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Oral-History:Cary Spitzer

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== About Cary Spitzer ==
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== About Cary Spitzer ==
  
[[Image:Cary Spitzer.jpg|thumb|right|Cary Spitzer]]  
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<p>[[Image:Cary Spitzer.jpg|thumb|left|Cary Spitzer]] </p>
  
Spitzer received his Bachelor’s from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1959) and his Masters from George Washington University (1970). As an undergraduate he did co-op work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; he then was in the Air Force for 3 years; he then joined NASA’s Langley Research Center (their oldest research complex) in 1962, working there until his retirement in 1994. At Langley he worked until 1969 on wind tunnel (heat transfer instrumentation); from 1969 to 1978 on surface material experiments for the Viking unmanned mission to Mars; from 1978 to 1985 in an avionics planning office; and from 1985 to 1994 on the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS), a research airplane that NASA used to test the Microwave Landing System (MLS), the Global Positioning System (GPS), automatic landing systems, digital date exchange, and runway traction experiments. After his retirement in 1994 he consulted and lectured.  
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<p>Spitzer received his Bachelor’s from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1959) and his Masters from George Washington University (1970). As an undergraduate he did co-op work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; he then was in the Air Force for 3 years; he then joined NASA’s Langley Research Center (their oldest research complex) in 1962, working there until his retirement in 1994. At Langley he worked until 1969 on wind tunnel (heat transfer instrumentation); from 1969 to 1978 on surface material experiments for the Viking unmanned mission to Mars; from 1978 to 1985 in an avionics planning office; and from 1985 to 1994 on the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS), a research airplane that NASA used to test the Microwave Landing System (MLS), the Global Positioning System (GPS), automatic landing systems, digital date exchange, and runway traction experiments. After his retirement in 1994 he consulted and lectured. </p>
  
Carey discusses his involvement with the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society (AESS)]], the [[IEEE History|IEEE]], the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He defines avionics as “anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons,” and discusses key developments in the field, such as radio-enabled air-to-ground communications in 1920s, [[Radar|radar]] in late 1930s, integrated circuits, data buses in the late 1970s, and microprocessors. He published a textbook on digital avionics in 1987, and has taught courses on the subject. People in the field of note include John Houbolt, who invented the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique; John Ruth, a principal player at Wright Patterson in development of data bus; Dick Peal, who was instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports; and Eli Brookner and Dave Barton in [[Radar|radar]], [[Brad Parkinson Oral History|Brad Parkinson]] on GPS, [[Myron Kayton Oral History|Myron Kayton]], Eric Herz, Dave Dobson, [[Henry Oman Oral History|Henry Oman]], and [[Warren Cooper Oral History|Warren Cooper]]. He identifies as two useful references the Summer 1972 Transactions on the AESS, with a cumulative index from 1951 to 1971, plus related history; and the June 1965 IEEE Transactions on Aerospace, Vol. NS3, No. 2, 79-82, which announced the merger of various societies.
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<p>Carey discusses his involvement with the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society (AESS)]], the [[IEEE History|IEEE]], the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He defines avionics as “anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons,” and discusses key developments in the field, such as radio-enabled air-to-ground communications in 1920s, [[Radar|radar]] in late 1930s, integrated circuits, data buses in the late 1970s, and microprocessors. He published a textbook on digital avionics in 1987, and has taught courses on the subject. People in the field of note include John Houbolt, who invented the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique; John Ruth, a principal player at Wright Patterson in development of data bus; Dick Peal, who was instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports; and Eli Brookner and Dave Barton in [[Radar|radar]], [[Oral-History:Brad Parkinson|Brad Parkinson]] on GPS, [[Oral-History:Myron Kayton|Myron Kayton]], Eric Herz, Dave Dobson, [[Oral-History:Henry Oman|Henry Oman]], and [[Oral-History:Warren Cooper|Warren Cooper]]. He identifies as two useful references the Summer 1972 Transactions on the AESS, with a cumulative index from 1951 to 1971, plus related history; and the June 1965 IEEE Transactions on Aerospace, Vol. NS3, No. 2, 79-82, which announced the merger of various societies. </p>
  
== About the Interview ==
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== About the Interview ==
  
CARY SPITZER: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 24 August 1999  
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<p>CARY SPITZER: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 24 August 1999 </p>
  
Interview # 358 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.  
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<p>Interview # 358 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. </p>
  
== Copyright Statement ==
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== Copyright Statement ==
  
This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.
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<p>This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center. </p>
  
Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.  
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<p>Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user. </p>
  
It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
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<p>It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: </p>
  
Cary Spitzer, an oral history conducted in 1999 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.
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<p>Cary Spitzer, an oral history conducted in 1999 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA. </p>
  
== Interview ==
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== Interview ==
  
Interview: Cary Spitzer
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<p>Interview: Cary Spitzer </p>
  
Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz
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<p>Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz </p>
  
Date: 24 August 1999
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<p>Date: 24 August 1999 </p>
  
Place: Williamsburg, Virginia
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<p>Place: Williamsburg, Virginia </p>
  
 
=== Langley Research Center and aeronautics, World War I  ===
 
=== Langley Research Center and aeronautics, World War I  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
You were just telling me you were at the original Langley Research Center which is in Hampton just down the road from here, and telling me how such a center got to southeast Virginia in the tidewater area.  
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<p>You were just telling me you were at the original Langley Research Center which is in Hampton just down the road from here, and telling me how such a center got to southeast Virginia in the tidewater area. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
It was a knee jerk reaction to the emergencies at the beginning of World War I when our country had about a dozen airplanes and Europe had hundreds. Our Congress said, “Hey, we’ve got to do something about it,” so they established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and they established a laboratory for them. But the requirement was that the laboratory be no less than a day’s train ride from Washington. They did not want NACA under the influence of the bureaucrats. Some farmers down in Hampton had hundreds of acres of marshland that they were eager to sell. They bought the land, and ground was broken for the center in July of 1917. It’s the oldest NASA center. NASA-Johnson in Houston came from NASA-Langley; NASA-Ames in California came from NASA-Langley; and NASA-Glenn Research Center, formerly NASA-Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio also came from Langley. So we have spawned three other centers.  
+
<p>It was a knee jerk reaction to the emergencies at the beginning of World War I when our country had about a dozen airplanes and Europe had hundreds. Our Congress said, “Hey, we’ve got to do something about it,” so they established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and they established a laboratory for them. But the requirement was that the laboratory be no less than a day’s train ride from Washington. They did not want NACA under the influence of the bureaucrats. Some farmers down in Hampton had hundreds of acres of marshland that they were eager to sell. They bought the land, and ground was broken for the center in July of 1917. It’s the oldest NASA center. NASA-Johnson in Houston came from NASA-Langley; NASA-Ames in California came from NASA-Langley; and NASA-Glenn Research Center, formerly NASA-Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio also came from Langley. So we have spawned three other centers. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
And yet they kept the core research lab in Langley all those eighty-two years or whatever.
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<p>And yet they kept the core research lab in Langley all those eighty-two years or whatever. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes, it’s still there.  
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<p>Yes, it’s still there. </p>
  
=== IEEE and AESS ===
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=== IEEE and AESS ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Let’s come back to the story of how you got there, which you started to tell me a little earlier. I also have to do research on the history of the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and its technologies, and we’ll come back to that. I wanted to ask you what you feel were the technologies of interest covered by [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and where you fit in and go from there.  
+
<p>Let’s come back to the story of how you got there, which you started to tell me a little earlier. I also have to do research on the history of the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and its technologies, and we’ll come back to that. I wanted to ask you what you feel were the technologies of interest covered by [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and where you fit in and go from there. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The technologies obviously are [[Radar|radar]]. That’s the biggest percentage of our papers, and we have one or two [[Radar|radar]] conferences that are world class. Navigation and guidance, flight controls, space in general – and that is spacecraft and command and tracking facilities. These all fit under the umbrella of [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society]].
+
<p>The technologies obviously are [[Radar|radar]]. That’s the biggest percentage of our papers, and we have one or two [[Radar|radar]] conferences that are world class. Navigation and guidance, flight controls, space in general – and that is spacecraft and command and tracking facilities. These all fit under the umbrella of [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society]]. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
It’s interesting to hear you say [[Radar|radar]] when there’s a [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|Microwave Theory and Techniques Society]] that’s also one of the thirty-seven IEEE societies. A couple of years ago, before I came on board, the IEEE History Center did [[MIT Radiation Laboratory Oral History Project|a major project on the Radiation Lab (Rad Lab) at MIT]], and a lot of the people they interviewed seemed to be [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|MTTS]] people. What’s the distinction between what they’re doing on the one hand and what you’re doing on the other?  
+
<p>It’s interesting to hear you say [[Radar|radar]] when there’s a [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|Microwave Theory and Techniques Society]] that’s also one of the thirty-seven IEEE societies. A couple of years ago, before I came on board, the IEEE History Center did [[Oral-History:MIT Radiation Laboratory|a major project on the Radiation Lab (Rad Lab) at MIT]], and a lot of the people they interviewed seemed to be [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|MTTS]] people. What’s the distinction between what they’re doing on the one hand and what you’re doing on the other? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The distinction is in the first “T,” [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|Microwave Theory and Techniques]], and my understanding of this is that they tend to be relatively academic and theoretical, whereas our ''Transactions'' and our [[Radar|radar]] stuff is nuts and bolts, “Here’s how it works and here’s what you can do with it,” that is, more application oriented.
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<p>The distinction is in the first “T,” [[IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society History|Microwave Theory and Techniques]], and my understanding of this is that they tend to be relatively academic and theoretical, whereas our ''Transactions'' and our [[Radar|radar]] stuff is nuts and bolts, “Here’s how it works and here’s what you can do with it,” that is, more application oriented. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Right. And how about what differentiates you from the other sort of application-oriented societies like [[IEEE Electron Devices Society History|Electron Devices]] or [[IEEE Industrial Electronics Society History|Industrial Electronics]]? Some of them are a bit theoretical also.  
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<p>Right. And how about what differentiates you from the other sort of application-oriented societies like [[IEEE Electron Devices Society History|Electron Devices]] or [[IEEE Industrial Electronics Society History|Industrial Electronics]]? Some of them are a bit theoretical also. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
They happen to be application societies too. It’s just that we happen to be applying them to aerospace systems, and they’re applying them to industrial electronics and manufacturing and all these other things.  
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<p>They happen to be application societies too. It’s just that we happen to be applying them to aerospace systems, and they’re applying them to industrial electronics and manufacturing and all these other things. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So you see it as a “how it’s applied.” It’s interesting. The [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] is the most complicated society in terms of its history, the number of professional groups that eventually fed into the one society. You had the telemetry people, the guidance people and the military people, and with the military people I think it was clearly an application. No matter what they were doing, that was a group that had specific reasons for needing to meet together and exchange ideas. [[IEEE History|IEEE]] has never itself officially had classified conferences. The people who needed to do classified work would have a place to meet. They would do their unclassified conferencing, and I guess then go in another room and have their classified meetings. We’ll come back to how you came into this picture. Someone – I can’t remember if it was Eric Herz or [[Oral-History:Sajjad Durrani|Sajjad Durrani]] – tried to make the point that it wasn’t just that it had to be space, but that it was complex systems; that it was electronics systems, and not just a device or a few devices or one interface. You had to build a working system that had to be sending and receiving and processing different kinds of information constantly, and that application mainly evolved in the aerospace industry, but that there were people in the society doing other sorts of things.
+
<p>So you see it as a “how it’s applied.” It’s interesting. The [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] is the most complicated society in terms of its history, the number of professional groups that eventually fed into the one society. You had the telemetry people, the guidance people and the military people, and with the military people I think it was clearly an application. No matter what they were doing, that was a group that had specific reasons for needing to meet together and exchange ideas. [[IEEE History|IEEE]] has never itself officially had classified conferences. The people who needed to do classified work would have a place to meet. They would do their unclassified conferencing, and I guess then go in another room and have their classified meetings. We’ll come back to how you came into this picture. Someone – I can’t remember if it was Eric Herz or [[Oral-History:Sajjad Durrani|Sajjad Durrani]] – tried to make the point that it wasn’t just that it had to be space, but that it was complex systems; that it was electronics systems, and not just a device or a few devices or one interface. You had to build a working system that had to be sending and receiving and processing different kinds of information constantly, and that application mainly evolved in the aerospace industry, but that there were people in the society doing other sorts of things. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. Apollo was a very complex system, and a space station is a very complex system. We – “we” meaning [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] – have sort of taken that area and those technologies and run with them.  
+
<p>Yes. Apollo was a very complex system, and a space station is a very complex system. We – “we” meaning [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] – have sort of taken that area and those technologies and run with them. </p>
  
 
  '''Geselowitz:'''  
 
  '''Geselowitz:'''  
 +
  
That leads into my next question. The fields you mentioned are [[Radar|radar]], navigation guidance, flight controls and space, but Myron Greenbaum, current [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] President, put you on the list because you’re the number one person in avionics. 
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<p><br> </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>That leads into my next question. The fields you mentioned are [[Radar|radar]], navigation guidance, flight controls and space, but Myron Greenbaum, current [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] President, put you on the list because you’re the number one person in avionics. </p>
  
Yes. 
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>Yes. </p>
  
Would you define avionics for the educated layperson?
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>Would you define avionics for the educated layperson? </p>
  
To me, avionics is anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons. Avionics do the functions of [[Radar|radar]], navigation, guidance, displays to the crew, and controls and interfaces to the mission controllers. Avionics is an umbrella term for electronics on flight vehicles, whether they are aircraft or spacecraft, that do all the variety of functions on that. 
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>To me, avionics is anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons. Avionics do the functions of [[Radar|radar]], navigation, guidance, displays to the crew, and controls and interfaces to the mission controllers. Avionics is an umbrella term for electronics on flight vehicles, whether they are aircraft or spacecraft, that do all the variety of functions on that. </p>
  
Okay. So, defined that way, in a sense avionics is almost what the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] does. What technologies does the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] cover? If you define avionics broadly enough, then it’s really all these technologies. To make sure I’m clear in my mind, let me ask you another example. So it’s one area that’s very new, but to the mind of the person in the 1990s, “Oh, we built those electronics and they’ve been out there for twenty years and they haven’t really changed.” In other words it’s seen as passé to be able to actually send a space shuttle into outer space and bring it back. But [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], which is what the unmanned satellites do, is a new technology in which [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] people have clearly been heavily involved. For example, Brad Parkinson is on the interview list, but he’s very busy right now, because there’s a little problem with [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] in that when they first built the system, they didn’t leave enough bits for the week counter. 
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>Okay. So, defined that way, in a sense avionics is almost what the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] does. What technologies does the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] cover? If you define avionics broadly enough, then it’s really all these technologies. To make sure I’m clear in my mind, let me ask you another example. So it’s one area that’s very new, but to the mind of the person in the 1990s, “Oh, we built those electronics and they’ve been out there for twenty years and they haven’t really changed.” In other words it’s seen as passé to be able to actually send a space shuttle into outer space and bring it back. But [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], which is what the unmanned satellites do, is a new technology in which [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] people have clearly been heavily involved. For example, Brad Parkinson is on the interview list, but he’s very busy right now, because there’s a little problem with [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] in that when they first built the system, they didn’t leave enough bits for the week counter. </p>
  
The event was last Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>The event was last Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time. </p>
  
I didn’t see anything in the paper. Did anything happen?
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>I didn’t see anything in the paper. Did anything happen? </p>
  
I don’t think so.
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>I don’t think so. </p>
  
There might have been a few people scattered around with individual handheld devices that failed.
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>There might have been a few people scattered around with individual handheld devices that failed. </p>
  
Anything built after 1993 has the “end of week,” which is what that was referred to – the end of week rollover – already built into it.
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>Anything built after 1993 has the “end of week,” which is what that was referred to – the end of week rollover – already built into it. </p>
  
And the technology had been changing so rapidly that there couldn’t be too many pre-1993 units.
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>And the technology had been changing so rapidly that there couldn’t be too many pre-1993 units. </p>
  
Not really.
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>Not really. </p>
  
Okay. So maybe now he has some more time. But apparently he was running around reassuring the masses about the [[Global Positioning System|Global Positioning Systems (GPS)]].
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
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<p>Okay. So maybe now he has some more time. But apparently he was running around reassuring the masses about the [[Global Positioning System|Global Positioning Systems (GPS)]]. </p>
  
What you had was ten digits and to 1,024 weeks, counting from January 19th of 1980, I think.
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
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<p>What you had was ten digits and to 1,024 weeks, counting from January 19th of 1980, I think. </p>
  
That’s why you need specialists in complex systems, because they’re complex. This is great, because I’m talking to the avionics person, and avionics is really the whole system. So with [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], is it the systems on the satellite that enable it to do that, to be avionics?
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>That’s why you need specialists in complex systems, because they’re complex. This is great, because I’m talking to the avionics person, and avionics is really the whole system. So with [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], is it the systems on the satellite that enable it to do that, to be avionics? </p>
  
I would consider those avionics, yes. Not necessarily the payload itself, but the guidance system on the spacecraft and the communication systems.
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>I would consider those avionics, yes. Not necessarily the payload itself, but the guidance system on the spacecraft and the communication systems. </p>
  
The thing that enables the solar panels to be pointed toward the sun, the thing that enables the solar panels to send the electrons to the devices that need it, and to send the telemetric information back to this device and say where it is so that it can be pointed to, and all that.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>The thing that enables the solar panels to be pointed toward the sun, the thing that enables the solar panels to send the electrons to the devices that need it, and to send the telemetric information back to this device and say where it is so that it can be pointed to, and all that. </p>
  
Yes.  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
 +
 
 +
<p>Yes. </p>
  
 
=== Avionics landmarks  ===
 
=== Avionics landmarks  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So what in your field then do you consider the key events, inventions, happenings or discoveries?  
+
<p>So what in your field then do you consider the key events, inventions, happenings or discoveries? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
I looked at your list of questions, and if you want to go way back, obviously the invention of [[Radio|radio]] enabled air-to-ground communications beginning in the 1920s. [[Radar|radar]] was a huge breakthrough in the late ‘30s, and integrated circuits in general. Even very high speed integrated circuits are even passé now, in a sense. Data buses to allow systems to talk to each other and to communicate intra- and inter- systems.
+
<p>I looked at your list of questions, and if you want to go way back, obviously the invention of [[Radio|radio]] enabled air-to-ground communications beginning in the 1920s. [[Radar|radar]] was a huge breakthrough in the late ‘30s, and integrated circuits in general. Even very high speed integrated circuits are even passé now, in a sense. Data buses to allow systems to talk to each other and to communicate intra- and inter- systems. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
When did those come in?  
+
<p>When did those come in? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The first data buses, as far as aviation is concerned, came in the late 1970s. Wright Patterson Air Force Base developed them for use on military airplanes. A fellow named John Ruth was one of the principal drivers behind that. The first major application of them was on the military airplanes, on the F-16. Today there are all kinds of data buses out there, and they are what make avionics possible, as I define avionics. It allows the navigators to talk to the guidance people, to talk to the pilot, to talk to the flight control, and all these other things. They are the communications highway, what we refer to as data buses.
+
<p>The first data buses, as far as aviation is concerned, came in the late 1970s. Wright Patterson Air Force Base developed them for use on military airplanes. A fellow named John Ruth was one of the principal drivers behind that. The first major application of them was on the military airplanes, on the F-16. Today there are all kinds of data buses out there, and they are what make avionics possible, as I define avionics. It allows the navigators to talk to the guidance people, to talk to the pilot, to talk to the flight control, and all these other things. They are the communications highway, what we refer to as data buses. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
And those were first used in avionics in military applications. Were they used in any other applications?  
+
<p>And those were first used in avionics in military applications. Were they used in any other applications? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Well, there were RS-232 ports and that kind of thing on the back of computers, and I guess what is now the Internet may have had a little bit of a beginning back in that time.  
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<p>Well, there were RS-232 ports and that kind of thing on the back of computers, and I guess what is now the Internet may have had a little bit of a beginning back in that time. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
The Arpanet. Yes, it was just starting to get going.  
+
<p>The Arpanet. Yes, it was just starting to get going. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
But the needs on the airplanes dictated the use of architecture.  
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<p>But the needs on the airplanes dictated the use of architecture. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Did the F-16 have anything else on it from the avionics point of view that made it a kind of a landmark?  
+
<p>Did the F-16 have anything else on it from the avionics point of view that made it a kind of a landmark? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes, it had the first of what is known as a flight critical fly-by-wire system, which says that there are no cables from the pilot stick to the control surface. There are nothing but electrical wires, and there are quadruple-redundant computers, and they are built by Allied Signal in Teterboro, New Jersey. If you lose those computers, then you have lost the airplanes. And that was the first production of flight critical fly-by-wire systems in the United States. I’m reluctant to say the first in the world, because the British were putting them in all the "Jag-u-ars," as they call them, or "Jag-wars" as we would say. They had a flight critical fly-by-wire system on it too around that same time.  
+
<p>Yes, it had the first of what is known as a flight critical fly-by-wire system, which says that there are no cables from the pilot stick to the control surface. There are nothing but electrical wires, and there are quadruple-redundant computers, and they are built by Allied Signal in Teterboro, New Jersey. If you lose those computers, then you have lost the airplanes. And that was the first production of flight critical fly-by-wire systems in the United States. I’m reluctant to say the first in the world, because the British were putting them in all the "Jag-u-ars," as they call them, or "Jag-wars" as we would say. They had a flight critical fly-by-wire system on it too around that same time. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So it’s not clear, since obviously it was probably a secret as to exactly who was doing what when. So in late ‘70s they came up with that and we came up with the F-16, which is as you are saying essentially a completely avionic airplane. It was completely fly-by-wire, and it had data buses so it could be in constant communication.  
+
<p>So it’s not clear, since obviously it was probably a secret as to exactly who was doing what when. So in late ‘70s they came up with that and we came up with the F-16, which is as you are saying essentially a completely avionic airplane. It was completely fly-by-wire, and it had data buses so it could be in constant communication. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The different systems could talk with each other among themselves. And then I guess the other major invention is just simply the microprocessor. We could not begin to do what we do today without the microprocessor. We never use the very latest one for avionics, because we want proven technology when we design and build these things. So we don’t use Pentium II or anything like that. We’ll use a Pentium maybe, or a 486, but not the cutting edge, because it hasn’t proven itself yet. But it is clearly an invention that enabled avionics as we know it.  
+
<p>The different systems could talk with each other among themselves. And then I guess the other major invention is just simply the microprocessor. We could not begin to do what we do today without the microprocessor. We never use the very latest one for avionics, because we want proven technology when we design and build these things. So we don’t use Pentium II or anything like that. We’ll use a Pentium maybe, or a 486, but not the cutting edge, because it hasn’t proven itself yet. But it is clearly an invention that enabled avionics as we know it. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Moving back in time a bit now, how about Apollo? The combined feat of putting live people on the moon and bringing them back could arguably be the unrivaled engineering accomplishment of all time. It depends on how you set up the question and how you define it, but on the other hand you just talked about wanting proven systems. Was there anything in the process of doing that that was so innovative that you want to point to it, or was it just incremental, of always tweaking and adding backups and working with proven technology that was developed elsewhere?  
+
<p>Moving back in time a bit now, how about Apollo? The combined feat of putting live people on the moon and bringing them back could arguably be the unrivaled engineering accomplishment of all time. It depends on how you set up the question and how you define it, but on the other hand you just talked about wanting proven systems. Was there anything in the process of doing that that was so innovative that you want to point to it, or was it just incremental, of always tweaking and adding backups and working with proven technology that was developed elsewhere? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Clearly the navigation concepts were revolutionary. That’s one thing that comes to my mind. Let me also add [[Myron Kayton Oral History|Myron Kayton]], because he knows navigation better than anybody I know. You might want to ask him. Apollo required a lot of inventions in a sense, and a lot of breakthroughs. I wasn’t that close to Apollo myself, because it was being done down in Houston at the time. NASA-Langley where I was working, we had finished the work four or five years before that. We develop the technology and then we give it to whoever we think can use it and needs it. So I wasn’t very close to the actual development of Apollo, but there clearly were breakthroughs. Let me just say as a sort of a parenthetical remark, there is a guy that lives about six miles from here in Williamsburg who was the brains behind the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique where you send the two-piece spacecraft to the moon and one part goes to the moon and then comes back up to the orbiting portion of it. John Houbolt was the inventor of that lunar orbiter rendezvous technique, and it’s really what made Apollo doable.
+
<p>Clearly the navigation concepts were revolutionary. That’s one thing that comes to my mind. Let me also add [[Oral-History:Myron Kayton|Myron Kayton]], because he knows navigation better than anybody I know. You might want to ask him. Apollo required a lot of inventions in a sense, and a lot of breakthroughs. I wasn’t that close to Apollo myself, because it was being done down in Houston at the time. NASA-Langley where I was working, we had finished the work four or five years before that. We develop the technology and then we give it to whoever we think can use it and needs it. So I wasn’t very close to the actual development of Apollo, but there clearly were breakthroughs. Let me just say as a sort of a parenthetical remark, there is a guy that lives about six miles from here in Williamsburg who was the brains behind the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique where you send the two-piece spacecraft to the moon and one part goes to the moon and then comes back up to the orbiting portion of it. John Houbolt was the inventor of that lunar orbiter rendezvous technique, and it’s really what made Apollo doable. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So before that, what were they thinking, that they could actually send a mother ship down with enough fuel to turn around and come back to earth?  
+
<p>So before that, what were they thinking, that they could actually send a mother ship down with enough fuel to turn around and come back to earth? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. He said, “Not only can you not do that, because it would almost impossible to build a spacecraft with that kind of thrust in it, but furthermore here is a way that will work.” He got his hands slapped a couple times because he kept championing that idea when other people were saying, “No, John, it won’t work, go away, we’ve got our own idea.” But he championed it and finally convinced them that this was the way you should do it. He’s an interesting guy. I think he’s about eighty now. He says he saved Apollo, and he did. Apollo represented a lot of breakthroughs in a lot of technologies – materials, navigation, guidance, crew systems, having somebody live in an airless environment for days on end. There were a lot of breakthroughs there, things that we had never done and had never even had a need to do.  
+
<p>Yes. He said, “Not only can you not do that, because it would almost impossible to build a spacecraft with that kind of thrust in it, but furthermore here is a way that will work.” He got his hands slapped a couple times because he kept championing that idea when other people were saying, “No, John, it won’t work, go away, we’ve got our own idea.” But he championed it and finally convinced them that this was the way you should do it. He’s an interesting guy. I think he’s about eighty now. He says he saved Apollo, and he did. Apollo represented a lot of breakthroughs in a lot of technologies – materials, navigation, guidance, crew systems, having somebody live in an airless environment for days on end. There were a lot of breakthroughs there, things that we had never done and had never even had a need to do. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
One of the things that makes it interesting is they weren’t just in avionics. There were materials advances, mechanical engineering advances, what have you, including medical in a sense.  
+
<p>One of the things that makes it interesting is they weren’t just in avionics. There were materials advances, mechanical engineering advances, what have you, including medical in a sense. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Well, from your part of the country of course Grumman built the lunar excursion module, and I remember because I used to work with a guy who was one of the senior engineers on that. He told a story about when they were trying to save weight. They would reward an employee—and I don’t know how many dollars it was but it was attractive—for every ounce that an employee could identify some savings, they got a fairly good sized chunk of money.  
+
<p>Well, from your part of the country of course Grumman built the lunar excursion module, and I remember because I used to work with a guy who was one of the senior engineers on that. He told a story about when they were trying to save weight. They would reward an employee—and I don’t know how many dollars it was but it was attractive—for every ounce that an employee could identify some savings, they got a fairly good sized chunk of money. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
That’s one way to lose weight.
+
<p>That’s one way to lose weight. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
That’s for sure.  
+
<p>That’s for sure. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Are there any other achievements that come to mind?  
+
<p>Are there any other achievements that come to mind? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
I guess you could also include satellites in general.  
+
<p>I guess you could also include satellites in general. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I think probably in a sense you have to say [[Sputnik|Sputnik]], just because the Russians showed it could be done. Whether that was the best or the best way to do it, they got it up there. Okay. I’d like to shift to you and how a native Virginian got involved in all this stuff in the first place and your early education.  
+
<p>I think probably in a sense you have to say [[Sputnik|Sputnik]], just because the Russians showed it could be done. Whether that was the best or the best way to do it, they got it up there. Okay. I’d like to shift to you and how a native Virginian got involved in all this stuff in the first place and your early education. </p>
  
 
=== Education and Air Force  ===
 
=== Education and Air Force  ===
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
As I tell people, I’m just a beat up old country boy. I was born and raised in the western part of Virginia over near Staunton, and went to school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. When I was at VPI, I decided I wanted to be in the co-op plan where you go to school for a quarter and work for a quarter. I ended up going to work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, which is a government Army facility. When I graduated I had over four years of civil service time there, and then I was in the Air Force three years, so when I got out of the Air Force I had seven and a third years of government service already. I said, “Gee, I don’t want to give away that seniority and those benefits. I’d like to go to work in the State of Virginia for the government.” Then I applied at NASA-Langley and was accepted. So it wasn’t that NASA was a lifelong goal of mine at all. It was a government employer doing interesting work.  
+
<p>As I tell people, I’m just a beat up old country boy. I was born and raised in the western part of Virginia over near Staunton, and went to school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. When I was at VPI, I decided I wanted to be in the co-op plan where you go to school for a quarter and work for a quarter. I ended up going to work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, which is a government Army facility. When I graduated I had over four years of civil service time there, and then I was in the Air Force three years, so when I got out of the Air Force I had seven and a third years of government service already. I said, “Gee, I don’t want to give away that seniority and those benefits. I’d like to go to work in the State of Virginia for the government.” Then I applied at NASA-Langley and was accepted. So it wasn’t that NASA was a lifelong goal of mine at all. It was a government employer doing interesting work. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
What had you been doing in the Air Force?  
+
<p>What had you been doing in the Air Force? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
I was what they call a Communications Operations Officer. I was responsible for all the telephones, all the HF communications, for briefing the crews on call signs and communications procedures before they’d go on missions, and those kinds of things.  
+
<p>I was what they call a Communications Operations Officer. I was responsible for all the telephones, all the HF communications, for briefing the crews on call signs and communications procedures before they’d go on missions, and those kinds of things. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Was there any technological aspect, or was it mostly administrative? In other words, did you really use your engineering background and your experience at Aberdeen? Did that transfer to the Air Force?  
+
<p>Was there any technological aspect, or was it mostly administrative? In other words, did you really use your engineering background and your experience at Aberdeen? Did that transfer to the Air Force? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Not really. The Air Force was much more pushing paper, although every now and then I got a little taste of engineering. Understanding how telephones and teletypes and all these other things work was certainly an added experience.  
+
<p>Not really. The Air Force was much more pushing paper, although every now and then I got a little taste of engineering. Understanding how telephones and teletypes and all these other things work was certainly an added experience. </p>
  
 
=== Career at Langley  ===
 
=== Career at Langley  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So you came then to Langley in 1962.  
+
<p>So you came then to Langley in 1962. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. And I had four mini-careers there. I spent the first six years working in wind tunnel instrumentation, particularly what they call heat transfer instrumentation. This was at the time when they were still refining the Apollo design and they were testing shapes of the Apollo heat shield for reentry heating. I had to develop some of the instrumentation that would measure the heating rate into the surface of the Apollo heat shield. Then I went to work on the Viking unmanned mission to Mars from January of ’69 through August of ’78. So I spent over nine years there. I spent longer on Project Viking at Langley than anybody else did. In fact I had a sign on my door one time that said, “The Last Viking” or “The Last Martian” or something like that. In that program I got to use some engineering. I was in charge of two of the experiments on the unmanned lander on the surface. One of them dealt with the physical properties of the surface material – was it sand-like, was it flour-like, was it hard rock, could you dig in it, and all these other questions. That was one of the experiments for which I was responsible. The other one dealt with the magnetic properties of the surface material and whether there were magnetic minerals in the surface material. It turns out there are lots of them. Mars is red in fact because it’s rusty. I spent over nine years on that.  
+
<p>Yes. And I had four mini-careers there. I spent the first six years working in wind tunnel instrumentation, particularly what they call heat transfer instrumentation. This was at the time when they were still refining the Apollo design and they were testing shapes of the Apollo heat shield for reentry heating. I had to develop some of the instrumentation that would measure the heating rate into the surface of the Apollo heat shield. Then I went to work on the Viking unmanned mission to Mars from January of ’69 through August of ’78. So I spent over nine years there. I spent longer on Project Viking at Langley than anybody else did. In fact I had a sign on my door one time that said, “The Last Viking” or “The Last Martian” or something like that. In that program I got to use some engineering. I was in charge of two of the experiments on the unmanned lander on the surface. One of them dealt with the physical properties of the surface material – was it sand-like, was it flour-like, was it hard rock, could you dig in it, and all these other questions. That was one of the experiments for which I was responsible. The other one dealt with the magnetic properties of the surface material and whether there were magnetic minerals in the surface material. It turns out there are lots of them. Mars is red in fact because it’s rusty. I spent over nine years on that. </p>
  
 
=== Plated wire memory  ===
 
=== Plated wire memory  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Were there any particular avionic breakthroughs involved with that, in other words the difference of tracking something to Mars as opposed to the moon?  
+
<p>Were there any particular avionic breakthroughs involved with that, in other words the difference of tracking something to Mars as opposed to the moon? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Oh yes. I was in a sense managing the experiment and so I wasn’t dealing with some of the hardware, but one of the breakthroughs as far as we were concerned was something called plated wire memory. It was at that time a relatively popular memory technique that you could use on spacecraft and the contractor was having a devil of a time getting it to work.  
+
<p>Oh yes. I was in a sense managing the experiment and so I wasn’t dealing with some of the hardware, but one of the breakthroughs as far as we were concerned was something called plated wire memory. It was at that time a relatively popular memory technique that you could use on spacecraft and the contractor was having a devil of a time getting it to work. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
What’s the principle of it?  
+
<p>What’s the principle of it? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
It’s the cross-wires with filament cores on them, and you can read into one set of wires and write on the other. I don’t remember all the details of it, but they were having an awful time getting it to work. It had by the way a grand total of 432K on it – 24,000 18-bit words. That flew the capsule from the time it separated from the orbiter and orbited around Mars down to the surface and landed on 432K.  
+
<p>It’s the cross-wires with filament cores on them, and you can read into one set of wires and write on the other. I don’t remember all the details of it, but they were having an awful time getting it to work. It had by the way a grand total of 432K on it – 24,000 18-bit words. That flew the capsule from the time it separated from the orbiter and orbited around Mars down to the surface and landed on 432K. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So your programmers had to be very precise and concise.  
+
<p>So your programmers had to be very precise and concise. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Absolutely. Yes.  
+
<p>Absolutely. Yes. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
We were talking earlier about the [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] problem, and that they decided to only allow 1K for the week counter. And now we look and say, “Why did they do that?” and, “They didn’t think far enough ahead,” like the recent thing with Y2K. But on the other hand, if you buy commercial software – and I mostly buy it for my kids and not for myself or my wife or adult use, but we mostly buy game and educational software for the kids. And it’s the opposite. They’re lazy. They assume that you have infinite memory, and they assume memory is free, and if you are trying to save money and not buy a new machine and if you’re running on an old 486 with only 16 megs of RAM or something like that, forget it. You can’t run the off-the-shelf program. They could write a program that would maybe work better on a new machine but could still work on an old machine if they’d put their minds to it, but they’re too lazy. So it works both ways.  
+
<p>We were talking earlier about the [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] problem, and that they decided to only allow 1K for the week counter. And now we look and say, “Why did they do that?” and, “They didn’t think far enough ahead,” like the recent thing with Y2K. But on the other hand, if you buy commercial software – and I mostly buy it for my kids and not for myself or my wife or adult use, but we mostly buy game and educational software for the kids. And it’s the opposite. They’re lazy. They assume that you have infinite memory, and they assume memory is free, and if you are trying to save money and not buy a new machine and if you’re running on an old 486 with only 16 megs of RAM or something like that, forget it. You can’t run the off-the-shelf program. They could write a program that would maybe work better on a new machine but could still work on an old machine if they’d put their minds to it, but they’re too lazy. So it works both ways. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
And there’s a lot of software you only need one time for the installation, and yet it stays in your memory, wasting space.  
+
<p>And there’s a lot of software you only need one time for the installation, and yet it stays in your memory, wasting space. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
It just sits there. If you’re afraid or if you’re not really a software-side person and afraid, “Well, if I clean this up will I lose some driver and then it won’t work?” It looks like it’s just sitting there wasting memory. It drives me crazy. So what year did Viking land?  
+
<p>It just sits there. If you’re afraid or if you’re not really a software-side person and afraid, “Well, if I clean this up will I lose some driver and then it won’t work?” It looks like it’s just sitting there wasting memory. It drives me crazy. So what year did Viking land? </p>
  
 
=== Avionics planning, NASA  ===
 
=== Avionics planning, NASA  ===
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
July 20th, 1976. And I stayed on for a little over two more years. Then I went into the avionics business and spent from August of ’78 to September of ’85 in an avionics planning office supporting NASA Headquarters in Washington to develop and advocate avionics research programs for the entire agency. We were at Langley and we were sort of the lead of it, but we were developing avionics research programs for NASA-Ames and for NASA-Lewis Research Center and all the others as part of the total NASA program. I did that for about seven years, and then I went into working with what was called the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS).  
+
<p>July 20th, 1976. And I stayed on for a little over two more years. Then I went into the avionics business and spent from August of ’78 to September of ’85 in an avionics planning office supporting NASA Headquarters in Washington to develop and advocate avionics research programs for the entire agency. We were at Langley and we were sort of the lead of it, but we were developing avionics research programs for NASA-Ames and for NASA-Lewis Research Center and all the others as part of the total NASA program. I did that for about seven years, and then I went into working with what was called the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS). </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Getting back to the avionics for a second, in that seven years of the late ‘70s and early and mid-‘80s what were they trying to do with this overall avionics assessment?  
+
<p>Getting back to the avionics for a second, in that seven years of the late ‘70s and early and mid-‘80s what were they trying to do with this overall avionics assessment? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Well, it was really trying to build an avionics research program for NASA. There was a fellow in Washington headquarters who was Director of Avionics Controls and Human Factors. He had been tasked to put together an avionics research program for the total agency. At Langley in this office where there were only three or four of us, we were his staff function. So his staff basically was at Langley while he was in Washington. We were developing programs for research and advanced avionics architectures and fault-tolerant concepts for avionics.  
+
<p>Well, it was really trying to build an avionics research program for NASA. There was a fellow in Washington headquarters who was Director of Avionics Controls and Human Factors. He had been tasked to put together an avionics research program for the total agency. At Langley in this office where there were only three or four of us, we were his staff function. So his staff basically was at Langley while he was in Washington. We were developing programs for research and advanced avionics architectures and fault-tolerant concepts for avionics. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
When did the first shuttle fly?  
+
<p>When did the first shuttle fly? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
I think the shuttle first flew in ’81.
+
<p>I think the shuttle first flew in ’81. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I think that’s right. That’s something else that we could say had solved a lot of problems. Like Apollo, they had to sort of rethink a lot of things and put a lot of different things together.  
+
<p>I think that’s right. That’s something else that we could say had solved a lot of problems. Like Apollo, they had to sort of rethink a lot of things and put a lot of different things together. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes.  
+
<p>Yes. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So for most of the time you were working on this, Viking had already landed on Mars, Apollo had already landed on the moon and come back and the shuttle had already flown. At that time what were they thinking this advanced avionics research would be applied to, and then what have they been doing since? If you know, since ’85 what have they been thinking? If you ask me as a layperson, it seems that now everyone’s talking about the international space station as the next major complex project.  
+
<p>So for most of the time you were working on this, Viking had already landed on Mars, Apollo had already landed on the moon and come back and the shuttle had already flown. At that time what were they thinking this advanced avionics research would be applied to, and then what have they been doing since? If you know, since ’85 what have they been thinking? If you ask me as a layperson, it seems that now everyone’s talking about the international space station as the next major complex project. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Right. If you’ll remember your history, fuel was still expensive in ’79, ’80, ’81. We had been through the real crisis in ’74 I guess, but fuel was still relatively high priced, and one of the major thrusts was to develop more efficient aircraft. Some of those ways of developing more efficient aircraft had to do with avionics. Using the concept of fly-by-wire, for example, you can make smaller wings, smaller tails and therefore have less drag, those kinds of things. You can put electronic controls on the engine to control the engine in response to the pilot’s throttle setting and do it much more efficiently, because you can take into account air temperature and speed and all these other parameters at that time so you can put in the optimal amount of fuel. So efficiency was big driver. Aviation takes fuel, and we were looking for were more efficient ways of flying airplanes. And electronics, as everybody liked to call them, offered a lot of potential payoff. So we were planning programs for avionics research with those kinds of directions.  
+
<p>Right. If you’ll remember your history, fuel was still expensive in ’79, ’80, ’81. We had been through the real crisis in ’74 I guess, but fuel was still relatively high priced, and one of the major thrusts was to develop more efficient aircraft. Some of those ways of developing more efficient aircraft had to do with avionics. Using the concept of fly-by-wire, for example, you can make smaller wings, smaller tails and therefore have less drag, those kinds of things. You can put electronic controls on the engine to control the engine in response to the pilot’s throttle setting and do it much more efficiently, because you can take into account air temperature and speed and all these other parameters at that time so you can put in the optimal amount of fuel. So efficiency was big driver. Aviation takes fuel, and we were looking for were more efficient ways of flying airplanes. And electronics, as everybody liked to call them, offered a lot of potential payoff. So we were planning programs for avionics research with those kinds of directions. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
After you left the program in September of ’85, has that continued, that avionics?  
+
<p>After you left the program in September of ’85, has that continued, that avionics? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Not really. Avionics turned into a 4-syllable dirty word as far as NASA Headquarters was concerned, and it fell out of favor as a research area as far as NASA was concerned.  
+
<p>Not really. Avionics turned into a 4-syllable dirty word as far as NASA Headquarters was concerned, and it fell out of favor as a research area as far as NASA was concerned. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Was that part of this thrust toward simpler and cheaper?  
+
<p>Was that part of this thrust toward simpler and cheaper? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
It preceded Goldeb’s edict by several years. I guess you could say it was a matter of program priorities by some of the other managers who didn’t think that avionics was that important. A new air foil with less drag or a new higher efficiency engine and these other things had more potential payoff and they were things that they as engineers could understand better than they could avionics, because not every engineer understands electronics. They understand mechanics and roads and all these other things. But it is kind of hard sometimes to visualize an electron whistling along doing something. So I think that decision was built on skepticism.  
+
<p>It preceded Goldeb’s edict by several years. I guess you could say it was a matter of program priorities by some of the other managers who didn’t think that avionics was that important. A new air foil with less drag or a new higher efficiency engine and these other things had more potential payoff and they were things that they as engineers could understand better than they could avionics, because not every engineer understands electronics. They understand mechanics and roads and all these other things. But it is kind of hard sometimes to visualize an electron whistling along doing something. So I think that decision was built on skepticism. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Even our colleagues in the [[IEEE Computer Society History|IEEE Computer Society]] have trouble remembering that their devices need electrons to work sometimes, so how can we expect a mechanical engineer to understand? Okay, so would you say that was really the end of a major thrust of avionics within NASA? Obviously they’re still doing avionics, but was that the end of making it a major research and development thrust?  
+
<p>Even our colleagues in the [[IEEE Computer Society History|IEEE Computer Society]] have trouble remembering that their devices need electrons to work sometimes, so how can we expect a mechanical engineer to understand? Okay, so would you say that was really the end of a major thrust of avionics within NASA? Obviously they’re still doing avionics, but was that the end of making it a major research and development thrust? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Probably. Yes.  
+
<p>Probably. Yes. </p>
  
 
=== Advanced Transport Operating System Office  ===
 
=== Advanced Transport Operating System Office  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So you moved over to ATOPS at that time.  
+
<p>So you moved over to ATOPS at that time. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Right, Advanced Transport Operating Systems Program. And really that’s a long name for a program that was based on a 737 airplane. We had a B-737-100 at NASA-Langley. In fact it was the first 737 ever built. It‘s an interesting story. When Boeing built the 737, one of the launch customers, in other words one of the first persons to sign up for that airplane was with Lufthansa, the German airline. After Boeing had built the airplane and flight tested it and gotten it certified, Lufthansa said, “Well, we’re not really interested.” And so Boeing was stuck with what we call a white tail. That is a new airplane basically with nobody’s name on it.
+
<flashmp3>358 - spitzer - clip 1.mp3</flashmp3>
  
So they came to NASA-Langley, because the availability of this white tail coincided with the cancellation of the U.S. Supersonic Transport Program for which Boeing had been developing avionics. And so Boeing came to NASA-Langley and said, “Hey, why don’t you let us take the 737 and put a second full-sized 737 cockpit in it back in the cabin and equip it with the electronics that we were going to put on the supersonic transport? Then NASA-Langley can use it as a flight research airplane.” And we said, “Hey, that makes a lot of sense.” And so they went ahead and the airplane was delivered, in May of ’74 I believe it was, and it was being used for flight tests and had been used eleven years when I went over there. It did flight tests of the advanced display concepts and it did flight tests of digital data messages instead of voice for air-ground communication where you’d send up a digital data stream.  
+
<p>Right, Advanced Transport Operating Systems Program. And really that’s a long name for a program that was based on a 737 airplane. We had a B-737-100 at NASA-Langley. In fact it was the first 737 ever built. It‘s an interesting story. When Boeing built the 737, one of the launch customers, in other words one of the first persons to sign up for that airplane was with Lufthansa, the German airline. After Boeing had built the airplane and flight tested it and gotten it certified, Lufthansa said, “Well, we’re not really interested.” And so Boeing was stuck with what we call a white tail. That is a new airplane basically with nobody’s name on it. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>So they came to NASA-Langley, because the availability of this white tail coincided with the cancellation of the U.S. Supersonic Transport Program for which Boeing had been developing avionics. And so Boeing came to NASA-Langley and said, “Hey, why don’t you let us take the 737 and put a second full-sized 737 cockpit in it back in the cabin and equip it with the electronics that we were going to put on the supersonic transport? Then NASA-Langley can use it as a flight research airplane.” And we said, “Hey, that makes a lot of sense.” And so they went ahead and the airplane was delivered, in May of ’74 I believe it was, and it was being used for flight tests and had been used eleven years when I went over there. It did flight tests of the advanced display concepts and it did flight tests of digital data messages instead of voice for air-ground communication where you’d send up a digital data stream. </p>
  
So the person flying would sit in the front cockpit and the person testing would sit in the back cockpit?
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>So the person flying would sit in the front cockpit and the person testing would sit in the back cockpit? </p>
  
Well, you could fly the airplane from the rear cockpit. You could not take off, because you didn’t have access to the brakes. You could not brake from back there. And of course all we had were electronic displays, so you couldn’t see a natural scene out there. But as soon as the airplane rotated on takeoff, you could take over on the rear cockpit.
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>Well, you could fly the airplane from the rear cockpit. You could not take off, because you didn’t have access to the brakes. You could not brake from back there. And of course all we had were electronic displays, so you couldn’t see a natural scene out there. But as soon as the airplane rotated on takeoff, you could take over on the rear cockpit. </p>
  
So it’s a safety, and also the guy in the front would take it up, turn over to you whatever experiments or tests you are doing, and then when you are ready to land he would land, and he’s also there as a backup if something did fail with the new systems or whatever.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>So it’s a safety, and also the guy in the front would take it up, turn over to you whatever experiments or tests you are doing, and then when you are ready to land he would land, and he’s also there as a backup if something did fail with the new systems or whatever. </p>
  
Right. Although we could land it from the back using the automated system, because that’s where we did the first [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] autolanding, using that airplane in the rear cockpit or the research flight deck, which was the same thing.  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
 +
 
 +
<p>Right. Although we could land it from the back using the automated system, because that’s where we did the first [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] autolanding, using that airplane in the rear cockpit or the research flight deck, which was the same thing. </p>
  
 
=== Automatic advanced transport  ===
 
=== Automatic advanced transport  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
You just mentioned [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. What other kinds of systems were you working on with the automatic advanced transport?  
+
<p>You just mentioned [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. What other kinds of systems were you working on with the automatic advanced transport? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
It has a long history. One of the big ones was Microwave Landing Systems (MLS), which until the early ‘90s was being championed by the FAA as the next revolution in precision landing systems. It was a program that started in the late ‘70s, and this particular airplane at NASA-Langley, the 737 there, was the test vehicle for the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System. There was a fly-off between the U.S. version and I think the other one was from Europe. Anyway, this airplane that I’m talking about flew in Montreal, in Rio and JFK in front of members of the world aviation community to show them how well the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System worked. And everybody finally voted, “Yeah, we’ll take the U.S. version.” So what’s interesting is this airplane was what got MLS moving in this country. The FAA, to quote a friend of mine, had a lot of “sweat equity” in it – did a lot of hard work on it. But it was another poorly managed program, and it kept getting behind and having restarts and all these other things. And then in the meanwhile galloping along came [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. And so in November of ’89 a friend of mine who was a student of mine in my extension course at UCLA came to me and said, “Hey, are you one of the guys at Langley that works on that 737?” and I said, “Yeah.” He was a Honeywell employee, and he said, “Do you think we could do some flight tests of the [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] on that airplane?” And I said, “Come talk to us. I think you can.” He came and talked with us in November of ’89, and November of ’90 he walked out with flight data in hand. So it was one year from the time we had a first meeting to the time he had data in hand, which was practically unheard of, but we had demonstrated [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] automatic landings in 1990 when they were running with six [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] satellites. So we did the first [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] automatic landing in this country.  
+
<flashmp3>358 - spitzer - clip 2.mp3</flashmp3>
+
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
  
And where was that test done?  
+
<p>It has a long history. One of the big ones was Microwave Landing Systems (MLS), which until the early ‘90s was being championed by the FAA as the next revolution in precision landing systems. It was a program that started in the late ‘70s, and this particular airplane at NASA-Langley, the 737 there, was the test vehicle for the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System. There was a fly-off between the U.S. version and I think the other one was from Europe. Anyway, this airplane that I’m talking about flew in Montreal, in Rio and JFK in front of members of the world aviation community to show them how well the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System worked. And everybody finally voted, “Yeah, we’ll take the U.S. version.” So what’s interesting is this airplane was what got MLS moving in this country. The FAA, to quote a friend of mine, had a lot of “sweat equity” in it – did a lot of hard work on it. But it was another poorly managed program, and it kept getting behind and having restarts and all these other things. And then in the meanwhile galloping along came [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. And so in November of ’89 a friend of mine who was a student of mine in my extension course at UCLA came to me and said, “Hey, are you one of the guys at Langley that works on that 737?” and I said, “Yeah.” He was a Honeywell employee, and he said, “Do you think we could do some flight tests of the [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] on that airplane?” And I said, “Come talk to us. I think you can.” He came and talked with us in November of ’89, and November of ’90 he walked out with flight data in hand. So it was one year from the time we had a first meeting to the time he had data in hand, which was practically unheard of, but we had demonstrated [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] automatic landings in 1990 when they were running with six [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] satellites. So we did the first [[Global Positioning System|GPS]] automatic landing in this country. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
At Wallops Island, which is over on the eastern shore of Virginia. If you remember the story of Chincoteague; I can’t remember the name of the pony, but the famous pony swim is held there. Well, this Wallops Island is a mile from where they have the pony swim. It’s a NASA facility and it has test instrumentation, NASA flight testing, and so that’s where we did it. It’s about 80 miles from Langley by air. But it was interesting that that airplane opened the door for MLS in the United States, and then eleven years later nailed it shut.
+
<p>And where was that test done? </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Quickly shut the door.  
+
<p>At Wallops Island, which is over on the eastern shore of Virginia. If you remember the story of Chincoteague; I can’t remember the name of the pony, but the famous pony swim is held there. Well, this Wallops Island is a mile from where they have the pony swim. It’s a NASA facility and it has test instrumentation, NASA flight testing, and so that’s where we did it. It’s about 80 miles from Langley by air. But it was interesting that that airplane opened the door for MLS in the United States, and then eleven years later nailed it shut. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
With [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. But of course November of 1990 the FAA still had not even begun to embrace [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. And so we had just done something that was to the FAA an interesting experiment, but to the airlines of the United States, they said, “Hey, we’ve got something here,” and of course it’s been escalating ever since. So that airplane has done MLS, it’s done [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], it has flown experiments on automatic landing systems with different kinds of equations or control logs laws, and it’s done the digital data exchange – that is, a digital message computer-to-computer between the aircraft and the ground. It’s done runway traction experiments. We’ve had the airplane operating on flooded runways, we had it operating on snow-covered runways, on ice-covered runways, and all these other things in runway friction studies.  
+
<p>Quickly shut the door. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Up until then you were really doing space?
+
<p>With [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. But of course November of 1990 the FAA still had not even begun to embrace [[Global Positioning System|GPS]]. And so we had just done something that was to the FAA an interesting experiment, but to the airlines of the United States, they said, “Hey, we’ve got something here,” and of course it’s been escalating ever since. So that airplane has done MLS, it’s done [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], it has flown experiments on automatic landing systems with different kinds of equations or control logs laws, and it’s done the digital data exchange – that is, a digital message computer-to-computer between the aircraft and the ground. It’s done runway traction experiments. We’ve had the airplane operating on flooded runways, we had it operating on snow-covered runways, on ice-covered runways, and all these other things in runway friction studies. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Well, I was doing wind tunnel work for six years, and then I did space for nine years.
+
<p>Up until then you were really doing space? </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
In the wind tunnel work you said a lot of it was for Apollo. Then you did a lot of Viking work. Then you did the NASA avionics program, which was largely space. Now all of a sudden you’re doing aircraft.
+
<p>Well, I was doing wind tunnel work for six years, and then I did space for nine years. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Yes. So I actually started in avionics when I was in the NASA program and began on the airplanes starting ’85.  
+
<p>In the wind tunnel work you said a lot of it was for Apollo. Then you did a lot of Viking work. Then you did the NASA avionics program, which was largely space. Now all of a sudden you’re doing aircraft. </p>
 +
 
 +
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
 +
 
 +
<p>Yes. So I actually started in avionics when I was in the NASA program and began on the airplanes starting ’85. </p>
  
 
=== Civilian impact of avionics work  ===
 
=== Civilian impact of avionics work  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So then you moved over to avionics on the aero side of aerospace. Did that then have a lot of civilian impact?  
+
<p>So then you moved over to avionics on the aero side of aerospace. Did that then have a lot of civilian impact? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Oh, absolutely.
+
<p>Oh, absolutely. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
It probably had more impact on civilian air traffic than the earlier work you’d been doing.  
+
<p>It probably had more impact on civilian air traffic than the earlier work you’d been doing. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Oh yes, no question about it. I only claim to have been in avionics about for about twenty years now.  
+
<p>Oh yes, no question about it. I only claim to have been in avionics about for about twenty years now. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
The other stuff is just a prelude, just a warm-up.  
+
<p>The other stuff is just a prelude, just a warm-up. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. Right.  
+
<p>Yes. Right. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
And so how long did that last?  
+
<p>And so how long did that last? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Until I retired in April of ’94. The last job that I did as part of the Advanced Transport Operating Systems program was to identify the replacement airplane for the 737. The 737 is basically an analog airplane. It doesn’t have any data buses on it, no electronic displays or any of those kinds of things, and so it was becoming more difficult to do things on the airplane and the results were becoming less relevant as more of the aviation industry went to more and more data, digital stuff. And so I was tasked with figuring out what airplane we needed as a replacement flight test airplane, which I did. It turned out it was a 757, and we bought a used 757 that Eastern Airlines used to own. In fact we bought the second 757 ever built, and it’s flying today at Langley.
+
<p>Until I retired in April of ’94. The last job that I did as part of the Advanced Transport Operating Systems program was to identify the replacement airplane for the 737. The 737 is basically an analog airplane. It doesn’t have any data buses on it, no electronic displays or any of those kinds of things, and so it was becoming more difficult to do things on the airplane and the results were becoming less relevant as more of the aviation industry went to more and more data, digital stuff. And so I was tasked with figuring out what airplane we needed as a replacement flight test airplane, which I did. It turned out it was a 757, and we bought a used 757 that Eastern Airlines used to own. In fact we bought the second 757 ever built, and it’s flying today at Langley. </p>
  
 
=== Consulting career, lecturing  ===
 
=== Consulting career, lecturing  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
What have you been doing to keep busy in the last five years?  
+
<p>What have you been doing to keep busy in the last five years? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Consulting. Lecturing and consulting.  
+
<p>Consulting. Lecturing and consulting. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
In the civilian sector?  
+
<p>In the civilian sector? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Military and civil. I’ve had mostly civil clients – FedEx and companies like that. I’ve done a little bit of military, but not a great deal.
+
<p>Military and civil. I’ve had mostly civil clients – FedEx and companies like that. I’ve done a little bit of military, but not a great deal. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
You mentioned lecturing. You mentioned before having an extension course at UCLA.  
+
<p>You mentioned lecturing. You mentioned before having an extension course at UCLA. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
I lecture at UCLA two courses in the Extension Division twice a year, so I lecture out there four times a year for a week. I don’t lecture six hours a day five days a week, but basically I put the course together and I lecture most of the time in the course. One is on digital avionics, and the other is on communications, navigation and surveillance for air traffic management. Basically, they’re on the use of satellite-based communications and navigation in the future of aviation. I’ve written a textbook through two editions, and I’m now literally almost today working on an avionics handbook that’s going to be published jointly by the CRC Press and IEEE Press. That should be in sometime next spring.  
+
<p>I lecture at UCLA two courses in the Extension Division twice a year, so I lecture out there four times a year for a week. I don’t lecture six hours a day five days a week, but basically I put the course together and I lecture most of the time in the course. One is on digital avionics, and the other is on communications, navigation and surveillance for air traffic management. Basically, they’re on the use of satellite-based communications and navigation in the future of aviation. I’ve written a textbook through two editions, and I’m now literally almost today working on an avionics handbook that’s going to be published jointly by the CRC Press and IEEE Press. That should be in sometime next spring. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So you are managing to keep busy in your retirement.  
+
<p>So you are managing to keep busy in your retirement. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Oh yes.  
+
<p>Oh yes. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Even though you are here amongst all the other people who retire to come down here, and people like me come here, these tourists, to see Busch Gardens and colonial Williamsburg.
+
<p>Even though you are here amongst all the other people who retire to come down here, and people like me come here, these tourists, to see Busch Gardens and colonial Williamsburg. </p>
  
 
=== IRE and AESS involvement  ===
 
=== IRE and AESS involvement  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I’d like to take you back in time. Now we’ve gone through your whole career and the technologies that you were involved in and how they remade the aerospace and avionics fields. Given who I am and why I’m here, my next series of questions is about how you got involved with [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and what that if anything had to do with the progression of your career. I notice by cross-referencing the dates in your Fellow biography, you joined as a student member in your senior year at VPI. I guess you also got an M.S. in VPI as well.  
+
<p>I’d like to take you back in time. Now we’ve gone through your whole career and the technologies that you were involved in and how they remade the aerospace and avionics fields. Given who I am and why I’m here, my next series of questions is about how you got involved with [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] and what that if anything had to do with the progression of your career. I notice by cross-referencing the dates in your Fellow biography, you joined as a student member in your senior year at VPI. I guess you also got an M.S. in VPI as well. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
That M.S. was at George Washington.  
+
<p>That M.S. was at George Washington. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
That was later, 1970, but you got the Bachelor’s in VPI and you joined as a student member soon after you graduated. When did you come out of the Air Force?  
+
<p>That was later, 1970, but you got the Bachelor’s in VPI and you joined as a student member soon after you graduated. When did you come out of the Air Force? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
In ’62.  
+
<p>In ’62. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
In ’62. So you joined even when you were still in the Air Force, became a full member. Spent your time in the Air Force, came out and stayed a member pretty much from then on. So I’m curious why you joined, and I assume it was [[AIEE History 1884-1963|AIEE]] that you joined?  
+
<p>In ’62. So you joined even when you were still in the Air Force, became a full member. Spent your time in the Air Force, came out and stayed a member pretty much from then on. So I’m curious why you joined, and I assume it was [[AIEE History 1884-1963|AIEE]] that you joined? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
No, [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]].  
+
<p>No, [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]]. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
You joined the [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]]. Do you recall which professional group you were affiliated with in those days?  
+
<p>You joined the [[IRE History 1912-1963|IRE]]. Do you recall which professional group you were affiliated with in those days? </p>
  
 
  '''Spitzer:'''  
 
  '''Spitzer:'''  
 +
 +
 +
<p><br> </p>
 +
 +
<p>I wasn’t affiliated with any of them until ’66 when I affiliated with the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]]. I had been active locally in the [[IEEE Hampton Roads Section History|Hampton Roads Section of IEEE]], but nothing on a national basis or to do with the society. </p>
  
I wasn’t affiliated with any of them until ’66 when I affiliated with the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]]. I had been active locally in the [[IEEE Hampton Roads Section History|Hampton Roads Section of IEEE]], but nothing on a national basis or to do with the society.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>So in ’66 you made the decision to affiliate. </p>
  
So in ’66 you made the decision to affiliate.
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>I volunteered. I raised my hand and said, “I’m working in wind tunnel instrumentation, and I’d like to be a member of the Committee on Instrumentation in Aerospace Simulation Facilities.” Which is a heck of a long name, but it was the wind tunnel group in the Aerospace Electronic Systems Society. I wrote a letter to the guy that was chairman at that time and said, “Hey, I’d like to be a part of it,” and so they took me in. </p>
  
I volunteered. I raised my hand and said, “I’m working in wind tunnel instrumentation, and I’d like to be a member of the Committee on Instrumentation in Aerospace Simulation Facilities.” Which is a heck of a long name, but it was the wind tunnel group in the Aerospace Electronic Systems Society. I wrote a letter to the guy that was chairman at that time and said, “Hey, I’d like to be a part of it,” and so they took me in.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>What gave you that idea? Was there someone that you knew at Langley who was active in it or anything? </p>
  
What gave you that idea? Was there someone that you knew at Langley who was active in it or anything?
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>No, it was just that I had seen the ''[[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] Transactions''. </p>
  
No, it was just that I had seen the ''[[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] Transactions''.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>So through the technical literature. And you joined maybe partly to get that technical literature? </p>
  
So through the technical literature. And you joined maybe partly to get that technical literature?
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>Yes. And also they had their first congress I guess on wind tunnel instrumentation, and there were a lot of good papers in there that I liked about things that I was doing, because that was still my wind tunnel days. So I signed up, and it went from there. I don’t know whether I ever served as chairman of that committee or not, but I ended up being vice president for technical operations of the society, and then I was elected president in ’73. </p>
  
Yes. And also they had their first congress I guess on wind tunnel instrumentation, and there were a lot of good papers in there that I liked about things that I was doing, because that was still my wind tunnel days. So I signed up, and it went from there. I don’t know whether I ever served as chairman of that committee or not, but I ended up being vice president for technical operations of the society, and then I was elected president in ’73.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>So through being involved with standards and technical committee, you became vice president of technical operations and then president, and at some point vice president for publications? </p>
  
So through being involved with standards and technical committee, you became vice president of technical operations and then president, and at some point vice president for publications?
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>Yes, from about ’95 through ’97, and then Jack Harris took over. Jack Harris and I swapped positions. He was editor-in-chief and I was V.P. for publications, so then I became editor-in-chief and he became V.P. of publications. </p>
  
Yes, from about ’95 through ’97, and then Jack Harris took over. Jack Harris and I swapped positions. He was editor-in-chief and I was V.P. for publications, so then I became editor-in-chief and he became V.P. of publications.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>What central IEEE types of activities did you get involved in nationally? </p>
  
What central IEEE types of activities did you get involved in nationally?
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>In ’71 or ’72, I conducted the U.S. Activities Board spring member survey on employment that they do every year or two, and I was in charge of that. </p>
  
In ’71 or ’72, I conducted the U.S. Activities Board spring member survey on employment that they do every year or two, and I was in charge of that. 
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>I see you were on the [[IEEE Spectrum|Spectrum]] editorial board. </p>
  
I see you were on the Spectrum editorial board. 
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<p>That was a two or three year appointment, if I remember correctly. </p>
  
That was a two or three year appointment, if I remember correctly.
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''
+
<p>How do you feel that IEEE in general and [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] in particular contributed either to the field or to your ability to be a contributor to the field? Or was it just a lot of fun to be with a lot of smart guys that you liked? </p>
  
How do you feel that IEEE in general and [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] in particular contributed either to the field or to your ability to be a contributor to the field? Or was it just a lot of fun to be with a lot of smart guys that you liked? 
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''
+
<flashmp3>358 - spitzer - clip 3.mp3</flashmp3>
  
There was a phone call in summer of ’79 from Lou Urban who is now dead and who used to work Wright- Patterson’s group and he was one of my successors. He was one or two presidents removed from me. He was a president of the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society also. He called me looking for somebody from [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] to represent [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] at the Digital Avionics Systems Conference. One guy named Mark Grove had been designated to do that and then he couldn’t, so Lou who was the society president at the time was looking for a replacement. So he called me and said, “Hey, would you be interested in doing it?” and at that time I was already in avionics planning, so I said, “Sure.” And so I got involved with the Digital Avionics Conference. I ended up the general chairman of the one in ’83 in Seattle.
+
<p>There was a phone call in summer of ’79 from Lou Urban who is now dead and who used to work Wright- Patterson’s group and he was one of my successors. He was one or two presidents removed from me. He was a president of the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society also. He called me looking for somebody from [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] to represent [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] at the Digital Avionics Systems Conference. One guy named Mark Grove had been designated to do that and then he couldn’t, so Lou who was the society president at the time was looking for a replacement. So he called me and said, “Hey, would you be interested in doing it?” and at that time I was already in avionics planning, so I said, “Sure.” And so I got involved with the Digital Avionics Conference. I ended up the general chairman of the one in ’83 in Seattle. </p>
  
In January of ’83 one of the technology editors of Prentice-Hall there in Englewood Cliffs just across the river from you, was looking through some of his lists of meetings and things like that. He was a private pilot, and he came up with the Digital Systems Conference and me as chairman. And he thought to himself, “Hey, this is the fifth year.” He said, “There must be something going on there, and Prentice-Hall doesn’t have any books in that area. I think I’ll write that guy and see if he can help me.” And so I got a typed and signed original letter, but it was boiler plate, “Would you be interested in writing a book in your specialty?” When I saw “specialty,” I thought about my Viking stuff, because I had edited a book on Viking earlier. I almost threw the letter in the trash can. A guy that was in the same suite of offices I was in, I said to him, “Charlie, I’m going to heave this thing.” He said, “No, go ahead and answer it and see what they’re up to.” And so I did, and the end result signing a contract to write my first edition of my digital avionics book. That was published in ’87.
+
<p>In January of ’83 one of the technology editors of Prentice-Hall there in Englewood Cliffs just across the river from you, was looking through some of his lists of meetings and things like that. He was a private pilot, and he came up with the Digital Systems Conference and me as chairman. And he thought to himself, “Hey, this is the fifth year.” He said, “There must be something going on there, and Prentice-Hall doesn’t have any books in that area. I think I’ll write that guy and see if he can help me.” And so I got a typed and signed original letter, but it was boiler plate, “Would you be interested in writing a book in your specialty?” When I saw “specialty,” I thought about my Viking stuff, because I had edited a book on Viking earlier. I almost threw the letter in the trash can. A guy that was in the same suite of offices I was in, I said to him, “Charlie, I’m going to heave this thing.” He said, “No, go ahead and answer it and see what they’re up to.” And so I did, and the end result signing a contract to write my first edition of my digital avionics book. That was published in ’87. </p>
  
At the same time UCLA had been sponsoring a digital avionics course on campus through the extension division for two weeks each summer. The guy who ran that, Cornelius Leondes but he goes by Corny, he and UCLA had come to a parting of the ways on that course, so they were looking for somebody to teach the course. I had just published my book, so they called me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it. So I signed up for that. I got the book because I was connected to DASC, I got to the DASC because of that phone call from Lou Urban, and so it’s a very rich connection for me. And the fact that I published the book and then a second edition, and having the short course at UCLA has given me some visibility in the field, so it helps me in my business today, for sure.  
+
<p>At the same time UCLA had been sponsoring a digital avionics course on campus through the extension division for two weeks each summer. The guy who ran that, Cornelius Leondes but he goes by Corny, he and UCLA had come to a parting of the ways on that course, so they were looking for somebody to teach the course. I had just published my book, so they called me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it. So I signed up for that. I got the book because I was connected to DASC, I got to the DASC because of that phone call from Lou Urban, and so it’s a very rich connection for me. And the fact that I published the book and then a second edition, and having the short course at UCLA has given me some visibility in the field, so it helps me in my business today, for sure. </p>
  
 
=== AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)  ===
 
=== AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
IEEE is a very broad organization. We have these many technical societies, and yours happens to be a very broad one even within the broad umbrella, as we discussed earlier. There are some areas where there are non-IEEE technical organizations that people might interact with, and I notice that you’ve been feted by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) as well as IEEE. I wonder if you want to say something about the activity there and if it overlaps at all with [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]].  
+
<p>IEEE is a very broad organization. We have these many technical societies, and yours happens to be a very broad one even within the broad umbrella, as we discussed earlier. There are some areas where there are non-IEEE technical organizations that people might interact with, and I notice that you’ve been feted by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) as well as IEEE. I wonder if you want to say something about the activity there and if it overlaps at all with [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]]. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The Digital Avionics Systems Conference is jointly sponsored by IEEE and AIAA, and in fact that conference was actually started by AIAA. Lou Urban was dyed-in-the-wool IEEE and he saw this conference and said, “What’s the AIAA doing messing in our business?” So he called AIAA and said, “Hey, we (IEEE) want to “help” you on this.” And IEEE sort of forced themselves onto AIAA.  
+
<p>The Digital Avionics Systems Conference is jointly sponsored by IEEE and AIAA, and in fact that conference was actually started by AIAA. Lou Urban was dyed-in-the-wool IEEE and he saw this conference and said, “What’s the AIAA doing messing in our business?” So he called AIAA and said, “Hey, we (IEEE) want to “help” you on this.” And IEEE sort of forced themselves onto AIAA. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
That’s not my field, but somehow I think of AIAA more as like the rockets and the nose cones and not the electronics. They had two founding predecessor societies, and one was the American Rocket Society.  
+
<p>That’s not my field, but somehow I think of AIAA more as like the rockets and the nose cones and not the electronics. They had two founding predecessor societies, and one was the American Rocket Society. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
The other was the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.
+
<p>The other was the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
So how did they get into the electronics business?  
+
<p>So how did they get into the electronics business? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Because it takes electronics to make them fly now. But they now have for example a technical committee on communications in AIAA and they have a technical committee on digital avionics, which is the AIAA organization that sponsors the conference on behalf of AIAA. They have one on information technology and lots of other things.  
+
<p>Because it takes electronics to make them fly now. But they now have for example a technical committee on communications in AIAA and they have a technical committee on digital avionics, which is the AIAA organization that sponsors the conference on behalf of AIAA. They have one on information technology and lots of other things. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
If you are in digital avionics and you want to keep up on the literature and conferences in that field, you probably need to belong to IEEE and AIAA.  
+
<p>If you are in digital avionics and you want to keep up on the literature and conferences in that field, you probably need to belong to IEEE and AIAA. </p>
  
 
=== Societies and standards  ===
 
=== Societies and standards  ===
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. And it wouldn’t hurt to belong to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) also, because they publish a lot of standards for aviation.  
+
<p>Yes. And it wouldn’t hurt to belong to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) also, because they publish a lot of standards for aviation. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
They do more general transportation standards; they don’t limit themselves to automotive engineering.  
+
<p>They do more general transportation standards; they don’t limit themselves to automotive engineering. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
If you go look in the dictionary for the definition of automotive, it means it moves under its own power. It does not say it has four wheels and a steering wheel. It says it’s something that moves under its own power.  
+
<p>If you go look in the dictionary for the definition of automotive, it means it moves under its own power. It does not say it has four wheels and a steering wheel. It says it’s something that moves under its own power. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
And they maintain that sort of older usage over the years. That would also then include ocean engineering and navigation as well.  
+
<p>And they maintain that sort of older usage over the years. That would also then include ocean engineering and navigation as well. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. But see, years before IEEE thought as much about it, they were publishing standards for automotive. Your 10W30 automotive oil is according to an SAE standard, and bolts are designed according to SAE standard. They have been publishing standards for a long, long time, probably even before airplanes were flying, or just barely flying. So they, SAE people, recognize a need for standards in aviation. Like these data buses that I was talking about, you want to be able to use one type of data bus on a large number of airplanes. Well, you need a standard. And SAE said, “Hey, y’all need a standard, and we know how to do standards,” and they started it, and they’ve got some pretty powerful committees as far as the avionics industry is concerned.  
+
<p>Yes. But see, years before IEEE thought as much about it, they were publishing standards for automotive. Your 10W30 automotive oil is according to an SAE standard, and bolts are designed according to SAE standard. They have been publishing standards for a long, long time, probably even before airplanes were flying, or just barely flying. So they, SAE people, recognize a need for standards in aviation. Like these data buses that I was talking about, you want to be able to use one type of data bus on a large number of airplanes. Well, you need a standard. And SAE said, “Hey, y’all need a standard, and we know how to do standards,” and they started it, and they’ve got some pretty powerful committees as far as the avionics industry is concerned. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
And how is the IEEE doing now in that regard? Obviously IEEE views itself as very strong in the standards area now and they’ve even just now spun off the Standards Board to make it more efficient, quicker to market and that sort of thing.  
+
<p>And how is the IEEE doing now in that regard? Obviously IEEE views itself as very strong in the standards area now and they’ve even just now spun off the Standards Board to make it more efficient, quicker to market and that sort of thing. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
IEEE standards are still not a factor as far as aviation is concerned. They, jointly with the Electrical Industries Association, have published a standard on software engineering that is the standard for software development as far as avionics is concerned, particularly for the military. But that was a joint effort between the IEEE and the EIA. Also we have in [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] a gyro-accelerometer panel or committee, and they had published some standards under IEEE sponsorship for gyros and accelerometers, testing them and nomenclature and those kinds of things. But IEEE is not a prime mover and shaker in aviation standards.  
+
<p>IEEE standards are still not a factor as far as aviation is concerned. They, jointly with the Electrical Industries Association, have published a standard on software engineering that is the standard for software development as far as avionics is concerned, particularly for the military. But that was a joint effort between the IEEE and the EIA. Also we have in [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] a gyro-accelerometer panel or committee, and they had published some standards under IEEE sponsorship for gyros and accelerometers, testing them and nomenclature and those kinds of things. But IEEE is not a prime mover and shaker in aviation standards. </p>
  
 
=== Digital avionics pioneers  ===
 
=== Digital avionics pioneers  ===
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I think we’ve pretty much covered the gamut and answered my questions. Do you have any notes or things you would like to add to get on the record? Is there anyone else you’d like to add who you think was a key contributor in digital avionics that ought to be looked at or recognized?  
+
<p>I think we’ve pretty much covered the gamut and answered my questions. Do you have any notes or things you would like to add to get on the record? Is there anyone else you’d like to add who you think was a key contributor in digital avionics that ought to be looked at or recognized? </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
There are two people, and I don’t know that either one of them were IEEE members, but they certainly did a lot as far as getting digital avionics going. The first is John Ruth, Ph.D., and he’s at Boeing Helicopters in Philadelphia. He was one of the principle players at Wright Patterson in the development of the first data bus. Another guy who has been a really big mover and shaker on the civil side, (John Ruth is principally military), is a guy who has retired from Boeing named Dick Peal. He was very instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports as we know them today, and he was also lead engineer on that 737 that was delivered to Langley with those avionics in it, so he’s been a real factor in digital avionics. I’m sure you’ve probably got Eli Brookner and Dave Barton for [[Radar|radar]].  
+
<p>There are two people, and I don’t know that either one of them were IEEE members, but they certainly did a lot as far as getting digital avionics going. The first is John Ruth, Ph.D., and he’s at Boeing Helicopters in Philadelphia. He was one of the principle players at Wright Patterson in the development of the first data bus. Another guy who has been a really big mover and shaker on the civil side, (John Ruth is principally military), is a guy who has retired from Boeing named Dick Peal. He was very instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports as we know them today, and he was also lead engineer on that 737 that was delivered to Langley with those avionics in it, so he’s been a real factor in digital avionics. I’m sure you’ve probably got Eli Brookner and Dave Barton for [[Radar|radar]]. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
You also mentioned [[Oral-History:Brad Parkinson|Brad Parkinson]] on [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], you had mentioned [[Oral-History:Myron Kayton|Myron Kayton]], and from an institutional point of view we mentioned Eric Herz a couple of times. You can’t really avoid Eric talking about the IEEE in general, let alone talking about the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]], but he’s had his fingers in just about every pie. It turns out he knows my dad, who is a biomedical engineer, because in the early years he was given the job of getting the biological data back from the astronauts in the Gemini days. And so because of an interest in biology, he joined the [[IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society History|Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society]], and being Eric, he stayed active in that also. But he’s a whole separate category.  
+
<p>You also mentioned [[Oral-History:Brad Parkinson|Brad Parkinson]] on [[Global Positioning System|GPS]], you had mentioned [[Oral-History:Myron Kayton|Myron Kayton]], and from an institutional point of view we mentioned Eric Herz a couple of times. You can’t really avoid Eric talking about the IEEE in general, let alone talking about the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]], but he’s had his fingers in just about every pie. It turns out he knows my dad, who is a biomedical engineer, because in the early years he was given the job of getting the biological data back from the astronauts in the Gemini days. And so because of an interest in biology, he joined the [[IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society History|Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society]], and being Eric, he stayed active in that also. But he’s a whole separate category. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes, he was my predecessor as president for the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]]. Another guy is Dave Dobson. He has been a member of [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] longer than anyone else that I know with the exception of [[Oral-History:Henry Oman|Henry Oman]].  
+
<p>Yes, he was my predecessor as president for the [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]]. Another guy is Dave Dobson. He has been a member of [[IEEE Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society History|AESS]] longer than anyone else that I know with the exception of [[Oral-History:Henry Oman|Henry Oman]]. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Right. I haven’t been out there yet, but I’ve been in communication with [[Oral-History:Henry Oman|Henry Oman]]. Part of what is going to make my task easier is they are trying to put together a special issue, Issue #13, of the magazine, and some of the contributors have sent me their drafts, and Henry was one of them. And I’m going to see Warren Cooper who did a lot with [[Radar|radar]] and with the society and there is also has a museum up there, so there are some artifacts we can look at and so forth. It’s a lot of people. I guess it’s never been a huge society in terms of number of members, but it’s been a very broad society with a lot of people very active in a lot of important areas.  
+
<p>Right. I haven’t been out there yet, but I’ve been in communication with [[Oral-History:Henry Oman|Henry Oman]]. Part of what is going to make my task easier is they are trying to put together a special issue, Issue #13, of the magazine, and some of the contributors have sent me their drafts, and Henry was one of them. And I’m going to see Warren Cooper who did a lot with [[Radar|radar]] and with the society and there is also has a museum up there, so there are some artifacts we can look at and so forth. It’s a lot of people. I guess it’s never been a huge society in terms of number of members, but it’s been a very broad society with a lot of people very active in a lot of important areas. </p>
  
I guess it gets back to what you said in the beginning about the application of space. That’s kind of been a thread, because that’s where this country put a lot of R&amp;D money. So that was the one place where these people with these different interests in [[Radar|radar]], telemetry, complex systems and avionics came together, to solve this series of problems you talked about. At first it was how to get a spaceship up and around and down safely, so you had to worry about heat shields and guidance and telemetry and this and that. And then there was, “Okay, we did that, and now we’re going to land it on the moon and bring it back.” And then, “We can’t land a man on Mars. We are going to put an unmanned thing on Mars, and when it lands it’s got to continue to do experiments and broadcast,” and all this stuff. So then at that point you yourself moved into more of the civil side of things. You mentioned Sputnik and I guess from ’59 when the Russians launched Sputnik and until the first shuttle flew which we said was ’81, for all that period of time there was a lot of effort in that direction.  
+
<p>I guess it gets back to what you said in the beginning about the application of space. That’s kind of been a thread, because that’s where this country put a lot of R&amp;D money. So that was the one place where these people with these different interests in [[Radar|radar]], telemetry, complex systems and avionics came together, to solve this series of problems you talked about. At first it was how to get a spaceship up and around and down safely, so you had to worry about heat shields and guidance and telemetry and this and that. And then there was, “Okay, we did that, and now we’re going to land it on the moon and bring it back.” And then, “We can’t land a man on Mars. We are going to put an unmanned thing on Mars, and when it lands it’s got to continue to do experiments and broadcast,” and all this stuff. So then at that point you yourself moved into more of the civil side of things. You mentioned Sputnik and I guess from ’59 when the Russians launched Sputnik and until the first shuttle flew which we said was ’81, for all that period of time there was a lot of effort in that direction. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Absolutely. And there is a lot now as far as the space station is concerned too.  
+
<p>Absolutely. And there is a lot now as far as the space station is concerned too. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Now we’re seeing it again, but I think it’s a different year in terms of politics and that sort of thing, and now we’re working with the Russians, so it seems less immediate in some ways to people, and there are questions about some of our partners and their reliability.  
+
<p>Now we’re seeing it again, but I think it’s a different year in terms of politics and that sort of thing, and now we’re working with the Russians, so it seems less immediate in some ways to people, and there are questions about some of our partners and their reliability. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Like the fellow I was talking with this morning says, “We’re paying the Russians to build our hardware.”  
+
<p>Like the fellow I was talking with this morning says, “We’re paying the Russians to build our hardware.” </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Which we could probably build ourselves better and cheaper, but it serves multiple purposes I guess to have them build it.  
+
<p>Which we could probably build ourselves better and cheaper, but it serves multiple purposes I guess to have them build it. </p>
  
 
=== Publications on avionics research history  ===
 
=== Publications on avionics research history  ===
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
For sure. Dave Dobson called me this morning, and I told him I was going to meet with you this afternoon. There are two things that he wanted me to mention to you as references. The first is the summer of ’72 ''Transactions on the Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society''. There is a 20-year cumulative index in there from ’51 to ’71, and preceding that index is a little history, like that the airborne electronics started in ’51 and telemetry started in ’52 and so.  
+
<p>For sure. Dave Dobson called me this morning, and I told him I was going to meet with you this afternoon. There are two things that he wanted me to mention to you as references. The first is the summer of ’72 ''Transactions on the Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society''. There is a 20-year cumulative index in there from ’51 to ’71, and preceding that index is a little history, like that the airborne electronics started in ’51 and telemetry started in ’52 and so. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I have the official IEEE list of when the first meeting of each professional group and society was and all of that. I’ve got it. I’m not saying I understand it or remember it, but I’ve got it in writing.  
+
<p>I have the official IEEE list of when the first meeting of each professional group and society was and all of that. I’ve got it. I’m not saying I understand it or remember it, but I’ve got it in writing. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
But anyway, the cumulative index might be a real gold mine to you.  
+
<p>But anyway, the cumulative index might be a real gold mine to you. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
To look and see the trends, like if I want to know about what are most of the publications are about in a particular time period, such as when did they go from more [[Radar|radar]] to more avionics or whatever the other things turn out to be.
+
<p>To look and see the trends, like if I want to know about what are most of the publications are about in a particular time period, such as when did they go from more [[Radar|radar]] to more avionics or whatever the other things turn out to be. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
+
<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Even today, the largest single fraction of topics in the ''Transactions ''deals with [[Radar|radar]], or the application of [[Radar|radar]] in navigation and tracking, and all these other things. Then the other document that you want is the June 1965''IEEE Transactions on Aerospace'', Vol. NS3, No. 2, pages 79-82. That’s the announcement of the merger of all these societies into one.  
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<p>Even today, the largest single fraction of topics in the ''Transactions ''deals with [[Radar|radar]], or the application of [[Radar|radar]] in navigation and tracking, and all these other things. Then the other document that you want is the June 1965''IEEE Transactions on Aerospace'', Vol. NS3, No. 2, pages 79-82. That’s the announcement of the merger of all these societies into one. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
+
<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
I think the thing that got particularly messy is that not only did you have several professional groups overlapping, but on the [[AIEE History 1884-1963|AIEE]] side it was a whole different structure and you had people interested in that, and as soon as they saw the merger coming they probably felt, “If we don’t become a professional group ourselves, we won’t be merging,” so they rushed at began the group on Aerospace Electronics at the time of the merger. Now you had the military and telemetry and guidance on the one side, and you had these aero electronics on the other side, and it took three years for everyone to get together. Particularly the official announcements, they’re not necessarily telling you the real meat of the story and what really went on in those smoke-filled rooms. But I will look at that, and I’ll give Dave another call. I understand not only has he been in the society forever, but he’s been involved with the publications forever and ever.  
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<p>I think the thing that got particularly messy is that not only did you have several professional groups overlapping, but on the [[AIEE History 1884-1963|AIEE]] side it was a whole different structure and you had people interested in that, and as soon as they saw the merger coming they probably felt, “If we don’t become a professional group ourselves, we won’t be merging,” so they rushed at began the group on Aerospace Electronics at the time of the merger. Now you had the military and telemetry and guidance on the one side, and you had these aero electronics on the other side, and it took three years for everyone to get together. Particularly the official announcements, they’re not necessarily telling you the real meat of the story and what really went on in those smoke-filled rooms. But I will look at that, and I’ll give Dave another call. I understand not only has he been in the society forever, but he’s been involved with the publications forever and ever. </p>
  
'''Spitzer:'''  
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<p>'''Spitzer:''' </p>
  
Yes. Exactly.  
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<p>Yes. Exactly. </p>
  
'''Geselowitz:'''  
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<p>'''Geselowitz:''' </p>
  
Thank you very much. I appreciate your time greatly.  
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<p>Thank you very much. I appreciate your time greatly. </p>
  
[[Category:Defense_&_security|Category:Defense_&amp;_security]] [[Category:People_and_organizations|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Engineers|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Government|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Automation|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Transportation|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Aerospace_and_electronic_systems|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Air_transportation|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:IEEE|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:Culture_and_society|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]] [[Category:News|Oral-History:Cary Spitzer]]
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[[Category:Defense & security|Spitzer]] [[Category:People and organizations|Spitzer]] [[Category:Engineers|Spitzer]] [[Category:Government|Spitzer]] [[Category:Automation|Spitzer]] [[Category:Transportation|Spitzer]] [[Category:Aerospace and electronic systems|Spitzer]] [[Category:Air transportation|Spitzer]] [[Category:IEEE|Spitzer]] [[Category:Culture and society|Spitzer]] [[Category:News|Spitzer]]

Revision as of 18:39, 26 March 2012

Contents

About Cary Spitzer

Cary Spitzer
Cary Spitzer

Spitzer received his Bachelor’s from Virginia Polytechnic Institute (1959) and his Masters from George Washington University (1970). As an undergraduate he did co-op work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds; he then was in the Air Force for 3 years; he then joined NASA’s Langley Research Center (their oldest research complex) in 1962, working there until his retirement in 1994. At Langley he worked until 1969 on wind tunnel (heat transfer instrumentation); from 1969 to 1978 on surface material experiments for the Viking unmanned mission to Mars; from 1978 to 1985 in an avionics planning office; and from 1985 to 1994 on the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS), a research airplane that NASA used to test the Microwave Landing System (MLS), the Global Positioning System (GPS), automatic landing systems, digital date exchange, and runway traction experiments. After his retirement in 1994 he consulted and lectured.

Carey discusses his involvement with the Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society (AESS), the IEEE, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA), and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE). He defines avionics as “anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons,” and discusses key developments in the field, such as radio-enabled air-to-ground communications in 1920s, radar in late 1930s, integrated circuits, data buses in the late 1970s, and microprocessors. He published a textbook on digital avionics in 1987, and has taught courses on the subject. People in the field of note include John Houbolt, who invented the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique; John Ruth, a principal player at Wright Patterson in development of data bus; Dick Peal, who was instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports; and Eli Brookner and Dave Barton in radar, Brad Parkinson on GPS, Myron Kayton, Eric Herz, Dave Dobson, Henry Oman, and Warren Cooper. He identifies as two useful references the Summer 1972 Transactions on the AESS, with a cumulative index from 1951 to 1971, plus related history; and the June 1965 IEEE Transactions on Aerospace, Vol. NS3, No. 2, 79-82, which announced the merger of various societies.

About the Interview

CARY SPITZER: An Interview Conducted by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, 24 August 1999

Interview # 358 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Cary Spitzer, an oral history conducted in 1999 by Michael Geselowitz, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Interview

Interview: Cary Spitzer

Interviewer: Michael Geselowitz

Date: 24 August 1999

Place: Williamsburg, Virginia

Langley Research Center and aeronautics, World War I

Geselowitz:

You were just telling me you were at the original Langley Research Center which is in Hampton just down the road from here, and telling me how such a center got to southeast Virginia in the tidewater area.

Spitzer:

It was a knee jerk reaction to the emergencies at the beginning of World War I when our country had about a dozen airplanes and Europe had hundreds. Our Congress said, “Hey, we’ve got to do something about it,” so they established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), and they established a laboratory for them. But the requirement was that the laboratory be no less than a day’s train ride from Washington. They did not want NACA under the influence of the bureaucrats. Some farmers down in Hampton had hundreds of acres of marshland that they were eager to sell. They bought the land, and ground was broken for the center in July of 1917. It’s the oldest NASA center. NASA-Johnson in Houston came from NASA-Langley; NASA-Ames in California came from NASA-Langley; and NASA-Glenn Research Center, formerly NASA-Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio also came from Langley. So we have spawned three other centers.

Geselowitz:

And yet they kept the core research lab in Langley all those eighty-two years or whatever.

Spitzer:

Yes, it’s still there.

IEEE and AESS

Geselowitz:

Let’s come back to the story of how you got there, which you started to tell me a little earlier. I also have to do research on the history of the AESS and its technologies, and we’ll come back to that. I wanted to ask you what you feel were the technologies of interest covered by AESS and where you fit in and go from there.

Spitzer:

The technologies obviously are radar. That’s the biggest percentage of our papers, and we have one or two radar conferences that are world class. Navigation and guidance, flight controls, space in general – and that is spacecraft and command and tracking facilities. These all fit under the umbrella of Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society.

Geselowitz:

It’s interesting to hear you say radar when there’s a Microwave Theory and Techniques Society that’s also one of the thirty-seven IEEE societies. A couple of years ago, before I came on board, the IEEE History Center did a major project on the Radiation Lab (Rad Lab) at MIT, and a lot of the people they interviewed seemed to be MTTS people. What’s the distinction between what they’re doing on the one hand and what you’re doing on the other?

Spitzer:

The distinction is in the first “T,” Microwave Theory and Techniques, and my understanding of this is that they tend to be relatively academic and theoretical, whereas our Transactions and our radar stuff is nuts and bolts, “Here’s how it works and here’s what you can do with it,” that is, more application oriented.

Geselowitz:

Right. And how about what differentiates you from the other sort of application-oriented societies like Electron Devices or Industrial Electronics? Some of them are a bit theoretical also.

Spitzer:

They happen to be application societies too. It’s just that we happen to be applying them to aerospace systems, and they’re applying them to industrial electronics and manufacturing and all these other things.

Geselowitz:

So you see it as a “how it’s applied.” It’s interesting. The AESS is the most complicated society in terms of its history, the number of professional groups that eventually fed into the one society. You had the telemetry people, the guidance people and the military people, and with the military people I think it was clearly an application. No matter what they were doing, that was a group that had specific reasons for needing to meet together and exchange ideas. IEEE has never itself officially had classified conferences. The people who needed to do classified work would have a place to meet. They would do their unclassified conferencing, and I guess then go in another room and have their classified meetings. We’ll come back to how you came into this picture. Someone – I can’t remember if it was Eric Herz or Sajjad Durrani – tried to make the point that it wasn’t just that it had to be space, but that it was complex systems; that it was electronics systems, and not just a device or a few devices or one interface. You had to build a working system that had to be sending and receiving and processing different kinds of information constantly, and that application mainly evolved in the aerospace industry, but that there were people in the society doing other sorts of things.

Spitzer:

Yes. Apollo was a very complex system, and a space station is a very complex system. We – “we” meaning AESS – have sort of taken that area and those technologies and run with them.

Geselowitz: 


That leads into my next question. The fields you mentioned are radar, navigation guidance, flight controls and space, but Myron Greenbaum, current AESS President, put you on the list because you’re the number one person in avionics.

Spitzer:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

Would you define avionics for the educated layperson?

Spitzer:

To me, avionics is anything on the airplane or spacecraft that has an active device in it and consumes electrons. Avionics do the functions of radar, navigation, guidance, displays to the crew, and controls and interfaces to the mission controllers. Avionics is an umbrella term for electronics on flight vehicles, whether they are aircraft or spacecraft, that do all the variety of functions on that.

Geselowitz:

Okay. So, defined that way, in a sense avionics is almost what the AESS does. What technologies does the AESS cover? If you define avionics broadly enough, then it’s really all these technologies. To make sure I’m clear in my mind, let me ask you another example. So it’s one area that’s very new, but to the mind of the person in the 1990s, “Oh, we built those electronics and they’ve been out there for twenty years and they haven’t really changed.” In other words it’s seen as passé to be able to actually send a space shuttle into outer space and bring it back. But GPS, which is what the unmanned satellites do, is a new technology in which AESS people have clearly been heavily involved. For example, Brad Parkinson is on the interview list, but he’s very busy right now, because there’s a little problem with GPS in that when they first built the system, they didn’t leave enough bits for the week counter.

Spitzer:

The event was last Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time.

Geselowitz:

I didn’t see anything in the paper. Did anything happen?

Spitzer:

I don’t think so.

Geselowitz:

There might have been a few people scattered around with individual handheld devices that failed.

Spitzer:

Anything built after 1993 has the “end of week,” which is what that was referred to – the end of week rollover – already built into it.

Geselowitz:

And the technology had been changing so rapidly that there couldn’t be too many pre-1993 units.

Spitzer:

Not really.

Geselowitz:

Okay. So maybe now he has some more time. But apparently he was running around reassuring the masses about the Global Positioning Systems (GPS).

Spitzer:

What you had was ten digits and to 1,024 weeks, counting from January 19th of 1980, I think.

Geselowitz:

That’s why you need specialists in complex systems, because they’re complex. This is great, because I’m talking to the avionics person, and avionics is really the whole system. So with GPS, is it the systems on the satellite that enable it to do that, to be avionics?

Spitzer:

I would consider those avionics, yes. Not necessarily the payload itself, but the guidance system on the spacecraft and the communication systems.

Geselowitz:

The thing that enables the solar panels to be pointed toward the sun, the thing that enables the solar panels to send the electrons to the devices that need it, and to send the telemetric information back to this device and say where it is so that it can be pointed to, and all that.

Spitzer:

Yes.

Avionics landmarks

Geselowitz:

So what in your field then do you consider the key events, inventions, happenings or discoveries?

Spitzer:

I looked at your list of questions, and if you want to go way back, obviously the invention of radio enabled air-to-ground communications beginning in the 1920s. radar was a huge breakthrough in the late ‘30s, and integrated circuits in general. Even very high speed integrated circuits are even passé now, in a sense. Data buses to allow systems to talk to each other and to communicate intra- and inter- systems.

Geselowitz:

When did those come in?

Spitzer:

The first data buses, as far as aviation is concerned, came in the late 1970s. Wright Patterson Air Force Base developed them for use on military airplanes. A fellow named John Ruth was one of the principal drivers behind that. The first major application of them was on the military airplanes, on the F-16. Today there are all kinds of data buses out there, and they are what make avionics possible, as I define avionics. It allows the navigators to talk to the guidance people, to talk to the pilot, to talk to the flight control, and all these other things. They are the communications highway, what we refer to as data buses.

Geselowitz:

And those were first used in avionics in military applications. Were they used in any other applications?

Spitzer:

Well, there were RS-232 ports and that kind of thing on the back of computers, and I guess what is now the Internet may have had a little bit of a beginning back in that time.

Geselowitz:

The Arpanet. Yes, it was just starting to get going.

Spitzer:

But the needs on the airplanes dictated the use of architecture.

Geselowitz:

Did the F-16 have anything else on it from the avionics point of view that made it a kind of a landmark?

Spitzer:

Yes, it had the first of what is known as a flight critical fly-by-wire system, which says that there are no cables from the pilot stick to the control surface. There are nothing but electrical wires, and there are quadruple-redundant computers, and they are built by Allied Signal in Teterboro, New Jersey. If you lose those computers, then you have lost the airplanes. And that was the first production of flight critical fly-by-wire systems in the United States. I’m reluctant to say the first in the world, because the British were putting them in all the "Jag-u-ars," as they call them, or "Jag-wars" as we would say. They had a flight critical fly-by-wire system on it too around that same time.

Geselowitz:

So it’s not clear, since obviously it was probably a secret as to exactly who was doing what when. So in late ‘70s they came up with that and we came up with the F-16, which is as you are saying essentially a completely avionic airplane. It was completely fly-by-wire, and it had data buses so it could be in constant communication.

Spitzer:

The different systems could talk with each other among themselves. And then I guess the other major invention is just simply the microprocessor. We could not begin to do what we do today without the microprocessor. We never use the very latest one for avionics, because we want proven technology when we design and build these things. So we don’t use Pentium II or anything like that. We’ll use a Pentium maybe, or a 486, but not the cutting edge, because it hasn’t proven itself yet. But it is clearly an invention that enabled avionics as we know it.

Geselowitz:

Moving back in time a bit now, how about Apollo? The combined feat of putting live people on the moon and bringing them back could arguably be the unrivaled engineering accomplishment of all time. It depends on how you set up the question and how you define it, but on the other hand you just talked about wanting proven systems. Was there anything in the process of doing that that was so innovative that you want to point to it, or was it just incremental, of always tweaking and adding backups and working with proven technology that was developed elsewhere?

Spitzer:

Clearly the navigation concepts were revolutionary. That’s one thing that comes to my mind. Let me also add Myron Kayton, because he knows navigation better than anybody I know. You might want to ask him. Apollo required a lot of inventions in a sense, and a lot of breakthroughs. I wasn’t that close to Apollo myself, because it was being done down in Houston at the time. NASA-Langley where I was working, we had finished the work four or five years before that. We develop the technology and then we give it to whoever we think can use it and needs it. So I wasn’t very close to the actual development of Apollo, but there clearly were breakthroughs. Let me just say as a sort of a parenthetical remark, there is a guy that lives about six miles from here in Williamsburg who was the brains behind the lunar orbiter rendezvous technique where you send the two-piece spacecraft to the moon and one part goes to the moon and then comes back up to the orbiting portion of it. John Houbolt was the inventor of that lunar orbiter rendezvous technique, and it’s really what made Apollo doable.

Geselowitz:

So before that, what were they thinking, that they could actually send a mother ship down with enough fuel to turn around and come back to earth?

Spitzer:

Yes. He said, “Not only can you not do that, because it would almost impossible to build a spacecraft with that kind of thrust in it, but furthermore here is a way that will work.” He got his hands slapped a couple times because he kept championing that idea when other people were saying, “No, John, it won’t work, go away, we’ve got our own idea.” But he championed it and finally convinced them that this was the way you should do it. He’s an interesting guy. I think he’s about eighty now. He says he saved Apollo, and he did. Apollo represented a lot of breakthroughs in a lot of technologies – materials, navigation, guidance, crew systems, having somebody live in an airless environment for days on end. There were a lot of breakthroughs there, things that we had never done and had never even had a need to do.

Geselowitz:

One of the things that makes it interesting is they weren’t just in avionics. There were materials advances, mechanical engineering advances, what have you, including medical in a sense.

Spitzer:

Well, from your part of the country of course Grumman built the lunar excursion module, and I remember because I used to work with a guy who was one of the senior engineers on that. He told a story about when they were trying to save weight. They would reward an employee—and I don’t know how many dollars it was but it was attractive—for every ounce that an employee could identify some savings, they got a fairly good sized chunk of money.

Geselowitz:

That’s one way to lose weight.

Spitzer:

That’s for sure.

Geselowitz:

Are there any other achievements that come to mind?

Spitzer:

I guess you could also include satellites in general.

Geselowitz:

I think probably in a sense you have to say Sputnik, just because the Russians showed it could be done. Whether that was the best or the best way to do it, they got it up there. Okay. I’d like to shift to you and how a native Virginian got involved in all this stuff in the first place and your early education.

Education and Air Force

Spitzer:

As I tell people, I’m just a beat up old country boy. I was born and raised in the western part of Virginia over near Staunton, and went to school at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. When I was at VPI, I decided I wanted to be in the co-op plan where you go to school for a quarter and work for a quarter. I ended up going to work at Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland, which is a government Army facility. When I graduated I had over four years of civil service time there, and then I was in the Air Force three years, so when I got out of the Air Force I had seven and a third years of government service already. I said, “Gee, I don’t want to give away that seniority and those benefits. I’d like to go to work in the State of Virginia for the government.” Then I applied at NASA-Langley and was accepted. So it wasn’t that NASA was a lifelong goal of mine at all. It was a government employer doing interesting work.

Geselowitz:

What had you been doing in the Air Force?

Spitzer:

I was what they call a Communications Operations Officer. I was responsible for all the telephones, all the HF communications, for briefing the crews on call signs and communications procedures before they’d go on missions, and those kinds of things.

Geselowitz:

Was there any technological aspect, or was it mostly administrative? In other words, did you really use your engineering background and your experience at Aberdeen? Did that transfer to the Air Force?

Spitzer:

Not really. The Air Force was much more pushing paper, although every now and then I got a little taste of engineering. Understanding how telephones and teletypes and all these other things work was certainly an added experience.

Career at Langley

Geselowitz:

So you came then to Langley in 1962.

Spitzer:

Yes. And I had four mini-careers there. I spent the first six years working in wind tunnel instrumentation, particularly what they call heat transfer instrumentation. This was at the time when they were still refining the Apollo design and they were testing shapes of the Apollo heat shield for reentry heating. I had to develop some of the instrumentation that would measure the heating rate into the surface of the Apollo heat shield. Then I went to work on the Viking unmanned mission to Mars from January of ’69 through August of ’78. So I spent over nine years there. I spent longer on Project Viking at Langley than anybody else did. In fact I had a sign on my door one time that said, “The Last Viking” or “The Last Martian” or something like that. In that program I got to use some engineering. I was in charge of two of the experiments on the unmanned lander on the surface. One of them dealt with the physical properties of the surface material – was it sand-like, was it flour-like, was it hard rock, could you dig in it, and all these other questions. That was one of the experiments for which I was responsible. The other one dealt with the magnetic properties of the surface material and whether there were magnetic minerals in the surface material. It turns out there are lots of them. Mars is red in fact because it’s rusty. I spent over nine years on that.

Plated wire memory

Geselowitz:

Were there any particular avionic breakthroughs involved with that, in other words the difference of tracking something to Mars as opposed to the moon?

Spitzer:

Oh yes. I was in a sense managing the experiment and so I wasn’t dealing with some of the hardware, but one of the breakthroughs as far as we were concerned was something called plated wire memory. It was at that time a relatively popular memory technique that you could use on spacecraft and the contractor was having a devil of a time getting it to work.

Geselowitz:

What’s the principle of it?

Spitzer:

It’s the cross-wires with filament cores on them, and you can read into one set of wires and write on the other. I don’t remember all the details of it, but they were having an awful time getting it to work. It had by the way a grand total of 432K on it – 24,000 18-bit words. That flew the capsule from the time it separated from the orbiter and orbited around Mars down to the surface and landed on 432K.

Geselowitz:

So your programmers had to be very precise and concise.

Spitzer:

Absolutely. Yes.

Geselowitz:

We were talking earlier about the GPS problem, and that they decided to only allow 1K for the week counter. And now we look and say, “Why did they do that?” and, “They didn’t think far enough ahead,” like the recent thing with Y2K. But on the other hand, if you buy commercial software – and I mostly buy it for my kids and not for myself or my wife or adult use, but we mostly buy game and educational software for the kids. And it’s the opposite. They’re lazy. They assume that you have infinite memory, and they assume memory is free, and if you are trying to save money and not buy a new machine and if you’re running on an old 486 with only 16 megs of RAM or something like that, forget it. You can’t run the off-the-shelf program. They could write a program that would maybe work better on a new machine but could still work on an old machine if they’d put their minds to it, but they’re too lazy. So it works both ways.

Spitzer:

And there’s a lot of software you only need one time for the installation, and yet it stays in your memory, wasting space.

Geselowitz:

It just sits there. If you’re afraid or if you’re not really a software-side person and afraid, “Well, if I clean this up will I lose some driver and then it won’t work?” It looks like it’s just sitting there wasting memory. It drives me crazy. So what year did Viking land?

Avionics planning, NASA

Spitzer:

July 20th, 1976. And I stayed on for a little over two more years. Then I went into the avionics business and spent from August of ’78 to September of ’85 in an avionics planning office supporting NASA Headquarters in Washington to develop and advocate avionics research programs for the entire agency. We were at Langley and we were sort of the lead of it, but we were developing avionics research programs for NASA-Ames and for NASA-Lewis Research Center and all the others as part of the total NASA program. I did that for about seven years, and then I went into working with what was called the Advanced Transport Operating System Office (ATOPS).

Geselowitz:

Getting back to the avionics for a second, in that seven years of the late ‘70s and early and mid-‘80s what were they trying to do with this overall avionics assessment?

Spitzer:

Well, it was really trying to build an avionics research program for NASA. There was a fellow in Washington headquarters who was Director of Avionics Controls and Human Factors. He had been tasked to put together an avionics research program for the total agency. At Langley in this office where there were only three or four of us, we were his staff function. So his staff basically was at Langley while he was in Washington. We were developing programs for research and advanced avionics architectures and fault-tolerant concepts for avionics.

Geselowitz:

When did the first shuttle fly?

Spitzer:

I think the shuttle first flew in ’81.

Geselowitz:

I think that’s right. That’s something else that we could say had solved a lot of problems. Like Apollo, they had to sort of rethink a lot of things and put a lot of different things together.

Spitzer:

Yes.

Geselowitz:

So for most of the time you were working on this, Viking had already landed on Mars, Apollo had already landed on the moon and come back and the shuttle had already flown. At that time what were they thinking this advanced avionics research would be applied to, and then what have they been doing since? If you know, since ’85 what have they been thinking? If you ask me as a layperson, it seems that now everyone’s talking about the international space station as the next major complex project.

Spitzer:

Right. If you’ll remember your history, fuel was still expensive in ’79, ’80, ’81. We had been through the real crisis in ’74 I guess, but fuel was still relatively high priced, and one of the major thrusts was to develop more efficient aircraft. Some of those ways of developing more efficient aircraft had to do with avionics. Using the concept of fly-by-wire, for example, you can make smaller wings, smaller tails and therefore have less drag, those kinds of things. You can put electronic controls on the engine to control the engine in response to the pilot’s throttle setting and do it much more efficiently, because you can take into account air temperature and speed and all these other parameters at that time so you can put in the optimal amount of fuel. So efficiency was big driver. Aviation takes fuel, and we were looking for were more efficient ways of flying airplanes. And electronics, as everybody liked to call them, offered a lot of potential payoff. So we were planning programs for avionics research with those kinds of directions.

Geselowitz:

After you left the program in September of ’85, has that continued, that avionics?

Spitzer:

Not really. Avionics turned into a 4-syllable dirty word as far as NASA Headquarters was concerned, and it fell out of favor as a research area as far as NASA was concerned.

Geselowitz:

Was that part of this thrust toward simpler and cheaper?

Spitzer:

It preceded Goldeb’s edict by several years. I guess you could say it was a matter of program priorities by some of the other managers who didn’t think that avionics was that important. A new air foil with less drag or a new higher efficiency engine and these other things had more potential payoff and they were things that they as engineers could understand better than they could avionics, because not every engineer understands electronics. They understand mechanics and roads and all these other things. But it is kind of hard sometimes to visualize an electron whistling along doing something. So I think that decision was built on skepticism.

Geselowitz:

Even our colleagues in the IEEE Computer Society have trouble remembering that their devices need electrons to work sometimes, so how can we expect a mechanical engineer to understand? Okay, so would you say that was really the end of a major thrust of avionics within NASA? Obviously they’re still doing avionics, but was that the end of making it a major research and development thrust?

Spitzer:

Probably. Yes.

Advanced Transport Operating System Office

Geselowitz:

So you moved over to ATOPS at that time.

Spitzer:

Right, Advanced Transport Operating Systems Program. And really that’s a long name for a program that was based on a 737 airplane. We had a B-737-100 at NASA-Langley. In fact it was the first 737 ever built. It‘s an interesting story. When Boeing built the 737, one of the launch customers, in other words one of the first persons to sign up for that airplane was with Lufthansa, the German airline. After Boeing had built the airplane and flight tested it and gotten it certified, Lufthansa said, “Well, we’re not really interested.” And so Boeing was stuck with what we call a white tail. That is a new airplane basically with nobody’s name on it.

So they came to NASA-Langley, because the availability of this white tail coincided with the cancellation of the U.S. Supersonic Transport Program for which Boeing had been developing avionics. And so Boeing came to NASA-Langley and said, “Hey, why don’t you let us take the 737 and put a second full-sized 737 cockpit in it back in the cabin and equip it with the electronics that we were going to put on the supersonic transport? Then NASA-Langley can use it as a flight research airplane.” And we said, “Hey, that makes a lot of sense.” And so they went ahead and the airplane was delivered, in May of ’74 I believe it was, and it was being used for flight tests and had been used eleven years when I went over there. It did flight tests of the advanced display concepts and it did flight tests of digital data messages instead of voice for air-ground communication where you’d send up a digital data stream.

Geselowitz:

So the person flying would sit in the front cockpit and the person testing would sit in the back cockpit?

Spitzer:

Well, you could fly the airplane from the rear cockpit. You could not take off, because you didn’t have access to the brakes. You could not brake from back there. And of course all we had were electronic displays, so you couldn’t see a natural scene out there. But as soon as the airplane rotated on takeoff, you could take over on the rear cockpit.

Geselowitz:

So it’s a safety, and also the guy in the front would take it up, turn over to you whatever experiments or tests you are doing, and then when you are ready to land he would land, and he’s also there as a backup if something did fail with the new systems or whatever.

Spitzer:

Right. Although we could land it from the back using the automated system, because that’s where we did the first GPS autolanding, using that airplane in the rear cockpit or the research flight deck, which was the same thing.

Automatic advanced transport

Geselowitz:

You just mentioned GPS. What other kinds of systems were you working on with the automatic advanced transport?

Spitzer:

It has a long history. One of the big ones was Microwave Landing Systems (MLS), which until the early ‘90s was being championed by the FAA as the next revolution in precision landing systems. It was a program that started in the late ‘70s, and this particular airplane at NASA-Langley, the 737 there, was the test vehicle for the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System. There was a fly-off between the U.S. version and I think the other one was from Europe. Anyway, this airplane that I’m talking about flew in Montreal, in Rio and JFK in front of members of the world aviation community to show them how well the U.S. version of the Microwave Landing System worked. And everybody finally voted, “Yeah, we’ll take the U.S. version.” So what’s interesting is this airplane was what got MLS moving in this country. The FAA, to quote a friend of mine, had a lot of “sweat equity” in it – did a lot of hard work on it. But it was another poorly managed program, and it kept getting behind and having restarts and all these other things. And then in the meanwhile galloping along came GPS. And so in November of ’89 a friend of mine who was a student of mine in my extension course at UCLA came to me and said, “Hey, are you one of the guys at Langley that works on that 737?” and I said, “Yeah.” He was a Honeywell employee, and he said, “Do you think we could do some flight tests of the GPS on that airplane?” And I said, “Come talk to us. I think you can.” He came and talked with us in November of ’89, and November of ’90 he walked out with flight data in hand. So it was one year from the time we had a first meeting to the time he had data in hand, which was practically unheard of, but we had demonstrated GPS automatic landings in 1990 when they were running with six GPS satellites. So we did the first GPS automatic landing in this country.

Geselowitz:

And where was that test done?

Spitzer:

At Wallops Island, which is over on the eastern shore of Virginia. If you remember the story of Chincoteague; I can’t remember the name of the pony, but the famous pony swim is held there. Well, this Wallops Island is a mile from where they have the pony swim. It’s a NASA facility and it has test instrumentation, NASA flight testing, and so that’s where we did it. It’s about 80 miles from Langley by air. But it was interesting that that airplane opened the door for MLS in the United States, and then eleven years later nailed it shut.

Geselowitz:

Quickly shut the door.

Spitzer:

With GPS. But of course November of 1990 the FAA still had not even begun to embrace GPS. And so we had just done something that was to the FAA an interesting experiment, but to the airlines of the United States, they said, “Hey, we’ve got something here,” and of course it’s been escalating ever since. So that airplane has done MLS, it’s done GPS, it has flown experiments on automatic landing systems with different kinds of equations or control logs laws, and it’s done the digital data exchange – that is, a digital message computer-to-computer between the aircraft and the ground. It’s done runway traction experiments. We’ve had the airplane operating on flooded runways, we had it operating on snow-covered runways, on ice-covered runways, and all these other things in runway friction studies.

Geselowitz:

Up until then you were really doing space?

Spitzer:

Well, I was doing wind tunnel work for six years, and then I did space for nine years.

Geselowitz:

In the wind tunnel work you said a lot of it was for Apollo. Then you did a lot of Viking work. Then you did the NASA avionics program, which was largely space. Now all of a sudden you’re doing aircraft.

Spitzer:

Yes. So I actually started in avionics when I was in the NASA program and began on the airplanes starting ’85.

Civilian impact of avionics work

Geselowitz:

So then you moved over to avionics on the aero side of aerospace. Did that then have a lot of civilian impact?

Spitzer:

Oh, absolutely.

Geselowitz:

It probably had more impact on civilian air traffic than the earlier work you’d been doing.

Spitzer:

Oh yes, no question about it. I only claim to have been in avionics about for about twenty years now.

Geselowitz:

The other stuff is just a prelude, just a warm-up.

Spitzer:

Yes. Right.

Geselowitz:

And so how long did that last?

Spitzer:

Until I retired in April of ’94. The last job that I did as part of the Advanced Transport Operating Systems program was to identify the replacement airplane for the 737. The 737 is basically an analog airplane. It doesn’t have any data buses on it, no electronic displays or any of those kinds of things, and so it was becoming more difficult to do things on the airplane and the results were becoming less relevant as more of the aviation industry went to more and more data, digital stuff. And so I was tasked with figuring out what airplane we needed as a replacement flight test airplane, which I did. It turned out it was a 757, and we bought a used 757 that Eastern Airlines used to own. In fact we bought the second 757 ever built, and it’s flying today at Langley.

Consulting career, lecturing

Geselowitz:

What have you been doing to keep busy in the last five years?

Spitzer:

Consulting. Lecturing and consulting.

Geselowitz:

In the civilian sector?

Spitzer:

Military and civil. I’ve had mostly civil clients – FedEx and companies like that. I’ve done a little bit of military, but not a great deal.

Geselowitz:

You mentioned lecturing. You mentioned before having an extension course at UCLA.

Spitzer:

I lecture at UCLA two courses in the Extension Division twice a year, so I lecture out there four times a year for a week. I don’t lecture six hours a day five days a week, but basically I put the course together and I lecture most of the time in the course. One is on digital avionics, and the other is on communications, navigation and surveillance for air traffic management. Basically, they’re on the use of satellite-based communications and navigation in the future of aviation. I’ve written a textbook through two editions, and I’m now literally almost today working on an avionics handbook that’s going to be published jointly by the CRC Press and IEEE Press. That should be in sometime next spring.

Geselowitz:

So you are managing to keep busy in your retirement.

Spitzer:

Oh yes.

Geselowitz:

Even though you are here amongst all the other people who retire to come down here, and people like me come here, these tourists, to see Busch Gardens and colonial Williamsburg.

IRE and AESS involvement

Geselowitz:

I’d like to take you back in time. Now we’ve gone through your whole career and the technologies that you were involved in and how they remade the aerospace and avionics fields. Given who I am and why I’m here, my next series of questions is about how you got involved with AESS and what that if anything had to do with the progression of your career. I notice by cross-referencing the dates in your Fellow biography, you joined as a student member in your senior year at VPI. I guess you also got an M.S. in VPI as well.

Spitzer:

That M.S. was at George Washington.

Geselowitz:

That was later, 1970, but you got the Bachelor’s in VPI and you joined as a student member soon after you graduated. When did you come out of the Air Force?

Spitzer:

In ’62.

Geselowitz:

In ’62. So you joined even when you were still in the Air Force, became a full member. Spent your time in the Air Force, came out and stayed a member pretty much from then on. So I’m curious why you joined, and I assume it was AIEE that you joined?

Spitzer:

No, IRE.

Geselowitz:

You joined the IRE. Do you recall which professional group you were affiliated with in those days?

Spitzer: 


I wasn’t affiliated with any of them until ’66 when I affiliated with the AESS. I had been active locally in the Hampton Roads Section of IEEE, but nothing on a national basis or to do with the society.

Geselowitz:

So in ’66 you made the decision to affiliate.

Spitzer:

I volunteered. I raised my hand and said, “I’m working in wind tunnel instrumentation, and I’d like to be a member of the Committee on Instrumentation in Aerospace Simulation Facilities.” Which is a heck of a long name, but it was the wind tunnel group in the Aerospace Electronic Systems Society. I wrote a letter to the guy that was chairman at that time and said, “Hey, I’d like to be a part of it,” and so they took me in.

Geselowitz:

What gave you that idea? Was there someone that you knew at Langley who was active in it or anything?

Spitzer:

No, it was just that I had seen the AESS Transactions.

Geselowitz:

So through the technical literature. And you joined maybe partly to get that technical literature?

Spitzer:

Yes. And also they had their first congress I guess on wind tunnel instrumentation, and there were a lot of good papers in there that I liked about things that I was doing, because that was still my wind tunnel days. So I signed up, and it went from there. I don’t know whether I ever served as chairman of that committee or not, but I ended up being vice president for technical operations of the society, and then I was elected president in ’73.

Geselowitz:

So through being involved with standards and technical committee, you became vice president of technical operations and then president, and at some point vice president for publications?

Spitzer:

Yes, from about ’95 through ’97, and then Jack Harris took over. Jack Harris and I swapped positions. He was editor-in-chief and I was V.P. for publications, so then I became editor-in-chief and he became V.P. of publications.

Geselowitz:

What central IEEE types of activities did you get involved in nationally?

Spitzer:

In ’71 or ’72, I conducted the U.S. Activities Board spring member survey on employment that they do every year or two, and I was in charge of that.

Geselowitz:

I see you were on the Spectrum editorial board.

Spitzer:

That was a two or three year appointment, if I remember correctly.

Geselowitz:

How do you feel that IEEE in general and AESS in particular contributed either to the field or to your ability to be a contributor to the field? Or was it just a lot of fun to be with a lot of smart guys that you liked?

Spitzer:

There was a phone call in summer of ’79 from Lou Urban who is now dead and who used to work Wright- Patterson’s group and he was one of my successors. He was one or two presidents removed from me. He was a president of the Aerospace and Electronics Systems Society also. He called me looking for somebody from AESS to represent AESS at the Digital Avionics Systems Conference. One guy named Mark Grove had been designated to do that and then he couldn’t, so Lou who was the society president at the time was looking for a replacement. So he called me and said, “Hey, would you be interested in doing it?” and at that time I was already in avionics planning, so I said, “Sure.” And so I got involved with the Digital Avionics Conference. I ended up the general chairman of the one in ’83 in Seattle.

In January of ’83 one of the technology editors of Prentice-Hall there in Englewood Cliffs just across the river from you, was looking through some of his lists of meetings and things like that. He was a private pilot, and he came up with the Digital Systems Conference and me as chairman. And he thought to himself, “Hey, this is the fifth year.” He said, “There must be something going on there, and Prentice-Hall doesn’t have any books in that area. I think I’ll write that guy and see if he can help me.” And so I got a typed and signed original letter, but it was boiler plate, “Would you be interested in writing a book in your specialty?” When I saw “specialty,” I thought about my Viking stuff, because I had edited a book on Viking earlier. I almost threw the letter in the trash can. A guy that was in the same suite of offices I was in, I said to him, “Charlie, I’m going to heave this thing.” He said, “No, go ahead and answer it and see what they’re up to.” And so I did, and the end result signing a contract to write my first edition of my digital avionics book. That was published in ’87.

At the same time UCLA had been sponsoring a digital avionics course on campus through the extension division for two weeks each summer. The guy who ran that, Cornelius Leondes but he goes by Corny, he and UCLA had come to a parting of the ways on that course, so they were looking for somebody to teach the course. I had just published my book, so they called me and asked if I’d be interested in doing it. So I signed up for that. I got the book because I was connected to DASC, I got to the DASC because of that phone call from Lou Urban, and so it’s a very rich connection for me. And the fact that I published the book and then a second edition, and having the short course at UCLA has given me some visibility in the field, so it helps me in my business today, for sure.

AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics)

Geselowitz:

IEEE is a very broad organization. We have these many technical societies, and yours happens to be a very broad one even within the broad umbrella, as we discussed earlier. There are some areas where there are non-IEEE technical organizations that people might interact with, and I notice that you’ve been feted by the AIAA (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics) as well as IEEE. I wonder if you want to say something about the activity there and if it overlaps at all with AESS.

Spitzer:

The Digital Avionics Systems Conference is jointly sponsored by IEEE and AIAA, and in fact that conference was actually started by AIAA. Lou Urban was dyed-in-the-wool IEEE and he saw this conference and said, “What’s the AIAA doing messing in our business?” So he called AIAA and said, “Hey, we (IEEE) want to “help” you on this.” And IEEE sort of forced themselves onto AIAA.

Geselowitz:

That’s not my field, but somehow I think of AIAA more as like the rockets and the nose cones and not the electronics. They had two founding predecessor societies, and one was the American Rocket Society.

Spitzer:

The other was the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences.

Geselowitz:

So how did they get into the electronics business?

Spitzer:

Because it takes electronics to make them fly now. But they now have for example a technical committee on communications in AIAA and they have a technical committee on digital avionics, which is the AIAA organization that sponsors the conference on behalf of AIAA. They have one on information technology and lots of other things.

Geselowitz:

If you are in digital avionics and you want to keep up on the literature and conferences in that field, you probably need to belong to IEEE and AIAA.

Societies and standards

Spitzer:

Yes. And it wouldn’t hurt to belong to SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) also, because they publish a lot of standards for aviation.

Geselowitz:

They do more general transportation standards; they don’t limit themselves to automotive engineering.

Spitzer:

If you go look in the dictionary for the definition of automotive, it means it moves under its own power. It does not say it has four wheels and a steering wheel. It says it’s something that moves under its own power.

Geselowitz:

And they maintain that sort of older usage over the years. That would also then include ocean engineering and navigation as well.

Spitzer:

Yes. But see, years before IEEE thought as much about it, they were publishing standards for automotive. Your 10W30 automotive oil is according to an SAE standard, and bolts are designed according to SAE standard. They have been publishing standards for a long, long time, probably even before airplanes were flying, or just barely flying. So they, SAE people, recognize a need for standards in aviation. Like these data buses that I was talking about, you want to be able to use one type of data bus on a large number of airplanes. Well, you need a standard. And SAE said, “Hey, y’all need a standard, and we know how to do standards,” and they started it, and they’ve got some pretty powerful committees as far as the avionics industry is concerned.

Geselowitz:

And how is the IEEE doing now in that regard? Obviously IEEE views itself as very strong in the standards area now and they’ve even just now spun off the Standards Board to make it more efficient, quicker to market and that sort of thing.

Spitzer:

IEEE standards are still not a factor as far as aviation is concerned. They, jointly with the Electrical Industries Association, have published a standard on software engineering that is the standard for software development as far as avionics is concerned, particularly for the military. But that was a joint effort between the IEEE and the EIA. Also we have in AESS a gyro-accelerometer panel or committee, and they had published some standards under IEEE sponsorship for gyros and accelerometers, testing them and nomenclature and those kinds of things. But IEEE is not a prime mover and shaker in aviation standards.

Digital avionics pioneers

Geselowitz:

I think we’ve pretty much covered the gamut and answered my questions. Do you have any notes or things you would like to add to get on the record? Is there anyone else you’d like to add who you think was a key contributor in digital avionics that ought to be looked at or recognized?

Spitzer:

There are two people, and I don’t know that either one of them were IEEE members, but they certainly did a lot as far as getting digital avionics going. The first is John Ruth, Ph.D., and he’s at Boeing Helicopters in Philadelphia. He was one of the principle players at Wright Patterson in the development of the first data bus. Another guy who has been a really big mover and shaker on the civil side, (John Ruth is principally military), is a guy who has retired from Boeing named Dick Peal. He was very instrumental in the installation of digital avionics on commercial transports as we know them today, and he was also lead engineer on that 737 that was delivered to Langley with those avionics in it, so he’s been a real factor in digital avionics. I’m sure you’ve probably got Eli Brookner and Dave Barton for radar.

Geselowitz:

You also mentioned Brad Parkinson on GPS, you had mentioned Myron Kayton, and from an institutional point of view we mentioned Eric Herz a couple of times. You can’t really avoid Eric talking about the IEEE in general, let alone talking about the AESS, but he’s had his fingers in just about every pie. It turns out he knows my dad, who is a biomedical engineer, because in the early years he was given the job of getting the biological data back from the astronauts in the Gemini days. And so because of an interest in biology, he joined the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society, and being Eric, he stayed active in that also. But he’s a whole separate category.

Spitzer:

Yes, he was my predecessor as president for the AESS. Another guy is Dave Dobson. He has been a member of AESS longer than anyone else that I know with the exception of Henry Oman.

Geselowitz:

Right. I haven’t been out there yet, but I’ve been in communication with Henry Oman. Part of what is going to make my task easier is they are trying to put together a special issue, Issue #13, of the magazine, and some of the contributors have sent me their drafts, and Henry was one of them. And I’m going to see Warren Cooper who did a lot with radar and with the society and there is also has a museum up there, so there are some artifacts we can look at and so forth. It’s a lot of people. I guess it’s never been a huge society in terms of number of members, but it’s been a very broad society with a lot of people very active in a lot of important areas.

I guess it gets back to what you said in the beginning about the application of space. That’s kind of been a thread, because that’s where this country put a lot of R&D money. So that was the one place where these people with these different interests in radar, telemetry, complex systems and avionics came together, to solve this series of problems you talked about. At first it was how to get a spaceship up and around and down safely, so you had to worry about heat shields and guidance and telemetry and this and that. And then there was, “Okay, we did that, and now we’re going to land it on the moon and bring it back.” And then, “We can’t land a man on Mars. We are going to put an unmanned thing on Mars, and when it lands it’s got to continue to do experiments and broadcast,” and all this stuff. So then at that point you yourself moved into more of the civil side of things. You mentioned Sputnik and I guess from ’59 when the Russians launched Sputnik and until the first shuttle flew which we said was ’81, for all that period of time there was a lot of effort in that direction.

Spitzer:

Absolutely. And there is a lot now as far as the space station is concerned too.

Geselowitz:

Now we’re seeing it again, but I think it’s a different year in terms of politics and that sort of thing, and now we’re working with the Russians, so it seems less immediate in some ways to people, and there are questions about some of our partners and their reliability.

Spitzer:

Like the fellow I was talking with this morning says, “We’re paying the Russians to build our hardware.”

Geselowitz:

Which we could probably build ourselves better and cheaper, but it serves multiple purposes I guess to have them build it.

Publications on avionics research history

Spitzer:

For sure. Dave Dobson called me this morning, and I told him I was going to meet with you this afternoon. There are two things that he wanted me to mention to you as references. The first is the summer of ’72 Transactions on the Aerospace and Electronic Systems Society. There is a 20-year cumulative index in there from ’51 to ’71, and preceding that index is a little history, like that the airborne electronics started in ’51 and telemetry started in ’52 and so.

Geselowitz:

I have the official IEEE list of when the first meeting of each professional group and society was and all of that. I’ve got it. I’m not saying I understand it or remember it, but I’ve got it in writing.

Spitzer:

But anyway, the cumulative index might be a real gold mine to you.

Geselowitz:

To look and see the trends, like if I want to know about what are most of the publications are about in a particular time period, such as when did they go from more radar to more avionics or whatever the other things turn out to be.

Spitzer:

Even today, the largest single fraction of topics in the Transactions deals with radar, or the application of radar in navigation and tracking, and all these other things. Then the other document that you want is the June 1965IEEE Transactions on Aerospace, Vol. NS3, No. 2, pages 79-82. That’s the announcement of the merger of all these societies into one.

Geselowitz:

I think the thing that got particularly messy is that not only did you have several professional groups overlapping, but on the AIEE side it was a whole different structure and you had people interested in that, and as soon as they saw the merger coming they probably felt, “If we don’t become a professional group ourselves, we won’t be merging,” so they rushed at began the group on Aerospace Electronics at the time of the merger. Now you had the military and telemetry and guidance on the one side, and you had these aero electronics on the other side, and it took three years for everyone to get together. Particularly the official announcements, they’re not necessarily telling you the real meat of the story and what really went on in those smoke-filled rooms. But I will look at that, and I’ll give Dave another call. I understand not only has he been in the society forever, but he’s been involved with the publications forever and ever.

Spitzer:

Yes. Exactly.

Geselowitz:

Thank you very much. I appreciate your time greatly.