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Working at Bell Atlantic Video Sytems
1996 - 1999

I left Dyncorp to work for Bell Atlantic Video Systems.  I again had applied and interviewed at several places and had two job offers but Bell Atlantic Video Systems was like a really cool job.  At this time Bell Atlantic was concerned about the cable companies getting into to the telephone business and they thought they could compete by getting into the the TV business.  Bell Atlantic had the concept of "fiber to the home" concept and had developed a plan to roll it out to major cities in the east coast.  They had a trial service at the time I joined using DSL to deliver on-demand TV programs to the customer.  Since the fiber to the home was a year or two (as it turns out much longer) away they came up with an interterm service using microwave dishes to deliver video to the home with the first market being Virginia Beach.  My role in the project was to implement the "near" video on demand service.  The technology was not ready for true video on demand so the "near" was that the user could select a show that started like every 30 minutes.  The video system was based on SGI servers. They installed a complete "video head" for receiving satellite downlinks in Virginia Beach complete with the microwave distribution to the homes.  The trial had several hundred homes and everything was all complete to launch in a few months when they shut the entire service and project down. 

Working for Bell Atlantic Video was really a neat job at first.  We were developing a state of the art product which would change the way people received TV and movies.  The group was a really great bunch of guys consisting of the old "Bell heads", as the old time Bell Atlantic guys were called, and many new young guys like myself.  We worked at a building in Reston only a few minutes from where I lived.  The building was previously owned by Perot Systems.  This was interesting because the main cook in the cafeteria was brought there from Texas by Perot himself (or so the rumor went).  Bell subsided the lunch so we could get a great lunch for about $5.  I always looked forward to when they served barbeque ribs.

The fiber to the home program was also put on hold.  The fiber to the home was based on some really convoluted, arcane old telephone concepts which were clear to me were just crazy.  It was what happens when you have a bunch of old school telephone guys trying to design a new system, they use the concepts that they were familiar with.  I remember thinking at the time "like why not just go completely IP based".   Well as we all know Bell Atlantic turned into Verizon who finally delivered the IP based fiber to the home called FIOS.

At this time Bell Atlantic merged with NYNEX (New York Bell) who had a similar video program.  The result was they merged the Bell Atlantic and NYNEX video groups together of course laying off about half the people at each location.   I had asked for a layoff package but they seem to think they needed me.  At this time they really had no idea what to do and were reforming and reorganizing and so those of of left had nothing to do.  A few moved over to the Verizon Online group to provide internet service.  Me, well I had nothing to do.  I started coming in at 10 and leaving at 3.  Then coming in at 11 to have lunch with the guys and leaving at 2.  All the time I was looking for a job when one day my boss called me in and asked if I still wanted the layoff package.  I of course said yes and then started a new job in a few weeks at PEC.

Larry 9/7/2008

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