I worked for the 2010 Census for several months. At
first, as an office clerk doing customer service
and data input functions. My duties included
answering the main office line, redirecting the calls,
or answering questions.I sometimes called applicants
for Census employment and conducted interviews
regarding disqualifying episodes listed on their job
applications: unpaid student loans, DWI’s, street
walking on El Cajon Blvd, various arrest types, I did
my job well enough to be assigned to train new-hires.
After taking March off for open-heart surgery,
the second part of my time at the Census was spent
enumerating residential occupants. I earned a
reputation as a dogged, relentless canvessor,
and cases that others gave up on were passed over
to me. I used GoogleMaps to locate difficult
rural addresses, and I used the Post Office to
verify suspected non-existing addresses. I was
exposed to a large variety of types, from dis-
turbed individuals to agitated hermits who tried
to avoid being enumerated.
I worked for the Census again for ONE month. I
was supposed to interview people at random
addresses regarding ObamaCare for one solid
hour. Nobody wanted to be interviewed, so I
quit. WORSE job I ever had!
I worked at a FEMA call center, interviewing
victims of Hurricane Katrina, and filling
out the on-screen FEMA application for
disaster relief. I asked for and input
personal information, such as names, addresses,
childrend’s names, place of work, social
security numbers, their bank account numbers
and bank routing numbers. It was a job that
required empathy for callers, some of whom had
lost all their worldly possessions.
I attended Navy boot camp in San Diego, as well as 6 weeks of basic electricity/electronics school. I then spent 47 months attending Data Systems Technician A and C school in Mare Island, CA. From there I spent 3 years aboard the USS Saratoga, home port Mayport, FL.
I made two deployments to the Mediteranian as part of the 6th Fleet. I saw some very dangerous duty in the bars and streets of Naples Italy. I was fortunate to escape jail time in some Italian hell-hole prison.
My duties consisted of repairs/maintenance of the Hughes Aircraft NTDS System, which was used by the Carrier Air Traffic Control operators, as well as the Operations Specialists in the Combat Center. My final two years were spent in San Diego at the Fleet Combat Training Center Pacific at Point Loma.
Much of my onboard time was spent servicing the
Hughes AN/UYA-4 Data/Radar display consoles.These
were the precursors to airport air traffic control,
and in fact the Saratoga had it’s own CATCC: Carrier
Air Traffic Control Center.
Below and over to the right are pictures of two PCBs from the Univac 642B shipboard computer. One ciruit implements “or gate” logic, the other flip/flop” logic. Notice the hand drawn copper traces on the PCBs. These early systems were literally hand made, with each PCB connected to the others by wire connections behind the PCB cage. These were the days before CAD.
My specialty was the Hughes Aircraft AN/UYA-4 system, however what really interested me more was the 642B…that’s why I joined the Navy to begin with. I dedicated many hours to learning the architecture of the unit, the op codes(program instructions), the assembly of the op codes with the operands and the operand addresses, and the indexing modes. I learned the entire front panel, how to enter the codes and where to observe the flow of data and program steps. Soon, I was the best at doing this, even better then those DS’s who’s specialty it was.
At this time I would like to take my hat off to the DS’s who came before my generation. I met some of them while I was still in the Navy, and I heard stories of the exploits of others, and I would like to say that without doubt they possessed superior intellects than those of us who came after.
When I was transferred to FCTCP(Fleet Combat Traning Center, Pacic) in San Diego, I continued to play with the 642B’s, which were there in plenitude. I did some work on the display consoles, but I also worked in the AMD shop, doing soldering work. I had gone to both the miniature and micro-miniature soldering school at NAS Miramar, and I did a lot of work on the UYA-4 circuit boards, which had very small flat pack IC’s.
One day I discovered that all three shifts of 642B DS’s had joined in a competition to see which shift would fix a stubbornly broken 642B. A pair of guys came over to me and wanted some help with the front panel, entering a short program that would test bit 8, which they were sure was the cause of the malfunction. All three shifts of 642B DS’s had been in the fleet, and were now enjoying shore duty. But none of them had mastered the front panel and the op codes well enough to become intimate, Zen-like, with the machine. This is what I meant about most of my generation just not measuring up to par.
I entered the codes into memory, and then hit the start toggle. The entire front panel LEDs went dark….what the? I remembered this had happened to me before, so I asked the guys if any peripherals were hooked up to the 642B…”no”, they said, paused, and added “just the teletype”.
I instructed them to push the clear button on the teletype, and BINGO! Not only did bit 8 come to life, doing it’s best to burn a hole in the CRT of one of the consoles, due to the fact I neglected to include a delay loop in the routine, but the entire computer was working flawlessly. I explained to the guys that the machine was crashing because the teletype was sending an interrupt for which the 642B tried to acknowledge by going to a specific address, where it found no code to execute, therefore crashing.
When I left them, they were glumly looking at each other, I’m sure contemplating how they would present their success to the other shifts. I never did find out the outcome. If they took the credit, I didn’t care. I was happy being autonomous in my solder shop, and I was free to do whatever I fancied most of the time. That was a great two years.
The two PCB’s shown to the right, from the 642B, were originally designed as throw-away items. The PCB’s themselves were flimsy, the epoxy adhesive was sensitive to soldering iron heat, and both sides of the boards were heavily covered with conformal coating to protect against the salt air. The UYA-4 PCB’s were also difficult for the regular DS’s to fix because the tiny flat pack IC’s were not soldered to the PCB’s, they were tack welded! We also didn’t have the tools and training to do that kind of precision soldering.
So lucky me, I was sent to the Air/Nav soldering school at NAS Miramar in San Diego. I spend a total of 5 weeks there, and learned how to work under a microscope. No sooner had I arrived back on the Saratoga, one of the 642B DS’s brought me a damaged “throw-away” board. It had been damaged because they had forgotten to turn on the chilled water before firing up the 642B. Very carefully, I applied my new training and fixed the “throw-away” board.
The UYA-4 PCB’s were a different challenge. If you tried to cut the welded leades off the flat pack, the twisting force applied by the dikes would rip up the copper trace. I solved this by holding down the lead tightly with an orange wood stick, and cutting the lead off close to the flat pack. Afterwords, I set a new flat pack with the leads cut short to fit up against the original leads suspended from the PCB.
Of course, the Aviation techs had these capabilities, and more, in their shop. However, when we DS’s got advanced soldering training and some new tools, we became much more capable.
I also was drafted to rewire the entire Data Input Console from CIC, after a short circuit fried most of the wires. I recieved favorable mention for this on my evals. Many years later, as a civilian, I was again rewiring panels, this time with Raytheon, aboard the Independence. They were going through an overhaul, and received a new Supply Dept. Comm Panel.
I thank the Navy, and the United States of America, for the opportunity and the privilege of being accepted to serve in our great Navy, and to serve this greatest nation on God’s green and blue earth.
I took the Civil Service Exam in 1972. At one time, if you wanted to work for the Federal Government, you had to do so. If you had taken the college entrance exams, and done well, you would also do well on the Civil Service Exam. New federal employees were selected from among the top performers. Today, the standard has been lowered significantly.
I worked as a Taxpayer Service Representative during the tax season. I went to three weeks of school in Sacramento, and worked in the Santa Rosa, CA IRS office, and once a week I would travel North to Ukia, and provide service in that more remote seasonal office. I serviced customers at the front desk as well as answering incoming calls. I also occasionally would serve as a Spanish-English translator.