Apollo. And the lines would part, people said, oh, the Feds, and let us in.
They tried building the Apollo components at Waltham with supervisors, industrial engineers, foremen, people that allegedly had experience on it, especially on these memories, these ropes. Scrap, just everything they made was scrap. I also found out that welding these modules, which, on the surface, seemed easy-- you took the jig, put it between two electrodes, came down with a foot pedal, and the machine was programmed to apply the right amount of pressure and the right amount of current, and you got a weld. More scrap.
There was a technique, how you positioned it, and when your hand shook, and these female operators were good at, and those that stood around telling them what to do were terrible at it. I remember, we had to suddenly rebuild all these memories. There was apparently a vibration problem.
I didn't know what it was, but I knew that MIT was writing a new program, and we had to get them out within three weeks, I think it was. We had to get them to NASA in three weeks, or we were going to scrub a flight. And then, you'd think this is automated. We had x-y tables that positioned these cores exactly between a couple of cores where you passed a needle through. It was like a spinning wheel with a wire on it. You'd think you could just-- but you couldn't, you needed those girls-- little old ladies-- who wound those ropes.
Anyway, you get everybody out of the way. No cheerleaders, nothing, put a rope around the area, told them what we needed to do, and we shipped the ropes on time, and the schedule went forward. That's the first time I felt like I was back at General Motors with a production-- we're going to get this done, get out of the way.
BATES: Those little old ladies mostly came from the Waltham Watch company.
MINDELL: They did. I think Waltham had closed by then.
BATES: That's right.
MINDELL: When did they close, do you remember? We can find that out.
BATES: I don't know, but they were the only ones I ever saw with that much patience.
BRISS: And they came out of the tool division, mostly, the ones that worked with me.
BATES: Right, they came from Waltham to the tool division, and then from the tool division--
BLONDIN: Apollo soon became a--
HALL: There was a little bit of tender loving care in that, too--
BATES: There was.
HALL: --those little old ladies had. They were essential.
BLONDIN: Yeah, it was. Apollo then became a relatively small part of what was going on in Waltham. Waltham grew, ultimately, to over half a million square feet. We ended up with 3,700 people, and I ended up in a vice-president of Raytheon, and retired in 1989. Maybe it would've been better if I had retired in 1950. I wouldn't have had a bypass in 1990, [? February. ?]
BLAIR-SMITH: So my name is Hugh Blair-Smith. I am the most software-flavored person here, I believe. So my path to Apollo begins at Harvard, where, in my senior year, suddenly there was a computer course available to undergraduates, and that was because the Univac 1 had become just obsolete enough that Univac was happy to give one to Harvard. So suddenly, undergraduates could have programming courses.
So I fell under the influence of Al Hopkins, and Ray Alonso, and Jim Lincoln, and Scotty, and a whole lot of other people. But just to pick the ones up, that's, I think, all the migrants we had. Wasn't it, Eldon? Harvard to MIT?
HALL: That's all I can remember. Well, all the important ones, I'll say. You were in that group.
BLAIR-SMITH: Only I didn't come with the group, nor did they recruit me. My path to MIT was that, as I was doing one full-time software job at Harvard after graduation, I got involved moonlighting, and the fellow I was moonlighting with was named Dan Goldenberg. And he ran the computing group at the instrumentation lab.
So he recruited me, because he needed somebody who would be able to do an assembler program, or what we now call a cross-assembler program, for an unknown number of machines with unknown characteristics. Sounds simple enough, so why not? But I was, without realizing, prepared quite well for that, because what I did in my spare time when I was at college and my postgraduate year, I would go around to all the showrooms that the various computer companies had, and I would beg programming manuals, and they'd all give me one.
So I believed, at one time, back maybe up to 1958 sometime, that I had some knowledge of how to program every computer that was abroad in the world.
MINDELL: Last year that was possible, probably.
BLAIR-SMITH: Probably it was, yes. So I came into the computing group, and I was told, when I arrived in September, that it was necessary for this cross-assembler to be ready by Christmas, because the Christmas computer would be already up and running at that time.
So I said, well, all right, if it's a Christmas computer, we need a short, snappy name for the system. I'll call it the Yul system. Y-U-L, nothing to do with the Montreal airport code. But that was what it was about, it was the assembler for the Christmas computer.
Well, needless to say, Christmas was about three months late, as I recall. We actually got all this stuff going in March, but by that time, the Yul system, running on the 650, cranking out cards, was indeed able to assemble programs for what was not yet an Apollo machine. This was still 1960, this was what we called the Mod 1. And the Mod 1 had a two-bit op-code field, which meant it had first three, and then later four, instructions.
So I got involved, among other things, with writing software for that. I remember a very happy afternoon writing a sub-routine with a great loop in it to perform addition. You didn't just write down add instruction on that machine. So that was good fun.
Anyhow, once I saw the way the instructions were mechanized, which, of course, were very reminiscent of the Harvard Mark 4, because of the people who were mechanizing them, I got involved in the instruction set design. And so there was going to be a machine called Mod 2, but it kind of collapsed along the way. So there was going to be a machine called Mod 3, and it has three bits in the instruction code field, all of eight instructions. What a great field to work in.
And so I got involved with Al Hopkins and with Ray Alonso in designing the instruction set for that, and we actually published that, first in IEEE, and then in Gordon Bell's book on computer structures, I'm sure that's well known to you. And we put in there a case study of how to design an instruction set under these very tight constraints.
Anyhow, Al Hopkins looked at that and said, boy, that's complicated, it's got multiply instructions and all that stuff, we'll call that Mod 3C. And he had a rival design called Mod 3S, for simple. And anyhow, those were just, I don't know what you call them, pilot models of one sort or another.
But the Mod 3C was, in fact, chosen as the original Apollo guidance computer. All 4,096 words of it. Each word 15 bits, plus parity, all the stuff you now know.
HALL: Pardon me a minute. Wasn't that called Mod 1B?
BLAIR-SMITH: There was a 1B, but that was those 2-bit op-code. There was Mod 1A and Mod 1B.
HALL: Well, there's a report that's about Mod 1B, and that sounds like it's what you're describing as Mod 3.
BLAIR-SMITH: Well, there may have been a publication on 1B that I don't remember, but the one I have the author credit for was about 3C. Anyway, so I guess the closest I got to hardware is that I was encouraged to keep the logic simple, to learn how to draw three input NOR gate diagrams. So I drew the diagrams, whether anything good ever came of that, I'm not at all certain, but it was fun. And so I got kind of a feel for the way these things were put together.
Anyway, so, of course, the Yul system had to, as it was originally designed to do, flex so as to accommodate somewhat different designs of machines, and it did that all right. At some level, I think it wasn't until we got into what was originally called AGC-4 that is, as if it was Mod 4, that we began to talk about an interpretive language. So the assembler had to handle both the interpretive code and the regular code, and to make sure there weren't any improper transitions between one and the other.
But anyhow, the NGC-4 had 11 instructions in its 3-bit instruction code, and that's because I lifted a great stunt from the Bendix G-20, I believe it was called. And anybody who can remember Bendix, even as a company, never mind a computer maker, is doing well. But the key instruction there that made a lot of additional instructions possible was called index, which would pick up a full-sized data word, ad it to the next instruction line, and simply execute the result as an instruction.
And because it was possible for this addition to overflow, we got more op-codes. So that that's how we kind of cheated, on that. But ultimately, the instruction sets of these machines were decided basically around a table of four of us. Al Hopkins kind of being the system man, Ray Alonso being the, as I recall, the input-output specialist, Herb Thaler of Raytheon-- and you remember him, I'm sure-- for circuitry, and I was there representing software.
So the outlines, and to some extent, the details of the instruction sets, got cut decided in that way. And I do remember in AGC-4 just barely managing to sneak in a divide instruction. Everybody said, oh no, that's too hard, how can you do that? I said, well, here's how. And so we snuck it in there.
And then, of course, later on with Block 2, we had to go through a lot more instructions. So we managed to buy a number of stunts, that maybe I don't have time to go into here, to make the total number 34, plus about 50 or 60 op-codes in the interpretive set, which was a curious Polish prefix notation. We owed a lot to Lukasiewicz for that.
So that was most of the developmental things that I got involved in. I did get into a little bit of system programming. I wrote something called routine 29, which was supposed to wave the rendezvous radar dish around so that it could find the command module-- that is, the dish on the LEM. And I got it so it worked fast enough, although only with perhaps 99% reliability, and I have a feeling somebody trashed it as being a little weird. But in the time budget allotted to this thing, there was no way to do any more than that.
So finally, in the Apollo 13 business, I was among those who valiantly tried to come up with software fixes. The particular problem was, okay, the mated spacecraft are approaching the Earth, they're got to be separated. Can we can we throw a little program up into the erasable memory to fire the maneuvering jets, the RCS jets of the LEM, to make it blast away? So I hastily threw something together.
But then it occurred to somebody that we've got air pressure in the tunnel between the two spacecraft, and that will do very nicely to blast them apart, and that's the way it was done. So that didn't come to anything.
After that, I worked on various other projects. There was a machine we called the cubic inch computer, and Dave, you'll remember that, I'm sure, which, of course, was really an imperial inch. I believe it was an inch and a quarter on each side by the time it was done. But that was fun. It had a square root instruction, as well as the divide instruction, among other virtues. But it came to nothing, in the end.
Then I got involved in the space shuttle business, and then just a little bit of the control system mathematics for the space station. Which, considering how many years that was before there was a space station, was kind of curious to remember. And then, at the end of 1981, I decided that the government in general, and NASA in particular, had lost their interest in advancing the art of computing.
So I bugged out and I went and got involved in some crazy start-ups in the PC field. And I've been involved in that ever since, although I'm now in a good company, rather than a start-up.
HALL: I think, going back to your Mod 3, in my terminology, that's AGC-3, I think.
BLAIR-SMITH: Yes, we did call it that, right. As soon as it became an AGC we changed its name.
HALL: That 1B was a very early version, so that was my misunderstanding.
BLAIR-SMITH: 1B, as I recall, controlled a little stepper motor, to make a little wheel adopt various angular states.
BRISS: Very impressive group, here. I'm the manufacturing grunt. In the history of flight, I spent time my time in the Navy, during World War 2, in the Air Force as an air crewman and as a mechanic. Coming out of there, I decided to go to school off and on, like many of who knew what we wanted to do. But bottom line, I got a job with a company called American Machine and Foundry. And we got involved in-- I did most of it, the design work, a lot of the building work, on the flight simulator that turned out to be the flight simulator for the B52.
MINDELL: What was the company?
BRISS: American Machine and Foundry. I think it's now a Boeing company.
HALL: Were you here in Boston?
BRISS: Yeah, right on Comm Ave. Right above the Clark and White building.
HALL: I worked for them until 1952. I think worked on their radar simulator.
BRISS: Okay, I wasn't on that. I was on the flight simulator.
HALL: From '48 to '52.
BRISS: I was there probably around '50 to '54, and bummed around a little bit, again, looking for things to do. Continued schooling a little bit. And from America Machine and Foundry the next job, real job, was Raytheon. A couple of people left American Machine and Foundry, and suggested I interview in Sudbury. I had a little experience in magnesium machining and welding, and also in new metal and new beryllium, and stuff like that, which I never saw at Raytheon, by the way, either one of them.
And I got hired by using some buzz words that evidently impressed by the interviewer, as most of you know, certain things happen during an interview. And one of them was potting those two metals. Potting, it turns out, they meant encapsulation.
Well, the encapsulation they did on this program was electric frying pan and a little mold. And put the stuff in the frying pan, heated it up, and sealed it. Bottom line, after a few months of building breadboards there, that was in 1963, I believe. Multi-layer boards were not in the cards at that time for us.
We built prototypes, still using diodes and resistors, phased into what we called a TL 47 can that came out of Draper. Worked a little bit with Fairchild, going back and forth across the country. Got involved in the famous purple plague. I still don't know what the hell it is.
BATES: Purple plague, I forgot about that.
BRISS: My major assignment was the Tray A, which looked pretty simple, but now I understand why I used to curse these developers. Listening to you guys, how you got involved in this thing. How do you think this stuff up?
My job, as a manufacturing engineer, was to try to put it together and make it work. And by the way, I was one of those engineers who were helping these old ladies, and my acceptance rate was 23%. Maybe that's why I left-- [INTERPOSING VOICES]
BATES: We had big trash cans.
BRISS: Those [INAUDIBLE] were tough to weld. But getting back to before get there, putting the Tray A together with the diodes-- and these were miniatures, by the way. Putting them together was a lot of fun. Again, you use a frying pan, and eventually an oven, and we didn't know what temperatures to use. It would screw up the resistors, it would screw up the diodes, or the capacitors, whatever. Anything that could get screwed up, we screwed up.
But sooner or later we got the hang of it, and we understood how serious this thing was, and how complicated it was. And what it was going to do was just amazing, absolutely amazing. And I think that's what motivated a lot of people working a lot of hours. And I know the ladies worked hard, but even before the ladies. Grunt engineers, junior engineers, we spent a lot of hours in there. To make a long story short, we got the TL 47 cans and the purple plague straightened out, and we started to build--
MINDELL: What was the purple plague? Purple plague was something that happened--
HALL: Gold aluminum.
BRISS: What was it?
HALL: Gold aluminum.
BRISS: Yeah. But what really happened? I'm a mechanical guy, I don't know anything about it.
HALL: It pans into a different alloy, which gets very brittle, and then cracked.
BRISS: That was one of our major problems.
BATES: So we called the other one purple plague?
HALL: [INAUDIBLE], this [INAUDIBLE] effect, or something. Anyway, it got very brittle and would crack--
BRISS: Right, it didn't last long when you put it on the shake table, even when it was encapsulated. At any rate, we got rid of the diodes, and we started to use these TL 47 cans-- I think that was what they call them. What was that?
HALL: That's TL 47.
BRISS: And things went pretty well, until we engineers and the supervisors started to weld them, and we learned a lot that way. We tried soldering them, gold to gold. Silver soldering, in a very miniature way, with shaky hands. Sooner or later, we got this Tray A portion of it, which was just my job, my particular project was all of these cans. And the other guys had Tray Bs, but were still using the diodes other type of electronic components.
Let's see. We reduced the size, I think, at that time. '63, '64. I'm not going to say 50%, but a lot smaller than what it was. I believe that the modules in the diodes were about a foot long, maybe 10 and 1/2 inches to a foot, and about an inch and 1/4 wide. You got one?
BATES: Just so happens.
BRISS: Just so happens. You got it. There she is right there.
TURNER: Both versions.
BRISS: They're beautiful. They are beautiful. I haven't seen one since--
POUNDSTONE: We left the cans and went to flat packs, eventually.
BRISS: Okay, these components are-- there they are, they're right there. What's this, one generation and then the other?
TURNER: Yeah, the bottom one is a Block 1.
BRISS: That's the one I'm [? working ?] [? on. ?]
HALL: The bottom on has a TL 47.
BRISS: It looks like one of my welds in there, too.
SPEAKER: That's why he's got the module.
BATES: Is that what we call a mule?
HALL: No, that's a mule.
BATES: Oh, those are mules. Okay.
BRISS: At any rate, somehow we got it out of Sudbury, which means that we were on the road to accepting the guidance computer as it was. And at the same time, I worked on the LEM-- that was a Grumman associate project. But we took the Apollo project over to the G Building in Waltham, and my job was to help set up manufacturing lines and processors here. And I've got pictures of a bunch of ladies in there on the assembly floor, that most of those people made me look good. Made me look real good. And they were all hardworking people, too.
I did enough the damage on that program that they were going to assign me to the Poseidon, as you know, with Raytheon. The particular group I was in, we were hired with different government numbers, contracts, I guess, programs. And my part of that program was running out, and I was going to be assigned to Poseidon.
But around that time, in 1966, the Vietnam War was on, and I became a peacenik, and I got out and I get out of the industrial military complex and went to work for Polaroid. And I retired from Polaroid about 10 years ago. And that's it. Compared to this group, [INAUDIBLE], it's an experience.
HALL: I've got par of mine written up here, because I want to hold to the script. I started from Harvard, too, but when I was in the Harvard physics department, the word digital computer never came up. I didn't know what a decimal and binary system was, I didn't know what hexadecimal-- none of that stuff was ever mentioned at Harvard, in the physics department.
So when I got to Draper Lab in 1952, I was working for Hal Laning, and he was over his head programming types of things with Whirlwind computers. So I began to be interested in a fairly early. And by the middle '50s, when the lab got involved with Polaris, I had run some experiments about how to make certain types of logic models. So I got grabbed from the pile of people, and sort of headed up the Polaris computer development.
And since that went very successful, I sort of inherited the Apollo responsibility, when that came. When NASA awarded the instrumentation lab contract for the Apollo guidance system, they planned to follow in the footsteps of the Polaris program, which they did. And they planned to set up a group of support contractors to manufacture the system, and we would have the design responsibility.
And as I mentioned, I inherited the responsibility from managing and the guidance computer, since I had spent several years on the Polaris program, and essentially knew the type of job that we had on Apollo.
So to follow this plan we put together, after we received the whole project, we put together a documentation to support a bidders conference in early 1962. Alonso and Hanley here, and I were the nucleus of the evaluation team for the technical proposal.
Fortunately, for me at least, with Jack Poundstone's understanding and experience with MIT on the Polaris program, Raytheon put together a winning proposal. We had developed, by that point, a very good working relationship with them. And with Jack's influence, I maintained that throughout the Apollo program, even though he evaporated. I think his heritage stayed with us, fortunately.
BLONDIN: He makes a pretty big ghost.
HALL: Yeah, right so you felt his influence, too. Well it's hard to miss him, floating around [INAUDIBLE].
BATES: He has a certain presence.
HALL: Also, somewhat related to the overall development plan, there were turf battles, two of them, actually, that had surfaced within the lab. One dealt with the responsibility for test equipment, and the second with the responsibility for the guidance system displays and controls. In both cases logic prevailed, and the computer portion of those were split off, and became the responsibility of the computer design team.
I turned on the computer test equipment design over to Raytheon, knowing that they would follow the earlier work and requirements of the computer design team. Then the computer part of the systems' displays and controls would be more complicated. Astronauts and human factors types within the lab and the spacecraft contractors would provide requirements, such as, color of the lights, the size of the light, the shape of the numerics, and the placement of the action of the keys, and all that kind of foolishness that human factors has to work out.
Again, Raytheon took a very responsible role in the mechanical design in what eventually became known as the DSKY. This arrangement set the baseline of the design and production responsibility, and I was fairly comfortable with the arrangement. And a lot of this was occurring in 1962, which was a very busy year. In addition to the bidders conference, I got my friend synthesizing here, Dave, going on integrated circuits, because I felt the core transistor type of logic that Ray Alonso and Al Hopkins were pursuing, the things that [INAUDIBLE] have mentioned, was not the way to go.
So I challenged Dave to try to get the ICs. This was early 62, and I placed a bet with him, yeah. And then, in addition, in 1962, many other things were involved. Duggan had to work out the size and shape of things going in the spacecraft, there wasn't much room with all this garbage. So all of that kept things pretty busy in '62.
And then, near the end, I had the responsibility of facing Charles Frick, and I'm trying to convince him to change this contract to use integrated circuits, because NASA had just finished negotiating the contract with Raytheon, and, in fact, getting the full go-ahead to go into integrated circuits. And he was all upset, too.
So I had to face Charles Frick, and apparently was able to convince him that this was the way to go, with integrated circuits. And we got the approval in December of '62, to go with integrated circuits.
And even though I was comfortable, various people within NASA had some concerns. And they brought Bellcomm on board to search out potential problems. Bellcomm raised several issues, but most important were the questionable reliability of ICs and the capability of the MIT design team to complete the design on schedule.
This led to computer design studies for a backup development. The backup design faded away when it became apparent to the MIT design was progressing, so I won't go into the details of that backup. But it got kind of messy at times, from my point of view.
Then another NASA concern was a contractual arrangement with Raytheon as a subcontractor to MIT, and Jack mentioned this. The introduction of the ICs into the computer design and adding the test equipment to the Raytheon contract, and a multiplicity of other design changes, was resulting in contractual problems. And as Jack mentioned, he was a little too soft in the way he handled this, from the production en of the contract.
So NASA was pressuring MIT's capability to control Raytheon's contract, so they changed their arrangement and put anything on as a sub to AC Spark Plug, who would be the prime reporting to NASA. This change in contractual responsibilities worked okay, even though Draper Lab was extremely nervous for a long time about that change. We felt we should have a more responsible role in production.
Then in 1963, there was major progress in various areas. One was getting the AGC-4 up and running, that was the first real Apollo computer using integrated circuits. Dave had built one previously, and that was sort of transferred into the AGC-4. Also, Raytheon built their first version, which was called a AGB-4B, which was essentially a copy with integrated circuits. And THEN by the end of '63, they were cranking out modules for AGC-5, which was the things that you talked about with the TL-47 cans, and so forth, and would be the first flight computer, which was up and running in '64.
Then that was followed with a set of what was called implementation meetings, which Cline was very familiar with, which put the autopilot in the computer, and lots of other responsibilities from the computer, which sort of forced us to go into the Block 2 design.
POUNDSTONE: Thank goodness.
HALL: And serious expansion and logic required, which went to the flat packs, and multi-layer boards, and so forth. And I don't want to say much about my future after Apollo, because it sort of went downhill, and I wasn't too happy with it.
BATES: You put water on the moon?
HALL: I put water on the moon.
BATES: No, remember? We were looking for water on the moon.
HALL: You were, but I wasn't doing that.
BATES: You were part of the evaluation team.
POUNDSTONE: If you would have gotten fired like me, you'd have been a lot better off.
HALL: I would have been much better off, that's right. But I had fun, I wouldn't want all those manager responsibilities.
HANLEY: We were still working together, though.
HALL: Yes, we were still working together, but you were giving me trouble, too. That's my history. I retired in 1988.
HANLEY: Okay, next. My name is David Hanley. I guess you want a little bit of some of the old history of what we were doing. I got a degree in physics in '52, and went to work at Sylvania on semiconductors.
MINDELL: Where's your degree from?
HANLEY: What's that?
MINDELL: Where from, the degree in physics?
HANLEY: RPI. And since everybody at that time was into germanium, I had to melt my own silicon, and I had barricade devices. I had a package of it go off, lots of things like that.
In '54, I joined the instrumentation lab, and I was there for 33 years, but, actually, I went back. So it could be 34, because I went back part-time.
I joined the Air Force department, and we made a lot of analog computers [INAUDIBLE] and work with big transmission tubes, subminiature tubes, transistors. I got interested in digital computers and did a survey for the Air Force on all military digital computers. It was either late '50s or '60s, somewhere in that vicinity.
Then on the next system, we got the Veran computer, which was the GP and DDA, and we had [INAUDIBLE] in the computer. So at the time I was still in the Air Force department, Eldon would invite me to hear presentations by Hal Laning on the Mars reconnaissance and Apollo computer.
I did a lot of work on components. I played a lot, working on the benches and with integrated circuits, and all types of things, and with other components.
Eldon wanted me to tell a couple of stories of how the AGC went to ICs and how it got the multi-layered board. At the time, Albert Hopkins and Ramon Alonso were designing the AGC with core magnetic logic. I guess Eldon explained a little bit of that, and he told me a little bit about the old history today. So Eldon wanted me to keep current with the design and to see if it could be implemented with integrated circuits.
And after a while, I found it so difficult that I bet Eldon that I could build an AGC faster with integrated circuits directly. So he took my bet, and he provided me with the ICs and one technician. I got the instruction set from Hugh Blair-Smith, and, of course, that's all I needed, because from there, I could put the rest of the machine together.
And as the months went by the computer got bigger and bigger, and my need a little bit more help. We did have a deadline. And that's when Eldon got me Herb Thaler, and work on my machine. What?
HALL: Herb Thaler came from Raytheon.
HANLEY: Yeah, came from Raytheon as a resident. And that's how, eventually, when we have the logic working, Eldon announced that the AGC would be built with integrated circuits, and Herb Thaler would be transferred to Albert Hopkins, and they would build the AGC.
I didn't know that Eldon went to NASA, and all that stuff, I just found out a lot of that recently. So I would leave most of that explanation to Eldon. But I'll say that Eldon did pay off his bet, so that's one thing. This is my version of how the AGC got multi-layered boards.
BATES: We all have our own.
HANLEY: We all have [INAUDIBLE] of how things happened. I was playing with multi-layer boards on the side in the process, but first I want to say how the IC logic was interconnected. We've got a little bit of the information here. The interconnection for the logic on the Block 1, which is TL-47, and the interconnection for the logic in the Block 2, which was the fact pack, ICs had been done by Raytheon, and up to that time was a nickel matrix, similar to that was used on Polaris.
While we were building the AGC, Eldon and got a contract to build a computer for the Air Force. I can remember that was on a Friday, just before he was going on a two-week vacation. That was a standard thing.
He came in and told me that besides working on an AGC, I had to build this other computer, but he wanted to have it-- well, first he told me that I had a month to spend all the money, for the components. I didn't know that he'd been talking to Jim Lincoln, and Jim Lincoln turned the job down, I hadn't heard about that until later.
And he said, the logic had to be identical to the AGC, and it also had to be mechanically set for the AGC. It had to have flat packs and it had to have multi-layer boards. Well, that's a pretty tall order for that time, since the AGC didn't even-- they weren't talking integrated circuits, they weren't talking multi-layer boards.
About a year later, Hopkins and Taylor had finished the brass board, which Raytheon had built the modules with nickel matrix, and it checked out fine. Shortly thereafter, they received the first prototype of the AGC from Raytheon. Albert and Herb found that the prototype had too much noise and would not work. Eldon, again, was on vacation. So they called Eldon back from vacation, and NASA, Raytheon, and the Apollo program office were pretty upset at that time.
When we are alone, Eldon asked me where the components for the Air Force computer were stored, and he took the set of multi-layer boards, gave them to Raytheon-- I guess it must have been you, Jack-- and within a week, Raytheon had a new prototype all built up, that did work.
And I was surprised. The Air Force didn't say anything. NASA didn't say anything. Raytheon didn't say anything. Nobody did, they just took the multi-layer boards, and that was it. I had to write an [? SED ?] and a few things.
POUNDSTONE: This is the first time I ever heard that it belonged to the Air Force.
HANLEY: What's that?
POUNDSTONE: I said, this the first time I ever heard it belonged to the Air Force.
HANLEY: I have to add one more thing. A little bit later you guys made another set of modules, you gave them to Eldon, Eldon gave them to me, and I put them in the Air Force computer.
POUNDSTONE: I see.
HANLEY: Everybody was happy.
POUNDSTONE: How did we get paid for that?
POUNDSTONE: Ask Cline. No, I don't think we ought to do that.
HANLEY: I have to add that there's--
HANLEY: There's a lot of these stories that are hidden away, that maybe things were pushed a little bit to get it to work.
BRISS: It looks like all the informal organizations always gets things done.
BATES: It's the people, not the organization.
FRASIER: Dave, I have a slightly different slant on the story, it doesn't conflict with your facts, but it adds a little bit of around it, I'll get to. Unless you want me you to--
MINDELL: Well, we have one more person to go, and then we can get right into that.
FRASIER: OK. You want me to get right into it, or wait?
DUGGAN: By now, it's all been said.
HANLEY: I'm curious, really.
MINDELL: Let Ed go, and then--
HANLEY: Oh, Ed? All right, got it.
DUGGAN: I've worked on the program.
HANLEY: What's that?
DUGGAN: I've worked on a program back there, and some of this--
HANLEY: Oh, I know that.
DUGGAN: We saw a lot of each other, at times. My name is Ed Duggan, and I apologize, first of all, for being late, but I tried to cram too many things into this morning's car trip around town, and it didn't work out too well.
Let's see, I came to the laboratory, and from what I gather, this was the format that you had. Well, I graduated from Yale in engineering, and then came the Sloan School. The choice was to stay at Yale and be an architect for a year, which is about the budget I had, or come to the Sloan and get a master's, or kill myself trying. And the latter happened, and I didn't finish my degree, but I had left for what was then Thompson Products, in Cleveland.
And they became TRW, down the road.
BATES: Thompson Ramo Woolridge.
DUGGAN: Yeah, Thompson Ramo Woolridge. They got funded, and then pretty soon the tail started to wag the dog. I wasn't there for that transition, but Dan Tost was.
BATES: They had to work with them on the Air Force side of the house, for Jupiter versus Thor.
DUGGAN: And this was my factory training. They insisted, at that time, that any new engineering hired onto the factory floor, for what turned out to be the requirement was, until we started complaining so hard, they were risking losing us.
I worked second shift for a year. Now Cleveland is the worst place in the world to be as a young bachelor. If you keep him occupied from 3:00 in the afternoon until midnight, the only thing that save you is the bars stay open until 3:00.
So it was kind of a grim first year, but by complaining, I ended up getting assigned to a project group, which basically, in that time-- this is circa 1952, '53, in that time frame-- had the task under a fellow name John Cofill, who some of us have known to come by.
But anyway, this his task was to move hardware from the research and development group, whose motto was, "we never had that problem", and into production, which gets nothing but problems. And he was looking for a young, energetic kid that didn't know any better, who thought this could be done.
And I got involved in it. And it was a marvelous place. It was rocket pumps for the first motors that were used on some of these birds. And, in fact, I saw the [INAUDIBLE] get blown up on that. The wiring worked wrong on that [INAUDIBLE].
But anyway, after a while, this was a facility that was owned by the Navy during the war, and quite a few of the inspectors carried over. And there was a Navy culture there, and the inspection was tough. The misery, if you were involved with the factory, was very high.
And I decided life had to be better somewhere, maybe if I finish that thesis, because the fifth year was coming up, and that was it.
So I quit, and this was the third time I quit. We used to get raises that way. And went to Vermont on one-- I got involved with the magnetic drums up there for three months, and then the crickets started to make me nervous and I moved back to Cleveland with another raise. They moved me back and forth a couple of times.
But anyway, I came back to MIT with the dedicated purpose of finishing that thesis, and I needed a part-time job for the summer. And John Newton, who ran the mechanical design part of the Draper Laboratory that was involved in the Navy program, hired me to assist in his production control activity and whatever. Run errands, and that type of thing.
And when I walked into the place, I got there at 7:30 in the morning, and Newton showed up, I think it was around 9:30. And I watched all the secretaries arrive, and this was in April, May, they all had shorts on. And I was tie and dark suit, and the whole thing. And I couldn't believe it.
And I finally got involved in this, and to make a long story short, when I finally read or realize that I'd died and gone to Heaven, that was when I sent a requisition down to purchasing, and the guy came back with six numbers, and he said, quit bothering me, and use these as you need them. If I'd done that at TRW, my career would have been a lot shorter than five years.
But anyway, the was six months got parlayed into 34 years. And I think, for probably all of us-- I can't speak for all of us, but my guess would be that the Apollo program was the M water mark of our careers. And it came at a period of time when there was a national purpose, it came well-funded.
And, from my perspective and the things that I do, namely the packaging area, came at a time where we had experience in depth with another well-inspired and well-run program, the Navy missiles, which preceded it.
And as far as packaging goes, most of what we brought to-- with the exception of ICs and things were developed along the way, and I'm not minimizing those, they were very important-- the welded technology was the one we came to the Apollo with.
The development of that was done through the laboratory, based on, as I recall it, early work. There were modules in the Mark 1 guidance system for the Polaris, which were basically col soldered joints. While that problem was being worked on with Schenectady, in terms of quality control, the secondary effort, through Sam Francis, of Francis Associates, was doing thermal work across the street for the Air Force, came up with a-- I don't know what it was unsolicited, or not-- but it was a small proposal to look at the ability of using the technique in the vacuum tube industry for making vacuum tubes, that is, welding.
And he basically came in with a way of arranging the parts involved in a NOR gate, so that you could roll them together. And the program somehow fell under Steve Cudlitz, who was looking for somebody with vast welding experience.
And, of course, when he found out that I knew a lot about welding from TRW, he never though of asking what kind of welding or anything else, sufficient to meet his requirements. So that there were 100 kVA [INAUDIBLE] welders doing turbine blades.
He just transferred that into two 15/1000 wires, went out and bought me welding machines, which blew those joints out faster than you could put them in. And when I got the arc to be about this long, I decided that maybe there was something wrong with these electrodes, we ought to look elsewhere.
So I got involved with Gunnar Johnson at Raytheon, and the old Chapel Street, and that was an odyssey in itself. But there was one thing in that phase of the program on the Polaris that I think is a significant difference in the structure of the way the management, the funding, and how it was controlled.
And this added to my idea that I certainly was in Heaven, and that is the Navy had us send money from our contract to whoever we bought from on a major development like that, and we could control it.
In other words, if they weren't doing what we wanted, then we would say, well, we'll get somebody else, and shut them off.
And it's amazing the attention you can develop with that kind of a clout, and I had never had that experience before. Whenever I went near a vendor before at TRW, I had two purchasing guys with me, and they wouldn't let me stay overnight by myself.
BATES: I remember the first contract says, build it like they tell you to.
DUGGAN: Yeah, it was open-ended, but it was great. So we were able to come make a prototype, which was a bench-- one of them was a DDA, I think.
HALL: Yeah, it was the Polaris computer, at the time, which was a DDA computer.
BATES: The Mark 1.
DUGGAN: Yeah, it was a Mark 1, and it counted down the trajectory and came up with an answer for a given set. And we had this out on the display bench that was worked up, I remember I got the wrong answer one time. But it was the same solution, moving backwards.
And fortunately, the guy was demonstrating [INAUDIBLE] to some Navy brass. But anyway, that's a whole other story.
BATES: However, Raytheon was not in on the Mark 1 program. They came in on Mark 2 on a competitive basis. Jack never believed that, but it was a competitive basis.
HALL: Competitive basis, but again, since we had this [INAUDIBLE] with you, and that--
BATES: With the welded design.
DUGGAN: Well, Chapel Street, I raised so much hell down there one day, we started getting people from Sudbury facility that were getting interesting in what was going on, and what was this making so much noise about? I could yell a lot louder in those days.
BATES: Actually, from GE's standpoint, we were happy to get Raytheon in doing the computer, because we had so much trouble with light military, tying to get them to do something.
BATES: I was at GE. I was the Polaris program manager at GE. It was called the ordnance department. It was under Hoyt, Jerry Hoyt.
And the thing was, that when they broke away from the Army in Huntsville, it went to GE in Pittsville, the ordnance department, and the ordnance department had the IMU, they did the IMU. The computer stuff was done by military.
MINDELL: Was this is the same part of GE that was doing with the Mark 56?
MINDELL: No, no, the fire control--
BATES: Yes. They were doing that in OP-1. Losing money on every one they delivered.
HALL: Cline hasn't finished his story. With his breadboard, birth there's one story. What about Captain Harold?
DUGGAN: Captain Harold?
HALL: You don't remember that one?
DUGGAN: No, you tell me.
HALL: Well, Captain Harold, who was the Navy's boss on this whole program, he was the big guy. And Ed had put this welded computer out here on a bench, like this. And they brought Captain Harold to look at this thing, because we were trying to sell it to the Navy, this approach Mark 2.
And when you brought him in and showed it to him, the thing blew up in his face. Got his attention.
DUGGAN: That's right, he was leaning over a module.
BATES: Captain Harold was the guy in the Navy who came down to Huntsville, and the first head of SP, Special Projects Office, and one of the guys that worked for him was a commander, Bill Kurtz, and he is the same guy that worked on Apollo.
So you can see, there was an awful lot of interlacing with people, and that's what made this thing go. It wasn't an organization, and it wasn't a contract, it was people working together.
MINDELL: I think Harold was the guy who brought the Bureau of Ordnance to Draper during the war.
BATES: That's right.
DUGGAN: I remember coming back from an early meeting at Raytheon where we were discussing the type of things we were building, and what we wanted to do them. It was close to that Chapel Street experience, and he says, well, we got their money noses to itch.
Because now we started seeing more and more people coming from down the road. Well, anyway, some of the things I brought with me, maybe shifting into electronics.
First of all, the mechanical problem, and secondly, the mule, which I think you've seen. [INAUDIBLE] We ended up with this little ULB, Universal Logic Block is what I called it, and basically we could build a fixture into this injection-molded piece.
And once we had a fairly defined length of this thing, we could make injection moldings for either end of it. Now it had to be two injection moldings, simply because the hold-down screw was not dead in the middle of anything, so we had to offset one way or the other.
And so the concept, which I've been dedicated to for most of my packaging, and design experience, for that matter, is if you can build the tubing into the part, then you've got a way of getting reproducibility that's fairly good. You've got other issues, obviously, but you certainly have-- the fixturing is there for you, and it's repeatable, and so forth.
And even with electronics, I know that you could experience a lot of value changes, but you could usually, as a mechanical engineer, raising enough hell so the sizes tried to stay the same, so that it gave a place to have a fairly stable place to execute the design.
Hal Laning got interested in this, and we made a module. And Hal had an interconnection program, which would do the interconnection from the to/from list, which is the signal list.
And that signal list had all of the connections required for that module, and he could put it in his computer and come out with a matrix. If he knew how many lines along the wires were, and how many vertical, he could make the pretty established points where they made an exit on this x-y matrix.
And then the matter was cutting out the blanks in between appropriately. And this was fully automated. One thing you didn't have in that program, is where those circuits were functional. So that when we fired it up, half a flip-flop would be in one module, and the other one would be down the street.
And then you've got-- the width of that pulse was enormous, four micro-seconds, wasn't it?
HALL: I think it was one micro-second.
SPEAKER: What year was that?
DUGGAN: What this? This type of thing? That's back in '61. Because I came in '58, and I got involved in this in the early '60s. First one I made, all the wires came out this way, and I had a problem, and it was designed around Mark 1 guidance.
And Cutliss was in charge, and I figured this was my last day at the instrumentation lab. And we got hypodermic needles, I was the biggest buyer of needles until the hippies showed up.
We put them down in, and you could weld with them on the bottom, and then squeeze them on the top and put solder on them. And then came the problem of, what do you do about those wires that kept just jumping out?
So we put RTV on either side, then just poured epoxy on it, which immediately made all of those tubes insulators. And we then went to a dentist's office and got an abrader, and abrade it off so we could make connections to the computer.
And the last time I saw this Steve Cutliss was pounding it into the back end on one of these Mark 1 cases, and Ed had a photographer from internal media photographing that we had installed it in the Mark 1 case. Therefore, the funding would be given for it.
All I wanted to do was die, because we stacked all the memory together, and it looked like the Dow Jones average going up and down across the top of it, it was the worst mess I ever saw.
So I decided at that point, we had to have a better way. And that's when I discovered [? Malco ?] connectors, because they were being used on the fire controls. That was a gift from Heaven, and when we got to the Apollo program, we were able to get those cut in half in their size, so we can shrink them down, too.
So Laning made a major contribution there, and then he got more and more interested in how you do wiring like this, and he soon was able to contribute dramatically. Another person that came from MIT by virtue of flunking out twice, I think, was of the brightest guys I ever met, Bob Morse.
And he had the ability to program this these matrices such that we could run automation in the test equipment. In other words, we could do continuity testing, and so forth. And I remember we went out to the wire wrap people, and then give them a deck, which validated ourselves for these techniques, and then they could take and wire wrap, and it was out in Wisconsin--
TURNER: Michigan. I've got all the features of that program that Morse wrote, which is a very significant--
DUGGAN: It was all on punch cards, which--
MINDELL: Do you have an interconnected [INAUDIBLE]?
TURNER: No, but I have--
TURNER: No, but I know basically all of the features of that wrap program, which were taken out, which was a brilliant job.
DUGGAN: So we had the automation for accuracy, that was one of the things. We knew that, with all of its complexity, we had to have something other than people checking it out.
And secondly, the wire wrap gave us a reproducibility that we could replicate, and pretty soon we found that we could drop signal nameplates over the back of these planes, and plop the internal part, to keep the wires from moving around.
We got into trial trouble with wire wrap once, and that was in the factory, and it was at Raytheon. And it turned out to be, basically, fumes in the air were attacking the [? polyambic ?] coating on the wire, and they just broke up into rings. And I don't know if you remember that problem or not, but it was a cleaning fluid that was--
BATES: Broke up into rings?
DUGGAN: Yeah, little ringlets along the polyester that was--
SPEAKER: Was that Apollo?
DUGGAN: It wasn't in the production, but they were doing the wrapping for us, that we didn't have any capability within Draper. But prior to that, we were using the source in Michigan. And I don't know, in some we've had major, major contributions.
The things I remember, having a debate in that early program, too, about why welding would someday make soldering obsolete, and as soon as we saw that was wrong, we ended up with multi-layer boards. And we put the appropriate metalization on the top layer, so that we could make weld joints.
And the same thing we had to do with resistors. So we did have to modify and customize some of the parts. Fortunately, there are only, what, three resistors, four resistors in that switch, and a diode, and the lead switch were already-- that was [? Kovar? ?] [? Kovar, ?] yeah.
And I remember getting the president of one of the companies, because I only ordered three types of resistors, and just wanted them forever. And he came in, and then, when he realized what program it was-- and again, I'm blocking on the name of the company.
HALL: The IRC, wasn't it?
DUGGAN: No, it was a big resistor company. But anyway, it doesn't make any difference. We found out what program--
DUGGAN: Bradley, Allen Bradley.
BATES: Allen Bradley.
DUGGAN: I've got to find out what you guys take for these memory blocks.
BATES: They were in Hunstville.
DUGGAN: Yeah. And he came in and he was so impressed on what we were working for whom in his garage, basically, when were in Building 5, but he said he'd make sure we got them.
Once he spoke, we get all the resistors we wanted. We then could dictate to you people, we don't care what you use for logic, as long as it includes this parts list, and that's all you get, because we can't afford to develop the other one.
So it was that type of merging with the mechanical things. I also remember the incident the core logic, and at that point in time, Apollo had been gone to the lab. I remember going to those visits and thinking these guys are crazy, but I'll go along with it, in case that ever happens.
And they couldn't have it all housed in any place, so we moved to what was called the Apollo Hilton, I'm sure somebody remembers that name. And the building was empty, it had just been vacated. But they sent, naturally, the mechanical group down there, so it could be by itself and not bother anybody anymore.
And we started to lay that out, and I remember I was one of the people that complained vigorously about how large this computer would be, if we had to do this, because I frankly didn't know how to handle it.
And that, plus the logic issues, we ended up with NOR logic, which basically made it very much an upgraded derivative of the work on Trident. That covers it broadly, at least the area that I was involved in.
MINDELL: Can you say a few words about your work after Apollo?
DUGGAN: After Apollo? Yeah. My stay on the Apollo program-- By that time, the group that I had, the group got quite large, and I think, at the time, when Apollo was in full bloom, it was about 140 people, in that range.
Then we had test labs and things like this, plotting labs. Lots of draftsmen. But the strategy for going to that size, and then shrinking was always to have residents from all of the participating companies send manpower in, and then we could send it back.
I had a similar program that I left-- the Navy programs went on, and I left a senior engineer in charge of that. And that program was running into a problem at that point in time, and I got called back and asked to work on it, because I was basically not doing very much on the Apollo side.
Things were done. So I moved back onto Navy programs, and was there for the [INAUDIBLE] and the ballistic missile phases of it. And after that, we became the group that was the supplier for packaging on all of the-- I can't say all of the equipment, but we certainly did all the Navy equipment, at that point, for [INAUDIBLE] and for the laboratory.
And we did flight electronics for many of them, and then pretty soon it was for the entire laboratory, after we reorganized. But then, when Russia decided to prove to be an unreliable enemy, things started to slow down, and it looked like the last four years I wanted to retire, reasonably early anyway, but I'd spent that time laying off people that got overcome by the economics of the society.
I retired in '92, but it was the greatest place in the world to work in that time frame.
BATES: With all the high technology that you're talking about here, one of the things that always mystified, me when I went down to Waltham, was the Dixie cup on the wire that came out of the veil, wire going into the wire wrap thing. Can somebody explain to me why we had a Dixie Cup other than it kept the wire going in there in a straight way. And who came up with the idea about a Dixie Cup?
POUNDSTONE: It was probably a Raytheon person, I'm sure.
HANLEY: Ed, do you know why?
BATES: That was very interesting. I mean, every one of those [INAUDIBLE] wire-wrap machines we had, and we had 10 of them, finally, when we were through, and nine of them were for commercial types of application. We only used one for Polaris and Apollo. But every one of them had a Dixie Cup on the thing. And I asked the guys, why is the Dixie Cup? And the guy says, it works.
DUGGAN: Yeah. That's a good reason.
BATES: That's a good reason. And I thought that was a good one, too, but who came up with it? We don't know. Maybe one of the girls did it, or somebody else.
TURNER: I think goes back to Grand Haven.
BATES: You think so?
TURNER: Yeah. I was involved with Grand Haven, but that was the old days.
BATES: You didn't have to have a big one, or a small one, or a plastic one, or what it was-- it was just a Dixie Cup. [INAUDIBLE] But that's a high technology.
DUGGAN: It's like the plumber's code. It's what he knows and doesn't tell you.
BATES: Yeah, that's right. [LAUGHS]
MINDELL: Well, as you see, we have lunch here. And figure we'll just hand the sandwiches around, and keep talking.
BATES: Sounds like a good idea.
MINDELL: And continue on with-- we have a couple issues already identified. This is sort of going further. We also have some questions and stuff. These things are all labeled [INAUDIBLE]
POUNDSTONE: [INAUDIBLE] to avoid kinks. Got a kink in it, it was gone.
BLAIR-SMITH: Somehow not scrape the insulation off the other wires.
POUNDSTONE: Well, it was enamel insulation. That wasn't too big of a problem. Unless you kinked it-- it would break if you kinked it.
MINDELL: So I was wondering whether these women were textile [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: I read your stuff. You talk about textile. I think there was a bigger background from the watch industry. I think there were some of them came from textile but--
MINDELL: It's interesting because Draper used to do a lot of consulting [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: But since all [INAUDIBLE] right there in that area, perhaps some of the Raytheon plants in the northern parts of the state probably had woman from the textile industry. But I think mostly these came from [INAUDIBLE]. And it was a very-- they had [INAUDIBLE].
BRISS: Jack, who ended up being the manager of that wire-wrap area? Remember there was a guy--
POUNDSTONE: Charlie [INAUDIBLE].
BRISS: What was it?
POUNDSTONE: Charlie [INAUDIBLE].
BRISS: Yeah, that's right.
BRISS: What a character
POUNDSTONE: Big cigar.
BRISS: I always perceived him to have-- he was in business for himself.
SPEAKER: I haven't seen this picture. I thought I heard you say card reader about the-- it was the tape.
POUNDSTONE: No, [INAUDIBLE]. When it was time for a mission, you guys would write them that crazy program, do all your simulations. And then at the last one, you decided it was right, you'd ship us the deck of cards. We had three weeks-- something like that-- to get us-- [INAUDIBLE]
SPEAKER: After a while, we started doing mylar tapes.
POUNDSTONE: Well, that may be after I left.
SPEAKER: Maybe that was. Because that's what this picture is.
SPEAKER: Yeah, I think it was mylar tape [? for ?] Block 2.
POUNDSTONE: Well, it was prior to when we started. Bill [INAUDIBLE] was [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: That could be. Things change in life.
SPEAKER: But the rope [? cores ?] were tape--
POUNDSTONE: Same concept, anyway.
SPEAKER: The rope cores were tape wound.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, I guess you're right. The conversion to tapes.
HALL: It made it a little more permanent [INAUDIBLE].
SPEAKER: Then it got the process going [INAUDIBLE]
POUNDSTONE: Well, I learned something today, too. This is really nice to hear these stories.
SPEAKER: Yes, it sure is.
POUNDSTONE: This is the first time I ever heard you say, or [INAUDIBLE] say, that when you put that first computer together--
SPEAKER: Look at this. Isn't this [INAUDIBLE]?
POUNDSTONE: You integrated circuits. You found it was too noisy. I never heard that before. But meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had this engineer. Remember Ernie [? Auger-- ?] great big fat guy?
SPEAKER: I remember the name, yes.
POUNDSTONE: Well, Ernie used to come to me about three times a week, and say, Jack, I've analyzed this circuit. And it's going to be noisy, and it will never work.
SPEAKER: Well, it's sort of interesting when you go around the table is what certain people remember versus what some other people remember.
POUNDSTONE: Well, certain people didn't bother to tell those people. [LAUGHS]
BRISS: After listening to you people, I'm surprised it got off the ground.
POUNDSTONE: It is amazing.
BRISS: What was amazing to me, on the first flight, I had a copy of a flight plan. [INAUDIBLE] And it almost swallowed that flight plan, which was seven years later.
POUNDSTONE: It was [? bad. ?]
BRISS: Well, I mean, no adjustment, it wasn't modified that much. It was a high point in my career.
POUNDSTONE: Well, it was mine too, but I never even got an invitation to go see a shot.
SPEAKER: I saw a lot of them.
SPEAKER: It's funny. You were born [? into it, ?] went to a different program.
BATES: You got that from me.
BATES: You know what that is? There's very few of those around. It's the logic module. The welded module.
BRISS: It's not one I welded.
BATES: Probably not, no.
I had a lot of those. In fact, I still think I got some in my drawer. I'll have to look at them and see. But I don't know whether you want to bring it up, but I don't [INAUDIBLE]. The thing is that [INAUDIBLE] was chosen as program manager at MIT, or at Instumentation Labratory, because he wrote the proposal. And he submitted the proposal.
And a lot of people wanted to have Ralph as the program manager. But Doc made the decision, that since Milt put a proposal in, and was the proposal manager, that he should be the program manager.
POUNDSTONE: That was his role.
BATES: For some reason, somebody got upset with Milt. And the decision was, well, we need to get Ralph out. Ralph came to work for Raytheon. And then somebody asked him to come back. And I think [? Hoak ?] was in on that. I don't know who else.
But [? Hoak ?] went to see Doc. And then the next thing I know, Ralph was back at--
HALL: The full story hasn't been very well told.
SPEAKER: Maybe it's a good thing.
HALL: But there's more to Milt there. He was a key individual on the Mars study, which was being done with [INAUDIBLE]-- who was the predecessor of everybody else on Apollo. [INAUDIBLE]
BATES: Yeah, thank God for him. If it hadn't been for [INAUDIBLE] the program wouldn't have ever [INAUDIBLE].
HALL: That's right. So choosing managers. And Ralph, of course, was in the Navy program. So Milt had the in with the NASA [INAUDIBLE]. It was obvious that Milt had to be the program manager for a while.
DUGGAN: But he wrote the proposal?
HALL: He wrote the proposal, right.
DUGGAN: 15 words, if I remember right.
HALL: Well, maybe it was 13 and 1/2.
BATES: But between him and Cherry, traveling with him was a real pain.
DUGGAN: I used to love him on takeoffs, where he put that pendulum up to see--
BATES: [LAUGHS] That's right.
DUGGAN: --what the angle was [INAUDIBLE]. And he'd time it going down the runway.
BATES: They used to go through Chicago, because you could get a meal from here to Chicago-- a meal from Chicago to Houston. Then, they'd go out and eat Mexican.
HALL: That's right.
BATES: Remember that?
HALL: Oh, I sure do.
BATES: You know, how they could ever do it I really don't know.
HALL: Well, I was involved with those studies. [INAUDIBLE]
BATES: The San Jacinto Inn, yeah.
DUGGAN: The San Jacinto Inn, yeah.
BATES: They'd eat oysters.
HALL: And eat oysters. And Milt and [? Art ?] [? Metzger ?] had a bet on who could eat the most.
DUGGAN: I bet Milt won.
HALL: I think [? Metzger ?] gave up at about 120.
BATES: Yeah, I think he went up to 150.
HALL: I don't remember.
DUGGAN: The best thing thing on that trip though, Milt traveled a lot with a martini in his hand. We were on our way to the [INAUDIBLE] and going through the woods. And all of the gas fires from the oil wells [INAUDIBLE] out onto the marsh. And you pull up next to the battleship Texas. And he gets out and looks at this battleship, which as far as he's concerned, in the middle of this field. And he walked all around it. He couldn't go inside.
HALL: Now they've got a London Bridge down there.
BATES: These guys talk about Laning doing the software stuff. You know, Laning was the guy that did all the [? Q ?] guidance? Matthews did the [INAUDIBLE] minimum stuff, in Huntsville.
BATES: Polaris and the rest of it. But Laning did all the [? Q ?] guidance. For the Air Force side of the house, and everything.
HALL: Laning did a lot on Apollo, too.
BATES: Nobody gave him credit. Do you know Laning is still coming into the lab? He's still coming into the lab, and they have him as a consultant. And he's working what they call on voucher. So he makes the same amount of money he made when he left.
HALL: Do you remember when Laning talked about a very early computer, and only having one instruction? I vaguely remember.
BLAIR-SMITH: I remember somebody talking about that. I know that was [INAUDIBLE] academic concept. It was kind of a Turing machine.
HALL: Something like that. I vaguely remember it. Back then it didn't have any meaning to me at all. What difference does it make? [INAUDIBLE] computer instruction was.
BLAIR-SMITH: We got into that kind of conversation because-- so here's this little computer with three instructions, that does something. What's the smallest number that you can have, and still have a computer? And so that was his point, that you could do it with one.
HALL: I don't see how that's possible.
BLAIR-SMITH: Obviously, putting together a branch is very difficult, because you have to kind of build up the address that you're branching to bit by bit. It takes a long time. I could probably reconstruct what they had to do it today, but it would take me a moment.
HALL: Another thing I heard recently, that people are claiming that the minimum number of [? instructions ?] they've been talking about. And they've come up with numbers much higher than three, or even eight. Have you heard anything about--
BLAIR-SMITH: No, I can't say I have.
POUNDSTONE: You had the first [INAUDIBLE] machine, huh?
BLAIR-SMITH: Yeah. Yes we did. That we did.
POUNDSTONE: You just weren't smart enough to name it?
BLAIR-SMITH: That's right.
DUGGAN: When Laning saw his first Polaris shot, he went down [INAUDIBLE]. And said well, I thought it was going to work. And they've got all of this program running.
BATES: At the start of this program, Laning made a funny statement to me. We were talking about-- I can't think of his name now. They were talking about [INAUDIBLE] and his phase-lock loop. And Laning made the statement, if [INAUDIBLE] ever had to milk a cow, he'd do it with a phase lock loops.
I thought that was really good. A quotable quote.
HALL: Very early in the Polaris progam, I remember Laning had generated a simulation [INAUDIBLE] cross product [? steering ?] was the key to the Polaris program. And he came into me, showing this diagram, that the thing actually came down to 0. And he thought that was so great.
And I was the same way. I mean, it puzzled me why he even thought it wouldn't do that. After all, Laning invented this scheme, cross product [? steering, ?] [INAUDIBLE] have to come down to 0, if he did, because he was puzzled about the fact that it actually did. He's not given much credit for the things he did.
BATES: No, he wasn't. He was very quiet, and he did what he was supposed to do.
DUGGAN: [INAUDIBLE] the back room. And he discovered Fortran before Fortran was born.
HALL: Although that report is on his site-- Laning's report.
BATES: I always thought it was [INAUDIBLE] that have a [INAUDIBLE].
BLAIR-SMITH: Eldon, what do you remember of the brief visit of George Wieser? He kind of came in to sort of save the management of the program at one point.
BLAIR-SMITH: I'm not sure about George, but his name was Wieser.
HALL: No, it wasn't George. George [? Reiser ?] worked for me.
BLAIR-SMITH: Oh, I'm sorry. [? Reiser. ?] This is with a "W." W-I-E-S-E-R. He was an advisor. He came in at some point, because the project was-- the way he explained it to me later-- I ran into him recently at a funeral.
BLAIR-SMITH: But he says that the project was in trouble, because we were all these can-do guys. And people like astronauts and NASA folks would say, well gee, we'd like to have this, and we'd like to have that. And they'd always say, yeah, can do, can do.
And, of course, things started falling behind schedule, every time we said that. So he was brought in, to create a kind of project management discipline.
POUNDSTONE: [INAUDIBLE] can do.
BLAIR-SMITH: Yeah, right.
SPEAKER: This wasn't the MIT team [INAUDIBLE].
BLAIR-SMITH: I wondered if you remembered him. I only remembered him because it was very tempting to pronounce his name "Wiser." And when he came in, I decided I'd better make up a limerick, to remind myself and everybody how to pronounce it properly. So it came out something like, a stern old advisor named Wieser popped a young engineer in the [INAUDIBLE] when the august advisor was addressed Doctor Wiser, what a stern old advisor is Wieser.
HALL: No, I can't place him at the present.
SPEAKER: Was he from MIT, or he wasn't part of that?
POUNDSTONE: [? Could ?] [? be ?] NASA.
BLAIR-SMITH: He was from outside. And I forget where he worked.
POUNDSTONE: He was hired by NASA.
BLAIR-SMITH: But that was his point, to be an outside management, project management consultant.
HALL: What period of time?
BLAIR-SMITH: Well, I would say '65.
BLAIR-SMITH: Same boat. Same boat I've had them for 27 years.
BLAIR-SMITH: Well, anyhow, it's a 35-foot [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: Since Albert is not here, has he gone by the wayside?
POUNDSTONE: Doing what?
HALL: Making pottery.
POUNDSTONE: Is it pottery, or pot?
HANLEY: He does hand painting, on the pottery.
POUNDSTONE: And they can't get him to come to these things?
POUNDSTONE: I didn't see him on any of the first two conferences.
HALL: I never [INAUDIBLE]. He was probably too far away. And I didn't expect you to come. [INAUDIBLE]. I had no idea that you [INAUDIBLE] inbox in Tennessee. And he came all the way here?
BATES: Do you want me to sign up here?
BATES: Or down below?
BROWN: Just sign at the top and date it.
BATES: Do you want me to sign it and date it, or do you want me to print it? You won't even understand.
BATES: Anybody got any of those coins we used to have for the-- given away to all the contractors for working on the Apollo program? They had the coins supposedly totally made up with material from one of the spacecraft.
BATES: The most was interesting ones were the-- remember the wheel that they made up? The Apollo computer was like a slide rule.
SPEAKER: A mission.
BATES: A mission--
SPEAKER: Mission wheel.
POUNDSTONE: I was in attendance that day.
HALL: I don't remember you, but I don't remember anybody.
POUNDSTONE: Ralph was the spokesman for MIT, you'll recall. And [INAUDIBLE] was a very famous computer conference. I'll never forget. You guys [INAUDIBLE] document, that nobody could possibly understand-- by design.
And here was this room full of people in the auditorium at Rice University-- every major contractor in the country was there. And they all would stand up and ask questions [INAUDIBLE] typical contractor, TRW or an IBM or somebody. He would stand up and take five minutes to ask some question-- in paragraph so-and-so, blah, blah, blah, what about-- And Ralph would stand there and listen. And he'd say, the answer to your question is, no. Next question. Or the answer to your question is, yes. Next question.
That's all he ever said, yes, or no. So nobody learned anything.
BATES: I thought it was interesting from a contractual standpoint. The initial contract was for $1.9 million. They went down to renegotiate it, and go through the whole thing. There were a few changes. It came back around $24 million. I thought that was pretty good
POUNDSTONE: We don't want to talk about that with Cline Frasier around.
BATES: No. He wasn't there at the time.
POUNDSTONE: No, he wasn't.
POUNDSTONE: Plus, the one down there you should really have known was Max [INAUDIBLE], or his wife.
HALL: I didn't know his wife.
POUNDSTONE: You didn't know his wife?
SPEAKER: Everybody else did.
POUNDSTONE: She was the biggest blonde buxom thing you ever saw. And she wrote a newspaper called the Clear Lake, whatever it was. And she used to go to all these parties, and pick up all the dirt and put it in this Clear Lake newspaper. And then she'd get absolutely socko drunk. OK? And her husband would leave her, and she'd find somebody to take her home. I don't think there was any fooling around. Because I took her home once, and there wasn't any fooling around.
POUNDSTONE: He finally went-- he was doing the antique business at the same time.
No, like I said, the only thing that saved that program is that we had probably about 3 years where they really didn't bother us that much. Those first two or three years were very important [INAUDIBLE].
HALL: They weren't really organized yet.
POUNDSTONE: No, they weren't organized. So were able to do what had to be done, to figure out what the hell we was going to do.
POUNDSTONE: I used to have these. I have no idea where they were [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: Cline, did you know Dave Gilbert?
MINDELL: We've got a couple of things we want to cover this afternoon. And one thing we'd like to do is to still get Sandy to be able to demo you some of the stuff on the comment system on the web, so that you can at least see what it may look like. But that also takes valuable time, that we won't have for talking.
And while we've got you here, we really want to hear about the history. There are a couple of things that came up, that were overtly flagged for interesting discussions. And we have some notes for other things. And then, Sandy also had some other questions, on larger stuff that we're interested in.
Maybe one way to start off the discussion for the afternoon is our question, which is simply, what to you guys are the really significant things here, that we ought to be looking at? Either because they were had a long-term influence, or because they were something that was uniquely difficult-- problem that was solved, in this case. [INAUDIBLE] were mentioning the networks of people from continuing on from other projects, and other engineering cultures-- which is a really important part of it.
So we want to get a sense for what you guys, forty years later, find important about this particular project. And what, if you were reading a history of it, you'd think ought to at least be mentioned, if not explored in [INAUDIBLE].
CLINE: Could I pick up what [INAUDIBLE].
CLINE: This has to do with the switch from signal layers in the computer design to multilayered boards. And as I remember the story goes something like this. Being at NASA, we were required to come up and negotiate the contract with MIT, or go through the budget and figure out what they would be allowed to spend money on. And in the spring of every year, it was, I was a part of the team, and we're going through all this stuff.
And one of the items on one of the line items in the budget for a considerable amount of money was to work on multilayer boards. And this is something that apparently been going on for a while. And it was at this stage where the block-2 computer had gone through class A release. So it was known to work. The drawings were a class A release system.
And my question was, well, since we already decided on using signal layers-- signal layers were being used in the electronic CDU-- why are we bothering to spend any money on multilayer boards?
And I never got any kind of a satisfactory answer. And being under pressure to keep the budget down, that was a thing that got lined out. So there was no money authorized to spend on multilayer boards.
BATES: That doesn't stop you, though.
CLINE: Just-- we'll get there. That was in the early spring, I think. And then in August, I believe, there was a meeting up here at MIT-- a review meeting. Hugh Brady was there, some other people from AC-- probably some Raytheon folks, and certainly MIT folks. And one of the things that came out at that meeting was, oh by the way, guys, the computer won't work.
And this was at a time when we were supposed to deliver a flight-configured computer to Grumman in December, to go on the flight table for them to verify control-system stuff. And knowing how these things go, if it wasn't delivered Grumman was going to then blame any schedule slip on the guidance system. So the other thing that gets said at the meeting was, well gee, we didn't really stop working on those multilayer boards, and the logic is all in the boards.
And so at that point, we decided to switch to multilayer boards, and to keep the signal layers for the computer that went to Grumman, by doubling up the solution in the signal layers-- which would reduce the capacitance. And keeping the computer tray open, because on a flight table it didn't matter whether the tray was closed or not.
So it was that sequence of events-- it doesn't conflict with what you said, Dave, but that's kind of how it went. And the other piece of that was that Dick Batten and the crew-- Dick was convinced that we'd never go to the moon with a block-2 computer. It would be a block-3 system.
So the next problem was that we discovered that we could deliver this open computer to Grumman in December, along with the [? IMU ?] and everything. But oh by the way, there was no software to turn the system on.
And so I think I must have gotten on my hands and knees to Dick Batten and said, even if it's not going to go to the moon, will you please-- and even if Grumman is not going to be ready for it. Because MIT had spies at Grumman, and they said they wouldn't even have the wiring in the room until February. Will you please turn out a program, so that we can just turn the thing on, so we could say we delivered. it.
And one of the things that's done for me over the years-- that and one other thing-- is to remember that you don't want to be too harsh about just shutting some of these things off-- because they save your tail.
HANLEY: Yeah, but Eldon had it backed up.
CLINE: I didn't know who paid for those boards in that six months intervening time, nor do I care.
BATES: I learned that a long time ago.
CLINE: Yeah. As I say, nor do I care.
MINDELL: OK, thank you. Any other--
BATES: What was your question again?
MINDELL: My question is really about what are the major themes. What are the things that really stand out as--
MINDELL: What really, in the end, made it successful? Technologically, what were the really significant things which are often things that people don't really expect?
TURNER: I think what Ed Duggan and I are probably closer to not only is opposed to the evolution of the continuity of the people-- which we've already talked about-- but the continuity of some of the basic aspects of the design concepts, which started. And there was a continuity there.
MINDELL: From Polaris, you mean?
TURNER: From Polaris. Even though it went from discrete components to something totally different, there were a lot of similarities, and a lot learned from that evolution. And how to partition, for example, logic. You can start reducing, for example, the number of wires-- whatever the wires are-- by putting some thought into functionally grouping gates, that talk to each other.
And also, how big is a separable item? In other words, that was the first welded discrete component computer-- was totally welded. I mean, the whole shooting match, you couldn't take it apart. It was a book shape. And it did work.
DUGGAN: You can replace modules.
TURNER: That's right. Oh, could you do that in the book?
TURNER: I don't know, not in the book.
DUGGAN: No, not in the book.
TURNER: OK. But that was one extreme. Then what was eventually the design, that went on through Polaris, were replaceable modules. And you could replace them.
Another thing which was learned was, again, try to make everything physically alike-- even from the individual components up to the modules themselves. So that when they hit a production line, for example, whoever is working on them, it doesn't matter what specifically they do. They all look alike. So that's one thing.
Let's see, I'm losing my train here, but I'm trying to think of more examples. Oh yeah, another one was being able to change the function of look-alike modules, based on where they're plugged in.
In other words, essentially do a pin-program type of organization, where you then, because of back wiring, you make the same basic functional module do different functions in different places. And that, again, was something learned from Polaris. The only one in Polaris that did that was a memory. But [INAUDIBLE] was done at all.
And that was one of the things that was carried into Apollo. Because in that one it was organized by bit, rather than-- let's say you had adders in one group, and somewhere like that. There was a module called bit module, which there were 16 of them-- or 14. And that was a good way to split them up.
HALL: No, there was eight, actually, in Block 2, because there was two in one module.
TURNER: Yeah, OK. Yeah, I'd forgotten that.
HALL: Block 1 had 16.
TURNER: It doesn't matter. The basic idea was to do something like that.
HALL: Standard module.
TURNER: Yeah, standard module. And of course that was an advantage, not only physically, that they looked at that. So that when they hit the lineup at Raytheon, they could be built with the same tooling, same operators or similar ones.
HALL: This is standardization. That was one of the key issues that I used to present to Charles Frick justifying integrated circuits. Because in the old version everything was different, the core transistor type, [INAUDIBLE]. There wasn't any commonality at all. And there was no way of getting it in that kind of circuit. With integrated circuits, you could do [INAUDIBLE].
TURNER: Right. I mean, you change. Even though they were basically three-input NOR gates, you could have a fan in capability just by taking a bunch of them together and opening up the cluster resistor, or whatever was necessary. You could do that with the back part.
POUNDSTONE: I'd like to address that. Obviously, the key technology issue was the integrated circuits, as everybody has said. If we had stuck with core transistors it never would have fit, even if you could make it work.
But I think the other key technology and the thing that made the thing a success was Eldon's determination that we were going to use a fixed memory, which ended up being the so-called core rope.
The industry was going out to the other way at the time. This was a time when Bill Gates was getting started.
And, typically, programs were stored in some sort of an erasable memory form. I know when I go around the country and talk to people, and said we had this thing called the core rope memory, they just laughed. And said, there is no way that can be done. Because programmers will never stop changing and, you know--
SPEAKER: Oh yes they will.
POUNDSTONE: The core rope then had two features that were very good for the program. First, its ultra reliability. There's no way that any erasable memory could ever be as reliable as a thing called a core rope. And the second was the discipline that it forced on these software people.
Because when they were told that today is the day you release the program for mission so and so-- because you've got to send those cards, or tapes, or whatever it was to Raytheon, to make these physical things. It was called a program. And then that's going to go down to-- we integrated at the tape, as I recall.
HALL: You won't put any change [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: There will be no more changes.
MINDELL: The programs are actually manufactured.
POUNDSTONE: That's right. And that put some discipline in the software people. At that time it was just-- they never had it.
SPEAKER: They still don't.
POUNDSTONE: They don't today. Well, when you use PROMs, you've got the same problems. But we didn't have PROMs.
HANLEY: There was constraint. It was an intellectual anathema. They just didn't want to hear this at all.
POUNDSTONE: No, that's right.
HALL: Even within Draper Labs.
POUNDSTONE: Oh no, most people at Draper didn't believe it was going to work, either.
HALL: I was fighting with them all the time.
POUNDSTONE: But the outside world thought we were absolutely crazy. And I will give Eldon the credit. He withstood an awful lot of criticism for that.
DUGGAN: Yeah, but they'd spent so much money by that time.
FRASIER: I didn't know enough to think one way or another at that time. Well, there was a time I probably thought it was not the right way to go. And then there was a time I really appreciated it.
POUNDSTONE: But look at the precedents. I mean, Minuteman I had a drum, right?
POUNDSTONE: And of course, Polaris, we were wired.
BATES: Didn't Minuteman-III have a [? drum ?]
HALL: Not even II.
POUNDSTONE: We had already gone through this on Polaris, with a wired program. But you know, the program was 16 words, or something rather. I mean, it was ridiculously small.
HALL: 16 words of memory, yeah. Mark II was 12 words of memory.
POUNDSTONE: But anyway, the idea of having a large fixed memory was just unheard of. And I think that's what was one of the keys to make the program a success.
BATES: What was the total amount of memory at the end? It was only, what?
BATES: It was 30,000?
HALL: 16-bit words.
BATES: Yeah, 16-bit words.
HALL: I saw an interesting cartoon a few years back. This kid was standing on the descent stage of the lab, looking up at the ascent stage-- probably in a museum. And he said, that computer in there has 64 megs of RAM. That won't even run Windows 98.
DUGGAN: That's quite true. It probably saved the program.
HALL: That's right. It saved the program. If it had had 64 megs of RAM, we'd have never gotten there.
MINDELL: How about management? I mean, was there a formal practice of systems engineering going on?
SPEAKER: Of what?
MINDELL: Systems engineering. Or were you all [INAUDIBLE]-- I mean, NASA was very [INAUDIBLE]
BLAIR-SMITH: No, NASA didn't have one either.
BATES: Let me just say this-- coming from von Braun, with that team concept that they had there, I saw the same team concept here. When you saw the oneness of purpose, of what these guys wanted to do-- a team concept of the people working together, to achieve that one goal.
When you've been talking about the technology-- and that, of course, is extremely important. But unless they had-- as loose as a situation as they had so that they could have a oneness of purpose and not being forced to do something by the-- they were successful regardless of the obstacles. Which I considered management, other people, contracts, other things of this nature say. They had a freedom to go ahead and make these decisions, following through.
Maybe you had a lot of accidents, had a lot of failures, but they had the freedom to go ahead and have one purpose, and do it. And the team that we had with Raytheon and with Instrumentation Laboratory, at that time was second to none.
POUNDSTONE: We were discussing that over lunch as a matter of fact. Cline may not like to hear this, but the facts are--
FRASIER: Be careful.
BLAIR-SMITH: At the time we started this program, NASA was in a state of disorganization, if you like. They had just moved to Houston.
MINDELL: They were expanding like mad.
POUNDSTONE: Expanding like mad. They were concentrating on Gemini, and this was sort of a side issue. And if that was the most fortunate thing that ever happened. Because it gave us two or three years for us to figure out what needed to be done.
Let's say it was a system engineering phase-- although we didn't really call it that in those days. And it wasn't formalized, or anything like that. But it was sort of a phase of trying to take a first cut at the thing, and try to get it down to a size you might be able to get your arms around, anyway.
Later on, particularly when Joe Shea became the program manager, then it started to get more formal. And we started getting the Cliff Duncans and Cline Frasiers and these people who would come in and hold review meetings. And you know, they were worried about money. In the beginning, we didn't worry about money.
MINDELL: Ultimately, from your point of view--
POUNDSTONE: I beg your pardon.
MINDELL: Was the formalization of the management program a good thing, ultimately?
POUNDSTONE: Oh, eventually it had to happen-- eventually.
BATES: But you see, keeping pointing out that those first three years of developing the team, and developing the purpose-- regardless of all these outside things-- gave you the flexibility to come up with a design, and with what was necessary to do the job. Could you ever do that again? I don't think that could ever happen again.
HALL: When you're talking about formalization, though, I don't think even near the end of this program it wasn't formalized like modern-day programs.
POUNDSTONE: Oh, no. It was never formalized that way.
HALL: It was so much freer.
POUNDSTONE: It was never run like an Air Force--
HALL: It was much freer, all along.
POUNDSTONE: --system-management type.
HANLEY: I'd like to say a little bit more about standardization, and components, integrated circuits, diodes, resistance-- there was standardization. And Eldon most probably knows more than most how the design engineers couldn't do it. You couldn't live with just one gate. You couldn't live with one PNP and one NPN. OK?
And you needed more power or put enough power. But Eldon, you could say something on what it took to get the design engineer--
HALL: You're doing fine.
HALL: You're doing fine.
HANLEY: They just claimed they couldn't do it.
POUNDSTONE: I mean, today that's all written in a big manual. That says, you're supposed to have a parts standardization list, and you're supposed to do this, and that, and that. Back in those days the parts standardization list was in Eldon's hip pocket.
And he said, here are the parts you're going to use, and here are the resistor values you're going to use. And here are the capacitor values you're going to use. And if you can't do it that way, go figure out how to do it anyway.
POUNDSTONE: The engineers would come in to him-- now, I got to have this, and I got to have that. And he'd tell them, go away. He had to be tough, and be stubborn. And he was. You know, a guy can always figure out a way if you tell him enough times. But it took that sort of discipline. But it wasn't formalized. As I said, it was in his hip pocket.
HALL: It wasn't easy. [LAUGHS]
TURNER: I think one good example of how things ran was-- it was a funny example, but I think it fits. And that is, I remember hearing over the general page, in the Apollo building one day, the regularly scheduled Tuesday NASA meeting has been postponed from Wednesday to Thursday.
BATES: But I do remember those Friday meetings.
POUNDSTONE: There was another area where I think we pioneered. It hasn't been talked about. But I don't believe any program ever worried as much-- maybe we weren't as effective-- about reliability was complementary as that program.
HALL: That one was different.
POUNDSTONE: We did an awful lot that pioneered that.
HANLEY: I think one thing I really appreciated, that after we got the flight specs, I heard the Raytheon managers. And I'm arguing about which lot of IC's was the best lot, which should be used in what machine.
POUNDSTONE: That brings up a story I meant to tell, and I forgot. I don't know if Eldon remembers. Well, you must remember this.
The challenge, once we went to IC's, was here was a brand-new component being made by a brand-new industry. And the total number that we really needed wasn't all that many. We were really going to build, what, 30 computers, or something rather. It really wasn't that many. To the semiconductor--
HALL: Back to the beginning, it was much less than that.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah. So how do you get reliability of a brand-new component, when you're not going to build very many? So one of the ideas-- I don't remember whether it was Eldon's or mine-- but I'm sure NASA would have choked if we had to get them to bless it.
We decided that in the ground-support equipment-- just test equipment we were building for the factory-- instead of building it out of resistors and transistors, we built it out of the absolute same integrated circuit. And then when we got a lot in, and we tested the lot, if it was a little bit shaky put it in the ground-support equipment. Take the good ones and [INAUDIBLE].
DUGGAN: Didn't the captive line concept evolve out of this idea?
HALL: Block 1 Polaris had the captive line. And the fire control used the same transistors as we chose for the guidance computer. That was dictated by Del Cole.
DUGGAN: That was a fairly innovative step, I think.
BATES: I think one of the things that amplifies what they have just said is with the core ropes. I don't know whether anybody can remember this, but I was involved [INAUDIBLE].
We had a situation where one of the core ropes passed its acceptance. And there was no problem with it, and it was rejected. And so I went down to see one of these little old ladies, and said, hey, you know it passed everything. That cost $75,000, and you've scrapped the thing. I mean, why can't we use it?
Well, what NASA did is they brought in a lot of the astronauts to go through the plants. Well, the astronauts became the sons of these little old ladies.
BRISS: That's right.
BATES: And so this little old lady looks up at me with this face, and she says, you know, I built that and it passed. But I don't think it's too good. So you wouldn't want me to pass something that I thought wasn't too good, to pass on to one of our boys. [BLOWS RASPBERRY] It got scrapped.
BRISS: That's what they did.
BATES: So this type of philosophy was there. It was always the man in the loop, that somebody is going to be up there having to count on this thing.
This isn't a missile that we fire, and maybe it [BLOWS RASPBERRY] goes up in the sky. You're talking about people.
And NASA was smart. They took these astronauts, and they brought them around. Not to meet just management-- no. They brought them down on the floor, to meet everybody that was on the floor.
And as I say, the other engineer and the rest of it, that was fine. But these little old ladies, let me tell you, they adopted every one of those people-- the astronauts. Maybe you know better than I do.
BRISS: Absolutely right. And they were brought in under the guise, well, you want to see how the components are made. And they talked to the ladies like they were their mothers.
BATES: That's right, yeah. And what do you think about this? And you know, how do you think this thing is going together? And you know, they were very much interested in every process that these little old ladies were doing.
BRISS: If they had a suggestion-- as I mentioned, I was a floor engineer-- you had to listen. And you get two or three of them together, and had some general agreement that maybe we should change this.
BRISS: No, you don't ask the astronauts.
BRISS: They have a different agenda.
MINDELL: If any of you know, or have any leads, we would love to find some of these women to talk to-- if they're still around.
BATES: Well, Ed was saying that he knew.
BLONDIN: I knew the first-level supervisors. I know their names. And they all lived in and around the Waltham area. Waltham was a great Italian enclave at the time. They all have Italian names. It was Kitty Cicardo.
POUNDSTONE: Well, she may know if there's any of them alive.
BLONDIN: Yeah. Eleanor Capadona.
POUNDSTONE: I remember her.
BLONDIN: Let's see, I'll have her name in a second I don't have the same memory I had 52-- when I was 52.
MINDELL: I'm curious to talk a little bit more about the part of the floor that you have the pictures of. How many women would be working on the Apollo program at any one point? And how big was this area?
BLONDIN: Probably on the ropes, up to 12 on a shift.
POUNDSTONE: It wasn't a huge number.
BLONDIN: In the working welding modules there could have been 30, but they were scattered.
BATES: Was that in Sudbury, or was it Waltham?
POUNDSTONE: I think that's Sudbury.
BATES: That's Sudbury.
HANLEY: They didn't only do that. When the people were making IC's and other parts, we made sure the same astronauts would go visit them.
HALL: The astronauts visited lots of places.
BLONDIN: We might have had half a dozen or so in [INAUDIBLE]. We had a special little group, which was module repair, in a little room by themselves. There was a lady named Mary Tangey who ran that.
And these potted modules, you would test them before you potted them. And then you'd test them afterwards-- post-product test. And quite often they would fail, because the potting stretched them.
And then, what would you do with this thing, that you had invested all this time and money in-- and all these components that were so hard to come by? So they would send them to Mary, and Mary's girls. There might have been, like, three of them. And they used these demo tools. And they would pick away the foam pot, until they exposed components.
They would get directions from the test engineers, who would guess-- better than a guess-- which component had probably died. And they would expose it, and then send it back. And the test people would verify that. And then they would take that component out-- it's a difficult thing, it's welded in there with strips of ribbon-- and put a new one in-- which makes you have to weld ribbons together.
And we'd test it, and send it back for potting. And, mostly, they passed the second time around.
I referred to the fact earlier that when I was put in charge of Apollo in Milwaukee that we were behind schedule. So one of the first things I did was climb on an airplane and come out to Raytheon, to figure out if they were doing anything different than we were-- because it was on the same program.
In those days there was always people around who would say the contract says, or NASA says. And you could never verify it. So I figured if I got out and walked along the floor in Raytheon, I could talk to people who were really doing things. And they showed me-- what do you do when these things fail? Well, we send them over to Mary.
Well, I get back to Milwaukee, and I found out that somebody at AC had said, no, no, no, that can't be done without ruining the module. Throw them away. And so we had-- large quantities of these things were hard to get components, heat sinks.
All this invested in, and they were going in the trash can. And I came back, and I said, aha, same spacecraft, same contractor, they're doing it in Waltham Well, our guys had to come up with improvement on that. Instead of the dental picks, they went out and got a machine that a dentist uses to abrade teeth. It was called a SS White, I think, machine. And it would sandblast ground up walnut shells.
BATES: We tried that. We did that first.
BLONDIN: That worked fine at AC.
POUNDSTONE: Didn't that generate a static charge, as I recall?
BLONDIN: Yeah. I said, put it in at Raytheon. So we did. And with the integrated circuits in the Raytheon module, we were generating a static charge, and zapping the IC's. And Raytheon took great pleasure in telling the AC, you're not so smart.
This thing you made us do is blowing our IC's. So it was kind of an interesting little story on-- we couldn't get on schedule, because we were throwing all these modules away.
And Raytheon was-- I mean, this was not advanced technology-- dental picks. And things that would dissolve the potting compound. People were saying, what effect is that going to have on the components-- that solvent? How Raytheon got away with it, nobody at General Motors--
POUNDSTONE: They probably wrote an OD.
BRISS: Initially, we used a very small soldering iron, to melt the foam.
BLONDIN: Or [INAUDIBLE] you were using a hot soldering iron.
BRISS: Well, let me say-- and that didn't work too well. And the ladies decided that they'd just pick away. And the ladies decided that. I remember that.
BATES: They did a lot of deciding.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, they did.
BLONDIN: That got us back on schedule. That and a lot of other things.
POUNDSTONE: In fact, I think Battin wrote A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon. And one of the references in there is to the independence of the little old ladies in Waltham.
MINDELL: What other kinds of things did they contribute? Do you remember other examples?
BRISS: Well, I don't want it contributed to the program, but they were high-seniority ladies. They knew what they were doing. They worked [? probably ?] on it. I mean, believe me, they were old enough to be my mother, and I was in my 30s then. And they just felt confident they knew what they were doing. They worked on World War II microwave stuff. They worked on the tool division. They knew what they were doing.
MINDELL: They weren't watch makers. They were making--
BRISS: Not the ones in my group. Not the ones in my group.
DUGGAN: Like the Westinghouse experience, that they go back to in the industrial engineering field-- where they told how they lowered the lights. And Westinghouse did a famous experiment [INAUDIBLE]. And the more they dimmed them down, the more output came out, even though they couldn't see what the hell they were doing.
And it was basically the attention they were getting from management. And here you are on a highly visible and patriotic almost crusade to get to the moon before the Russians did.
BRISS: Well, the program then proceeded to be-- and I certainly did-- the cream-of-the-crop program. You guys are talking about Polaris. It wasn't known then. It was a program or two before that.
DUGGAN: There was that national focus, that kind of coalesced things, I think.
POUNDSTONE: We had this policy that the girls who worked on ropes, that's all they could do, because they got good at ropes.
And we didn't want them to go off doing a bunch of other things and not be able to get them when you needed ropes. I remember when we got to that phase of the program when you only had three or four weeks to make a set of ropes, I think we had about 12 rope machines, or something like 10. I forget how many.
But as I recall, we paid those women to sit there and wait until the deck of cards or the tape came out. And they would be sitting there knitting for two or three weeks. And then the deck of cards would come out, or the program would come out, and they'd go like hell.
HANLEY: Could I just interrupt a minute? Because I'm on that subject. You remember when they found a software problem at the very last minute, and they had to redo a rope? Maybe you'll remember, too.
SPEAKER: I do.
HANLEY: And NASA went--
POUNDSTONE: I was probably gone [INAUDIBLE].
HANLEY: --trying to find out how long it will take to redo the ropes, and so forth. And every rope you ever had had so many failures afterwards. And then it went into rework, and so forth. I want somebody who knows the story better than I do.
SPEAKER: Maybe Cline does.
FRASIER: I'm not sure. Go ahead.
HANLEY: You remember?
FRASIER: I remember a time or two where the--
HANLEY: This was only one time.
FRASIER: --things were really late.
HANLEY: Very, very late.
BLONDIN: I remember that very well. I was running a manufacturing on an Apollo program at the time, at Waltham. And for some reason or other the ropes that had already been made had to be reprogrammed.
POUNDSTONE: Software glitch, huh?
BLONDIN: There was something that had some reason-- and I don't know what it was. And we were down to normal cycle on those things was-- with all the rework, it was like eight weeks, something like that.
HANLEY: Right. Something of that order.
BLONDIN: And these ropes were required out in less than three. I remember that. But none of them failed.
HANLEY: That's the point I want to make for these fellows.
BLONDIN: None of them failed.
HANLEY: Those ropes were fabricated on the first time, and there were no failures. And that's the first time they ever had no failures.
BLONDIN: They just paid more attention.
HANLEY: And the gals used to fight and argue-- OK, you've had it for so many hours. And this sort of emphasizes the fact that people do identify with it, and that it really works. And I thought you guys would remember.
POUNDSTONE: I think it was after I left.
BLONDIN: I remember it very well. Nobody would believe it could be done. We had all kinds of people-- I remember production control saying, well, we'll put up charts that show what the schedule points are [INAUDIBLE]. And they happily raced through that.
HANLEY: And they did it perfectly--
BLONDIN: They did perfectly.
HANLEY: --the first time.
BLONDIN: And we shipped right on time.
HANLEY: I think you were ahead of time.
BLONDIN: What you were referring to was called the Hawthorne effect. Remember that? It came from Western Electric, Hawthorne plant, outside of Chicago.
And a famous experiment was brought up in industrial psychology, where they started off to see if increased lighting would increase production. So they needed a control group. With the control group they kept the lighting the same, stepped up the lights on the test group. And production increased on both of them.
And they did it again, upped it. And it increased on both of them again. Then they started lowering the light on the control, till they got it down where you could barely see. And production kept going up on both of them.
And the scientific conclusion from that was if you give people attention it's more important than the lighting, or anything else. If they think what they're doing is critical--
FRASIER: There's one other thing about that set of experiments that doesn't get reported in all the management literature, and in the management classes. But it is in the original papers, from the early '30s.
And that is that the way people got paid in the big plant was there was incentive pay, but it was based on the output of large groups of people. So if they had big output, then people got more. And they put them in this special room. They put production measurements on every single machine, and they changed it to individual pay rates.
TURNER: And the other thing I think, Jack, is an example of-- at least in my experience in both the industrial one and also at the lab-- and that is the importance of project-oriented groups rather than matrix. I have never seen a matrix organization work.
FRASIER: Me either.
SPEAKER: We tried like hell for a long time.
BATES: I got a paper I'll send you. It was done by my boss up at GE in Pittsfield. And it was put in just that way-- it's the people, not the organization.
And it's only a one-and-a-half-page thing, but it succinctly points out the fact that you can put any organization you want in there, and they'll either be successful or they'll fail. It says the main thing is to get the people to work together, in a oneness of purpose, and work as a team.
BLONDIN: What you have-- that was another thing we had to do in management. We had to recognize when to break up a program team.
Well, you'd say, why would you want to do that? Well, whenever you introduced a new program coming out of engineering it was much tougher to handle than a program that had been shaken down through the years-- much tougher. With the program orientation, all the varsity players were on the whole program. It had become second nature. Everybody was way, way, way up the learning curve.
And then you put all the brand new, green people on this terribly difficult thing to build out of engineering. Where if someone needed to be able to make a judgment that this is unbuildable, and have it stick-- and to have an operator do that, she had to have, or he had to have a tremendous amount of prestige. And the only ones who had that prestige were the ones in the old program.
So it didn't take me long as a manager of a plant with about 17 programs--
POUNDSTONE: To starting taking our people
BLONDIN: --to start taking our people. That's right.
BRISS: And there's a certain amount of pride, too, they got out of a serving on a [? group-- ?] a prototype program.
DUGGAN: There is one other point. And it's off the personal relations, which I think is paramount in any kind of a team activity.
But in a lot of these things we've described today, we keep referring to materials that we changed, or it caused us problems-- or things that we did that involved new material. Personally, I thought we had the world beat when we figured out we could weld two wires together, and [INAUDIBLE] just go. You know what I mean?
But the material science aspect of this thing began to take on dimensions. And what was extraordinary is the sophistication level went up, and it moved along with every program I've been on since. I mean, plated wire memory was a good classic example. And we lived through that collectively, or at least a good portion of us did.
Where a lot of the development was now beyond the area of the electronic, or the packaging guy and the shop, and everything else. It was [INAUDIBLE] these little cells were doing plating.
And a good one was on the core rope, when we got RTV. And remember, if you overloaded that thing the heat would expand it, and bang all the wires? And this got to be a major kind of problem for a while. It would get diagnosed.
I remember I learned that you don't drill a whole tight and then fill it up with potting compound and let it just pressurize itself, because strange things happen. And it expands.
And respect for thermal control is another serious thing with electronics. And where does it go, and how do you get it out of here? And then, God bless, those connectors are a major pain in the neck.
BRISS: Science is always going to be a major player in whatever's in the future. But when it comes down to the trenches, it's not as important from a technical aspect. But you don't get it done.
DUGGAN: No, I'm not conflicting with what you say. But I think it is important to identify that sometimes you go into these things and think it's just a matter of using the standard things-- reviews-- and find out you get back bitten by something from--
BLONDIN: This wasn't [INAUDIBLE] a computer. It was a module that went in the LM. And we were getting a corona [INAUDIBLE]. And this thing was potted and very densely.
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] amplifier.
BLONDIN: Yeah. Dense potting. And we would pot it, put it in a vacuum chamber, draw the vacuum chamber down, and wait for x number of minutes-- until we saw all the bubbles gone. And then check in again for a half an hour. And then say, OK, this is ready to go. There's no gas. But where's the corona effect coming from if there's no gas in it?
So we took a device-- a blender, like you use for a frappe. And we put that on the bottom of this vacuum chamber. And we put that module in there. And when we didn't see any more bubbles any more, we turned that on. That thing foamed. I mean, it was like beer-- like Guinness stout. Tiny bubbles, froth on the top of it. And then of course in the vacuum chamber the froth collapsed.
We said, how the hell did we miss that? Well, we had thought that the vacuum alone had enough [? poop ?] to pull all those bubbles out, but it didn't. And after that, then the problem went away.
DUGGAN: A lot of times that out gassing was corrosive, too. I mean, other things were impacted by it.
BLONDIN: I remember around watching that for the first time. And seeing this, like someone pouring a Guinness stout, and this foam rising.
DUGGAN: You've got a whole new career path.
BLONDIN: And [? I said, ?] unbelievable.
TURNER: Does anybody remember the irradiated poly-olefin insulation that would detonate? This was a wire. You must remember this, Cline. Down in the Reliability Building down the street, somebody discovered that this great wire insulation-- which was very good for cut through, and good electrically.
It was called a radiated poly-olefin and it had some double bonds or something. And they were running it in pure oxygen, in a test chamber-- and getting it hot, and stuff like that.
After a certain point, it would exchange. And it would explode. And it blew the lid off the test chamber, really.
SPEAKER: I believe that.
TURNER: Maybe this never got back to you guys. But they decided maybe that's not a good idea.
FRASIER: I didn't know everything that was going on.
TURNER: That was George Nail's people.
SPEAKER: [INAUDIBLE] was another exciting experience, choosing [INAUDIBLE].
FRASIER: I was going to say, if I switch gears a minute from the truly technical-- the technical stuff was really important, and had really excellent technical people. But from a far distant view, one of the absolute essential things was that there were checks and balances in the program. Technically, organizationally, and the way things were set up, most things that were done got outside review of some kind or another.
And like you heard a couple of times ago on the software, NASA had people that were going over the software. They had software being checked at North American, and at Grumman in a way. There were lots of mistakes found that way, in just that oversight.
Similarly, there was a certain amount of tension between the Instrumentation Lab, and Raytheon, and AC Electronics-- and certainly among all those with the spacecraft contractors. And those tensions brought out things that you never would have found any other way.
And my experience, since then particularly, has been seeing where there aren't those checks and balances how long things get hidden.
POUNDSTONE: You mean because there was not one prime contractor?
FRASIER: Well, no, it's not because there was not one prime contractor, but it was because there was no way of checking and balancing. So that if somebody-- engineers, especially-- if they have trouble, they say, no, we don't have any trouble. And they figure that if they cover it up long enough they'll fix it, so nobody will find out.
Well, a lot of things you don't get fixed. And because there are all these checks and balances these things get found much sooner, and in time to get fixed, than they would have in almost any other program.
BLONDIN: Case in point, security at Logan Airport.
FRASIER: Case in point, security at Logan Airport.
BLONDIN: No checks and balances. [INAUDIBLE]
FRASIER: One of the other things I think was key to getting there on time was that managers who didn't fit for whatever reason, or didn't perform, got changed. And they got changed faster than they do in many certainly many of the organizations I've worked with since-- both government and industrial.
And in addition to technology, having good management is absolutely key. Because on a program like this, just having good technical people won't make it work. And so you look at the number of changes that went on at AC, the number changes that went on at NASA, the number of changes that went on at Raytheon.
There were, I think, a few changes even at the Instrumentation Lab. It's those kind of things. People don't always fit in particular jobs.
MINDELL: Why did it happen on this program? It doesn't happen in many programs.
FRASIER: Well, I think it was because there was, first of all, so much visibility about things not getting done. And the program had an absolute date, and a strong commitment from everyone. Nobody wanted to fail. And they weren't going to allow themselves to fail because somebody else wasn't doing a good job.
BLONDIN: You had the ultimate time constraint. Kennedy had said, we will get to the moon this decade. This program had more visibility than any other program. You could sweep a lot of things under the rug other places. And if you didn't have one weapons system, you'd have another one. The thought of an astronaut perishing because something didn't work properly.
And then you had the more mundane things, like incentive contracts. So that you could work very hard, and that was ultimately up to you to say how much money you were going to get. And it would be like the New England Patriots having their players play, and then every quarter-- every time 25% of the games have been played, then the coach decides how much he's going to pay you. Well, anybody who's getting in your way of earning your incentive fee, the fact that he's a buddy, that doesn't cut much.
You know, get out of my way. And because the general manager would raise hell if you didn't make--
FRASIER: The incentive structure of the contract was really important. And I got into the job I had after that had been decided. So I had nothing to do with putting it in place. This was part of putting it all under AC Electronics.
But the way it was set up, because of this incentive-- this award fee part-- one of the requirements was that you couldn't just wait till the end of the program and then decide how much they were going to get. You had to give progress reports along the way.
And I initially thought, boy, what a pain in the neck. And you know, I don't like doing this at all. But looking back it made a real difference. Because it was initially monthly, and then quarterly, but we had to do-- NASA, we had to go up to AC Electronics, see the top management there. And then we had to go through the list of things, that said, here's what we agreed was important to get done the last time around.
Here's what's been done. Here's the things that we think were done better than we expected, and here's the things were done worse than we expected. And be able to back every one of those up. And so we'd go through this about a three-hour meeting periodically. And we'd have the AC Electronics program manager and the senior functional managers there-- and Paul Blasingame, the VP in charge of the whole plant, as well as [? John ?] [? Atwood. ?]
And so what this did was the fact that what happened in the meeting wasn't the important thing. What the important thing was was that there was the meeting, and that we insisted that there weren't going to be any surprises about what went on in the meeting. So you already knew what was going to be discussed. His people knew what was going to be discussed.
On our side, I insisted that nobody could just put something in because they were angry. For an example, one of my guys put in something about AC hasn't done something they wanted them to do, with regard to Raytheon and the computer.
So my reaction was, OK, how did you tell them to do it? Well, there's no paper. Well, they called somebody. I said, that doesn't count. But it was the discipline of having to do the report that led me to that kind of behavior, led to learning of my guys. And it really worked like a charm.
And we carried that-- some of the work we're doing with EMC Corporation in Hopkinton and they have a sole-source supplier called Seagate, because they can't get anybody else to make really good disc drives. And there was a long period of time where that was a troubled relationship, for one reason or another.
So we took this model, that seemed to work with AC, and we modified it a little bit and put it in place there. And that's been really working for about five or six years now. So I think it was some of those management innovations that people put in place that really made a difference, too.
POUNDSTONE: Let me expand on that a little. Cline's point was the visibility provided good oversight and rapid feedback, to get things corrected. Although you deny it, I still think the fact that NASA did not have North American as a single contractor, and everybody else was under them, gave you that visibility.
FRASIER: I didn't mean to deny that. I was referring to the--
POUNDSTONE: That's sort of the form in the Air Force. I've worked on some of these Air Force programs where you're a third-tier sub, and the Air Force has no idea what you're doing. And people can bury things.
So the Air Force holds these wonderful meetings with 150 second lieutenants listening, but they don't accomplish anything. so I think that--
FRASIER: Then they change over every year.
POUNDSTONE: Yeah, the contract structure that was set up with NASA gave you people that kind of visibility.
FRASIER: I agree completely. I thought you were asking different--
HALL: [INAUDIBLE] getting some responsibility. So in the Air Force situation, those Air Force guys don't have any responsibility anyway, so they sort of sleep in the meetings.
HANLEY: They sleep, and they play cards.
HALL: In NASA, they had some responsibility too.
HANLEY: That's true.
BLONDIN: Your typical Air Force review would be a senior officer and a whole bunch of-- somebody said second lieutenants-- a whole bunch of them. And the meeting would open. And these guys had everything to say. And it would drag on and on, and on. And it was non sequitur.
The Navy, like NASA, would come in and there would be a top guy. There would be a four striper-- on rare occasions an admiral. And if they had a lieutenant commander, it was to carry the captain's briefcase. That was it.
And it was like the bridge of a ship. You know, captain's on the bridge, everybody else shut up.
I made a presentation one could time to Admiral Julian Lake, surrounded down in naval ACS. And I wanted to prove to him that we could-- we, Raytheon-- could handle the production on this jamming system, as opposed to Hughes-- had huge production facilities.
And I went through a half-an-hour presentation with slides. And when I was done-- that was the Air Force, the first place. I got through slide one and someone would have started raising non-sequitur questions. I went through the whole thing. Everybody at that table had their eye focused on Admiral Lake, not me. And I was giving the presentation. It was all over. And I said, any questions? And Admiral Julian Lake said, I don't have any. Anyone else? Dead.
If that had been the Air Force, you would have had a Congressional debate. Why they did that, I don't know. I guess it was the bridge of a ship versus fighter planes.
And NASA was the same way. They sent in their head honcho. And you just wait, you know? You listen to the argument. And then you say, I think we ought to do this. And that'd be it. OK, salute and execute.
We were glad to get off the frying pan, because none of those decisions were easy. I mean, you had to get there in the '60s, or you were going to embarrass the country. The thing better work, or you're to fry an astronaut.
Your corporation's reputation is at stake. Every corporation had huge ads saying, we're on Apollo. And they would take them out. I used to shudder when I saw them. I said, my God, this thing better work.
BLAIR-SMITH: Bill Tindall was always very good in that role, as the NASA presence. In terms of software reviews, he ran them like that. He followed everything, understood everything. And if there was anything fishy, he'd let you know in a second.
BLONDIN: It was a different group than the other NASA-- an entirely different group. The kinds of guys they had in there-- and I ended up working for a couple of them-- for example, Joe Shea.
They weren't the old Foggy Bottom-esque types, Cline. They were guys who thought quickly, could make decisions. And they were bound and determined to get to the moon.
POUNDSTONE: What other questions do you have?
MINDELL: Sandy had some, I think.
BROWN: I was kind of curious about what happens after the Apollo project. What happens to the team? We've talked a lot about some of the new techniques that were developed-- the material science aspect. What happens after this? What happens to the little old ladies, for example?
HANLEY: They retired.
BRISS: No, we moved them onto other programs.
DUGGAN: Well, these things get projected forward, I think. [INAUDIBLE] put in your toolkit for the next proposal.
POUNDSTONE: Certainly from the contractor's point of view, the lessons that were learned from Apollo were just applied to the next generation.
HALL: Yeah. They went into the Navy programs, and [INAUDIBLE]
POUNDSTONE: The Navy started it. Apollo was just a second-generation Navy program forward.
DUGGAN: They picked up a lot of the things we learned Apollo too, including [INAUDIBLE]. But we had Dave Gold in those programs, which he was a single-minded individual. He'd make decisions on the spot, sometimes with a lot of [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: From an individual's point of view, as you heard here, in some cases the careers continued along Apollo or NASA lines, and other places the careers moved somewhere else. And like I said, some who stayed on Apollo too long, like Eldon, it didn't work out too well.
BLAIR-SMITH: Well, Eldon, how did it come about that once we kind of had to give up being architects of spacecraft computer systems, and we got into fault tolerance, can you trace how that came about?
HALL: Yeah, it actually started in Apollo, near the end-- before there was any flights or anything, and before computers could be accepted as reliable, Paul Ebersol gave us a contract to build a dual computer. I wanted to figure out what the name of that thing was.
POUNDSTONE: Dual computer program.
SPEAKER: That was the dual computer program.
BLAIR-SMITH: DCA, they called it.
HALL: Yeah, DCA. It was strap-down IMU, and a dual computer DCA. That combination was sort of in the background, in case the mainline thing didn't work, or something. Well, Ebersol supported that, and pushed it.
Well, first of all, the Apollo computer had fault tolerance, in a sense.
PANELIST: Yes, it did.
HALL: So we had fault tolerance there, and then the DCA started a different configuration of fault tolerance. That led to other forms of fault tolerance, like multi processing and so forth.
A lot of that was still supported by NASA, sort of looking towards the shuttle. Even though eventually we lost all contributions, or almost everything to the shuttle. But that's where multi processor concepts got started. So does that answer your question, sort of?
BLAIR-SMITH: Yeah. Well, in any case, I was just bringing it up partly because-- you know, what became of people afterwards? In our case, we took the same bunch of people-- really, I think, substantially changed direction. It was very clear that after Apollo that NASA felt, perhaps correctly, that the industry was able to build spacecraft computers-- which they obviously hadn't been before. And so perhaps in some sense we taught the world how to do that.
HALL: Yeah, so we became obsolete.
BLAIR-SMITH: We did ourselves out of a job that way.
POUNDSTONE: Because we were non profit, couldn't compete.
HALL: Dave Gold used to say, the guy that makes the mistakes always get more attention-- because everybody comes in and helps him solve the mistake.
BATES: But then on the Navy side of the house, we kept that design agency concept-- even to today, on the Trident program.
DUGGAN: There were some major commercial spin offs out of the Apollo.
POUNDSTONE: Well, there were some major companies, like Intermetrics with Miller.
SPEAKER: That's an interesting aspect.
SPEAKER: [? Alonzo. ?] Remember that one?
BATES: What about the space group over here under Eisenhower? That moved off. I mean, there were a lot of spin offs. In fact, Doc made the comment at one time-- his job was to expand technology.
HALL: Yeah, that was Doc's whole concept.
BATES: And then he got pissed off when everybody left.
HALL: Not really.
SPEAKER: No, he wasn't, not really.
BATES: Well, I don't know whether it was Doc or somebody else, because we ran into a situation where other companies were starting up. And they were taking people off. And they said, well, why are you hiring these people? And I got caught in the middle of one of them, where they were setting up a company. I think it was even Miller's company.
And they said, well, why didn't you let them know, because they would keep them happy there? Well, they didn't want to be happy there.
HALL: That was after Doc was sort of going downhill. Dave Driscoll got very upset at people.
BATES: That was the guy.
SPEAKER: Well, we had other internal politics that were driving it.
POUNDSTONE: That might make an interesting part of your report, if you could sort of identify all of the spin off companies that were formed out of this group.
SPEAKER: What the degradation curve was, and where they went.
CLINE: There's one spin off from this program that is I don't think generally recognized, and I certainly have never seen it in print. One of the problems we have with the Apollo computer was-- I think this was probably one of the first developments that went through extensive random vibration testing. And we found lots of problems in the computer, and in the relays, and everything else.
POUNDSTONE: We didn't have relays in Poseidon. That's why we didn't--
FRASIER: OK, you didn't have flat packs. So they found contamination in the flat packs. And they were, as it turned out, the cleanest flat packs that could be bought. And we tried lots of other places. And still you had contamination. The little silicone particle if they got in the right spot, would cause a--
FRAISER: These are silicon.
FRASIER: This would cause hiccups in the computer, which is not too good. And that got sorted out through attention to cleaning the [INAUDIBLE] random vibration screening. Then there was-- maybe '68, or something like that-- one of the guys at Autonetics had jobs like yours-- come around to see the NASA folks, and try to see if there's programs.
But meets in my office in Houston. And we were talking, and he said, I really shouldn't tell you this, but I asked him about the Minuteman-II. He said, the last nine shots, we had seven failures.
And these are the first nine shots. We had seven failures.
I said, my God, what happened? He said, well, it gets up to staging. This thing stages, and the computer goes crazy and it blows up. From that conversation, I told him what were were doing on Apollo and what you guys had found out. And I expected the way things go that that would just totally die, it wouldn't get through the system.
Apparently, this is a real crisis at Autonetics. And the next step was they came to Raytheon. Raytheon screened their modules, teach them how to screen. And that's what got the Minuteman-II program back online.
BLONDIN: That's a case in point, though, that never could have happened on Apollo-- where you could have had seven out of nine failures.
HALL: I couldn't afford that.
POUNDSTONE: They couldn't fly one out of it.
HALL: That's right.
BLONDIN: It just-- it kept everybody focused.
BRISS: That's that man-on-board stuff again.
POUNDSTONE: In my mind, as much as I hate to admit it, I think that issue of the contamination in the flat packs was a-- we were all at fault in there. We never thought about weightlessness.
HALL: About what?
HALL: Oh yes, we did.
POUNDSTONE: I don't recall thinking [INAUDIBLE].
HALL: But what could we with it sitting here on the earth? I was very concerned about what was going to those particles.
BATES: Well, what was the one with the solder ball?
HALL: Apollo 14.
BATES: No, no, this was inside a flat pack.
HALL: It was in a relay. Apollo 12.
BATES: When they sealed the thing-- North American had a problem when they sealed-- I thought it was a flat pack. They had a little solder ball on top of it. And when they wanted vibration the solder ball fell off.
HALL: I thought you meant an actual [INAUDIBLE].
POUNDSTONE: You're talking about a hybrid.