About William Gretsch
William Gretsch was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1933. He studied
electrical engineering at Bucknell University, and after graduating
went to work at the Glenn Martin Company. After a year at Glenn
Martin, Gretsch went into the Army for six months of active duty – and
7.5 years of reserves – in the Signal Corps. After active
duty, Gretsch went to the Aircraft Radio Corporation, and while
working there he attended NYU for his Master's. In 1961, Gretsch
started working at Westinghouse Baltimore assigned to the Typhon
project. Over the course of his career at Westinghouse, Gretsch
became part of management – working as supervisor, manager
and engineering manager – and participated in many important
projects such as AWACS, Apollo lunar TV and airships. Gretsch retired
from Westinghouse in 1995.
In this interview, Gretsch talks about his education and career,
focusing mostly upon his years at Westinghouse. He discusses the
many projects he was a part of, particularly AWACS, for which he
served as manager of development and engineering, and was one of
the ‘four horsemen’ of the project. Gretsch also talks
about becoming a manager and the changes that involved, as well
as his style of management and the challenges of juggling projects
and working directly with customers. The organization and atmosphere
of Westinghouse is also discussed, as well as many of the colleagues
Gretsch had over the years including Earl King, Dave Mooney, Johnny
Pearson and Wayne Fegely.
About the Interview
WILLIAM GRETSCH: An Interview Conducted by Sheldon Hochheiser,
IEEE History Center, 13 April 2010
Interview #543 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:
William Gretsch , 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: William Gretsch
Interviewer: Sheldon Hochheiser
Date: 13 April 2010
Location: The National Electronics Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
Background and Education
This is Sheldon Hochheiser of the IEEE History Center. It’s
April 13th, 2010. I’m at the National Electronics Museum
in Baltimore with Bill Gretsch. Good afternoon.
If we could start with a little bit of background, when and where
were you born?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1933.
And where were you raised?
I was raised in Brooklyn and out on Long Island in a little town
called East Williston through grade school. And then I went to
high school in Morristown, New Jersey.
What did your parents do?
Well, my dad started out as a banker. In the Depression he was
fortunate to have a job with Chase Bank. He had helped train one
of the Rockefellers there. That was an interesting story. My mom
was a housewife.
Were you interested in technology and science as a kid?
Well, yes, I guess so. I was a photography hobbyist and interested
in that. The technology was pretty simple back then, crystal radios and
so forth, but I was interested in it.
How did you come to choose Bucknell rather than some other college?
Oh, gracious. That’s a long story, but I’ll make it
short. I was trying to get an appointment to West Point, and I
was the third on the list for our district, and second, and then
first. Then I went to get the physical, and I flunked because of
overbite. And so at the last minute I had to scramble around because
I had only applied to one other school. I scrambled around and
my dad - well, one of our neighbors had connections at Bucknell.
I went up there and liked it. And fortunately at that late date
they accepted me.
Did you go to Bucknell with a particular course of study in mind?
Yes, I went with engineering, electrical engineering, in mind.
One of the main reasons was that everybody said that if you took
electrical engineering and you flunked out, you could then go to
other engineering. And [if] you flunked out of that, you could
become a physicist. Of course all these people do not appreciate
that assessment. I wanted to be in electrical engineering, and
I started out in a class of 28 EE majors, and I graduated with
a class of 14. So I got a lot of individual attention there.
What was the electrical engineering curriculum like at Bucknell
when you were there?
It was largely oriented around power and power machinery and so
forth. There was a course in radio, one course, but that was it.
Glenn Martin Company,
What led you from Bucknell to Glenn Martin Company rather than
some other opportunity?
Well, times were good then, and so we had a lot of recruiters
come to the campus. And Glenn L. Martin was in Baltimore and close
to where I wanted to locate. I went down there and interviewed,
and they had some interesting projects, and so I picked them.
And then after a year, you went into the service?
Yes, yes. I was fortunate. I got the six months active duty for
training program. So I was able to go six months active duty and
then seven and a half years of reserves in the Signal Corps, where
I got some additional electronics experience, so that was good.
Were you a member by this point - or at Bucknell - of either the AIEE or
the IRE, the [IEEE] predecessors?
Yeah, I was an IRE member in college and then kept that up all
throughout my career as the organization evolved. And I always
enjoyed the publications. I was sufficiently overwhelmed by some
of them in my early career, but then found them to be terrifically
So you spent six months active duty in the Signal Corps.
And then when you got out, what led you to Aircraft Radio Corporation
[rather] than going back to Glenn Martin or something else?
Well, that was also geography. It was interesting. I went to high
school in Morristown, New Jersey and Aircraft Radio Corporation
was in Boonton, nearby. They were a pioneer in aircraft radios
and made, I’d say, Cadillac-class radios for private planes
that were very high-performance, and they had a real nice bucolic
location in the countryside with a campus, full of smart people.
When I was on leave from the Army, I interviewed with them, and
when I got out they offered me a job. I really, really was quite
What did you do at this company?
Well, I started out at the bottom in engineering, which then was
environmental test of components. And I learned there about the
physical limitations of components and materials and so forth.
In college, of course, you learn a resistor is of certain value,
and that’s it. But in the real world everything is variable,
and it’s only good within certain ranges. So I learned through
environmental tests. I appreciated the real-world limitations of
components. And then I tested complete equipment, and then I graduated
to the design section and designed receivers and transmitters.
Okay, and these are going into commercial private aircraft?
Yes. And they were really, really well done. They were beautiful
pieces of work, and we had an excellent manufacturing department,
precision. It was good.
What led you to go back to school for your Masters at this time?
Well, you know, I could see that I was going to hit a ceiling,
and I wanted to be able to do more adventuresome things, more advanced
things in my field. I knew I needed to learn more, so I went back
to NYU. NYU was quite the hotbed in those days. Bell Labs was quite
near where I was.
And all the people at Bell Labs had to go to NYU for their Masters.
It was required. So I decided -
This would have been the Bell Labs facility in Whippany?
Yes, and over at Murray Hill too. So I knew that a lot of smart
people were going there and the courses would be pretty good, and
I managed to commute with some of them and went in a carpool with
some of the guys who worked on the early transistors and were in
the same section as [John] Bardeen and [Walter H.] Brattain and
so forth. Then NYU was, you know, teaching the theory behind the
transistors, Schrödinger’s equations and all that kind
of stuff, which people groan at now when they have to take. It’s
still an intimidating set of equations. But I really got a good,
good experience, a good education at NYU.
And you were doing this at night while you were working?
Yes. I’d commute into NYU. I’d leave Boonton and drive
into New York, across Manhattan into the Bronx. They had a campus
in the Bronx then.
And so I commuted there. Being in the Army Reserves, I had to
go away to summer field training every year. And one year I came
from Fort Dix, left the bivouac in the field, went to my car, stashed
my rifle in the trunk, changed my uniform to civvies, drove into
New York, drove back and went out into the boondocks again at night,
stumbling around in the dark. I think that was to take advanced
differential equations or something like that.
Going to Westinghouse,
What led you to leave the aircraft company and move to Westinghouse
Well, I got my Masters, and so I told my boss I just got my Masters.
And he said well, you’re the same guy today as you were yesterday.
So I got the hint that it wasn’t going to really make much
difference and they weren’t really - they were doing very
straightforward radio design. I wanted to do things that were on
the cutting edge, so I started looking around and interviewed a
lot of places, and was fortunate to come down to Westinghouse,
where I was hired on at Parker Road at the Typhon project, which
was a neat project. It was cutting edge everyplace, so it was great.
What was the Typhon project?
The Typhon was a ship-borne radar, a big active aperture, a phased
array using traveling wave tubes for each of the elements, a huge
thing. And it had a frequency diversity pulse Doppler mode, and
it had a beyond-the-horizon type mode, a pulse mode. Pulse Doppler
was just coming into the fore. Harry Smith and the team had just
invented it, and there were experimental programs going on and
so we decided we’d put it in the production system. So I
was in charge of the FDPD receiver, Frequency Diversity Pulse Doppler
receiver, and that was a neat project. To implement a Doppler filter
bank we did in analog the equivalent of digital signal processing,
but instead of integrating in digital circuits as is done now,
we integrated on capacitors, charging up the capacitors and adding
the voltages. It was really an analog Fourier transform machine.
We split the signal into in-phase and quadrature components using
mixers 90 degrees out of phase. And we had analog multipliers.
Nowadays, of course, we have digital multipliers. One board was
a flip-flop, one whole board. We used crystal filters in the intermediate
frequency stage of the receiver to filter the signals, and very
low-noise tubes in the front end.
And it worked?
It worked, but we lost the competition to our competitor up north, GE.
And that system became AEGIS, which is a wonderful system. But
we didn’t win.
Who did you report to?
I reported to Don Tolj, who was a receiver supervisor, and then
he reported to George Desai - these guys were great managers. They
knew how to motivate us, I’ll tell you. When we weren’t
working six days a week, we’d work seven. We had a tough
schedule and, like always in all the development projects, tough
schedule, no budget, and we had to meet specs that were well beyond
the pale. They motivated us well, and we had a great, great team.
in the '60s, East Building
Mm-mm. What was Westinghouse Baltimore like in the ‘60s?
Well, I think the culture was the same as it still is now at Northrop
Grumman. It was really a very supportive culture. You had freedom
to fail and great support when you got into trouble. You had good
mentors. Smart people surrounded you that you could always go [to]
and get help. It was that the production people and the engineering
people and the purchasing [people] all worked very, very closely
together. It was really, really a super place to work, and it always
was, my whole career.
Once Westinghouse lost the Typhon to GE, I assume that assignment
Yes, that assignment ended. A couple of my friends had migrated
from the Parker Road plant where we were over to the East Building
to advanced development under Wayne Fegely. John Stuntz was the
big, big manager. My friends had migrated, and they told tales
of how great it was. And so I accepted [an] assignment over there
in the receiver group and worked for a great boss, Andy Seman,
and Wayne. We really got to do some super work. The greatest thing
an engineer can have is an interesting assignment, and we had interesting
assignments. We always had to do something that nobody had ever
Radar Technology, Theory of Distortion
What assignments stick in your mind after all these years as particularly
Oh, heavens. How much time do you have?
I guess the answer to that is we have a total of about two hours
for the session.
Well, my first assignment was ORT, the Overland Radar Technology
receiver. I knew that it was coming along, and I worked on some
other things, but I was a hardware designer for that. And then
I had to have an operation for my eyes, so I was out for a few
months until I could come back and see well again. Well, I came
back and the contract had all come in, so we went to work on that.
That was the predecessor of AWACS - it proved the theory. We had
a receiver that was really super on that for the time. We had a vacuum
tube in the front end, a ceramic tube, and that’s what we
used in the low noise front end. We had some transistorized circuits.
We used the crystal filters in the IF, which were made up in New
England by a guy who ran a crystal filter company, who was a musician
by background so he understood acoustics and sound and all that.
That’s the way crystal filters worked, by propagating sound
waves thru the crystal.
And so we worked with him, and one of my jobs was to get the filtering
right in it. To explain a little bit about the radar, you have
to have - can I gesture?
All right. In a radar you’ve got good signals here, and
then you’ve got all these nasty signals out there you don’t
want to pass in. You have to get rid of the nasty ones, so you
want a very, very sharp filter to get rid of the nasty ones. The
trouble is if you make a sharp filter, then the transient response
goes on forever. When you bang it with a big signal, and the filter
rings. And then that ringing causes false signals to appear in
additional time slots. And so you have to have a filter that has
no ringing, but it’s got to have sharp skirts to get rid
of the nasty signals. I’d learned at NYU about Butterworth
filters and Chebyshev filters and how you optimize filters for
time response as well as frequency response. And so we had some
interesting filter work done in that. The other thing we were tackling
there, which we tackled for a few years, was a problem of distortion
and trading distortion off for low noise. When you lay out a receiver
you’ve got all these stages, and the first stages are very
low in signal level, and they’re very susceptible to noises
that are in the circuit. Then when you get to the end, the signals
are very big, and you don’t care about noise, but you do
not want them to distort or they will create false signals. So
if you take the little signals and you try and make them big, you
get intermodulation distortion because amplifiers are not perfect.
We were using transistors then, and we had no real good theories
about where the distortion came from, so we were fighting that.
Fortunately, about the same time, Herb Grauling won a contract
for an instrument landing system that had similar requirements.
About when is this?
This was in the ‘60s. The instrument landing system from
FAA had to have two channels, and you steered the airplane by the
difference in the signal between the two channels, so you couldn’t
have any distortion in that. Herb had some funding, so I got a
chance to work on the theory of distortion in transistors and ended
up developing some useful rules of thumb, and some accurate theory
and equations and so forth, which was published in the IEEE. I
just looked it up last night, and it’s still being cited
So that’s nice to know.
Anyway, the paper was called The Spectrum of Intermodulation in
a Semiconductor Diode Junction. Now isn’t that a mouthful?
But we were able to make the signals going through the receiver
be large enough to overcome the noise, but not so large as to distort.
And we were able to design the circuits and all the semiconductors
to not produce intermodulation or fault signals.
And was this receiver designed for a specific larger project,
or was it more of a development type thing?
Well, a lot of the things we did were development because we did
the first ones of everything, you know. So that receiver was designed
for the instrument landing system. Then the ORT receiver used that
technology as a predecessor to AWACS, to prove high PRF radar could
be implemented. In our group we did a lot of the advanced receivers.
I went to a symposium in Chicago on digital filtering in which
I learned how to implement a fast Fourier transform in digital
circuits that would do filtering just like a physical filter, and
with more flexibility. The filter bank in ORT would have been huge
and impractical, so we wanted to filter digitally. To do this we
needed an analog to digital converter (A/D) that operated at faster
speeds and with more bits than was within the state of the art.
We got a technology program to develop the critical circuit in
the A/D, a sample-and-hold and Frank Fialkowski in my group developed
it. Irv Kaplan, who headed up the digital processor group, got
another project to work out the digital processing. Frank Fialkowski,
Johnny Pearson and I went to Seattle to convince Boeing to let
us change our approach. Harry Dost was the Boeing Program Manager
of Westinghouse. Johnny had figured that by changing to digital
processing we could cut our bid greatly, and Boeing let us change.
This later proved to be a big boon to us in the fly-off against
Hughes, which we won.
We earlier developed radar which was called the RMS radar. Now
that’s not what you think. It’s not root-mean-square.
It stands for Reuter, Mooney and Stull: Hal Reuter, Dave Mooney,
and Kiefer Stull. They were the three gurus behind it. For that
one, the technology was so different. We made the receiver out
of pieces of solid aluminum with little compartments in them so
you wouldn’t get any feedback from the front to the end,
and each little compartment was like a little resonant filter cavity.
Because it was solid aluminum the resonant cavities would not vibrate
and create false signals. Now we use PC boards and the filters
are digital filters which cannot create false signals from vibrating.
It goes all on a chip. You don’t have to worry about that.
But in those days you had to really make things tightly shielded
and buttoned up and so on. One of the stages of that receiver had
to have a filter. For that filter - of course here I was pretty
green out of grad school and so on. I’d taken all this stuff
in class, but I’d never really done it. I said oh, a filter’s
got to have Ls and Cs, inductors and capacitors. Well, I’ll
make myself an inductor. Okay. Here is a copy of the inductor right
there. I looked up the equations. I wound a couple of turns of
wire, and I put it in the circuit with a capacitor, and by golly,
my filter worked. I said, you know, this stuff I learned in school
works. So from then on I said okay, I’m going to start using
all these equations and so forth with much more confidence. But
that filter was a neat achievement for me; and I saved the copy
of the inductor all those years because it was kind of like a big ‘aha.’ I
mean these things really work.
Colleagues and Organization
Who were the people you worked most closely with in this lab?
Oh, gracious. There were some great guys. In the first place I
worked with some of the system architects. We had great system
architects. These guys were brilliant - Dave Mooney was one, and
Bill Skillman. I used to go over with my hat in my hand asking
what the spec on noise is, and what’s the spec on distortion,
and filtering and transient response because we can’t do
it all at once. And the architect would say well, you know, I’ve
got to have this much, and I’ve got to have that much, and
your filter’s got to be so much. You’d say man, those
requirements are tough. So we would go back and forth, and they’d
say well, I can trade off a little bit somewhere else in the system.
We will let a little noise pop up there and so on. These gurus
were great in terms of really understanding what the hardware people
were having trouble with. The architects were very good.
When a system first came in, we drew a block diagram for it, which
is maybe obsolete nowadays because it’s all on a chip. But
we took every stage; we drew a little box around it and then Tom
was assigned the first stage, and Harry that one, and so on. Then
the stable local oscillator, the STALO, was assigned to another
group, and the transmitter group designed the transmitter. It was
all divided up, and then the organization for the program was structured
around that block diagram. Like they say in architecture, form
follows function. So our organization and our work breakdown structure,
and our money flow and all, followed the block diagram, so we could
keep everything all organized. These system engineers were great
at the tradeoffs on these block diagrams. The interfaces would
be designed together. The architects would put it all together
into a system requirement spec and say well, the radar can now
see a certain size target a certain number of miles all that kind
of stuff. They were great to work with.
Then the other folks we worked with, I mean I worked closely with,
were the other equipment designers because we really had to be
able to give and take. It was collaborative. We were all in the
same boat, and if I was hurting for making a requirement, somebody
else could maybe give a little and vice versa. It was a great cooperative
kind of environment. And the same - if I was ahead with my money,
then with my allocation for money, I could free up some money to
give it to somebody else who was in deep trouble and so forth.
Same with manpower. If I needed some more help, some more designers,
somebody would lend me some and so on. So we had a great collaboration.
Then we worked closely with purchasing because, as I said, when
I started out everything depended upon little components, and little
components have to do what you want them to do within certain ranges
and so forth. The purchasing department had to go and find them
for us. And we’d maybe temporarily get a part from Radio
Shack, but that wouldn’t be mil-spec and we had to go back
later and replace it.
So we’d have to get one that would really be okay. The purchasing
department was really great at going and finding things. We worked
like this with them because lots of times we would get on the horn
and go out to a vendor and help them build the part, so it was
neat. We worked with purchasing, and of course manufacturing because
everything we did had to be built by somebody – a real person
with special skills. The first model was built by a model shop.
There we got eyeball to eyeball with the guy running the lathe
and the drill press and so on, and making the PC boards, wiring,
building chassis, etc. Sometimes we would make the PC boards ourselves,
and then we would install them in the chassis, so we worked very,
very closely with the model shop.
The next stage was, of course, production, and all that stuff
had to be all according to Hoyle as far as production standards
and so on. Things are so great now. I’ve been retired since ’95,
but I bet they’re even better because the tools now - the
tools I had at the end of my career to make sure that we could
design stuff that could be produced were great. The computer-aided
design wouldn’t let you do something that was verboten in
the factory. In the beginning there were no rules. What did they
used to say about Jack Kennedy’s father - he excelled at
games for which there were no rules? Okay, well, that’s where
we were. We excelled at games for which there were no rules. If
we could build it, then the factory had to do it to our way. And
we gave them many a headache, I will say. And of course we collaborated
with program management. At that point, that was before I was in
Program management was always the bogeyman, you know. They were
always mean. Get it done faster. Don’t spend as much, you
And how long were you in this position?
Gretsch: I don’t know. About 20 years,
to the early ‘80s, I guess. Yeah.
Now at some point when you’re in this area, do you become
Yes. I was supervisor of a group and then -
About when did that happen?
Maybe after ten years. I have forgotten all that now. Approximately.
So after about ten years of doing this on the bench, you’re
now a supervisor.
A supervisor. Then I became a manager, and I inherited the transmitter,
the receiver, and the STALO development groups. So we put together
that part. Of course you always got special assignments too.
During this period, one of my special assignments was for the
AWACS brassboard. I was one of the four horsemen on the AWACS brassboard.
That was a term which we never used again, although everyone said
it was a successful way of doing things. We divided up the system
into four pieces: the computer, the antenna, the receiver /processor
and the transmitter. There was a horseman in charge of each one
of those, and I was in charge of the digital processor, the receiver,
and the STALO. The concept was that if you were one of the horsemen,
you got all the money for the complete project in that area, and
you got complete schedule responsibility. That was purchasing,
design, engineering, factory, everything, so you were responsible
for the whole thing. So you really had an integrated thing for
your part of the system. That worked out pretty well. We were able
to manage that very well.
When you were one of the AWACS four horsemen, about how many people
did you have working under you?
100, 150, something like that. For those who know about AWACS
history, at that point everybody in the defense center worked for
AWACS in one way or another. I mean it was just so big.
Yes, everyone mentions it, right.
Right. So it could have been 150 direct, full-time. But everybody
else had something to do with it.
How did you manage people for success of [the] project and for
success of the people?
How did I manage them? Well, you really have to get to know them
and get to know what turned them on and what motivated them, and
what they really wanted to do. About everybody was highly motivated
to do the best they can and they could in their area. But that
often produced conflicts with other groups, between the other groups
inside their own technology and so forth. So you really had to
know a lot about what they were doing, and you had to be able to
give them some technical advice when you knew something that they
didn’t. Most of the time they knew more than you did, and
you had to recognize that. You really had to realize you had people
working for you who knew a lot more than you’d ever know.
But you had to know enough to be able to understand their problems
and help them solve them. You had to give and take and so on, and
you had to be able to inspire them to work their tails off because
all these things had tough schedules.
How did you personally find the transition from being the guy
on the bench doing stuff to being the guy supervising other people
Well, I found it interesting. It was interesting and fun, and
I felt rewarded - satisfied or something - because I was able to
do more through other people. Able to accomplish more through other
people than I would ever do by myself, because the folks I had
working with me were so good that together they could do much more
than I could if I’d spent a lifetime in each of their specialties.
So I really liked doing that and enjoyed it, but it was hard work.
It was a lot of hours.
On the AWACS project, did you work much directly with the customer?
Well, at that point, no. I mean I made briefings. I’d give
briefings and write reports and so on, but I didn’t really
eyeball-to-eyeball unless there was a formal meeting. Later on
I worked a lot with customers.
We’ll get to later on.
Okay, okay, good.
I’m just trying to figure [it] out. We’re talking
about this stage in your career and what’s the scope and
the nature of the things you’re doing at this point.
My customer was the program and that’s who I worked with
Okay. Who was the program manager you were working with?
Well, the program manager or the assistant program manager. It
depends upon the project.
But yes, that was interesting. I actually wrote some papers and
published them in IEEE on program management because I observed
that there was a feedback operation, a feedback process, and it
followed the same equations as feedback that was written in whatchacallit’s (Harold
Black’s) paper in the ‘30s. I don’t know if you
remember. Anyway, what happens in big program management is that
there’s an action going on. The program manager samples it
at the output, and there’s a time delay. And then that gets
fed back to the corrective action at the input. Okay, well, if
you know anything about a feedback, if there’s a long time
delay, it gets out of phase - they get oscillation. And so the
program bangs back and forth between the stops, overreacts, underreacts
and so forth. So you need to put damping in that, and you need
to really make sure your sampling point for the data is real. It
was a real interesting way to look at the way program management.
So managing a program is much like a negative feedback amplifier.
Exactly right, yes.
Very interesting. So who did you report to?
On the AWACS brassboard, Johnny Pearson. And you maybe have heard
lots of reference to Johnny. Johnny was just a prince of a guy,
a really good engineer and a prince of a guy, and a good manager,
and a combination of grandfather and team driver. So I reported
to him. On occasion I reported to the program manager directly.
That was kind of beginning before we got all organized and so on.
But then I became a horsemen and they had it all structured, so
I reported to Johnny, so it was interesting. Like all programs,
AWACS waxed and waned. They had phases and so forth.
Projects, Tail Warning System and F-15
I still had my job as manager of the technology group, of the
advanced development group, and I did that at the same time. So
then I would go back to that full-time. At one point I was the
engineering manager of the WX200.
It’s a predecessor of the F-16. I got called back to AWACS
and George Michaels, he’s a terrific guy, took over the WX200.
I had other special assignments back and forth. It was interesting.
You had to wear two hats. At one point you were in a program, and
the next day you’d be doing the technology and so forth.
It was one of the strengths that we got to learn. For each of those
programs, we got to develop technology and ways of doing things
and there were lessons learned about program management and all
that. On each one we learned something, and we applied it to the
next one. We learned that way. You develop relationships among
all these different technology groups, and that applies to the
next one. We just built the capability, and we were very fortunate.
We won a lot of things, and we were growing like crazy back then,
so I hired a lot of good guys.
I worked with a fellow named Earl King who was in personnel. I
don’t know if people have talked about Earl, but Earl was
just a great guy. He would go out to colleges and look for the
bright guys in the field I was looking for, and we would interview
them. I’ll never forget one time - now you can tell the time
period then. Earl was relating to these college kids, so he had
fixed up his office. Now, Westinghouse was pretty square. He had
an office with beads hanging down, and he had a big, big picture
of Helen Reddy on the wall with colored spotlights on it and so
on. These kids would come in and interview with him, and they’d
say man, this is a groovy place, not knowing that after they were
hired they would get out with a bunch of square technology guys.
Earl was terrific, and he managed to get some great, great people
for us. One of the saddest things - I’ll jump ahead. One
of the saddest things in my career is that at the end we had to
let a lot of people go. Before Northrop Grumman rescued the company,
we went through a real tough time. A lot of those brilliant people
were let go. But we built it up, and then the peace dividend came
along. We won the Cold War. The funding dried up, and all those
folks went out and became insurance salesmen or something. I don’t
know. That’s life.
Jumping back, I guess we’re back in the ‘70s . You’re
juggling, you’re going back and forth. You have the AWACS
You’ve got your ongoing responsibilities in other special
I’m thinking it must have taken an incredible amount of
juggling to keep it all straight.
Sure. I mean that’s why it was neat . It was really great.
One of the special projects we had was a thing called a tail warning
system. This was a system that we put in the back of a fighter,
in the tail. It had antennas, and it looked for a missile coming
after it. It was a little radar. It sent out signals. If the missile
came at you, you dispensed chaff, and the chaff dragged the missile
off to the side. We had to test that. It was really one of the
first active aperture phased arrays in solid state technology.
[Pointing to two artifacts] The two things were little T/R type
modules, transmit/receive type modules. This little artifact here
came back from our field trial. This is the turbine blade from
a missile. The way the field tests were arranged, we had a little
hut, and the Navy planes would come in and fire missiles at the
target, and the target was our hut. We put an offset into the software
so that the missile would miss the hut. Of course, whenever there
was a trial, the guys were sitting there with their fingers crossed.
But anyway, one of the fellows brought this back for me as a souvenir,
saying when a missile hits the ground, this is about all that’s
left. We made it, so that was an interesting thing, an interesting
Another project we had in between AWACS developments was the F-15.
We competed for the F-15 radar, which was a very, very big program.
We built a model and had a fly-off with Hughes. I had become tapped
to special assignments to be in charge of system integration for
several of these systems. I would go up on the roof and run a shift
where we would try and get all this equipment together and working.
It was rudimentary software in those days. So this was a little
souvenir of the F-15 radar development days. We lost that program
But we learned so much from doing it because we used our R&D
money and our IR&D, and we developed all this stuff. Then we
got to use it, all this technology, in AWACS and the F-16 and so
on. It’s very interesting how each of these programs fed
on each other, and we developed a technology over the years. Even
when we lost, we gained. Don’t tell that to the program managers
What role did you play in the F-15 program, and what is your perspective
on why Westinghouse lost?
I was in charge of the receiver and transmitter and STALO, that
part of the system. And then I also got the tap to be in system
integration - after all the stuff was designed and built, to put
it together and make it work. So that was my role. I think the
simple answer for why we lost was that the government was not going
to give us both the F-16 and the F-15 at the same time because
they didn’t want to have all their eggs in one basket. And
we knew that, but the government said we want you in there. We
knew that we couldn’t win everything because of the need
for a broad industrial base for the country. So I think that’s
why we lost. But also in our fly-off, in our field trials, we didn’t
do perfectly. I bet Hughes didn’t do it perfectly either,
but we didn’t do perfectly, so there was plenty of cause
to reject us. Then there was a cost proposal and all that stuff,
so a lot of things went into it. I think at the bottom, if it really
came to a tie, we wouldn’t have won, but it was a great experience.
Lunar TV Project, Integrated Circuits
Jumping back in time a little, were you involved with the Apollo
lunar TV project?
Yes. One of my designers, a fellow named John Lenhoff, was a very,
very good low-noise video circuit designer. John was on it, and
I got involved in that program. John designed the front end for
that camera, which was one of the first low-light televisions.
Back then they didn’t have handheld video cameras that operated
in low light, and this thing would see in the dark. Of course it
had to. John designed the front end, and I got involved in that.
A lot of my folks supported him. It was a fascinating program in
that all the components had to be - their origin had to be traceable
back to the mine that mined the aluminum that went in the chassis,
back to where they got the silicon to make the transistors. So
we had a pedigree on every part on that, completely traceable.
It had to be very reliable. Our part of it, although small, was
a useful part of the program. We celebrated when we stopped work
and watched the picture of the first step on the moon.
That must have been exciting knowing that you made those pictures
Yes, but the credit belongs to John and all the other designers.
Anything else from the ’60 and ‘70s before we move
on to the second half of your career?
Oh, my. There’s so much. We worked a lot on integrated circuits in
those days. The ATL, advanced technology lab - I don’t know
what it’s called now - had an ability to build ICs. In fact,
it was the premier captive IC facility in the world. It was completely
dedicated to Westinghouse ICs, making them. So Sam Shepherd, in
my group, set up near our offices a great big darkroom longer than
this room. We tacked up a huge piece of film on one end, and we
projected the masks from the other end. We cut out the masks from
Rubylith, which is probably obsolete now. We used Exacto knives
to cut out the little paths for the junctions and for the connections
and the resistors and so on. We projected the masks on film on
the wall, made all these masks like this, and then reduced them
and reduced them, and reduced them, and reduced them, and we made
the integrated circuits (ICs). Then we decided that was kind of
awkward, and we tried to use computers. There was somebody up in
New England who had a bunch of computers. Sam went up there and
started to lay out the ICs on computers. Of course now we all have
the software to do that. But it was really interesting using Exacto
knives and so on. There were a lot of special programs we made
ICs for that I won’t talk about.
I realize that there are some programs that even after this many
years are still classified.
You’re not the first person who said there’s this
program, but I can’t talk about it. It’s the nature
of the business.
But I’ve got coffee mugs from all the programs on it, so
and Engineering, AWACS and Quality
Okay, so then in 1979 you move on. You become manager of development
And how did that change? I assume that was a promotion, or was
that a lateral?
I guess a promotion. That was for AWACS, Airborne Warning and
Okay, so the AWACS continued.
Yes, it’s still going on.
Oh, yeah. I became the development and engineering manager for
the Airborne Warning and Control division. So then for about five,
ten years, I was completely devoted to the AWACS product line.
Well, but these are now broader responsibilities than you had.
Yes. I was in charge of all engineering on the AWACS at that point.
And I took over from a great guy named Hank Airth. Hank Airth had
taken over from a great guy named Jay Fay who was the engineering
manager early on [in] the program. Jay was the engineering manager
on the production design, and Hank Ayres was engineering manager
through System 19. I came aboard on System 19 when we were about
to put a major enhancement in, which was called the Maritime Surveillance
And what was this?
This was adding to the AWACS the ability to see and track hips
at sea. So I came on board at that period, and System 19 - well,
it’s interesting that - I’ll be philosophical here.
Everything we did at Westinghouse was what I call short-run production.
It was not like building cars where when you get to the millionth
car you’ve got the bugs worked out. And it isn’t like
TV sets. When you get the ten millionth TV set, you get the bugs
worked out. Here we had to work out the bugs, and System 1 had
bugs, and System 2 had bugs. And by the time we get up to System
19, it was still very exciting. We had a tube in there called a klystron,
really high power. It had 50 kilovolts in the power supply, and
these things would pop like popcorn. We were using them like fuses,
and replacements cost about $50,000 apiece. So this was a big problem
in our production and also in the integration at Boeing and in
the field, in that these things were state of the art and would
tend to fail. Mean time between failure (MTBF) was not very good.
I mean this is really hard to imagine now, but we turned out radars
during the Vietnam War that had like three-hour mean time between
failures. Three hours, okay? Guys would go out on a mission, and
by the time they got home the radar would have worn out. The parts
were not that good and so on.
So anyway, the AWACS tubes used to really pop. Along with that,
we had a lot of other things in the systems that would be big problems
in manufacturing and integration and in the fleet. I got a report
on my desk every morning on every AWACS everywhere in the world
and what its health was and where we’d gone wrong with it,
and what’s being fixed and so on. Even after System 19 we
had a couple hundred engineers working on straightening these things
out because we had gone into production with a development, just
following a brassboard, the first development model. We wanted
it to be perfect, but life is not perfect, and things would break.
So we would just pound away and pound away and pound away at fixing
these problems. And if something failed, we would just put a team
on it and get to the bottom of it. We had a great, great program
manager named Jim Allen. He was fantastic. He used to say just
don’t fix the problem, find out the source and stamp it out
forever. This was before anybody talked about total quality, but
that was the idea about total quality. Jim was ahead of his time,
and a great manager.
You found the problem, stamped it out forever. Lots of times it
was a circuit design - something met requirements but requirements
should have been tougher. Lots of times it was something being
stretched too much. Lots of times it was something faulty, a part
faulty in its manufacturing. Sometimes it was a manufacturing process
that had to be improved. We had told the factory to put these things
too close together or something, or they put them too close together
by mistake. And it was just a huge variety of incremental improvements.
We ended up with between 50,000 and 100,000 change notices before
I left the program. The cycle time to build an AWACS when I started
was three years, and by the time I left we got it down to a year
and a half. That big improvement was because we didn’t have
the failures anymore on the shop floor, and we weren’t getting
things back from the field and so on. So it was interesting, a
lot different than advanced development.
You [have] got to realize what happens. After you do your advanced
development and you made one that worked, you try to make more
that work. You’ve got to get it right, absolutely right,
over and over.
Yeah. And moreover, you’re getting all this feedback from
the field, from the units that are actually out there being used
by the military.
Sure, yes, and we had great guys. ILS, Integrated Logistics Support,
folks were out there right with them, and they would get a hold
of the part that had failed and send it back to us right away,
or have a thorough report. So we worked with the ILS guys like
this. It was a really, really interesting experience because I
started out in the physics side of things, and then advanced development,
and now I was working with the practicality. It was super. Of course
as a result of all that - everybody had that experience in the
industry - the total quality thing came to the fore, the Japanese
way of doing things. We developed a lot of computer-aided design
tools so you would always lay out boards in the same way according
to certain design rules. We got qualified for 9000, which is a
Right, ISO 9000.
Gretsch: - quality thing. There’s probably
a more advanced version now, but we got qualified for that. We
just drove our processes down to be repeatable. That was interesting.
I was so lucky. I got to work on interesting problems, some of
them my own making.
- Boeing and Europe
Now in this role were you now working directly with the customer?
Did you have direct contact?
So that would be another change from earlier in your career.
Right. I had a great relationship with my counterpart at Boeing.
Robbie Robinson was the engineering manager there. Every Friday
night at about 7 at night I would have a long phone call with him.
We’d go over what’s happening in the week and so on.
He would tell me what their experiences were. I would tell him
what we’re doing about it here and what our experiences were.
And in order to get a change in - which was ambitious to fix a
problem; they called them class one changes [when] it affected
form, fit, and function - Boeing had to sign on to them, and sometimes
the Air Force had to sign off on them. So it was really valuable
to have a close relationship with Boeing. And Robbie was a great
engineer. He would just come in and dig in with us. He had a great,
great staff. He had some of the pioneers in pulse Doppler radar
working in his group, and he had experts in antennas and receivers
and all that bit, so it was great to work with him. And then I
got to know the program manager at Boeing and so on through that
experience and through the process of presenting a case to make
a change to make things better. That was great. Boeing was really
good to work with.
Did you need to travel to Seattle much?
Yes. I’d go out there once a month. And Seattle’s
a nice town, nice place. And a little later on in [the] period
I got to travel to Europe a lot.
This was when the AWACS was starting to go to our allies’ forces
Right, right. NATO was buying them. The UK had a system called
the Nimrod, which General Electric of England had developed, and
it wasn’t working, so we wanted to sell them AWACS. I spent
a lot of time with the RSRE in Malvern, Radar Signals and Research
Establishment, something like that, in England. And I traveled
to Geilenkirchen, which was the NATO headquarters for AWACS. We
would help them understand what they were buying and how they were
buying it and how to use it and help work out the support of them.
They always wanted to have improvements of their own, so we would
have to design them. We had improvements that we wanted them to
put in their fleet to do a better job in Europe. And then with
the Brits we really had to convince them that they should give
up on their native company, General Electric of England, and buy
the airborne surveillance from the United States, and that was
a political fight. It was also a technical fight. So I supported
that. As part of that, one of the things the Brits wanted was to
make sure they had employment.
If they stopped the local employment through General Electric,
they wanted to still have hi-tech employment. We committed to giving
them a certain amount of production. Then they said well, but we
want to be on the cutting edge too. We want to do some R&D.
So I put together a team and toured with some of the really smart
guys at Baltimore - Jerry Klein in microwave, and Ted Foster in
T/R modules, and Bob Nix in antennas, and a couple others top experts.
We toured all around England to visit the premier technology companies.
We visited the university where they were doing advanced development
in computers and so on. We made a technology assessment, and we
tried to figure out how to give them the most we could and how
to take advantage of teaming with them on other projects.
Also, at the same time, NATO wanted to be in the game. Since they
weren’t developing their own, they weren’t developing
an inherent capability, so I put together a consortium of Italians,
and Germans, and French. We worked up some proposals for the next
generation of airborne surveillance for Europe beyond AWACS. That
was really interesting to see because we had language - they all
spoke English. I spoke English, so I was okay. But that was an
exciting thing too, to see what the Europeans were doing. In some
areas they were just so far ahead of us and in some areas they
weren’t. It was really great to be able to find the best
in the world.
All during this period I had on my wall a biography of the chief
engineer of the Russian AWACS. And I said to myself he’s
the guy I’ve got to beat. For Westinghouse it was no longer
you had to beat Hughes or GE or anybody because we were preeminent.
But the guy I had to beat - I had put together better systems,
faster, that did more things and would not break and so on, and
better than the Russians. So he was the guy I was out to beat.
I never knew what happened to him.
I’m hopping around some. I’m sorry.
That’s quite all right.
Oh, I didn’t talk about my little artifact here.
Well, go back and talk about it. I was expecting you to because
now you’re talking about England.
When I was touring around England, they were real happy because
they were going to get some employment and so forth, and they were
happy with the team I’d put together. I went to a party in
Manchester, in a hotel there, and they had baked a cake to celebrate,
and this is the decoration from the top of it. Now this is 20 years
old. This is sugar, which is now crystallized, and it survived
in my basement a couple of floods and everything. There’s
the AWACS with a little dome on top and so on, put together by
the chef at a hotel in Manchester. So that’s another artifact.
Now since they were interested in employment, did that mean you
needed to work with an English manufacturer rather than Westinghouse
doing the manufacturing?
Yes, just like as we did for NATO, we took parts of the system
and divided them up and gave the Brits some things to build, and
that worked out pretty well. They seemed to be happy.
Who did you report to in this position when you were managing
the AWACS program?
Well, it was Jim Allen in the beginning, and then Bill Adams took
over when Jim moved on. Jim moved on when we were competing for
Joint STARS is an airborne surveillance system that looks at the
ground. And it’s operating now. It’s very successful.
It keeps track of all the moving traffic on the ground, and it
helps direct fighters to interdict the bad guys on the ground.
AWACS mostly worked against airborne and ships. But Joint STARS
was a side-looking radar with a big long antenna on the side of
it, and it had very high resolution, and it could detect things
moving really slow and so on. So we were trying to win that.
Right. Gretsch: The incumbent was Northrop Grumman.
We were competing against Grumman. Jim was a great program manager,
so he tapped a couple of top management guys to run that proposal.
I was doing the engineering for that. I built a model of the antenna
to demonstrate that we could do it. Then Bill Adams took over for
Jim Allen as the manager of Airborne Surveillance and Control up
to the time I retired. Well, you always have two bosses. I reported
to Bill for program stuff, but I reported up to a fellow named
Kelly Overman from advanced development.
The hat I wore on that was for advanced development for airborne
surveillance systems. The guy I directly reported to was Lou Meren who
was the West Building engineering manager. So I had a bunch of
bosses. During the latter part of the ‘80s we were competing
for advanced development work for the next generation of airborne
surveillance and for the technologies that would support it. We
managed to win the lion’s share of all the contracts put
out by all the government labs in airborne surveillance - of all
the enabling technologies like computers and processors and antennas
and other things, software and so forth. We were trying to position
ourselves with the labs. It’s really important to have the
labs think well of you, because when a big program wants to get
a contract going, they ask the labs who’s good. The labs
all evaluate your proposals for technical things.
So you’re hearing now about the government labs like Wright
Wright,Rome, Hanscom and so on. Then MITRE, Langley etc. We were
doing a lot of advanced development, including with Mac and Boeing.
We were the best!
So you’re looking for new development work at the same time
you’re dealing with the problems of the current system out
there being used.
Well, by late in the ‘80s we were getting AWACS under control
So then you had more time to go and seek new cutting-edge business.
And we didn’t have to put all the engineering resources
on the production system .
We needed to take care of our future because we could see that
the bottom of the market was going to fall out, that the Cold War
was over. We needed to position ourselves for the next generation,
so we did that with all these development contracts and so forth.
Another place for opportunities for us was enhancements to AWACS.
There was an enhancement to AWACS that we, well, I identified it.
My first day as AWACS engineering manager, I put up on the corner
of my blackboard two or three things we had to fix. One was this
tube I talked about.
One was the fact that our computer was a pain in the neck. It
would crash all the time. We’d have to reboot it and so on,
so we needed a new computer. And we knew we might as well do new
processing at the same time. Throughout all this period we were
pinging away at the labs to get little development contracts and
trying to advance the state of the art and that bit. Toward the
end of this period there it all got put together into a program
called RSIP. It’s probably pronounced differently nowadays.
That was an enhancement for AWACS that put a new computer in, a
new processor in, and put a new man machine interface for control
and troubleshooting and analysis of what’s going on in the
system. But the big thing is we made AWACS more capable of seeing
very low cross-section, stealthy targets by putting in a whole
new mode and changing the waveform and everything. It was really
interesting because we started out being motivated by pulse Doppler,
which is high pulse repetition rate, high PRF - a lot of pulses
come along quickly. In this new enhanced mode, you see very small
targets. That mode is what our competitor had used in the very
beginning, and we licked them because we made our high PRF work.
A big reason was because our system was reprogrammable as we learned
what to do to optimize in the flight trials, and theirs was not
reprogrammable. This was possible for us because, as I mentioned
earlier, we had switched from analog signal processing to software
controlled digital processing. But we’d all learned so much
since then that we knew how to make another mode see real small
targets, so we added the new mode. We practically redesigned the
whole system for this enhancement, and by the time I retired we
were building the first one of those. It’s installed in the
fleet now, and people are happy. Of course a big thing back then
was stealthy targets because we were still worried about Russia.
Who else can build stealth fighters but us and Russia, right? Well,
Russia faded away, but now we have these little RPVs. The other
guy can have them too, you know. They’re real tiny.
RPV stands for?
Remotely-piloted vehicles, like the drones that they are using
over in Afghanistan. They fly around and they shoot missiles and
take pictures. And some of them have very low cross-sections. So
little tiny cross-section targets were of interest. We knew that
was coming, and we knew that we would no longer worry about the
thing AWACS was designed for, which was a massive attack through
the Fulda gap of the Russian air force of thousands of airplanes
storming Europe. We originally had to be able to direct fighters
to shoot down these airplanes, and that wasn’t the scenario
So we had to develop this low cross-section detection capability.
RSIP put this into AWACS, and I imagine the guys are still working
on further improvements and it’s all classified. It’s
a great platform.
In your long tenure as management of development and engineering
for AWACS, about how large a group did you have reporting to you?
Well, when I was managing we had 300 or something. That was at
the end. In the beginning, the very beginning of my career, there
were a dozen guys in receivers. It sort of built up. But you know,
the numbers are not important, it’s the talent, the talent
of these guys. And that’s probably the great thing about
working there now. You get to work with people who are really sharp
and really know their stuff.
Going to England and
Anything further on this before I ask you about Westinghouse sending
you to England?
No. If I think of anything else, I’ll chime in, but you
can go ahead, change gears.
So in 1991, Westinghouse sent you to England?
What led to that?
Well, this was a special assignment at first, to start out with.
At Westinghouse the Airborne Warning and Control division had gotten
into airships. We had been bidding on airships. We won an airship
advanced development contract for a big, big airship, and the idea
is it would have in it a big, big radar. You could float around
to any place in the world, and you could station it, and it could
look around like an air traffic control system.
Okay. So there were specific advantages for which an airship seemed
to be better than using an airplane?
Right. It was cheap. It would just float around, and you could
put the whole command and control system in it. We liked that because
most of our lives the command and control was all done by the prime,
Boeing or McDonnell Douglas or someone besides us. And we wanted
to get into command and control. If we had the airship contract,
we would get to do the whole ball of wax, so we went after this
airship contract. As a special assignment, I got assigned to that
even though this advanced development was going on, and it got
to occupy more and more of my time. I was over in Europe, and I
was stuck in London because there was an air strike over the Channel
and I couldn’t get to France for a meeting of our consortium
on future AEW, so I was faxing back and forth stuff for a proposal.
The phone rang, and Bill Adams called up and said, how would you
like to go to England? I said I’m here now. [Laughter]
He said for [an] assignment for three years to take over the airship
design company. The airship company that designed the airship itself
was in England. It was a funny operation. We built the airships
in North Carolina, but the design company was in England, and all
the program management was in Baltimore. Talk about a nightmare
of coordination! So they wanted their man over there. What had
happened is that the previous UK airship company had gone bust.
So Bill Adams and West Building people [like] Milt Borkowski [the
West Building General Manger] decided they’re going to just
buy the part of it that designs airships and let the rest of it
go where it may. So they bought the 25 guys and the files and the
computers and all that for the design of airships. They wanted
somebody to go over there and run it. I liked the idea of being
in England, and I thought I’ve done about everything I can
think to do in Baltimore. 1992 was a big year for the European
Community and Westinghouse wanted a presence there for new business.
I thought I could probably do well, make a contribution and so
on in England. I would have five more years to work, and I want
to do something new, you know. This sounded great, so I went over
there to run the company.
Well, timing is everything, they say, right? We had a great bunch
of guys. When the original company went broke, these guys stopped
getting paid. They went to work in a hangar that leaked, had birds
flying around. The water was running underneath their feet when
it rained. The birds had droppings on their drawings, and so forth.
They worked for a couple, three months without any pay just to
keep it going because they just loved airships. These guys were
really, really motivated, but single-minded. I mean nobody could
manage them. People had tried before me to manage them, but nobody
could manage them. Bill said you get over there and do that, so
I went over there. I moved over there and rented a house and so
on, and I started to work with them. We got it organized, and we
put a lot of procedures in and got control of the money and the
organization, got specifications. We went out to bid on a Ministry
of Defense job for an airship, which was won after I left. There
were a couple of airships flying around, so that was kind of a
neat assignment. It was engineering that I didn’t know much
about. I mean aeronautical, airframe design, stresses and strains
and a little light thing that floated around with little tiny girders.
And the stress department was just like way out there someplace,
so it was really, really interesting. Than Baltimore’s contract
came up for review for the big airship contract in some way.
For the airship contract?
For the airship contract because the big airship contract was
with the US Navy. And meanwhile everybody was having budget cuts
due to the peace dividend and so on. Apparently - the story as
I got it - Westinghouse went to the Navy and said we want to redefine
this contract with schedule and cost and all that kind of stuff.
And they said yeah, that’s a good idea. How about we cut
it in a tenth?
Somebody shouldn’t have brought up the topic.
Well, I’m simplifying. It might have been a fifth or something.
But really cut way back. We developed some new business for the
staff and we were doing pretty well financially, but they really
started to look at the cost, and here I was an expat over there,
expensive to maintain. So they decided to go with a local manager,
and they brought me home. If it had gone three years it would have
been really, really great. So I came back and worked on this and
that for a while.
They didn’t have really a good assignment for you when you
came back? You worked on this and that?
Because of the peace dividend the work dried up. It was deadly.
You’d be in an office with all these guys. You’d come
in in the morning and the guy to the left of you would be gone.
And two days later the guy on the right of you’d be gone.
They were just laying off like crazy. They had no new contracts
and whatever they were doing in new business wasn’t working.
What happened is we ended up being bought by Northrop Grumman shortly
after I retired. Now I think that worked out really well because
the people that are there now really think it’s great, and
it’s very successful. The culture is still alive and so on,
so it worked out great. But at the tim[e] for me, that meant I
was going to get the early retirement.
And is that indeed what happened?
You were - how would you put it - given the opportunity to retire
Yes. I worked on some special programs. No one hardly knew anything
about them. We were bidding on some black programs, that’s
all I can say.
We were doing a lot of black programs. I worked on a lot of those,
but they were not going to put the bread and butter on the table.
They just weren’t big enough programs?
A lot of those black programs are feasibility or proof of concept.
Then they turn into something that’s really deployed after
all their theory is worked out.
In what ways have you kept yourself active since ’95, since
Well, my last day I went to a stockholders’ meeting over
in the hangar. The first part of it was the presentation of AWACS
to the stockholders. At the end of that, they mentioned all the
people who were contributors, and I was one, so I was feeling great.
But I had my walking papers, you know. Here I am sitting in the
audience with my walking papers. I walked out with Dick Linder,
who was the president. And Dick said sorry about that. Thanks for
everything you did. So I left there, and I went to BJ’s or
someplace and printed up some business cards. I was going to go
into the consulting business. Well, of course, everybody who was
laid off was going into the consulting business. So I got one gig,
and I’ve tried a couple others, but my consulting business
never really went very far. But I did get involved in church, and
I’m an elder in the church, and I have [a] couple committees
that I work on, so that’s a very, very, very important thing.
I follow community affairs and so on, and I taught myself all
about computers. When I was working, it was Windows 3.1. Well,
now I’ve got my own couple of computers at home, and I do
all kinds of things. I love to work on the computers and swear
at them and so on. So that’s it - and my family. Family’s
really important to me. Then for about four or five years I was
a director in the museum here and helped write some papers as to
what the museum could do to perk itself up. And it’s come
a long way. The present people running the museum are really, really
good. We’ve got a great director, and the board is great,
and they’re doing well - it’s come so far since the ’90s.
It’s really, really good. I enjoyed that time, but my wife
got sick then, and so I had to resign from the board.
Looking back, how would you overall characterize your career?
Great. The second thing is I learned that the most important thing
is the people you work with, the talent and the teamwork and so
on. That’s the important thing. The third big thing I learned
is that all engineering is the application of non-linear differential
equations without constant coefficients. What that means is the
world doesn’t behave like the textbook. But it’s useful.
It’s really useful. You can’t do anything without the
theory. But you have to really understand that the world is different,
and you have to appreciate that. That goes not only for resistors
and capacitors but for software. Software is the same in that regard.
Software breaks. In fact, if you go out and look at anything we
do in life, it’s the same. Things don’t behave like
you’d like them to. So you’ve got to be resilient and
flexible, and you’ve got to be able to take the blows and
bounce back up the next morning and love the struggle. If you don’t
love the struggle, then you shouldn’t be in this business.
But I was blessed to be alive in times when the technology was
moving. I was there when the first transistors came on board. I
got to use them. Germanium with the purple plague and all that
kind of stuff, and then ICs, and then fast Fourier transforms.
It’s just the whole technology has just been moving so fast:
the signal processing, computers, Moore’s Law, the explosion
of computing capacity. The communications we have now with each
other, the way we can tie together with each other with e-mail
and Twitter and all that stuff. I use all this stuff. I love it.
It has been just a great, great time to have a technical bent,
and to want to do something - well, it’s a big thing. The
last word is people.
I know we touched on this a bit earlier - did your membership
and involvement with IEEE assist in your career?
From time to time, greatly. Most of the time I was down in the
weeds, you know. But from time to time the IEEE helped greatly
because when I’d start a new project, I’d go over to
the library. Back then we had the libraries. You didn’t have
Google. I’d go to the library and I’d dig out all the
papers that had something to do with what I was doing, and read
them and try and understand what other people had done and what
didn’t work. It was very, very, very helpful at that point
because back then we had all the IEEE journals in our library.
I had them at home, the ones at least in my field. So IEEE was
very, very helpful. We couldn’t have done some things without
knowing what our predecessors had done because we couldn’t
afford to reinvent the wheel, and there was great stuff going on.
I edited papers for IEEE for a few years, and I appreciate all
that goes into vetting them. It’s reliable, what you get.
So IEEE has been a big help. Career wise, I don’t know. I’d
look at the salary survey once in a while and, big deal. Engineers
don’t work for money. I mean we’re stupid.
[Laughter] Historians don’t either.
You do it because you love it, huh?
Exactly. Is there anything you’d like to add that we haven’t
covered or I neglected to ask?
No, it’s great that you’re doing this project. This
is really great. It’s great for folks and great to get that
history in the can because I think history is going to repeat itself
unless we can learn from it.
Okay. Well, in that case, if you’ve got nothing further
you’d add, I’d say we’re done.
I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.
Well, so did I. I enjoyed listening to you, and learning about
It’s nice to be able to talk about it.