August 1958 Radio-Electronics
[Table of Contents]
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics.
See articles from Radio-Electronics,
published 1930-1988. All copyrights hereby acknowledged.
You might not know it, but
International Business Machines (IBM)
gained its prominence in the computer realm thanks to a massive contract awarded
to it by the
of War during World War II for the
Automatic Sequence Controlled
Calculator (ASCC), an electromechanical computer (also called Mark I). It was
used for making calculations during development of the atomic bomb by the
IBM's success was rewarded with many later contracts for fully electronic computers
used in military equipment, by the space program, and by university research departments
(funded by the government). The company grew quite large and had a very extensive
technical workforce including engineers, mathematicians, scientists, and technicians.
While living in Burlington, Vermont, in the 1980s, I got to know many IBM employees
(IBM used to have a major presence there). All were very pleased with the pay, benefits,
and treatment by the company. The biggest complaint was IBM's propensity for relocating
employees all over the country and even the world. The inside joke was that IBM
stands for "I've Been Moved."
IBM Military Products Ad
How far can you go in electronics without
A few years ago, Lincoln E. Kitchin had no formal degree and knew nothing about
He still doesn't have a degree, yet today, he is a Field Engineer on one of America's
biggest electronics projects. He helps maintain one of the largest computers in
the world. He's doing work ordinarily done by engineers - an opportunity usually
denied to men without a degree. This is a story of unusual significance to every
technician who feels himself handicapped by lack of a formal degree.
"It all started back at the Base," Link recalls, "about two years ago. We were
having lunch. One of my fellow Aircrewmen described an interview he had just had
- with IBM. "It sounded good to me - particularly the field engineering aspects.
I wasn't anxious to start my civilian electronics career stuck in a corner of some
plant. Here was a chance to work in the field - with all the advantages of a permanent
location. I made a note to add IBM to the companies I was considering for civilian
Interviewed by IBM
A month later, Link sat across the desk from an IBM interviewer. "Frankly," confesses
Link, "I was scared at the thought of this interview. I didn't know the difference
between an analog and a digital computer. I didn't expect to get the job."
The interviewer put Link quickly at his ease. A check of his background revealed
Link's Service training - 28 weeks of Class "A" aviation electronics plus Class
"C" schooling in LORAN, RADAR and SONAR. He took a test, which indicated excellent
aptitude for computer work.
Then Link learned how IBM would train him in electronics - for five months at
full salary - to become a Field Engineer on the SAGE Program. He learned about SAGE,
part of our nation's radar defense net, which is built around giant IBM computers
- each containing 50,000 vacuum tubes plus 170,000 diodes. He heard about IBM's
excellent company benefits, especially interesting to Link who had a wife and child.
By the time the interview was over, Link had decided that IBM and the SAGE Program
were what he was looking for. He decided then and there that he wanted to come with
Receives 20 weeks' training
Link reported to Kingston, N. Y., for training. In the IBM "school," he studied
basic computer circuits, computer logic and programming, card punch machines - all
part of the twenty-week course a Computer Units Field Engineer takes. "The instruction
was excellent," he recalls. "Our teachers, experienced field men, often made points
not in the textbooks." Formal classroom lectures accounted for half his time, the
other half being spent in the laboratories, where he worked on actual computer equipment
for SAGE. During his training period, Link received a living allowance in addition
to his salary.
Assigned to site in home state
His twenty weeks' training completed, Link was assigned to the SAGE site at Topsham,
Maine. "IBM makes every effort to assign you to a location of your choice wherever
possible," Link, who is a native State-o'-Mainer, points out.
At Topsham, Link has completed the installation phase of the computer. Now, his
work consists of preventive maintenance and "keeping the customer happy" - the customer,
in this case, being the Air Force personnel who man and operate the computer. "Installing
this giant computer was a significant engineering feat," Link recalls. "First we
ran 2,509 cables from 4 to 300 feet long. Then we bolted the computer sections together
and hooked up the cables. Next came the testing phase in anticipation of Air Force
"I'm in the Display Group," Link continues, "which has responsibility for over
one hundred display consoles. Each of these has a 19-inch and a 5-inch cathode ray
tube (similar to a TV tube) plus associated circuits. The knowledge of complex circuitry
which we learned in the IBM school is essential for this work. We also maintain
our own test equipment - oscilloscopes, meters, signal generators and specially
designed pluggable unit test equipment."
What does the future hold?
Link looks forward to a rewarding career as a Computer Units Field Engineer.
Promotion-wise, he could become, with further training, a Computer Systems Field
Engineer, a Group Supervisor or Group Manager. Most important, however, he believes,
is the excellent electronics background he's acquiring for the years ahead. "I've
had a new engineering dimension added to my career - thanks to IBM's willingness
to spend time and money training technicians to assume engineering responsibilities."
A career for you with IBM?
Since Link Kitchin joined IBM and the SAGE Program, opportunities are more promising
than ever. This long-range program is destined for increasing national importance
and IBM will invest thousands of dollars in the right men to insure its success
If you have a minimum of three years' education or experience in electronics
- gained through technical schooling or military service - you may qualify to become
a member of this important, permanent, expanding program as a Computer Units Field
You'll receive twenty weeks' advanced computer training at Kingston, N. Y., with
full pay, plus living allowance, before assignment to a permanent location. Current
openings are in the Great Lakes area and in the Pacific Northwest - and will be
filled in the fall, 1958. You'll receive salary, not wages. And, of course, you'll
receive IBM's famous company-paid benefits.
Write Today To:
Mr. N. H. Heyer, Room 649-T
Military Products Division
IBM Corp., Kingston, N. Y.
A prompt reply will be sent to you. Personal interviews arranged in all areas
of the U. S. if your resume of experience and education indicates you have the qualifications.
IBM© Military Products
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