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01 Dec 2012

Site History: ASEA

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ASEA, Västerås, Sweden

First Installed




Honeywell Folks

Site Analysts: Jim Mackenzie, Steve Hopkins.

Application development: Ed Ranzenbach, Charlie Spitzer, Mike Meyers. Plus two more Europeans.

Sales team: Gunnar Andersson

Branch manager: unknown. Account manager: unknown.

Honeywell hardware guy: Janni ?.

ASEA Folks and Consultants

Allan Anundi, Tim Ehrler, Roland Orre, Åke Larsson, Ingemar Enkler, Olin Sibert, Soren Soderholm, Haken Bergman.

[Ed Ranzenbach] One of the other Brits was "Simon". I cannot remember his last name. There were two Australians on the project as well.

[Ed Ranzenbach] There were a few Swedes I remember. Robert Strand aka "Bobby Beach". "Strand" translates to "beach" in Swedish. Bobby was educated at UCLA and had adopted a "surfer dude" persona.

[Ed Ranzenbach] Ingamar Svenson - A 70 year old (at least he seemed to be that old) programmer that swam 50 laps every night.


[Charlie Spitzer] I don't have a lot of memories about ASEA except for what I worked on. The machine was sold to ASEA for a year or two before I got there.

[Charlie Spitzer] I was stationed in Västerås on a short term contract, arriving for 3 months in late summer of 1980. They were impressed with me and asked that I stay on, but I then left to sell my car, pack my belongings, and returned in early spring of 81. In april of 82 they canceled the project and I left may of 82. I don't know when it was installed, but I believe it was early 80 or late 79, and I don't know when it was deinstalled. I think it was there until at least 83.

[Charlie Spitzer] The onsite system engineer was Jim Mackenzie. From ASEA, he went to work at a Multics site in France in 1983, and then went to Stratus London for a number of years. I went over there with Ed Ranzenbach and Mike Meyers. Jim was already there a year before I got there, and he was responsible for being the sysadmin and keeping the system up. Ed came from (I believe) RADC and we did most of the work on the Multics side of the project, and Mike was a non-Multics program manager from HIS McLean. Another name was Steve Hopkins, an HIS SE on a 6 month loan from one of the Paris or Grenoble sites.

[Charlie Spitzer] ASEA bought a Multics because they had contracts with various governments to track paperwork (manuals, design docs, build sheets, etc (basically every piece of paper)) that went into building a nuclear power plant. These documents were produced on a minicomputer and then uploaded to Multics, which had to store, retrieve, and possibly send them to test machines, which did some sort of robotic testing on production lines, as some of the documents were actually robot programs to do automated testing of parts being built. ASEA was very big in the robotic manufacturing area (both using robots, and building them), I think top in the world. hence the need for security.

[Charlie Spitzer] I worked on trying to get the comm working between Multics and the set of mini computers that fed and received these documents/programs and test results from the robots. I don't remember what they were, but it was some kind of European type computer, and not anything available in the US. This was really before FTP was broadly available. At one point they wanted use Hyperchannel to connect them, but that was just being developed also I believe, so never came to fruition. We didn't connect to anything outside of Sweden except for talking to kernel/comm experts on System M in Phoenix. I also worked on the backend database storage/lookup/retrieval for the documents.

[Charlie Spitzer] A couple years after I left, the project broke down at ASEA, and eventually Multics got deinstalled. I lost contact with the HIS salesmen at that time, so I'm not sure that the info will be recoverable.

[Charlie Spitzer] I remember the document storage project: the project was to store this giant set of documents in a tree structure, they wanted to use the dir hierarchy to name them, and there was a limit (10? 12?) on the tree depth that wasn't enough. They tried to get me to change that, and it took me quite a while to convince them that they really needed a document storage database mgr to do the translation to/from ID to file pathname. That's the part I worked on, along with trying to jimmy the login supervisor to allow the Modcomp's to log in and look like a user who just typed fast.

[Charlie Spitzer] The project manager, Haken Bergman, didn't like that Ed and I listened to music at our desks on these new fangled devices, the just-released tape Sony Walkmans.

[Olin Sibert] ASEA was my first big consulting project. I was to be responsible for making the ring zero Hyperchannel software and integrating it into MCS. The whole idea was crazy: using a pair of $100K Hyperchannel adapters to connect Multics to an obsolete 16-bit Modcomp minicomputer was a project that should never have gotten started. As I recall, they figured that out for themselves and switched to Motorola 68K systems instead of Modcomps.

[Olin Sibert] It's funny--a nuclear power plant records system actually makes sense for a Multics installation, but I don't remember that part at all. What I do remember about the Modcomp/Hyperchannel exercise was very different. I recall that the idea was for Multics to host an updated version of ASEA's proprietary cross-development environment and OS for the Modcomps. They'd been using Modcomps forever, for robot control, and had done a whole bare-metal OS and environment for programming them. But everything about it was obsolete, and they figured out that modern microprocessors, and maybe Unix, would be a vastly more cost-effective solution.

[Olin Sibert] I was there for three months in 1982: February, June, and November. June was the prize. As I recall, the November trip was contractually obligated, but by then they'd decided to give up on Modcomps and none of us had any work to do except sit around the office during the prescribed hours (and not drink coffee at our desks lest we violate work rules).

[Olin Sibert] I remember they had a giant paper tape reader (attached to a GCOS system, maybe?) with reels 3 feet in diameter.

[Ed Ranzenbach] I remember I arrived at ASEA the winter of 1981 and Charlie Spitzer and I left in March of 1983 to start at CISL. Charlie moved to Phoenix. I was hired to build a master document catalog that could locate these documents that Charlie describes anywhere in the hierarchy. I can remember meetings where we would talk about using MRDS and for some reason they were not keen on it. So, I developed it as a PL/I program.

[Ed Ranzenbach] The Swedes live on their own time schedule. A joke was that if you were going to hold a design meeting Monday morning at 9 AM, at 8:55 the Americans would be at the table, notebooks open, pens out and ready to go. The Brits would look at their watches about 9 AM and be in place by 09:05. You'd run into the Swedes in the hall and they'd say "Oh. There was a meeting?"

[Ed Ranzenbach] As I remember it, we would develop an interface and be ready to integrate and would find there was nothing ready on the Swedish side to integrate to. As Olin says, by year two of the project we were basically sitting around at our desks (listening to music) with nothing to do.

Personal recollections from Ed Ranzenbach about working at ASEA are on their own page.

Final Shutdown


Information from Charlie Spitzer, Jim Mackenzie, Olin Sibert, and Ed Ranzenbach.