|.||Kisco Home : An IT Retrospective - 50 Years in the Business||.|
This system was also the basis for the first commercial application of CRT devices.
The railroad had a communications network that connected a series of CRT's made by Hazeltine. These devices could be used at various
locations around the railroad system to inquire as to the exact current location of any freight car, engine or caboose on the rail
line. This same communications network was used to transmit train movement information between stations using automated keypunch
machines that read punch card information from one station and then duplicated those cards down the line at another station. In
the process, all of this train movement information was captured in New York by a Collins communications computer and stored on
tape so that our disk database could be constantly updated.
After I had been with the railroad for a little more than two years, we went through a merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad and I was put on the new Penn Central's data integration team, based in Philadelphia. The merged data operation was going to be implemented on IBM's brand new line of System/360 computers that came complete with an operating system and embodied many of the concepts of computers still in use today. I found that not only did I have to learn a new programming language, Basic Assembler Language (BAL), but I also had to learn to work within the confines of the operating system. Not only did this new operating system support indexed-sequential file formats, it also had partitioned data sets and program files that were independent of the physical files on the computer so that you could reference the same file layout for different actual physical files.
After working on the computer system merger project for a year, I left the railroad and embarked on a 16-year career with PepsiCo back in the New York metropolitan area. I admit it, I missed New York and wanted to get back "home." During my entire career with PepsiCo, I never once had anything to do with soft drinks in my work assignments. Initially, I worked with their auto leasing subsidiary in Great Neck on Long Island. It was here that I finally started working in a high level language and taught myself COBOL, the language that I describe as my "native" language to this day. While learning COBOL, I spent a lot of time examining compile listings to see what assembler instructions were generated by the various COBOL code constructs and learned a lot about how high level languages get implemented at the machine level.
When the auto leasing company was sold, I transferred to a heavy equipment leasing subsidiary located in Lexington, Massachusetts. It was here that I spent a short stint working on a Honeywell mainframe. My assignment, along with a few friends from New York, was to help get this subsidiary ready so that PepsiCo could divest the company. I was there about a year, then transferred back "home" to New York and got the job of Data Processing Manager at PepsiCo Wines and Spirits, where I remained for the last nine years of my PepsiCo career. It was here that we started to finally move away from punched cards and into a more contemporary setting of CRTs on everyone's desk and direct entry to the computer files to be processed.
It was while working here that I took my first step away from the IBM mainframe environment. In fact, I recall a decision point that I had to make that would define the rest of my career. The PepsiCo corporate data center was looking for someone to handle software support on the 370 operating system. In those days, there was a systems programmer in big shops whose responsibility was to keep the operating system running smoothly. The operating system had to be periodically updated and recompiled and this was a big task. The data center director offered the job to me and I thought about it long and hard. In the end, I decided to turn it down and stay on the application programming side of the fence. At the time, I didn't realize the long term ramifications of this decision, but in retrospect it was a major career decision point. Had I chosen the other route, I would probably not be where I am today.
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