Mixsonian


Working for Custom Programming Service
at Harris Corporation
July 1976 - 1987

While working at CIRCA at the university, one of my responsibilities there was to operate and maintain several Remote Batch Stations.  The equipment was made by Harris Corporation and I became good friends with Charlie Bragg the Harris support engineer. Harris Corp. is headquartered in Melbourne Florida and part of Charlie's service area included Melbourne. One day Charlie said he knew a guy in Melbourne who was looking for a programmer and asked if I was interested and I said yes not thinking anything would come of it.  Well this guy, Harold Topol, called me up and we talked for awhile and he offered me a job.   I think the thing that really was key in me getting the job was I had done some assembly level programming on the Data General Nova computer.  Well I just got a raise at CIRCA to about $11,000 which I thought was really good and told Harold this.  Harold's response was that he would double my salary if I came to work for him.  I said "when do you want me?"  The following weekend I drove down to Melbourne to talk to Harold in person and accepted the job.  One of the hardest decisions about accepting was my dance which I really didn't want to give up.  College was a minor issue because five of the eight or so professors in the Computer Science department quit to start their own company so the courses one could take were limited.  The day after my big "Bacchanalia" Fourth of July party (see story) I packed up everything I had and moved to Indialantic which is on the beach across the Indian River from Melbourne.

Harris
Mike, Tom and Larry
Harris Composition 1979

Harold's company, Custom Programming Service, was a two man shop, Harold and myself with a part time secretary.  For the first few months I after I moved I would drive down A1A a mile or so fromw here I lived to Harold's office right on A1A across from the beach.  I then learned PDP-11 assembly language and wrote thousands of lines of code for a newspaper system that Harris Composition Systems was developing.  After work I would come home and often walk across A1A to the beach for a walk on the beach or a swim.  After those first few months Harold and I would each day drive across the Indian River to Harris Composition Systems Division which was on the west side of Melbourne.  I developed many friends at Harris including my fishing buddies Craig, Paul and Eric

I worked with Harold as an employee or contractor for 12 years mostly at Harris.  As a contractor I called my "company" Applied Computer Technology or just ACT.  Most of the time I contracted to Harold's company Custom Programming Service.  In 1978 "Word Processing" systems were the big craze so Harris created the Word Processing Division to develop a new word processing system from scratch.  This not only was the software but all new hardware based on the new latest Intel processor the I186.  To develop the software they created a team of "system architects" and they asked me to join the team but only if I would become an employee so I agreed. 

Harris Word Processing Divison
Harris Word Processing Division 1983

Someone at a higher level made the decision to write all the code for the new word processing system in a Pascal derivative which they called the "Harris Programming Language" or just HPL.  I was much surprised to find that Harris had hired three of my professors from the University of Florida Computer Science department.  They all left the University in 1976 decimating the department which was one of the reasons I left the university to take the job in Melbourne (see 1976). 

It was while working at Harris Word Processing Division that I met Julie in 1980 who I later married.

The Harris word processing system was doomed to failure from the start.  The new hardware based on the I80186 was not powerful enough and had to be redeveloped using the 286 when it came out. The HPL programming language was very inefficient in it's code generation and the system was extremely slow.  I spent several months working on complier code optimization.  Being a text processing product there was a lot of string manipulation but the compiler was not smart enough to use the newer string instructions of the 186/286 processors.   When I manually changed to code to use the string instructions it made a tremendous improvement.  Unfortunately I could never convince the "professors" to implement the changes to the complier.  After about two years it was clear to me that the project was not going to succeed.  Harold Topol contacted me about a contracting opportunity so I left Harris to go back to contracting.  The following year Harris shut down the Word Processing division and laid many of the people off.

After the contact with Harold ran out or so I had several independent contracts (see resume).  In the end the government changed the tax laws concerning the definition of contracts (see article) so companies were hesitant to hire contractors for a while.  My last independent contract was with Paravant who then asked me to come on as a full time employee.

Larry 9/1/2008

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