6 months ago

Electronics-World-1959-05 HOW FAR CAN YOU GO IN ELECTRONICS WITHOUT A DEGREE? LESS THAN TWO YEARS AGO, 20- YEAR -OLD TIM WICKHAM HAD ASKED HIMSELF THIS QUESTION. Today, firmly established as a Computer Units Field Engineer with IBM, Tim knows some of the answers. His story of how he assumed important engineering responsibilities on one of our country's biggest electronics projects makes encouraging reading for every technician who feels himself handicapped by lack of a formal degree. "I always wanted to be an electronics engineer," Tim says, "ever since I first tinkered with hi -fi in my high school days. But my formal education ended when I entered the Marines in 1953. In spite of the excellent radar training I received in the Service, I still had doubts as to how far I could go in my chosen field without a degree." 30 HEARS ABOUT IBM -AND SAGE A few months prior to his discharge, Tim began to look into the opportunities for a civilian career. He heard about IBM, learned that IBM was willing to invest thousands of dollars training the right men to assume engineering responsibilities in the Project SAGE program. "Would I qualify ?" Tim asked himself. To be brief, Tim did qualify, and upon discharge, reported to Kingston, N. Y., to begin training as an IBM Computer Units Field Engineer. SAGE- PROJECT OF NATIONAL SIGNIFICANCE SAGE -for which Tim was trained -means Semi - Automatic Ground Environment. It is part of America's radar warning system -a chain of defense that will ulti- mately ring our country's perimeter. At the heart of this system are giant electronic computers, built for the project by IBM. These computers receive data from Texas towers, picket ships, reconnaissance planes, radar stations - analyze the data for action by the Air Defense Command and other defense units. "These computers are the largest in the world," Tim points out. "Each contains 50,000 vacuum tubes plus 170,000 diodes." BECOMES FIELD ENGINEER "My twenty weeks' training at Kingston were a revelation," Tim remembers. "Here were top -notch courses in advanced electronics, taught by instructors who really knew their business -and had a personal interest in our progress. We had classroom lectures in which we learned about basic computers, logic, programming, general machine operation -how everything worked together. Instead of a lab, we worked in actual test areas, along with the regular test area personnel. Incidentally, IBM went out of its way to make our stay at Kingston pleasant. They helped us with housing accommodations and we received a living allowance over and above salary during our training period." INSTALLS WORLD'S LARGEST COMPUTER His training completed, Tim was assigned to the Project SAGE site at Newburgh, N. Y. "The giant computer was ready for installation," Tim recalls, "but before it could be moved into its new building, 919 miles of external wiring and signal cables had to be checked out. Then we made interconnections and brought in the power. Next came the testing phase -a long procedure, as you may imagine, for ELECTRONICS WORLD a computer of this size. Then we set up the auxiliary equip-, ment. Finally, when everything was ready, the Air Force ran its acceptance tests -a stiff trial with no if's, and's or but's permitted. I'm happy to say we got an unqualified OK. "My present work," continues Tim, "is in the Tape Section of the computer. I'm responsible for the maintenance of the Central Computer Tape System which includes eight tape drives (a means of storing information) and two tape adapter frames which adapt information for admittance into the Central Computer. A Computer Units Field Engineer like myself works in several areas of the computer, thus learning something about the whole system." A NEW ENGINEERING DIMENSION "IBM has proved to me," Tim says, "that a degree is not the only measure of a man's ability, or the only indication of what he can do when given the opportunity. Around me at the site I see a lot of men who were once considered 'just technicians' -men who have had a new engineering dimension added to their careers -all because IBM will spend time and money to train technicians for engineering responsibilities. I know this better than ever, now that I'm on the job. I'm on the Education Committee at the Newburgh site and I see what IBM will do to train men. My job on the committee is to find out what the men want. Then, IBM supplies courses, instructors, classrooms- everything that's needed." Checking panel wiring of Simplex console --- LIAi Trouble -shooting a computer frame YOUR CAREER OPPORTUNITY WITH IBM ï

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