The packaging approaches of advanced-systems development laboratories are worth examining. During the coming turmoil and transition, these laboratories must solve the following problems if they are to justify the large sums invested in them:
- They must have hardware systems to "demonstrate" their grasp of the concepts they preach, both to their customers and to themselves.
- They must be able to "peel off" specific projects if the orders come in.
- They must be continually upgrading their packaging as well as their logic and circuitry if they are to remain competitive.
The advanced airborne digital-computer development group at the Eclipse-Pioneer division of Bendix Corp., Teterboro, N.J., is a good example of a development group trying to maintain a working balance between pushing advanced-systems concepts and continually updating its packaging methods.
Working on company funds, the development group's mission is to enable Bendix to demonstrate that it has the digital-computer ability for major space-vehicle-control projects. The contracts for which Bendix and other companies are preparing their computers are expected to be some of the largest and most important in this country's space and military programs. But the requirements in this area are nebulous in that most of the expected contracts have not yet been formulated by the military.
Meanwhile, the companies preparing to compete in this area are struggling to make the best compromises between how much computer performance to bite off, how much miniaturization they should attempt, and what target dates they should schedule for various phases of their system's readiness.
Most of them are wondering if they can achieve the reliabilities needed for long-term manned space flights.
What does this type of project mean to packaging? Visits to two of the dozen or so industry groups at work in this area (Bendix and Kearfott) proved that packaging must be an integral part of the group. Unlike customary electronics products where the packaging problems are left to the end and dumped in the laps of lower-echelon "manufacturing-type" engineers, the packaging occupies a prominent position in these advanced space-computer development groups.
The packaging is so intertwined with the logic, speed, power, cooling, space, and reliability aspect of the design that in Bendix's 88-man (45-engineer) group, it is very hard for a visitor to tell if a man is working on computer design per se or packaging.
Naturally, the job of squeezing a computer with the power of an IBM 7090 into a suitcase and having the result reliable enough for an interplanetary journey tends to make everyone on the project packaging-conscious. (Electronic Design, Oct. 25, 1961, p. 36)