During this time I had continued to work for GTE Government Systems. I was working on a very important DoD software development program that would eventually be used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War and I was having a great time. Sarah and Patrick were growing fast and both Karen and I couldn’t have been happier with our family. There were however, some increasing problems with my parents, specifically Elinor that were making us more and more uncomfortable.
The political environment at my parents house was ever-increasing. Elinor and Barbara continued to seek out and find fault with everyone and everything around them. It made Karen uncomfortable and I was mystified by it all. For all I could see, all the families were doing fine. Both my stepsisters were married and had families of their own, and both Barbara and Janis had long been married and their children were almost grown. When Elinor began suggesting that she didn’t like how we were raising our children, we began restricting how often we would come to visit them. It was unfortunate, but a natural reaction I think.
By now it is 1991. There were still no cell phones, the PC was increasingly appearing in homes but it really didn’t do very much, and there was still no Internet. I had been working on the same program for 7 years and the Government thought it would be better if the program was run in the Northern Virginia area instead of 500 miles away in the Boston area. So the big layoff began. Of the nearly 400 that had been working this program, only 25 would survive and be transferred to Virginia. I was one of the 25. It was an easy decision for Karen and I to make. We were increasingly uncomfortable with the mounting political situation at my parents and the offer to transfer was too generous to pass up.
In June 1991 I went to Virginia and Karen, Sarah, and Patrick stayed home. I flew home almost every weekend but it was a difficult situation. Also at this time Michael Dukakis, former Governor of Massachusetts was running President on his record of having created the “Massachusetts Miracle.” He lost that election of course to President H.W. Bush and within a few short weeks the Massachusetts Miracle collapsed. The Lakeville Fire Department and the Lakeville Police Department scaled back to bare minimums. All essential services and government offices were closed or scaled back to minimums and the Massachusetts recession of 1992 was beginning. We felt lucky to be getting out when we did until we tried to sell our house and found that it was now worth 10% less than what we paid for it 5 years earlier.
But we made the move and lived in a rented townhouse until Karen found the perfect house for us in Haymarket where we still live. The program that I worked on for so many years was then re-competed and another company, Computer Sciences Corp. won the contract. The 25 of us that had transferred to Virginia were put into various programs as the slots became available and I eventually got one of those slots. But it really wasn’t the same. In Massachusetts we were recognized by the Software Engineering Institute as being among the best and most advanced software development teams in the nation. Now all that was thrown away and we would go back to doing things the old way.
Most of us did just that. Some left GTE and went on to other jobs. I was working a small program for a local customer when I began to experiment with this new thing called the Internet. There was almost nothing on the Internet at the time, but I managed to get the code for a page that I had found. I decided to find out how this thing worked and maybe we would be able to use it on our program. What I found was something called HTML. It seems funny to talk about it like that now but it was all very new then. I discovered that you could create something called a hyperlink and attach it to a file. Then someone at another location could click on the link and get the file. Wow, this was magical. Delivering file was what we were doing! Quite by accident I had discovered a new way of delivering software to our customers. At the time we were creating tapes and hand delivering them every time we had a new release.
So I created a very simple page and create a hyperlink to a document file. I went to the office next door and asked him to go to the page and click on the link. It worked! This was science fiction! Then I walked this idea around to some people in the company that I knew had an interest in this new Internet thing. They had never seen anything like it and they loved it. Next I prepared a presentation showing how much more efficient this delivery method would be and how easy it would be for the customer. I remember it like it happened yesterday. Without hesitation my boss said, “It seems you don’t have the slightest interest in helping out our customers at all and this stupid presentation of yours is just another example. Your last day here is Friday.”
Well that wasn’t what I was expecting, (See “The US Steel Story” and “Teacher of the Basics”). I didn’t know it at the time but I had discovered the most revolutionary method of delivery software ever. It was so advanced that my boss completely misunderstood it and thought I was trying to make a fool of him. Well he didn’t need any help from me; he was doing a great job of that on his own.
Within a week I got a call from the company that had won the re-compete for my old program, CSC. They wanted me to come work on the program again and teach them all things I had learned during the 8 years I had worked on it. I found CSC to be one of the most professional places I had ever worked and it was a joy to work there.
I think the lesson here is pretty simple. Sometimes during your working life you will discover solutions to problems that only you can see. Sometimes those solutions will be so far ahead of their time that they will just have to wait. And until you become another Steve Jobs, it might be best to both gauge and prepare your audience for these new ideas before you march on with full conviction. It’s just a thought.
© J T Weaver