Ronald C. Alexander, 13642 Sayre Street, Sylmar, Ca 91342 Hm: (818) 367-4676 or 0884, Wk: (714) 798-7703 email:

The professional background of Ronnie Alexander

Growing up with computers:

It seems that I've been a programmer almost since before computers were

invented - certainly since long before these modern desktop wonders came

into our lives. I was 12 years old when I first got my hands on a pile of

tubes and wire at the Portland School District; I still had my paper route,

and had already built a twelve bit electronic adder back when I was only 8.

Years later I tried and failed to remember the names of some of the grown

ups that let me play there (they didn't realize I thought it was play.) I do

remember who let me at the systems at Bonneville Power Administration, where

my mom was one of those key secretaries that glue organizations together. I

also had access to the Interior Department library, which had books that were

just not available elsewhere. All this time I worked for Dad (alexander Film Co.

became Motion Picture Alexander became Theater Ads on Film), doing the books

and being his technician for cameras, projectors, and film.

Fetching things for the installation of CDC-7600 upgrades, or for IBM-360

installation when it was brand new, got me to thinking that these toys were

pretty easy to operate. I loved being given a driver listing, and told that

a patch was needed to make the card reader work for more than a few hours

without jamming - or make paging more reliable so that remote users wouldn't

be always complaining about loss of their latest file revisions. How was I

supposed to know that this stuff would have challenged the best minds of the

time? It took the Navy to make me realize that I wasn't competing as an equal

with my shipmates - Officer or Enlisted. I volunteered for submarines in 1974.

In 1977 I had an opportunity to implement something quite new - engagement

tracking during fleet maneuvers (war games) in the north Atlantic. Tektronics

had provided us (Navy Submarines) with a few Tek 4051 desktop computers, and

modeling software that displayed the positions and movement of the ships on

the memory graphic display. Helping to install these systems in the sonar

shacks of our subron provided a familiarity which would be useful when I

needed to use the same technology in developing the Distributed Automatic

Test System (DATS) Users Course (NUWES procedure 13) at the Naval Undersea

Warfare Engineering Station (NUWES) in 1981. That demonstrated versatility

in establishing test systems development methodology was critical in landing

the job that I took in 1982 at HDL (Defense Electronics Lab Harry Diamond

aka Army Research Labs.)

At HDL I came into my own as a test engineer. I was responsible for assuring

that microprocessors going into tactical weapons would survive until the

soldier fielding them was no longer alive to care. In a tactical radiation

environment the length of time that a soldier will need microprocessor based

weapons may be estimated. I tested new microprocessors and microcontrollers

to assure that Defense would not be buying any susceptible under accepted

criteria for tactical radiation effects evaluation (TREE.) While at HDL I

advised the Very High Speed IC (VHSIC) Committee and commented on the export

standards for computing machinery for the State Department. I worked with

Defense Nuclear Agency to evaluate the encryption algorithms that have become

so controversial on the Web. I was a participant at the annual Radiation

Hardened Electronic Technology Meetings, and breakfasted with the pioneers

most folks now think of as legends. Having to leave HDL was the worst thing

that Addie and I have ever been through. The Muscular Dystrophy Association's

doctors had us convinced that I was taking her home to die in Oregon - but

that was in 1983! Addie is doing as well as I am these days; me with these

nascent congestive heart symptoms.

Moving into the commercial environment at Intel exacerbated my shock, but

addie's continued improvement helped me take charge of the integrated systems

manufacture. Our terminology at Intel included any computer in a box as an

integrated system. I was the quality control engineer for everything from the

4th generation switching power supplies we sold to British GE to the SYP-310

flagship of Intel's computers (the tower version became the APEX.) In the

middle somewhere were the in-circuit emulators, and development systems; when

systems began rolling off the end of the line in less than perfect order, I was

responsible for finding the point in Assembly where the manufacturing department

had stumbled.

I implemented statistical quality control to replace the indicators in use

when I arrived, and within a year these methods had improved throughput by

over 30 percent across the board. Marketing refused to believe it was

happening and audited the stock building up in the warehouse, but they all

worked - and customer feedback was never better. Returned merchandise audit

(RMA) was complaining about the lack of work... it was a wonderful year and

a half, but in the end the Economy shut us down; Addie and I declared

bankruptcy and I went back to Defense at GE Ordnance Systems.

The last four years of the 80s, before I turned forty and needed to spend

some years to put weapon making in perspective again, I was the embedded

computer fix it man for the Trident II submarine launched ballistic missile

program at GE, and the standard attitude and heading reference system (SAHRS)

program at Northrop PPD. These two programs were similar from my viewpoint. I

was hired and assigned to go over the design of fairly massive tightly designed

software intended to fly missions on computers where 1MEG of RAM was big. The

systems didn't just have to collect data from pulse integrating gyros, star

sightings, and satellites (GPS was just being flown, too,) but must recover when

a nearby nuclear event caused the system to shut down. The bread and butter,

daily grind was to design and build test systems which would fly the navigation

preprocessor through a known flight of several hours. I had to find the

conditions when our software lost track of where the bird was and had been.

As new test equipment was bought I was the one expected to get on it and be

able to reproduce established tests within days or weeks. When new technology

incorporated on the flight platform, it couldn't take us appreciable time to

be testing the integrated package. My development of the in-situ flight data

feed mechanization for Northrop's Advanced Inertial Navigation System enabled

the timely development and evaluation of navigation algorithms using Kalman

filters, even for arctic latitudes. With real time data feed accepted by the

INS itself, a convincing demonstration of capability was readily available. I

was encouraged that my breakthrough would continue to be developed when Sandia

claimed the "first" embedded simulator for a project derived in some

part from my work of 9/6/1988. Hardware in loop testing is here to stay!

We were saving the world, and I think we succeeded - since we found ourselves

on the street just like veterans of previous wars. I took the opportunity to

seek work with FDA. I've participated in the implementation of a great new

improvement in mammography screening. What I haven't been doing is exercising

the genius in testing computer controlled flight systems that can still save

more lives than I'm doing now.