Ronald Clifford Alexander 25 NW 23rd Place Ste 6, Portland, OR 97210 Hm: (503) 224-2762, Cell: (503) 913-1604 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.