What's All This Reunion Stuff, Anyhow?

When I travel back to New England, I don't fool around.  I would not go east without first visiting my mother and sisters in Connecticut.  I put in a day or two, visiting and being helpful, and talking and tying up loose ends.  That reunion goes back 50-odd years, since the day I was born.  Then I try to get together with all sorts of other old friends.

On my most recent trip, I had a small preliminary get-together with some old friends from grade school.  Now, if we wait until the year 2003, we can have a 50th reunion of when we all graduated from Broad Brook Grammar School.  But nobody wants to wait that long because we'll start losing people.  In the next 12 years, people are going to be dying.

So we decided it might be fun to start planning a 50th reunion of when we started the first grade.  We can do that in 1995, barely 4 years from now, which is a pretty good excuse for a get-together.  So, five of us got together on a warm Monday evening at the house of Helen Matulis Senk.  And we talked about what happened to the people in our class, and how we could get together.

Fortunately, we won't have to hire a hall, or do fancy invitations.  We'll just get on the telephone tree and pass the word around, then drop in at a neighborhood lounge that's not too dark nor disreputable to talk and gossip and sip some juices.  So our little planning meeting did established some feasibility, and surely in September of 1995, about the time of the first week of school, we'll make a reunion.  A do-it-yourself reunion.  No fancy reunion committee, no school authorization, no official photographer.  No big deal, because there were rarely more than 30 people in the class.  But there are a few problems.  Some people have moved thousands of miles away, some have died, and some have moved only a few miles across town.  So we haven't seen some people for years.  Where is Dorothy Hearn?  Where are Bobby Tyler and Allan Gallagher and Bobby Christian?  How are we going to find them?

Next year will be my 35th reunion at Mount Hermon School.  The school does a good job of calling us back every 5 years.  We formed some close ties back in '57, and there are a number of people I write to 2 or 3 times per year.  So that's always fun.  But where the heck is Allan Gates?  Where is Dixi Jacobs?  Where is George Jacobs?  Where is Dave Gillespie?  Where are John Chaffee, Walter Crofut, John Hsu, Harold Jensen, John Lessard, Albert Merrill, Richard Morse, Charles Ober, J. Richard Phillips, Arnie Rolfe, Richard Van Wagner, Steve Warner?  Now, I know some of these guys are perfectly willing to dodge the Alumni Fund-raising drives, but that doesn't mean they should stay out of touch.  Al, Dixi, George, Dave ... WHERE ARE YOU?

I just returned from the 30th reunion of MIT's class of 1961.  This was not a big year; 5 years ago there were a couple hundred people at the 25th reunion, but barely 60 guys this year.  Still, we ran into several old friends from '61 and from other years, and we made new friends, too.  Still, there's a list of people that the Alumni Office can't locate.  Hey, does anybody out there know the whereabouts of Anil Anand, Milton Clauser, Tom Laase, Peter Crichton, Gary Rosenthal, Lawrence Roven, Barry Stern, Karl Josephy, William Kleinhans, and Fred Reynard?  Now, there was one guy from '61 who did not attend, even though he had been invited to give us a speech.  But we were not worried-we knew right where John Sununu was - in Washington DC.

When we were at MIT, some of us majored in electronics or physics or chemistry.  And some of us majored in Outing Club, as well as winter mountaineering, bicycling, or rock climbing.  Every year or so, we have a reunion at Gardner Perry's house in Seattle, or Bert Raphael's in Los Altos.  But if we knew where to find Paul Pomeroy or Brian Mokler or Bill Homeyer, we could improve our reunions even more.  Also, where is Dave Berkowitz, Danny Schwarzkopf, Gloria Goldberg, Tanya Maria Atwater?

The next, and best, reunion was the Philbrick Alumni Association.  There used to be a gravel bank right across the street from Teledyne Philbrick on Allied Drive in Dedham, Mass., so I told everybody to show up at that bank.  Then, I explained that there was a new Hilton hotel recently built on that site, and we'd meet (naturally) in the bar.

Now, Philbrick Researches has been one of the spawning grounds of linear circuit companies, just as Fairchild alumni went off into many other semiconductor houses.  So the Philbrick Alumni group has splintered into dozens and dozens of other companies - Teradyne, LTX, National, LTC, Analog Devices, Analogic, Datel, Burr Brown, PMI, Sipex, Powercube, Northrup Nortronics, Hycomp, Hybrid Networks, and many more.  We can say, proudly or sadly, we got our alumni into some of the best and biggest companies in the industry.  Ah, if only they could have stayed at Philbrick-but that's a whole 'nother story.

Anyhow, people drove in from 50 miles south and 100 miles west and 90 miles north, and some people merely had to walk across the street.  Others sent in their best regards by fax, from 5000 miles away.  We had about 40 people there.  There were people who had never attended one of our reunions before, and our Cruise Director, Al Risley of Datel, agreed that we were finally getting more efficient at inviting people.  We invited some by phone, and others by mail, and our redundant techniques caused some people to get 3 or 4 invitations.

I ran into one young woman who just happened to be promoting a system for laser identification and labeling of wafers and masks-which I just happened to have a serious active need for.  I mean, every once in a while, we have a project coming along great, and the wafers come out not working because somebody put on the wrong mask.  It's been my pet peeve for a few years, that if every can of beans at the Safeway gets a bar code, and every other letter delivered to your door, then why can't a mask get a bar-code, too, to ensure that a computer can lock out an improper mask?  So Pat Green had a real piece of good news for me, and I hope we do a million dollars of business with her company*.  If we do, then we'll save $2 million.  Of course, it will take some additional hardware and software, so that when a special engineering run needs a screwy sequence of masks, we can override the computer.

Fortunately, with these bar codes, we won't run out of legal codes very quickly.  Have you ever noticed the bar codes on the front of a letter?  Have you counted the number of bars on that?  I bet you didn't notice that they cleverly inserted as many as 52 bars.  The coding, of course, isn't true binary.  It's a 7,4,2,1 decimal code, with a parity bit and parity word.  But if it were in binary-well, 252 is a VERY large number-about 5 X 1030.  With such a big number, you could have a separate mail code for your front door and another one for your back door, because there are only about 6 X 1030 square feet on the surface of the whole earth.  So I don't think we will run out of codes very soon, even if we put a code on each wafer.  Now, a code on each die, I'm not so sure about...

So, as with the other reunions, I ran into some nice people who had ideas that were really stimulating.  Not just the enforced jollity of a group of random people forced into proximity, but the matching up of random pairs or triplets of bright people with interesting ideas.  Just as, at the MIT reunion, I ran into a guy who wanted to buy a dozen copies of my new book** to pass around to his engineers and technicians.  Just as I ran into artistic and talented people at other reunions.  Just as I ran into a person at another reunion who was having problems with her word processor as it interfaced to her printer, and I figured out how to trick it into giving her the correct margins.

So, in addition to the good news of the bar-code business, I found this reunion business a good success.  For instance, there may be a person that you associated with, years ago, and that person may have been (so you thought) a boring or useless or unpleasant person.  But (after a number of years) that person suddenly becomes interesting, skilled in a field that just happens to be fascinating to us, as we listen and learn.

I mean, once upon a time, we were all kids.  But as we grow up, we become better rounded individuals; and other people do, too.  So, if you're deciding whether to attend a reunion, I would recommend that you really should.  You may run into some fascinating ideas, some pleasant memories, even some good business - but you won't be bored, not for very long.

And the best part is, if you want to call a reunion, you can figure out how to do it yourself.  I have attended Amelco Semiconductor Alumni Reunions, and reunions of National Semiconductor's ALIC group, and I have also heard about some good Fairchild reunions.  All it takes is a park where you can gather and picnic, or a local bar where anybody who will buy even a ginger ale is always welcome.  No matter where you worked, you can run your own reunions.  I won't say that the art of getting everybody found and invited and actually in attendance is trivial, but you can figure it out.

Here's one technique I've used to find a person who seems to have dropped off the earth, and I used it to locate the former owner of my house.  An insurance company kept sending her statements about the value of her policy, but I had no idea where to forward these letters.  But I did have her social security number.  So I sent a polite note to the IRS, asking them to forward the note to the person with this social security number, as there was this valuable information that I wanted to forward.  Shortly she wrote to me from Baltimore, thanking me for getting this material sent to her.

So if you know somebody's social security number, I'm sure you will admit there are some people who can always find their man! And they're willing to help you forward a little note; whether the person wants to write back is another matter.

Ah, that reminds me-even at the Philbrick reunion, there were people we could not invite because we had no address for them.  Where is Louis Watson?  Where is Bob Boyd, Dave Le Vine, Brian O'Brien?  Suzanne McGovern, Adele Fata, Ann Havey, Sue Taipale, Jeanne Finnert?  Brad Vachon, Everett A.  Day, Ralph Daigle, Dan McKenna, Dick Hewson, Bob Squarebriggs, Maurice Goldwater, James Royer, Dick Davis-where are these guys?  Unfortunately, we don't know the social security numbers for these people.  So I'd appreciate it if my readers will just remind these guys, all of these missing persons, and anybody else that ever worked for Teledyne Philbrick or George Philbrick Researches, that we really do want their addresses, so we can invite them to the next reunion.  If we can get most of them to show up, we can make a really great reunion.

All for now./ Comments invited!

RAP/Robert A. Pease/Engineer

Address:  Mail Stop C2500A National Semiconductor P.O. Box 58090 Santa Clara, CA 95052-8090

*Computer Identics, 5 Shawmut Rd., Canton, MA 02021

**Troubleshooting Analog Circuits, Robert A. Pease; published by Butterworths, (617) 438-8464.

 

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