Monday, March 15, 2010

Tools - 1973

In 1973 "State of the Art" tools were different than today's. Above is a picture of the main tool we were provided with - a flowchart template. This is the actual official IBM one I was given and that I still have it is telling.

We used this tool for two purposes. First, during class we used it to create a diagram of our logic and then wrote COBOL code from the diagram. For most of us this use ended when the training class did. Second, this template was used for creating work flow diagrams that accompanied job requests to the actual operators in the Computer Center.

When I arrived in Management Financial Services we used magnetic tapes for data storage. At that time programmers would actually duplicate production tapes or create tapes with partial data sets from the original production tapes and use those for testing their programs. Depending on the size of the project we had stacks of tapes on and around our desks. The programmer would create the Job Control Language (JCL) program on a series of punch cards, put those in front of the punch cards containing the program code to create a deck and use the template to draw a diagram for the computer operator to show him or her what tapes would be called for, when they would be called and how they were to be mounted on drives for the program. The diagram was drawn on a special form (white, 8 1/2 x 11 with identifying info in boxes on the top) which was wrapped around the punch card deck and attached to the tapes for the job with elastic bands. These were placed on tables located around the department and picked up at various times by people who came around with carts. Finished jobs were delivered with output the same way. It was not uncommon for a programmer to go directly to the Computer Center when he or she had an important ("priority") job.

When the Tower was built the bottom floor was designed as the Computer Center and had ceiling to floor windows so the company could show off its million dollar computer hardware. After a series of bombings at some universities in the early 70's, the windows were replaced with thick concrete walls and later the entire Computer Center was moved underground.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Training Classes

In early 1973 I returned to Hartford from my working visit at the Boston Regional Office. The Education Center is housed in a former insurance company building on Gogswell Street that Hartford purchased after the original occupant went out of business. I was part of a group of 10-12 people, all of whom had just spent time in various Regional Offices around the country.
We were housed together in top floor apartments rented by The Hartford in a nearby building and got to know each other pretty well as we spent our days in classes together and nights in various apartments - not unlike college days.
As training neared the end (3 months?) we had a series of speakers come into our classroom and talk about their various offices/departments. From this, our visits to the Regional Offices and some tests we took, we were supposed to pick areas of interest and if there was interest in us from the departments, unofficial interview visits would result. As I hadn't seen anything at the Regional Office that I was really interested in, I ended up talking with two Home Office departments - Quantitative Methods, where they were trying to build a model of the company and the economy so they could predict rates, profits and losses, and Systems, where they were hiring twenty somethings like crazy into programming positions.
The selection process was interesting. Each of us candidates received a piece of paper with three numbered lines on it. We were to fill in each line with our first, second and third choice. Then the departments would get to select the candidates they wanted. Hopefully the department you wanted also wanted you. In my case I decided I didn't want to work in FORTRAN on an economic model so I selected Systems on line 1 and left the other two blank. Confusion ensued. I found out later that Quantitative Methods really wanted me, but because I hadn't even made them a choice they couldn't have me and I ended up going to Systems where I was an acceptable but not top choice. Even later I found out they changed the process so in the future everyone had to fill out all three lines...
After being selected for Systems it was back to training again to learn COBOL for another 8-12 weeks in the Education Center. My Management Training classmates were scattered throughout the country and I never saw any of them again. The COBOL training was basically a beauty contest with job assignments being based on final class rank. All of us except one person finished the class and were assigned to various divisions within the Systems department. I was assigned to Management Financial Reporting Services in a work group writing and maintaining programs to track losses. The Systems department was growing rapidly and I ended up on the 5th floor of the Tower with 100 other twenty somethings. The oldest people on the floor were the supervisors and the officers.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hartford Insurance Group

In Fall 1972 Eric Johnson, a high school friend of mine I had kept in contact with, had finished his Army service and was working at ITT-Hartford (Hartford Insurance Group) and suggested I apply there so he could get the $50 bounty for referring me. I believe he knew someone in Personnel so I was invited in for an interview and selected for the Management Training Program. At the time the program was a short cut for moving into positions of responsibility at the various regional offices of the Hartford. I found out later there was some friction between the graduates of the program and some of the old-timers who had "worked their way up" to their positions.

I was assigned to the Boston Regional office which was located at Government Center. I got lucky and found a small 1 room apartment on Beacon Street and took the subway into work each day. I got even luckier with my car which I parked over by the Fenway on Sunday nights and walked back to on Saturday mornings. In three months all it suffered was a broken tail light. I was moved through the various departments of a Regional office and in three months went back to Hartford for classroom work armed with my knowledge of regional office operations and an opinion that there wasn't anything I really wanted to do at a Regional office...