Susan Dennis (susandennis) wrote,
Susan Dennis


At IBM, we creeped into the computer age - at least in the soft areas (executives, communications, human resources, marketing, etc). Really. We finally all got DisplayWriters at our desks so at least we finally had spellcheck! Initially, we created documents and then moved them around on 8" (yes, that is 8" dinner plate sized) floppy (they really flopped) disks. You can see the disk drives in this picture.

And then they plugged our DisplayWriters into the mainframe computers and we were off. Kinda. A little bit. We got an email system called PROFS. (0ld people will remember when the Oliver North hearings put PROFS in the news during the Iran Contra scandal which is now, itself, ancient history. )

I was fascinated by it all and quickly became our department's go-to for 'technical' stuff. It wasn't very technical but the system was buggy and I had played with it so much on my own time that I knew it's proclivities.

In 1981 IBM announced the PC. Product announcements were gynormous deals and this was really big. It was held in Miami (the developers and manufacturing peops were all in IBM Boca) and there had been scads of people working on the announcement for months. (IBM did nothing small in those days.) The communications managers at all the plant locations around the country were asked to send someone to help. I got picked. And off I went.

It was wild - I worked 24/7 for a week in Miami and it was such great fun. Plus I met a guy from the Austin, TX office. He was fun and as interested in the technology stuff as I was.

We got a new giant printer (it was about the size of one of those really big office copiers of the olden days). Tom (the Austin guy) got one for his office, too. They were set up as copiers but we figured out they were actually connected to the network and we could access them from our Displaywriters if we could noodle out the code.

Which we did. And Tom suggested we write a paper about it. Which we did. And then got pretty famous in the IBM community because only technical people (engineers) write technical papers and we sure weren't. We were the odd ducks all around. And it was really fun just being the center of attention for a while.

Then, one day, the Director of Communications presented me a $3000.00 bonus check for contributions above and beyond. Way to make a geek outta me!!

One fun fact about Tom I discovered when I went to visit him in Austin. He had built his own house on this big lake and it was impressive. But, most impressive was his coffee switch. He had a plug in the kitchen connected to a regular light-type switch over his bed in the bedroom. He'd get the coffee all set up the night before. When he woke up in the morning, he barely had to rollover to turn on the coffee. Before you feet hit the floor you got a fabulous whiff of fresh brew. It was really genius.

To Be Continued
Tags: tbc
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