HR’s Excellent Adventure

Prologue

It was a dark and stormy night many years ago…and a small boy gazed in wonderment at the eerie glow of the burning slag dumps along the banks of the heavily polluted Monongahela River as it flowed Northward towards its terminus at the then “Steel Capital of the World.” As he pondered the future, little did he realize that he would eventually become a small cog in the machinery of onrushing technology….

Professional

To the Moon…

I worked on the electronics for the Ranger Lunar Probes, which were the first systems to actually take closeup pictures of the moon. The Ranger was designed for a “one-way trip.” It took pictures on the way in, transmitted them back to Earth and then crashed into the Moon. So, some of the electronic assemblies I worked on for Ranger are probably littering the Moonscape. One other project of note that I worked on was an early prototype of the hand-held video camera that the astronauts used on their first trip to the Moon in 1969.

Early Computers…

I was a Field Engineer maintaining hardware and operating system software for a Philco-Ford 2000 Computer, a machine developed in the early 1960’s. The Philco-Ford 2000 was a “mainframe” computer with a 48-bit word length and a whopping 64K of “very fast” magnetic core memory (1.5 microseconds). The 64K of memory took up as much floor space as about 12 of today’s standard 19-inch center electronics cabinets. And, of course, as was the norm back then, there were lots of tape drives.

Software Development…

Worked in a group that developed network simulation and modeling software using Assembly Language, FORTRAN and COBOL. Initially, the software ran on a Philco-Ford 2000 Computer. We eventually ported the software to an IBM 360/50 and were all quite taken aback when we discovered that the IBM 360/50 was quite a bit slower than the old Philco-Ford 2000. Although the IBM 360 Series computers were “32-bit” machines, the mid-range computers such as the IBM 360/50 had 16-bit data paths. But things got better when we started running on an IBM 360/65, and eventually on an IBM 370.

Network Engineering…

During the mid-1970’s, I worked on a project called AUTODIN II, which was supposed to be the replacement for the venerable AUTODIN network. This was my first exposure to the “minicomputer” world. We developed real-time executives, communications device drivers and protocol software on DEC PDP-11 computers. Another first was my exposure to a couple of “new” network protocols called the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and the Internet Protocol (IP). We used assembly language and “Structured FORTRAN,” a pre-compiler that used structured constructs that in turn produced FORTRAN code. For a number of reasons, AUTODIN II never went operational.

My next major network engineering job introduced me to yet another protocol called “X.25” and its supporting cast…X.3, X.21, X.28, X.29, and X.121. And this was also my first exposure to the “Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) Model.”During this time, I was also introduced to what I consider one of the three most significant information technology events of the last half of the 20th century…Personal Computers (PCs). My first PC was a Kaypro II, with a Zilog Z80 8-bit CPU, 64K of memory, two floppy drives and an operating system called CP/M (I still have the Kaypro II and it still works!). The Kaypro II was retired and replaced by an IBM PC, which in turn was replaced by an IBM PC/AT…and the rest is well-documented history.

Subsequent to this, I worked on a number of projects that I can’t tell you all too much about. But, as you can guess, they all involved some aspect of data communications and networking.

More Network Engineering…

In 1985, I became the Director of a Network Engineering in an organization responsible for the design, deployment and ongoing operations and maintenance of the US Treasury Department Consolidated Data Network (CDN). For the next 3.5 years or so, I worked on the CDN. During this time, we deployed the CDN throughout the 50 states, and locations in Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Bermuda, and Canada.

When I left CDN, every US Customs Service (USCS) location (headquarters, regional and district offices, ports of entry, border crossings, international airports), and the majority of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) headquarters, tax processing service centers, regional offices, district offices and posts of duty were using the CDN as their “data transport utility”…and we were operating and maintaining CDN from a Network Control Center (NCC) 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

CDN went on to become an even larger network serving additional US Treasury agencies including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), and the U.S. Mint. I guess you could call CDN a real success story!

During this time, I was introduced to what I consider the second significant information technology event of the last half of the 20th Century…Local Area Networks (LANs). We were looking for a cost-effective way to build an computing infrastructure to support the CDN project.

We stumbled upon a small company in Utah called Novell that sold a product called Netware. The end result was the implementation of a LAN at the CDN NCC using Netware servers and Token Ring transmission technology.

Why Token Ring you ask? Well, we did consider Ethernet but decided that Token Ring was more stable and maintainable (i.e., at the time, Token Ring used shielded twisted pair while Ethernet used coaxial cable). The Token Ring was eventually replaced by Ethernet 10BaseT (twisted-pair!).

After I left CDN, I was involved in a number of other smaller network engineering projects. I also worked for a while providing network systems engineering support for new business activities. And got introduced to the third significant information technology event of the last half of the 20th century…the Internet and its great enabler…the World Wide Web.

Turn of the Century…

From April 1997 through 1999, I was a member of the Corporate Year 2000 Assurance Office for a Fortune 500 IT company. Our charter was to insure that the corporation met its Year 2000 obligations in a timely and professional manner. This included providing guidance to and oversight of the various business unit Year 2000 projects that made their products, internal applications and infrastructure “Year 2000 Ready.”

The New Millenium…

From early 2000 until April 2003, I was a network systems engineer/project manager in a group that did “outsourcing” for various clients.

Still a Network Guy…

I was semi-retired for a few years doing independent consulting…mostly for network engineering and design, but also IT in general. I also did a few web site design jobs, although I’m far from an expert at it.  I’m fully retired now and enjoying every minute of it.

Personal

In the Beginning…

I was born in the Monongahela Hospital, which at the time was located in the borough of New Eagle, PA. My father worked at the time as a molder in a Cast Iron Foundry in Monessen, PA. My mother was, as most were at that time, a “Stay-at-Home” Mom. I’m the oldest of three brothers.

Formative Years…

I lived in Monessen for most of my childhood and teenage years. Monessen is located along the Monongahela River and, like Essen, Germany, its primary industry was steel-making.

I graduated from Monessen High School and shortly thereafter, enlisted in the United States Air Force (USAF). Back in those days your options were to enlist or wait to get drafted! So I figured I might as get my military service obligation over with as soon as I could and then get on with my life.

Military Service…

I went through basic training at Lackland AFB in San Antonio, Texas. Upon completion of basic training, I spent about six months at Gunter AFB in Montgomery, Alabama. I was then transferred to Otis AFB on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, where I spent the remainder of my four years in the USAF, working as a clerk in the 551st USAF Hospital headquarters. When I was discharged, I was an Airman First Class (three stripes). I think that is equivalent to today’s Senior Airman rank.

A Civilian Again…

Upon completion of my military service, I headed back home to Charleroi, PA, as my parents had moved from Monessen to Charleroi while I was gone. Charleroi’s basic industry was glass-making. It was named after Charleroi, Belgium, which is one of the leading glass-making centers in Europe. A number of Charleroi’s original inhabitants were Belgians who had emigrated to the United States to work in the glass factory and coal mines.

Back to School…

Having been discharged from the USAF and unable to find a decent job, I decided to go back to school. I earned the equivalent of an Associate’s Degree in Electronic Technology from a school called Electronic Institutes in Pittsburgh, PA. And I got married. We were then off to a place called Hightsown, NJ as I got a job with an aerospace company in their satellite manufacturing plant.

The Years Go By…

We lived in Hightstown for a year or so. I took a new job as a field engineer with a computer manufacturer and eventually ended up in Arlington, VA. About five years later, I got a new job as a network engineer with an IT company and we moved to Vienna, VA. We raised two kids (girl and boy) and I got a bit more educated along the way. I received a Bachelor’s Degree in MIS from George Mason University and did a bit of graduate work in Computer Science at Virginia Tech.

The Present…

I stayed with the IT company a lot longer than I ever thought I would. But over the years, the company and technology changed so much that it really seemed like I worked for a number of different companies over the years.

I am now retired, still married, still live in Vienna, have two grandsons, two Jack Russell Terriers, and an ancient pickup truck. And I spend more time than I should writing stuff like this and fooling around with open source software.

I’m still retired, still married and now live in Leesburg, VA with my wife, daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons, one Jack Russell Terrier, two Pugs and, initially, a demented one-eyed Maltese who has since gone on to the big doghouse in the sky.  After 17 years of faithful service, the ancient pickup truck has been replaced by a shiny new SUV.  And I still spend more time than I should writing stuff like this and fooling around with open source software.

Epilogue

Guess if nothing else, I can say: “Been there, done that” as the answer to a lot questions…and am “still doing that.”

And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

The initial version of this page was created on Wednesday, 24 December 1997
The most recent update to this page was on Wednesday, 07 September 2016

About

More than you probably want to to know about hrpr.com and other generally obscure factoids.

What’s with the site’s name?

Why the HR?  I’ll leave as an exercise for the reader.

The Industrial Strength part of the name has been around since the first site hosted on the hrpr.com domain.  It was supposed to convey the robust (i.e., unbreakable) design of the site, which back in the early days of the web wasn’t that easy to do.

Why Stuff?  Prior to consolidating the majority of the content floating around the hrpr.com domain into this site, there were sites called portals, gateways and whatever cluttering up hrpr.com and a number of its subdomains such as gallery.hrpr.com.  Text and media files were scattered hither and yon.  The vast majority of this content is now within the purview of this site.  And, for want of a better name, it is now called Stuff.

How long has hrpr.com been around?

We’ve been out here on the Internet in one form or another since 1997.  Hrpr.com started out as a one-page site and has evolved over time to what you see here today.  As a result, we have a lot of stuff scattered around here at hrpr.com, some of which is in no particular order or subject matter grouping.  As R. W. Emerson once said: “Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds!

What does the hrpr in hrpr.com mean?

It is the combination of the first and last initials of the webmaster and his spouse. Not very original, but it does make everyone ask.

Why halfVAST.com?

Seemed like a good idea at the time.  We’re not big, we’re not small, we’re just halfVAST!

The site has a plain vanilla look to it.  What’s up with that?

I guess it reflects my “simple is better” approach to things!  If you look under the covers, you’ll find a number of HTML5 and CSS3 features.  And, it loads relatively fast and is responsive so it looks semi-decent on smartphones and tablets.

The site does not display correctly on my screen.  What’s up with that?

Can’t really say for sure..but if you are using an older browser that does not support current HTML and CSS standards (e.g., Internet Explorer 6 or below), that may be the reason. All of my testing is done using the current versions of Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Android browsers. The current testing is done on Windows 10, Linux, and Android devices with screen resolutions ranging from 320×480 through 1680×1050. If you are using another operating system (IOS, Mac OS/X, etc.) or browser (Safari , Opera, etc.), that may be it. Or maybe you’ve found a bug in the theme’s HTML and/or CSS stuff!

What is the “optimal” screen size for viewing this site?

At this time, both hrpr.com and halfVAST.com have responsive designs based on HTML5 and CSS3. They show best in window sizes ranging from 320px to 1200px. Note that we do have a few external links to older, or legacy, sites that may not look very pretty when compared to sites using current technology.

Where is hrpr.com?

On one of many servers spewing out stuff like this 24 x 7 in one of many data centers somewhere on earth.

Why do you do this?

Certainly not for profit…It is a hobby.  When I’m not doing something more interesting, I fool around with stuff like this.

If you insist on learning more about us after reading through this stuff, fill out the form and hope for the best.  We may even bother to reply.