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Fred Whittaker: Reminiscence

I was a low person in the scheme of things at Minerva Road 1966-68. I had a sort of admin role to perform which meant strolling around the various engineering offices weekly and asking questions about timeliness of process. This was logged and forwarded to a higher office in Kidsgrove. I guess it helped the chief engineers to plan the end products. I had other duties to do. One was to receive engineering changes to the display mainframe together with the parts to be installed...usually minor. My dilemma was that I was not qualified to do any installation and the engineers had their work to do. I had to ask any engineer available on the floor to do it for me. It always worked. A bit off the cuff you might say.

That probably summarizes my work life there...lots of odd duties without a particular job description.
When the end came and we all lost our jobs I got hurt, injured my spine, and was hospitalised and off sick for months. The company continued to pay my salary until I was well and found another job. My hat off to them.

One time I was phoned by MGM films who were enquiring about renting a main frame for the film Hot Millions, starring Peter Ustinov and Maggie Smith. It was about a main frame being compromised by some freak occurrence and millions being siphoned away. Ustinov being the happy operator. The MGM producers came to Minerva Road to look around and saw the Spectra 70...I think it was.....which was all glossy and new but only there for testing and showing to potential buyers. I had to tell them that it wasn’t available for hire and they had to settle for a second generation main frame which looked dowdy and was full of external cables etc. The post office had bought a few I believe? [Frank Land: actually a LEO 326, 3rd generation computer.] They agreed to rent that plus an engineer to maintain it and so it went forward. I saw the film later and it wasn’t very good.      

I had a very good time there at Minerva Rd, and by meeting so many gifted engineers had an education nearly every day.      

A few of our colleagues were installing a main frame in Ostrava Czechoslovakia when the Soviet army invaded and took over the country. I believe it was a coal mine or coal industry that had bought the machine. Our colleagues were eventually brought home after some delay. No harm done...although I never heard anything more about the main frame or if it was paid for.

After I left Minerva Road I worked at Ultra Electronics until they also laid off about 300 people. I then thought I would go to another country and get laid off there. I applied to Canada and arrived there in July 1970. I have been in Canada ever since. I now live in Sooke on Vancouver island BC.

My main employment was for the Ontario government in the Ministry of Community and Social something in Toronto. After eight years they made it clear that I had no further use to them. I got the message and quit. I had saved up enough money to buy a franchise in the printing industry and so I travelled to Long Island NY for a two week intensive course. Back in Toronto I opened up for business hired a pressman and hit the businesses around for work. This was successful for twenty years until at 61 I sold the business and the unit I had bought earlier and retired.

I got married in 1990 and lived in suburban Toronto until retirement when we sold up and drove west to BC in 1999.  

Date : 2020

This exhibit has a reference ID of CH61692. Please quote this reference ID in any communication with the Centre for Computing History.

Fred Whittaker: Reminiscence

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