About Herb Nunnally
Herb Nunnally was born in Louisville, Mississippi, and from an
early age had an interest in technology. In his teens, Nunnally
worked as an electrician with his father, leading him to study
electrical engineering at Mississippi State. Graduating in 1963,
Nunnally went right to Westinghouse, starting in Pittsburgh at
Westinghouse’s Graduate Student Program. He soon transferred
to Baltimore, where Nunnally stayed for the rest of his career,
beginning in the Field Engineering and Services Department. Nunnally
eventually became marketing manager of FE&S, before becoming
marketing manager for the Communications Division, working over
the years with groups like the Air Force, American Mobile Satellite Corporation
and National Iranian Radio and Television.
He also was a part of various projects such as the Orbiting Astronomical
Observatory (OAO), Communications Technology Satellite and teleconferencing.
Nunnally retired in 1996.
In this interview, Nunnally discusses his long career at Westinghouse,
going from engineer to manager. He talks about the projects he
worked on with NASA such as OAO, and becoming a project engineer
while working on Goddard contracts. Nunnally discusses being a
part of management and how to effectively lead various people and
groups, including multinational groups, like for the MEECN contract.
Nunnally also talks about the emphasis placed in his division in
later years to move from an entirely military focus to more commercial,
leading to changes such as a new name for the Communications Division – Westinghouse
Wireless Solutions Company – to sound more commercial. His
work in finding contracts for his division is also covered. The
atmosphere of Westinghouse Baltimore is discussed, as well as the
sale of Westinghouse (although Nunnally’s own division was
not involved) to Northrop Grumman.
About the Interview
HERB NUNNALLY: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser, IEEE
History Center, 18 February 2010
Interview #530 for the National Electronics Museum and IEEE History
Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers Inc.
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Herb Nunnally, an oral history conducted in 2010 by Sheldon Hochheiser,
IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA at the National Electronics
Museum, Linthicum, MD, USA
Interview: Herb Nunnally
Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser
Date: 18 February 2010
Location: The National Electronics Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
Background and Education
This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center. It is February
18th, 2010. I’m here at The National Electronics Museum in
Baltimore, with Westinghouse retiree, Herb Nunnally. Good morning,
If we could start with just a bit of background. Where were you
born and raised?
I was born and raised in a little town in Mississippi called Louisville,
Where is Louisville, relative to some larger place that someone
might be more familiar with?
Well, it’s closer to Meridian, Mississippi.
It’s about 90 miles, 100 miles from Jackson, Mississippi.
North of Jackson, Mississippi, and so forth. So.
Good. Now I’ve got it fixed in my mind geographically. What
did your parents do?
My father was an electrician; my mother was a homemaker.
I guess if your father was an electrician, you had a lot of opportunity
to be around electrical things when you were growing up.
I did. And I worked in that field as a teenager with him and other
That’s where I got my introduction into electrical work,
at a very low level, I might add.
I suppose that therefore, you were interested in, in technology
and things electrical as a kid.
Always. From the very beginning, I had an interest and fascination.
Technology was not the prominent feature in one’s life those
days, but it was nevertheless an intriguing thing for me.
Sure. What led you to Mississippi State for college?
Well, it was a thing that I was told I was going to do without
being told I was going to do it. I was just brought up, my parents
did not have college educations at all, and they wanted very much
for me to be the first member of the family to do that. Mississippi
State was about 25 miles away in Starkville, or State College,
Mississippi. So I went there often as a child, teenager, to sports
events and those kinds of things. And I knew I wanted to be in
engineering and that was the state school for engineering, which
it still is. But nevertheless, I knew where I was going to go at
a very early age and and that’s where I went.
Um-hum. So did you go there specifically with the idea of electrical
Indeed. That was the subject and topic from day one. I enrolled
in that the first day.
And never looked back.
Never looked back. No.
What was the curriculum in EE like when you were a student in
the late fifties, early sixties?
Well, it was primarily power oriented, with the primary employers,
once you graduated, being the power companies in the south.
Mississippi Power, Alabama Power and Light, Florida Power and
Light, those kinds of organizations. So the curriculum, once you
got into the junior-senior years, was very heavily oriented to
power. In my junior year, they offered their first computer course.
And really, what that was was transistors.
So that was a very early part. I took that, got interested in it,
and gravitated to the extent I could, into two areas, communications
Were there any communications courses?
Yes. They were about the second tier beyond power.
Or below power, whichever way you refer to it. So there was an
awful lot of communications courses, and RF communications, to
say the least. And, line-a-sight microwave; those kinds of things.
I took all those and so I knew I had an interest in communications,
junior year, senior year of college, and that carried me all the
way through my career.
IRE and Going to Westinghouse
Now, did you join Westinghouse directly upon graduation?
And what led you to Westinghouse rather than some other employment
Well, my father being an electrician, being on the power side
of things, he had often spoken of me joining a power company and
he was very interested in that. And he had worked for a long time
for Mississippi Power and Light, so he thought one of those companies
were stable, you know, reliable employers, and which they are.
But I had no interest in that field of endeavor. I wanted the
electronics side of things. And so I interviewed with a variety
of companies in my senior year, and was fortunate to get an offer
from Westinghouse, and I took it. So that’s – I joined
Westinghouse in 1963, even before I graduated. So it was, you know,
in the summer…of 1963. I might add that you – since
you make reference to the IEEE. We had an IEEE chapter, at Mississippi
State, of course. And I belonged to that. And then I also belonged
to an organization called IRE.
I don’t even remember what the acronym stood for anymore.
But, there was the two, sort of, academic fraternities; even though
they were fraternities, they were professional organizations.
Well, there were two – IEEE itself comes about in 1963,
when IRE and AIEE merged.
It was IRE.
Right. The IRE started out in radio and,
and had really gotten big into electronics. And AIEE was mainly
power and some wired communications.
And so that’s – now you’ve refreshed me.
Well, that’s okay.
That’s why I was involved in the IRE.
Right. Because that was more -
Along with the stuff you wanted to do.
Yes. So I went to work at Westinghouse. That’s where we
Then did you maintain your IEEE membership through your career?
For a long time. I didn’t join Westinghouse here in Baltimore.
So when you joined Westinghouse, where did you start?
I started in Pittsburgh. Westinghouse had a program at that time
called the Graduate Student Program. I was hired under that, in
that manner. I went to Pittsburgh at first, and I went through
several weeks of exposure to the Westinghouse product lines that
they had. And the program was excellent in the sense that you got
to take a look at all these areas where Westinghouse had facilities
and product lines, and to some degree you got to choose which one
of these you’d like to go and have an interview with. And
so after doing this, I went and came down to Baltimore and interviewed
here. And the idea behind the program was, after several weeks
here, a month, six weeks, then you were to go back to Pittsburgh
and you have your experience discussed. And if you wanted to take
another assignment in some other area, you were free to do that.
I think you could take two or three of these. And then the requirement
was that you make a choice.
And if they wanted you and you wanted them, well then, Westinghouse
had made a match; they had an opening, and so forth and so on.
But I never took but one assignment, and that was here in Baltimore.
I chose them, they chose me; I was lucky in that respect, so I
came to work here in Baltimore.
Field Engineering and Services, OAO
What was your first assignment here in Baltimore?
Well, it was with the Field Engineering and Services Department.
I joined that department when I made my selection. So I came here
in – best I recall it was the fall, or so, of ’63 – and
accepted permanent employment in the FE&S Department. Field
Engineering and Services.
Um-hum. And what did you do in the Field Engineering [and] Services
at the time?
Well, at the beginning, of course, they give you a variety of
just, exposure-type assignments.
With FE&S, you have that opportunity because of the variety
of work going on, because they work on behalf of all of the other
divisions in the local area. So I went to work in a place, I think
it was in what was called the Aerospace Division, for a while.
I worked in some computer-related work there for a while. And then
I was asked to take an assignment at what was at that time Grumman
Aircraft, on Long Island. Westinghouse had a contract to provide
the ground support equipment for what was called the OAO, Orbiting
This would have been about ’64 now?
Well, we’re in the late stages of ’63. So I took that
assignment and I went to Bethpage, Long Island and worked for Westinghouse
as a field engineer at Grumman Aircraft. And our job there was
to support the Westinghouse ground support equipment, which had
been installed there at Grumman, in checking out the spacecraft
and so forth. This would be later used, of course, when the spacecraft
was put in orbit. So I spent time up there, the better part of,
oh, six or eight months, if I recall, learning the equipment, learning
the project, and then that equipment that Westinghouse was building
had to be installed in the outskirts of Lima, Peru and Santiago,
Chile, and Quito, Ecuador.
Were these the places where the ground stations were for the system?
In addition to Rosman, North Carolina, I believe. So it was Rosman,
North Carolina; Quito, Ecuador; Lima, Peru; and Santiago, Chile.
Now did you go to these various places?
Yes, as part of my assignment. There was another person that was – in
those days they called them engineer in charge - he was the engineer
in charge; I was the young fellow working for him.
And who was he?
His name was Elwood Baker.
So you and Elwood Baker went to each of these places together?
We did. We went down to each one of those places and – on
behalf of Westinghouse but working for NASA, who the contract was
So NASA had a contract with Grumman and Westinghouse had a subcontract?
Let’s see, now. The best I recall, our contract was with
Your contract was directly with NASA.
But Grumman was the lead contractor because they were building
the spacecraft. So when we went to South America, there was no
Grumman presence at that time. It was all NASA tracking stations.
And so they had managers at each one of those and we worked, at
that time, for them.
Okay. So you worked directly then with the NASA managers at each
of these ground stations.
Correct. Putting that equipment in, checking it out. This is all
prior to launch. There was no satellite in orbit.
Right. There’s no point in launching the satellites till
the ground stations are ready. [Laughs]
Right. Well, that’s the general idea, for sure. [Laughter]
Sometimes you don’t get quite all that perfection, but nevertheless.
But that’s the idea.
The idea, of course.
How long did it take to get all of these things ready?
Well, there were several months involved. Best I remember, we
went down and spent weeks at each. And I don’t think there
was more than two at each place. Something like that. Because all
the equipment had been delivered and installed in buildings, you
know, from a physical point of view. Our job was to ensure that
once it was electrically connected and properly so, then to run
all kinds of tests on the equipment to ensure that it was working
properly. So it was about two – best I remember – two
weeks at each place.
That was a lot of travel for a young fellow.
Well, it was. And quite an interesting taste of parts of the world
that I had never begun to imagine.
And, in the middle of all of that - let me just back up here.
I am off. I did not go down there until the fall of ’64.
So I was at Grumman, from roughly the fall or early winter of ’63,
until the fall – it’s 10 months or so, in there.
Maybe close to a year. And then we went to South America. So in
the middle of all that, I had gotten married, so I spent our honeymoon,
as it turned out, in South America, without her.
Well, it’s – what’d she think of that? [Laughter]
Well, she didn’t think much of it at the early point of
it, but bless her heart, she adapted to it. And so I was gone for
all of that.
Once you finished your rotation of the several ground stations,
did that end your involvement with the project?
No, we came back and then there was time spent on the same equipment
down at Goddard Space Flight Center, which was going to be the
mission control area for the satellite. The satellite was being
managed and developed and designed out of Goddard Space Flight
Center. They were the mission center there.
So consequently, I was assigned there and spent a number of months.
I think it was on into ’65, somewhere; again, doing much
the same, ensuring the equipment was working. And that time, I
was all on my own. Mr. Baker went on to some other assignment and
I covered the facility down at NASA, at Goddard.
And were you there through the launch of the satellite?
Yes, I was. And unfortunately, the satellite went in the ocean.
It got off the pad but not very far.
And was that the end of the project, or - ?
Well, they had another one, and that one had problems as well.
Unfortunately, it never got a spacecraft in orbit. And so, therefore,
there was much consternation as to what to do and the project was
basically shut down while NASA tried to think their way through
this. [They] could get no money, because the NASA headquarters
and the Congress would not allocate more money to this project
that didn’t have any semblance of succeeding. And so NASA – as
other people have done as well – they changed the name after
a number of years to the Hubble Space Telescope, and built other
spacecraft and that was quite successful.
So did the ground equipment you worked with then eventually get
used with later satellites?
It was a different era. If I remember correctly, by the time this
all got organized into the Hubble Space Telescope, a numbers of
years had gone by.
And the state of the art had moved on?
Much, much so. The computer that we had for the OAO project was
made by, believe it or not, General Mills. [Laughter] And it was
a very primitive device, to say the least. The only thing we had
was a paper tape reader. We had to punch the paper tapes and enter
them into this device now. Then the technology had certainly picked
up in that period and all of that was naught. The great thing to
have here in the museum was one of those General Mills computers
because they only made one and that was it.
So you’re down at Goddard for a while, the satellite does
not successfully launch.
Airborne Fire Control System Computer
So then, I assume you eventually had to move on to another project?
Yeah, I did. I came back. Well, I didn’t have far to come
back to. I was just operating out of the plant here, down at Goddard.
So I came back here and I was assigned, back again, on another
project over in the aerospace division working on the first Westinghouse
produced here at Baltimore, a little computer. It was going to
go in an airborne fire control system for an airborne radar.
That thing was hand-built and I was fortunate enough at that time
to be assigned to that project. And I worked with people that were
leading the project, and technical people here, for – I don’t
know – six, eight months, something like that.
What would this have been, about ’66 then?
This was somewhere in late ’65. Because the spacecraft,
OAO, was unsuccessful, I think, in the early or late spring of,
I think, ’65.
Which radar system was this for?
I don’t recall the airborne radar system that it was supposed
to go in. It had a targeted system, but it was also a bit generic
in that they were trying to develop a computer that could go in
a variety of places. So probably -
Now, are you out of field engineering at this point?
No, no. I’m still a part of field engineering.
Even though you’re now working in Baltimore?
Yes. Even though I’m in the home base, I stayed in field
engineering and was assigned to this project, which was also located
Who were the people you worked with on this project, do you recall?
Well, yes. There was the project leader [who] was a fellow by
the name of John
Who I interviewed yesterday.
Oh, you did talk to John. [Laughter] Well, thank God. I’m
glad to hear he’s up and well.
He’s up and well.
That’s great. So John was the project manager and there
were a number of technical people. There was a Bill Bidler; there
was a Dave Sloper. There was a Jim Hudson.
So you worked on this computer for what, you said six to eight
months or so?
Oh, maybe six. Something like that. I don’t recall exactly
the timeframe. And then I was – it was to a point to where
that project was getting, I won’t say finished, but down
to the point to where they didn’t need my kind of level of
Applications Technology Satellite
So I went back across the hall, in a way of speaking, and I was
reassigned. That time, I was reassigned to another program out
of Goddard, called the ATS, which was Applications Technology Satellite.
And this was to be a communications
satellite, as opposed to an earth observation satellite.
And I became an engineer working on that assignment because we
had much the same role, ground support equipment-wise, that we
had for the OAO.
And you now had lots of experience in the ground support.
Especially with NASA in that context. So I was involved in that
for a while. And then I was assigned because the contract we had
was with Goddard again. And this time the contract was with our
department. The Field Engineering and Services Department had the
contract. So there was a role for someone to work between Baltimore
and Goddard, and go back and forth and back and forth, and I was
assigned as the first applications technology satellite liaison
What does that mean?
What that meant was that I was to carry issues back and forth,
try to resolve them, understand them, present them here, present
them there, on the technical level. And work a lot down there,
a lot up here, so a lot of back and forth but the distance was
short enough to where it didn’t really matter. And you know,
obviously, telephones were involved, to say the least. But I sat
in meetings down there; I sat in meetings up here. Understood issues,
tried to convey one side’s point of view, the other side’s
point of view, then from a technical level, not in the management
sense but the technical sense. And got answers and solutions and
that kind of thing. So I was in that for maybe six months. Something
And then after that six months?
Well, after that six months I stayed on that project, but the
department had won another contract to develop a series of data
processing equipment and ground support equipment, and software,
for a range of communications experiments that were going to be
conducted on this satellite. Propagation experiments, line-of-site
and microwave experiments. In those days the idea that RF communications
was different when you’re transmitting to a satellite than
it was terrestrially, was a big idea. As it turned out, it wasn’t.
[Laughing] The laws of physics didn’t change. And so consequently,
the idea was to run a whole bunch of experiments on this satellite
to determine the effect of broadcasting, or transmitting, you know,
22,000 miles and back, and delay times and all those kind of things.
So I became heavily involved in this subset of the contract, and
eventually became the project manager of those experiments.
Can you tell me a bit more? So there’s this contract between
NASA and Westinghouse, and the experiments, then, are one part
of this overall contract?
I believe it was a subset of the original contract. But I’m
not sure, to be honest, if it was a stand-alone contract or a subset
of the original contract. One way or another, it was managed separately,
and I became – they called them project engineers in those
days. Today the word is program manager. So I became a program
manager of those sets of experiments.
Now as the project engineer, did that mean you now had engineers
working under you?
Yes. Yes. I was, you know, leading a team of engineers instead
of just myself. Which was a whole new -
Are you now spending more of your time managing than actually
Well, not at that level. I’m still doing an awful lot of
technical work, but indeed, you’re involved in people issues
from time to time. But more, at that stage, still very much a technical
role in leading technically, as opposed to leading so much managerially.
And where did these experiments lead?
Well, let me think now. They led to the development of a whole
series of experiments that had to be planned. And then the idea
was to - once the satellite was launched - was to run those experiments,
collect the data, and then do, eventually, what was called the
analysis or the processing. Well, the first satellite, ATS, it
goes in the drink.
And when was this?
This may have been late ’66, ’67, somewhere in there.
And so, fortunately, though, they had a series of these. There
were five of them. And the second one was basically already built.
It was close to it. And its orbit, the first one was to be a polar-orbited
satellite, if I remember right. And this second one was a synchronous
orbit. Fortunately, that one was launched and it was quite successful.
And so the work on that satellite lasted into the seventies.
So with the second satellites successfully launched, the experiments
could be run.
Yes. And so, we began to run those experiments. I was involved
in not only the data collection, but there was a very rudimental
effort at trying to do computer analysis of the data. You can imagine
the data was, by those standards, quite voluminous. Not by today’s
standards, but in those days [it] was. So how in the world were
you going to analyze this without some assistance of – so
we developed a series of programs to facilitate some of that. And
I was involved in a little bit of that as well.
So you were then taking the data and analyzing it on computers
down here in Baltimore?
Well, at first, the data was all analyzed by the old strip-chart
method where you basically just watch the RF propagation off of
the strip-chart and tried to look at conditions that surrounded
the time that the data was collected and make judgments about the
levels and the frequency response, and all these kinds of things.
And then you begin to do some ideas of, well, if we put this into
some sort of analog to digital conversion, and we begin to kind
of collect this data a little bit in a digital fashion, well then
maybe we could figure out a way to do some of this analysis by
computer programs but that was very primitive in one sense of the
word. So we didn’t ever really get that far on that until
there was another one called ATS 3 that was launched that had more
experiments of a more sophisticated nature. I believe, if I remember
right, they didn’t have a four. They opted to build a completely
massive contract; it was called ATS-6.
And the company that had the contract to build that satellite
was Fairchild – I believe they were in the Gaithersburg area
at that time, or Rockville, well maybe Gaithersburg. And then I
was given assignments to work on the early phases of that data
collection. More importantly, the decision had been made we were
really going to go after a lot of digital processing and digital
data handling of all that. So I became assigned to work on the
computers and the development of the software that would work down
at Goddard. They were the IBM
360 Series; they were brand new. And we were to develop the
software that would then be used to do this digital analysis. And
so I was the project leader/program manager of that effort, and
I had software people, hardware people. It took on more of a program
It sounds like now you probably had more people working with you
on the project.
Yes, a different variety of people and, and also, I eventually
assumed financial responsibility for the budgets as well as how
the money was made or not made on that particular facet of the
And so while staying with the ATS program, it sounds like you’re
getting more and more managerial responsibilities and, I assume
then, less and less actual time doing the engineering?
Well yes, that’s correct. It was still an awful lot of technical
decision-making, project direction, technical direction. But you’re
right. The program management role, the interface with their management,
the interface with Westinghouse management, grew and grew. As long
as time went by. Put it that way.
Right. Who, or maybe it was several people, did you report to
during these years?
Well, there was a man who I reported to by the name of Chuck Sargent.
I worked for him. I worked for another fellow by the name of Dave
Coleman. I worked for a fellow by the name of Ira Sussman. They
had different roles at different times. And I would be reporting
to different ones of those as the project went, you know, went
through its phases.
Yes. And were there other groups at Westinghouse, other teams
at Westinghouse that you interfaced with regularly over the courses?
No. For the most part the contract was held by the Field Engineering
and Services Department. So all of the engineers that were working
on that either migrated into the department or were the original
people. We did have some people that assisted from time to time
that were software people that were not a part of the department.
But most were, which was very new. The department never had its
own program management. The department was a Field Engineering
Services Department and it normally assigned people to work for
others. But in this particular case we owned the contract and were
responsible for it, so we got the experience at being program managers
for ourselves, for the first time. And I was fortunate to be one
of those early guinea pigs.
Baltimore in the Sixties and Seventies, More ATS
How did you find Baltimore as a place to work in the sixties and
Well, it was a godsend. At that period of time now - we’re
into the seventies - I’ve been around probably seven or eight,
nine years, something like that. Because somewhere, let’s
see, about 1970, ’71, I was promoted to supervisor. And so
then I did have the program management responsibility, but I had
a management title as well. The first level of that rung of that
ladder. So Baltimore at that time was basically booming. It not
only had the NASA work that we had, it had NASA work in other parts
of the company. For example, the lunar TV camera was developed
here. It was used on the first
landing on the moon. So that NASA work was going on. And, of
course, we had military work. And we also had work with, with the
secure agencies, NSA, and a variety of places. So Westinghouse,
here in Baltimore was growing and booming, and the opportunities
were numerous. So you could almost, if you worked hard, [have]
had growth about yourself; there was an awful lot of opportunities
to pick and choose, types of projects, and places to work.
So it was a great place. It always was.
So you become a supervisor, still on these ATS projects.
Anything further about the ATS project as we go on?
Well, I guess the thing that sort of defined all of that work
for me, when it was all over, was that I had won a contract there,
again as a part of ATS, to work on what was the first propagation
studies from a satellite, using Ku-band and Ka-band frequencies.
And no one had ever looked at these from a spacecraft transmission
and reception point of view, with the intriguing part being what
does rain – precipitation in general – what does it
do to the propagation characteristics at Ku and Ka-band? So we
had to develop a variety of experiments, collect the data, eventually
process that data, do the analysis. We worked with what was the
principal investigator for NASA, who was down at Goddard Space
Flight Center and we worked for him. We had the contract. I was
responsible for the contract, but we were responsible to him, to
do the work and to help him determine what needed to be written
about and characterized from these studies.
What was his name?
And if you were working with him, did this lead to any publications
or conference stuff?
Yes. There was all kinds of, over the years, publications of papers.
He and I would give them together. He would do one, I would do
one, so there was, it was quite an interesting period there, of – once
the data got to the point to where you could understand it a little
[Laughter] Well of course.
And had something to say. I’ll put it that way.
And would – that’s a nice compromise – would
these have been IEEE conferences or papers?
I honestly don’t remember who sponsored them. And some of
them were NASA sponsored because they were trying to promote the
work they had done. Some were just part of other conferences, and
I don’t remember.
How long did the sequence of projects on this ATS program continue?
Well, it was into the middle seventies.
That’s a nice long run.
Yes, it was. I guess I started on that phase of NASA work in the
early seventies and it lasted till, best I remember, ’74, ’75,
in that timeframe.
Communications Technology Satellite and Teleconferencing
We saw that work winding down so we began to try to launch efforts
into extending our credentials in that area and work for other
people. One of them was Ames Research Center, out in California.
Lewis Research Center, up in Cleveland. All these were NASA facilities
And we got a contract with Lewis Research Center. That was for
the next generation. It was called CTS, Communications Technology
Satellite. It was the successor to the ATS. You have to change
these names periodically, to get new funding. [Laughter] So with
that said, I became a principal investigator. Even though we had
a contract, I was defined as the principal investigator. And this
required Westinghouse to spend money on its own, for the first
time; in addition to the contract, we had to spend money, so it
was a collaborative effort.
Right. But the money was there for the Westinghouse side to do
Well, by making the pitches to upper management to secure the
money, yes. Eventually that was secured and I had the good fortune
of having upper management who would listen and people who helped
And who were these people?
Well, there was a variety. One was a fellow by the name of Ray
Esary. Another was a fellow by the name of Bill Pridgen. Another
was a fellow by the name of Dick Hale. A variety of these folks
got behind the project and contributed money. The project I was
the principal investigator of was called a teleconferencing experiment.
The idea was that we would set up a facility in Baltimore and we
would set up a facility in Lima, Ohio because that plant in Lima,
Ohio reported to Baltimore. And both [Baltimore] where I worked,
and the Lima facility were responsible [to] Mr. Ray Esary. He was
the general manager of the division that had that. So he was the
guy, then, that sponsored, primarily, the money, so that we established
this video conferencing capability in Lima, Ohio and here. We had
to develop conference rooms and we even branched into an element
of psychology and how do people behave before cameras; how do they
perform in a meeting environment. And we had to develop all of
these experiments and eventually write about them and publish the
data. So I was the principal investigator of that, and NASA, whenever
they had somebody they wanted to have talk about this, I was the
So you were using the NASA satellites for -
The Communications Technology Satellite or CTS.
- the CTS satellite to run video teleconferencing experiments
between Ohio and Baltimore.
Okay. I’ve got it.
They were live, they were in color, and we set up a conference
room here that had a kind of a crescent shape, one similar to that
in Lima. We did automatic voice switching where when you spoke
the camera automatically switched to that voice. Voice recognition.
And this was very tricky and very difficult.
I learned that video is easy and audio is very difficult, relatively
speaking, of course. [Laughter] We can handle the video part of
things much easier. We learned that people accept all kinds of
levels of video performance but they are very critical of audio
performance where they can’t hear it right or if it’s
clipped, all those things.
What were the lessons that you were able to draw from these experiments?
Well, the big lesson that we published and Westinghouse got recognition
for, is that we basically proved that meetings could be productively
conducted over this medium of video. Now, forget it was a satellite
if you will. It worked for terrestrial as well as for a satellite.
But the satellite had the advantage where great distances were
involved. And, of course, in those days, AT&T ruled the roost
and they charged unbelievable [amounts] for these T-1 lines, or
whatever they were called in those days. And the bandwidth on those
were very small. We had more than enough bandwidth to where we
could go color and full video, and full motion, and all those things.
The idea was that later on a series of satellites would be developed
commercially by somebody. NASA was trying to push that notion.
Then companies would buy into this. We basically proved that it
was not only feasible technically, but that was sort of understandable
from the start.
But it was acceptable from a management perspective in getting
people to be productive in this environment. So that was a real
secondary component, but [a] very critical one because if people
can’t be productive and don’t feel like they had something – and
didn’t have to get on an airplane or travel distances – they’re
not going to use it. But we proved they could. So I guess the main
contributing factor of that was teleconferencing. I think AT&T
had introduced a telephone that had a video conferencing capability.
That may have been introduced in the sixties, matter of fact,
at the World’s Fair.
Shown at the ’64 World’s Fair.
Commercial introduction not successful in 1970. By some point
in the eighties, AT&T was selling a conferencing setup that
sounds somewhat similar to what you had been doing in the seventies.
Yes. So the big factor there was not – well, it was a bandwidth
restriction, because it was all copper.
Very tricky until you get to - that’s why satellite seemed
great – until you get to fiber
Oh, yes. Different story.
Well that solves the bandwidth issue.
So the, so the experiments were successful.
And you got to talk about them, and I assume, write them up as
Oh, yes. All kinds work, in addition to the project management;
indeed the writing and the publication and going to NASA. There
were what was called user meetings, and they were held every couple
of months, and you’d have to go and report to others that
were doing things. That kind of stuff.
About how many people did you have working with you, working under
you, on this project?
Well, on this one, in addition to that teleconferencing component,
there was probably about four or five of us on that.
But then, in addition, I had a responsibility for the work that
we had under CTS contract for more propagation work. And so there
was a whole other component of just pure technical work.
And that was probably – roughly 20, I guess. So if you add
us all together, maybe it was 20, 25, something like that, who
were involved in the pure technical as well as this teleconferencing
And both of those components then reported in to you?
And how long did this CTS program run?
Oh, it went on to ’76, maybe ’77, maybe ’78.
Something like that.
How did you balance this fascinating technical work, and psychological
work, and all this work on the communications satellite with the
needs to manage a group of 20 people?
Well, it’s just a learning process. [Laughter] Put it that
way. I always have thought, even when I had other upper management
assignments, that the first the line supervisor is just like a
first sergeant. I mean you are right there where the action is.
Others can think about what’s going on and you have to deal
with what’s going on. So first line supervision is an experience
everyone should have [Laughter] whether they need it or not. So
that‘s just a complete learning process, to say the least.
Because now you’ve got human beings that are – I don’t
think it’s near what it is today. But still, human beings
were human beings. And their abilities need to be evaluated, their
assignments need to be made, changes had to be made when they were
having problems and when they needed help you had to recognize
this because sometimes engineers won’t tell you when they’re
having problems. You have to help them decide they do need help
and they needed to be worked with.
And how do you do this? How do you manage a group of people like
this, as a first line supervisor for a success of the project and
Well Sheldon, I, I can only recall that in those days – this
was early, mid-seventies, late seventies.
In that decade of the seventies the variety, if any, of the training
programs that were available were essentially zero. The training
notion – it was all what we call OJT, on job training.
And so you learned from the seat of your pants, with the assistance
of other management people. Of course, you had those to go and
get advice from and assistance from, and all of that. The Westinghouse
upper management, as well as your section managers and department
managers, were always just great in that regard, so you did have
a very good support system. But it was from your management, upper-line
management. It wasn’t from a human resource training sense
of things. So you just have to learn by your mistakes, and hopefully
they’re not too big, and you can redo them and back up and
try another path.
In those days they were trying to hire people with some, what
is called today, diversity. And I was told one day that I had a
new engineer that had been hired and was going to be assigned to
me. And I said okay, what’s his degree in? And of course
it was EE, majoring in computers.
And then, where’s he from? And he said, well, he just graduated
from the University of Puerto Rico. I said, does he speak English?
And they said, very little. So then it became my responsibility
to try to work with the person and help him learn. And the language
being – because I spoke, essentially, no Spanish. Essentially
none. And so one of the learning experiences was, I learned, after
say, three, four, five months had gone by, that when I would talk
to him, I’d always reserve a time, like two or three days
after work, each week, to spend an extra 30 or 40 minutes with
him alone, to help him. And I came to realize one night, by total
accident, that he didn’t understand hardly anything I was
And the way he was doing it was, after I left, he would try to
write it in English, on a pad. He would try to take what he remembered
and look at it and write it down. But being reluctant, he wouldn’t
come and ask me if that’s what I said. And so by total accident,
one night quite late, when I came through, I just happened to go
by his area, I looked down on his desk and there was all these
things I had somewhat said. It dawned on me that the poor guy was
trying his best to take it out of his head, in Spanish, and write
it in English, so it would help him do it. With that, it was just
another one of these moments when you realize that what you’d
been doing was not working. So that was just a unique experience
that I had in working with other people. It taught me that even
if you’re speaking the English language, a lot of times people
don’t understand; they’ve got another tape they’re
playing in their heads, whatever – and miscommunication is
what I’m getting at.
Well intentioned on everybody’s part; they just, you just
miss the message. Whether I’m doing it well or they’re
doing it well doesn’t matter. It’s just not happening
right. That leads people to waste time; that leads people to go
down wrong paths, spend money. And so I learned that communications
between what you’re saying to the group or your individuals
is so vital. Just because you’re a supervisor doesn’t
mean anything. It just means that you’ve got to do quite
a good job of communicating. So that was one of the profound points
I learned early on.
Were you able to figure out another way to help this young Puerto
Well, we got him into some language classes. [Laughter] You know,
it was kind of an uh-oh moment. Why didn’t that occur to
somebody, you know.
Yes. Well, if you hire a Spanish speaking engineer that -
Can’t speak English.
Then you need to start by -
That before they sent them into the work environment, you’d
run them through some [Laughter] -
Well, the answer was no. But several months later we got on that
bandwagon and things got better.
National Iranian Radio and Television
Yes. So about how long did these CTS video conferencing experiments
Well, again, it’s fuzzy to me. But it went on into ’77, ’78,
thereabouts. I had already started doing other things because I
knew that work had a finite conclusion. And there was only one
of these satellites. There wasn’t going to be a second one.
It was one of a kind. So there was no more work to be garnered
there. And now I have responsibility for people, and you’re
supposed to help keep them, you know, gainfully employed. That
was part of the job.
So part of your job then was to look for another project to keep
your group gainfully employed?
I assume you found such a project?
We did. But it was a very small thing at the frontend, so some
people had to be reassigned. This probably got started in ’76,
it had to be ’76, because I made my first trip seeking
this work, I remember, in ’76. But, because I knew somewhere
in the next year or two or three, all of this work was going to
close. And you can’t wait till the last minute, so, that
was the idea.
What was this next project that you found?
Well, the next project was my first, beyond the work in South
America, that was international. We had another component of Westinghouse
here doing work in Iran. They were working with the National Iranian
Radio and Television, who were in this area that I had been working
in. They were, in those days, forming up the development and the
building of a satellite, a communications satellite, that would
service Iran and, in a broader sense, the Middle East. So I went
to Iran and began the effort of trying to establish a contract
to use our expertise here. It was all going to be at the higher
Ku-band frequencies. And we would be able to help them develop
the equipment as well. It wasn’t going to be an engineering
experiment. This was going to be a quasi-commercial endeavor. So
they needed expertise in helping them develop the equipment that
would work, both the transmission, the reception equipment, as
well as what was called small ground terminals. The little video
receivers. So I went to work on that. And yes, we did get a contract.
But, in ’79, there was a revolution and bingo, that was over.
Did you or any of your people get caught in the middle of the
Not of mine. But I was scheduled to go. My last visa was, I think,
gotten in August. And then between the State Department and Westinghouse
it was decided nobody is going there anytime soon. And at that
time, Westinghouse - again, the Field Engineering and Service Department
- had a huge contract with Iran, to develop an electronics repair
capability in Iran. So we had, from the FE&S, hundreds of families
living in both Tehran and Shiraz, and they had to be evacuated.
Now I was not a part of that; all my work was in Tehran in the
headquarters of this National Iranian Radio and Television. So
none of our people were there when Khomeini arrived, and all of
the revolution took place.
Right. But there were other Westinghouse people who were there.
They all had to be evacuated, so Westinghouse leased, from Pan-Am,
jets. Flew them into Shiraz, loaded all the people on them. I don’t
know whether they flew into Tehran or just Shiraz. Maybe people
in Tehran went down there. I don’t recall how the logistics
were all handled. But they evacuated.
But they got everybody out.
Got everybody out.
Well, that’s one way to have a project end. [Laughter]
That’s kind of a unique way probably in the annals of history,
all of a sudden, and it was interesting, too. The head of the National
Iranian Radio and Television thought so highly of his technical
people that in the late summer of ’79, or early fall - I
don’t remember the exact timeframe - he decided that these
people needed some more education and he sent them all to France
or to the U.S. for any course they could find. All of that being
just a way of getting them out of the country. They were more than
well educated at that point. And so all of these people that we
worked with in the technical area, including the fellow that I
worked with, he was the head of the whole thing. They all got out.
He did not. And he was later killed. But he did send his people
Good for him.
Yes. He had foresight and knowing that, if they were in France
or England, or the U.S., if things calmed down and it didn’t
happen, they could always come back. But if it didn’t, well,
their lives would be, hopefully, spared. And they were.
So what did you move on to once the project in Tehran blew up?
Well, it [Laughter] it’s like, one morning you wake up and
you have a cold dose of water in your face, even though you could
see it coming. Now it’s here; the water has dumped on you;
you have no more work. So the group had to be disbanded and the
people reassigned. Again, because of the overall strength of Baltimore,
the people were reassigned. Because of my development of business
as a part of this work, I was asked to take a marketing assignment.
First, at FE&S, they didn’t have a marketing manager.
Was this a new position that was created?
It was created. I was the first person, another guinea pig. So
I went into that role and I was in that role for about a year.
We were in a division called the Logistic Support Division, and
this fellow, Richard Hale, Dick Hale, was my department manager’s
boss. I was asked to come and take the marketing job at a division
level from this department level. So I then went into being a division
marketing manager in ’81 or early ’82, somewhere like
And you were the first person there. What did you do as a marketing
Well, they didn’t have one at the division level. They did
have one at the department level because the Logistic Support Division
worked for all the other divisions, here, at the airport. It was
located in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Its job was to provide the logistic
support, which meant everything from field engineering to technical
data work, to technical training. When they would sell equipment
here, to someone, whether it was U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, overseas,
well then the Field Engineering Department and the Logistic Support
Division would take all those projects on, which were sub-projects
to the delivery of the hardware and go overseas and sell it. The
idea was, look, we’re pretty good at this. And the U.S. Air
Force, in particular, is building up a huge interest in segregating
out logistics work; where it won’t be a part of the hardware
contract. It’ll be a separate contract from the hardware
development. And so my job was to tackle and try to garner some
of what was called independent logistics work, and form up a group
of people to tackle that.
Was the Air Force a primary group you were marketing to, then?
Primarily. The Army, a little bit, but primarily the Air Force,
because we had so much Air Force work here.
We had credentials in that area
Right. Now you said this division was in Hunt Valley?
Now how far is that from where we’re sitting now?
Well, let’s see. If you go up the Beltway, up Interstate
83, it’s the first couple exits over there. It’s probably
a 30 mile, or so, journey thereabouts; 30, 35 miles, tops.
Okay. Now had you been based in Baltimore before this position?
No. I was based here at the airport.
You were based here by the airport and the logistics division
was up in Hunt Valley.
It was in Hunt Valley, but to complicate it a little further,
the job I had for the department marketing – Field Engineering
and Service – was located in Columbia, Maryland. So I had
been assigned from the airport to Columbia first and I worked there
about a year or so. And then I continued to work there, even when
I had the new marketing job for the division, because it was a
place for us. But eventually, I was transferred, physically, to
Hunt Valley, from Columbia. And that must have been ’82,
That was still a commute. And that 30 miles was still reasonable
Oh, yes. Sure. It was all in easy commute distance. In those days,
it was an easy commute. I don’t know, probably be a nightmare
Traffic’s worse now. [Laughter] So, how and what did you
market to the Air Force, specifically? I know you were looking
for stand-alone logistics contracts.
Could you describe some of those, some of that work, some of those
Well, it was going to various places in the Air Force, where they
were learning to try to segregate out these logistics contracts,
where if there was a piece of equipment that you had, as a prime
contractor, like Westinghouse, here at the airport. Well, then
they would segregate that out – in some cases, early – and
say, okay, now we’re going to have a separate contract to
develop all of the tech manuals and all the training for the hardware.
They’re going to be separate contracts. Now, of course, this
was a very difficult transition for them. And it was a very difficult
transition for the people here at the airport because they used
to get all of that work as a part of the development contract.
So, to say the least, between the Air Force and the prime contractors
for the hardware, including my own company, they were all fighting
this. Right? Because it was a terrible transition to try to segregate
these outright separate procurements. They were somewhat successful
in achieving this, but never in the way they wanted to. It just
became too difficult. Now what was propelling all of this was the
Reagan administration’s buildup of the military contracting.
There was plenty of money to be considered, and so I was tackling
that. The customer was fighting it, in a way. They don’t
fight it at the upper levels; they fight it at the lower levels.
This is where the work gets really done. So people at the upper
level say all the right things and the lower people don’t
do it. Right? [Laughter] Typical. But it was broken out and we
were somewhat successful in getting a few of these. But what turned
the tide was they decided they would have, for the aircraft, the
FB-111, a massive segregated contract for all of the ground support
equipment that would be put at the home base of the FB-111, to
support the aircraft.
And so, along with some other people in the Logistic Support Division,
we decided to focus on that contract. We would go for the grand
enchilada instead of working on a variety of much, much, much,
much smaller ones. We were successful. We won that contract in ’83
or ’84, I don’t remember when. It was obviously huge.
It was the - I believe it was the largest single contract at one
time that Baltimore had won. It’s about $100 million. We
were successful in doing it.
Now, I assume you had a group of people working under you on this
Well, yes, that’s true. But also there was people in other
departments, with the technical side, the engineering department.
We had formed up a project management – what in those days
were called capture teams. I don’t know what they’re
called today. But the idea was to pursue that work and so our division
had to fund all these people and segregate them. Had to put them
[in] a separate place, [and] fund all that work which was leading
up to the proposal. So when the requirements for the proposal,
or the RFP, came out then this group of people, including myself
and others, were dedicated. So even though I was the division marketing
manager, at that time I was focused singularly on that one big
And I assume you then had to make a variety of presentations.
More than you can imagine. You had to visit the customer and have
him become comfortable with you and have them understand why you
should be considered, strongly, and on and on. The Air Force base
was down in San Antonio, Texas so there were umpteen trips to San
Antonio. Then you had to go to other places where the aircraft
was being manufactured, and on and on and on. A lot of travel,
but it was successful.
Now once the contract’s awarded, was your job with this
Yes, my job was done.
Now there are lots of people in Westinghouse who now have to have
the contract and have to -
Have to go to work. Right. But because I was the division marketing
manager and had a department that I hadn’t really addressed
for months, I went back to fulltime for that.
And what did that involve?
Well, it was like, even though we’d won this big job, the
idea was to try to now find another one or capture a series of
smaller ones. And so that’s what he did. We went back to
looking for that and were never really that successful. In fact,
the success was minimal, because it’s hard to get internal
support from people when they’ve just won a $100 million
contract; and all focus for every human being that can possibly
make a contribution, is on that job.
And so now you’d like to steal some expertise to go off
with you on a trip and it’s tough to get that done because
they’re needed over here on the job. We did a lot of it in
the department ourselves. You certainly understand why they can’t
do this; I mean, they’ve got a contract; they’ve got
They’re busy 24 hours a day on the contract, the big contract
Nunnally: Right. [Laughter]
We pursued some of that. But that led, somewhere in ’84 – I
guess it was ’84, it may have been late ’84, or early ’85
- I was asked to leave that job as the market manager and take
responsibility for division marketing, here, for a series of divisions
in what was called at that time the West Building. And that was
the old surface radar. A lot of these tipsy seventies out here,
that you see, so I was asked to form up a division marketing capability
for this set of divisions which again, they didn’t have.
So now, I’m working for the guy that’s division’s
Who was that?
His name was Ed Silcott. I was his marketing manager and we were
both pursuing international, domestic, and also what was called
development contracts at the Rome Air Development Center, up [in]
Rome, New York, who were the technology development centers for
the Air Force, who would then transition their work to Hanscom
Field, outside Boston. And our job was to try to win some of those
early-on development contracts that would give the product people
here a lead on where the technology was going. So that was kind
of the thrust there, as well as international, as well as other
bigger domestic product things, like the TPS-70.
What were the notable projects that you went after and were able
Well. What would have been some of those? There were Navy contracts
we were pursuing for naval airborne, air fire control systems.
Wow. I just can’t specifically pick one or two that come
to mind. Well, there was a large number of them, not all, by any
stretch of the imagination were we successful in capturing.
Of course. You go after lots of business and you, hopefully, you
get enough to keep thriving.
Yes. And, too, the marketing department was a support effort to
the divisions who really ran these efforts. The tradition had been
that the divisions run these efforts out of themselves. And so
the marketing department, when it was formed, became a support
department to that effort. So we were providing assistance both
internationally and domestically for those efforts. So that was
a mixed bag in a lot of respects.
How long did you do that?
It must have been, whatever was left of ’84 and ’85,
and into ’86. So let’s say, roughly, a couple years.
Communications Division Manager
And then Ed Silcott, who was my boss, decided that they were going
to form the first communications division, and I was asked to be
the general manager.
Okay. So now, you’ve got a much broader role.
Right. And in communications.
So what was the logic behind setting up this division?
Well, the West Building, even though that was kind of its generic
location title - its true name was Communications Command and Control,
C-cubed - and then eventually the services added the letter I,
so eventually became C-cubed-I. But at that time it was just C-cubed.
So we had radars, we had systems development work for command and
control, but we didn’t have a communications division. So
it was a logical extension to add a communications-focused component
to this. And so I was asked to take that division.
Where did the groups come that reported to you in this new division?
Well, they took various pieces of, oh, I guess, two or three groups.
And there was a group of people who had been working communications
work. They weren’t in a division. They were integrated into
these other places, and they pulled them out of there and put them
in this communications division. So then, I had a group of people
who had no contracts of their own, but what they did have was work
that they were doing on other contracts back in the division. So
it wasn’t like I had a group of people and no work. I had
a group of people who had work. And then, of course, they’ve
got work and now you’re trying to develop your own work and
you’ve got to find the way to steal time from what they’re
already doing to assist back in the division’s main area.
So that was quite a transition, until you’ve got something
to call your own.
Right. How did you manage that transition?
Well, it’s a beg, borrow, and steal [Laughter] operation,
and to get people’s attention, let the people know who they
were working for, who needed them to give you enough time of these
people’s so they could spend X-hours a week working on this.
And so it was just doable. It was just hard work but it was doable.
Yes. Yes. And so then were you going out seeking -
Air Force contracts, primarily. Some with the Army. But primarily,
again, the Air Force, because the Air Force was such a huge component
of the work here. When you went to present yourself, you could
talk about the work you’re already doing for the Air Force.
Before I was named the division manager, Mr. Silcott and others,
had bought a company in Cincinnati, called Xetron.
Xetron was then assigned to the communications division. It’s
located in Cincinnati. And they were doing work for the Air Force,
and also work for NSA. And so that entity became my responsibility.
And also in the course of time, they bought another company in
England called Park Air. And that was assigned to the division.
So I had a facility, a company, in Cincinnati and a company on
the east coast of England, that I was responsible for. Plus, the
pursuit of this work here. And we were successful in getting a
huge contract from the Air Force, from Hanscom Field, to develop
a second generation, what they call, MEECN receiver. It was dual
frequency. See it was a derivative of the low-frequency work that
communicated with submarines. I would penetrate, the lower frequencies
So this is communication between aircraft and submarines?
Yes, it was in some cases. And also it was communications with
other aircraft - it was ground facilities – so it was a dual
frequency and I don’t remember what those were anymore, but
it was kind of a multipurpose – it was going to be the granddaddy
of all. And we developed, in the division, that receiver, and provided
it to the Air Force. Over time, of course. With great difficulty.
It was a very difficult project.
But ultimately successful?
Yes. Well, it’s also must have been quite a complex management
task, because you’ve got people in Cincinnati, people in
England, people here in Baltimore. How do you manage to do it?
[Laughter] How do you manage to manage a group like that?
Well, Sheldon, I don’t know that there was any single, one
attribute. It sounds trite, but it was just an awful lot of hard
work. And in those days, now we’re in the middle eighties,
you don’t have emails. So what you have are telegrams, even
to some extent. You’re just beginning to get fax machines
into the mix. And telephones are terribly expensive to call England.
So you have to ration those. Cincinnati is close by. There was
a huge contract out there that we were developing – they
were developing – for the Air Force, and it was in a massive
trouble. Massive trouble. Because the company, Xetron, had always
done low-key development. They’d never done huge production
work. Never. And now this is a U.S. Air Force production contract
under sub-contract to Boeing, and they had never lived under the
rules that the Air Force imposes for suitability of flight, configuration
management; all the things you have to pass in the critical design
reviews, the preliminary design reviews. They’d never done
But they had one of the greatest technical expertises in the country,
and that’s why they were selected. But the production became
a nightmare; losing money, falling behind, Boeing and the Air Force
quite upset, over months and months. But we exhibited, I guess,
first, the right technical abilities and second, the right intentions
to satisfy the responsibilities that we had. And they never wavered,
they stuck with us. Boeing did a tremendous job in assisting us
even though they would spend the first two hours of the day beating
you up; the next ten hours they spent helping you. So it was a
tremendous effort and we eventually solved all of that with, again,
a lot of help out of Baltimore. We hired back retirees from here.
They went to Cincinnati and worked and did an unbelievable job
there because they were familiar with production requirements here.
Right. The guys in Cincinnati, I guess, must have been fortunate
that Westinghouse bought them, because they didn’t have these
other types of experience and capabilities, but you had them here
to call on.
Correct. Right. And they had underbid the job tremendously because
they didn’t know you had to do all these things. [Laughter]
Well, I guess they read the words that you had to do them, but
it didn’t mean a thing to them, see? So when you don’t
understand, you low bid it. And then you get into all kind of financial
troubles. But we eventually made it through production and made
a lot of money. But it was a trying period.
Were you still reporting to Ed Silcott?
No, at that time he had moved on. Now, we’re getting into
the late eighties. And they had decided that they wanted to form
this commercial thrust, and he had been appointed to that. And
they had named a replacement for him, so I now reported to this
Milt Borkowski, so I was working for him at the time. Fortunately,
he had a lot of good Air Force production experience. His expertise
and experience, and all that, was most helpful. He knew when we
running into these problems and he knew what the problem was all
about. He didn’t like the suffering of the financial part
more than anybody else. But he had an understanding of what you
had to fix. You know, that was very helpful.
Now you stayed in this position for a good number of years?
I was in this position until about 1992, from ’86 to roughly ’92,
still in the communications division. And because of this effort
to go into more and more commercial work, communications was identified
as one of those place where we ought to be pursuing this commercially,
in addition to militarily.
Westinghouse Wireless Solutions Company
So my division started pursuing a huge contract with a commercial
entity, who was going to launch satellites, commercially, for mobile
telephones. And we won that contract. Again, it was, I think,
one hundred and something million. And the idea was to develop
all of the software and the ground control as well as the telephones.
And that’s what I brought to here [to the National Electronics
Museum] for them to consider, was one of the early versions of
And who was the customer?
The customer was an organization called American Mobile Satellite
Corporation. AMSC. They were located in Reston, Virginia. Their
major backer was Hughes Aircraft. And so we had the contract, this
commercial contract, and we were completely taken out of the military
world, on the strength of this huge contract, and we’re located – my
goodness – over here, not far; now there’s a whole
series of movies and theaters, and hotels down here. Then there
was none of that. There were several buildings and we were in one
of those buildings.
And then the new Westinghouse facility was located up here on
the hill. And then – because of this commercial orientation – I
was removed from Borkowski and reported back to Silcott, who was
leading all of that. [Laughter] So I have, not a new boss, but
one that I was quite familiar with.
Yes. A boss who you were quite familiar with and comfortable working
Right. So anyway, I went to work back for Ed Silcott again.
And so with this big win your group’s work was then pretty
much concentrated on this satellite contract.
That single entity, that’s correct. Now, we tried to branch
out and get other contracts with people who were going to piggy-back
on this satellite. One of whom was Mexico. We pursued that contract
and we won that with the Mexican Telecommunications Authority.
It was a government entity located in Mexico City. So we had that
contract as well. Now, that came later. After the win of the big
one, it came, maybe a year or two later. And so we had to provide
a smaller scale, much smaller scale, because they were just piggy-backing
on this. We did that. Then we changed the name because the Communications
Division didn’t sound commercial enough. So we renamed it,
Wireless Solutions, because all of this was a wireless endeavor.
And so we became the Westinghouse Wireless Solutions Company. It
never was a company, we just used that word.
It was a part of the facility here in every way. But we called
it a company, and that gave you a little more cachet in the commercial
world. It was truly a separate entity within here, working commercial
Right. When still the majority of the effort here was still military.
Absolutely. Very much so, even though, under Silcott, we had commercial
endeavors that had been won or bought in trying to build up this
commercial capability because it was a strategic decision made,
in the late, late eighties, early, early nineties, to make this
commercial thrust, because Reagan’s defense budget was no
longer there. The defense budgets were coming down.
And the Cold War was over.
The [Berlin] Wall fell, and a whole variety of things. Military
procurements fell out of favor to some extent. Remember, Reagan
was going to have the 600 ship Navy, and all of that went away.
So forth and so on. So there was an appropriate shift, not away
from defense, but to develop a different component, and that was
How did the satellite communications project go?
Technically, it went exceedingly well. It was very, very difficult
work because fundamentally, what we put in place was a cellular
network operating with a satellite. And we did this from scratch.
We had to develop all of the software to control the signals, the
switching – all of this so you could have people, whether
it be – whoever had coverage of the satellite. That could
be California, Hawaii, and it went out that far, all the way to
the East Coast. It was captured between the boundaries of the U.S.,
into Canada. I might add Canada was a major player in this because
they had a partner up there, Telesat Canada. We had customers in
Canada, Reston, Virginia, Mexico City. There was a lot of work,
but striving for the same thing. They were different contracts
but they were for the same goal, to work with this satellite. The
satellite was launched, it was successful, everything worked fine.
Part of the learning process – it was so difficult for our
culture here. Our culture was very oriented towards military contracting.
One of the things that I think all of us learned, including, well,
certainly myself, was that the technical work, even though extraordinarily
challenging and very difficult, was easy compared to the contracting
and the legal dimension of working commercially. You start with
a clean piece of paper and you write a contract. In military procurement,
you get a contract, you review the contract, you make amendments
to the contract, you adjust it in certain places, but the fundamental
document is given to you. And in this particular area we had to,
with the customer, write a contract. And it’s all steeped
in legal; there’s no procurement regulations to go back to
like you have in the military. And the amount of time spent on
legal issues was extraordinary.
And you probably needed a whole different sort of lawyer to do
A whole different type of commercial-oriented lawyer as opposed
to military procurement legal issues and so forth. Patents, who
owns the patents, who doesn’t own the patents. Who has [the]
right to do this, who has rights – it’s just on and
on and on. Very, very, very business-challenging environment. And
we suffered, financially, for a long time. So, you know, it was
great – even though the contract was huge, we satisfied all
of the requirements, we met every one of them in the end, but we
never really made the money we wanted to make. And after that,
that contract was over.
When was the contract over?
And that was over in, well, it wasn’t over, probably, until ’97 –
and in late ’95, early ’96, Northrop Grumman bought
the facility here.
And of all of the purchase, my division was the only one kept
out of the sale.
Ah. As Northrop Grumman wasn’t interested because it wasn’t
Correct. And I understand, fully.
Yes. So knowing Northrop Grumman, I understand fully as well.
It makes total sense.
Okay? And so then we’re operating absolutely stand-alone.
Well, that must be tough because you were used to all of the availability
of all the other facilities here.
Of course. And, you create a tremendous anxiety with the people
because they don’t know whether to say good-bye to you, and
get back to the mother ship, or whether to stay with this thing,
and hopefully there’ll be other contracts or other commercial
work. And some left. My controller made the wise decision to go
back here, so I stayed, and the boss I had was in Pittsburgh because
there was no more bosses here. They’d all been sold. So my
boss became a brand new hire, from McKinsey Consulting. And as
you can imagine, there was some interesting conversations between
he and I over this job because he had no background in any of this.
None. He had worked for McKinsey. And he could tell others what
to do, but, you know, he just wasn’t oriented to being a
So the chairman of Westinghouse at that time was Michael Jordan.
I was working for this guy who reported to the chairman, he was
most understanding of the pickle we were in.
And he’s going through – this is ’95, ’96,
and Westinghouse has sold the operation here, to raise money. And
he is holding on by a thread – by a thread – and
selling other pieces of the company. So one of those pieces that
he sold was Westinghouse Radio to CBS. Okay? When that happened,
they took this commercial work here and assigned it to CBS. That
was the operating entity that had the closest to communications
work left in Westinghouse. But he was trying to do the best he
It wasn’t willy-nilly on his part. [Coughs] Michael Jordan.
And I had met with him in the development of this job, when we
were still owned by Westinghouse, so many times. And I thought,
personally, highly of him because he was a very good listener and
strategic thinker. Very good. But he was in a pickle. The company,
the corporation, was dying and it eventually died. The company
that I worked for, for 32 years, doesn’t exist.
But the right thing to do with this operation here was to sell
it to a good, strong, military-based organization, Northrop Grumman.
And it was a godsend for this place. Godsend. But I was not a part
of it. So I never worked a day for Northrop because it was held
out. I worked for Westinghouse, then assigned to CBS. And all of
my retirement is through CBS [Laughter] and Viacom. But then they
split Viacom into two pieces – Viacom and CBS. All of my
paperwork stayed with CBS. So today I’m a retiree of CBS.
Now, what eventually happened to your commercial division?
It was wound down. I retired in July of ’96. It was wound
down. The commercial obligations were met. The commercial viability
of this company that we were doing the work for never panned out
Because this little thing called satellite – excuse me, cellular
telephone - was spreading like wildfire. Everybody from Sprint
to you name it, was doing this. And it became economically not
viable from a competitive point of view even though it worked like
a million dollars. They couldn’t price it right.
It was not economically competitive with the terrestrial tower-based
That’s right. So it got overtaken by the technology as well
as the commercial component of things. They went into a deep, deep
financial problem. Hughes had to assign all kinds of money to help
them limp through, and they went out of business somewhere in the
In what ways have you remained active since your retirement?
Well, early on, I did a variety of things for people. I did some
consulting work. And then I decided that there was so much life
to lead, outside of all this. I had been blessed with a great career,
and 32 years, as I’ve described. From a young engineer, getting
out of college, all the way through these, in some cases, ground-breaking
efforts. I enjoyed and was blessed with all of that from working
for Westinghouse, and I just basically decided I’m going
to do less and less of this.
That makes sense.
And I am going to replace some of those things in my life that
I had given up. And that’s what I’ve been doing.
That sounds good. Just one more question. We briefly touched on
your membership in IEEE and its presence when you were a student.
Did you remain a member?
Somewhere along the way, I faded out. I don’t know when,
but it had to be in the seventies, somewhere.
We’ve covered your entire career. If there is anything you’d
like to add that we haven’t covered, I’d be happy to
have you do so.
Well, I would, just in the way of summary, say, Sheldon, that
I went from this young engineer to a person that was on the board
of directors of companies that Westinghouse owned, to companies
that we had been affiliated with, commercially. I was elected to
serve on their boards. I was a member of the board of directors
of AFCEA, which is the Air Force Electronics Communications Association,
based out of Ft. Meade. I was on that board. Westinghouse afforded
me an excellent opportunity to do a variety of things. And supported
me and my endeavors, tremendously, for 32 years. So I am most proud
to have worked for Westinghouse. I am sad that it doesn’t
exist. But I had a great run. So I’m a blessed man.
Well, I thank you very much for your time and for giving me the
opportunity to learn about your career.
Well, thank you for inviting me, or whoever did. [Laughter]