Working on the WWMCCS Project

WWMCCS_2.jpg WWMCCS Work Site
(an abandoned factory)

Mike was hired by Honeywell specifically to work on a large US military software system called World Wide Military Command and Control System (WWMCCS).   He had no idea (or experience with) what this program was, but he was happy to have a computer programming job and to work in Phoenix.   Right away he discovered that this was a very "secret" project and that the hundreds of other Honeywell employees there knew nothing more than it was a huge new contract.   It remained a mystery otherwise.   For this reason, the WWMCCS team was housed in an old factory located about 8 miles south of the main plant.   All team members were vetted and given "Secret" security clearances (itself an interesting process).



The WWMCCS project took about 3 years; it was a huge financial "boon" for Honeywell (and was the reason Mike was hired).   Some of the WWMCCS team (Mike among them) were sent to Washington, DC, to work with the programmers that would be supporting the system after delivery.   The extreme security conditions there unnerved the Honeywell people, making them glad they worked in the Private Sector.

WWMCCS was completed, and the team was sent back to the main Honeywell plant - where more formality reigned (better dress code, more orderly work areas, etc.).   It was an adjustment for Mike, but others had worked there before and knew what to expect.   He found the (new) work challenging and fun, and the cleaner environment was good.   Most of the team were assigned to develop a "commercial version" of WWMCCS, one which lacked the extreme security features, but maintained the "state-of-the-art" aspects of the basic software.   During its development, it was given several different names: QRP, PLP, and eventually MDQS (Management Data Query System).   Honeywell felt - reasonably so - that this software system was revolutionary and could be an important product offering.   The team's task was to "make it a commercial product", enhance it in commercial ways, and to document it so that Honeywell's customers could use it.   (As a Military system, it fulfilled specific requirements - 398 of them - and didn't need any vendor-produced promotion or manuals.)   Some features that were militarily specific had to be removed; other features that weren't needed in WWMCCS were added.  

Honeywell's marketing expertise was important for something new like this, and GE, in their traditional "non-marketing style", couldn't have sold it to anyone.   (GE's philosophy of merely "slapping the GE logo on something they were selling" failed for business computers, which is why they had to sell the business to Honeywell in 1970.)

As part of this "commercialization" project, Mike created a tool (which he needed) for debugging and analysis of the code the product created.   The basis of the software was a new language that generated a "pseudo-code" that ran on the mainframe computers - similar to the way today's Java works.   The by-product wasn't something user programmers could use or modify, and when the "program" they wrote didn't work correctly, it was very difficult to know what to change.   On one hand it was very easy to use, but it was all but impossible to modify!   Because the software's concept was so different from the procedural languages of that day (e,g, COBOL, ForTran, BASIC), old-style programmers of that era had difficulty working with it.   This was frustrating for both the customers and the Honeywell support people.

Mike's utility program soon became an important part of the development suite for the Honeywell programmers, and word spread to the customers that were starting to use the software.   The customers needed it, too!   Suddenly, Mike had to document the tool...but he found it didn't work well from a reference manual.   The solution was for Mike himself to teach users how to use it.   Honeywell Marketing decided to bring in some key support techs from around the country, and Mike had to work with them "hands-on", as needed.   Key marketing Education people were included, too.   Mike taught several such classes in Phoenix...but that wasn't sufficient for the French affiliate, Groupe Bull (which would eventually purchase and take over Honeywell's computer business).

So Mike was sent to Paris, France to teach a group of European support people about the tool and how to use it.   Honeywell agreed to let Libby go with him (Mike had pay her way, but the common charges were covered by Honeywell), which at the time was the trip of a lifetime for them.

The (business) trip was in 1978, and Libby had big plans for her time there (when Mike was teaching), as well as what free time they had together.   Her art background was enough to get her excited about sites like The Louvre and Versailles.   She was in Interior Design school at the time, so she relished the chance to see and write papers about classic architecture and design for her classes.

Mike feared communication difficulties on this trip, both at the teaching site and elsewhere.   Neither he or Libby spoke French, and he was concerned (terrified, in fact) that they wouldn't be able to get around...or even eat.   (He's not a good traveller...)   His fears were quickly realized, as (1) a suitcase was damaged in-flight and (2) the first attempt to eat (lunch) was awful when they couldn't understand the menu.

Two things saved them, so to speak.   First, one of Mike's bosses happened to be in Paris at the time, and they were able to contact him.   His experience was enough to get them initially situated - but he was returning to Phoenix immediately and couldn't help more.   Second, Libby's former roommate, Joyce Snyder (Bouvier), lived in a nearby town (and spoke fluent French!).   She came to meet them and handled the luggage repair situation.

From there, they started to function: Mike was able to take the (marvellous) subway system to his teaching site and get started with the people he would teach.   He had been assured that his "students" could speak English, and to his delight they could.   They were from all over Europe, representing country-based Honeywell offices.   He would take the subway early each morning and return in the evening.   Libby, meanwhile, was able to get to her desired sites quite well, and she really enjoyed the experience.   Meals continued to be a challenge (particularly for Mike), but they discovered that out-of-the-way neighborhood cafes were places where the locals were more than helpful: it was in larger, more formal places (such as their hotel) where they got scant help with the language barrier.


The WWMCCS Team

The members of the WWMCCS Development Team came from a variety of software development backgrounds and places.   Some were transfers from the main GE/Honeywell plant; others were "outsiders" like Mike.   Regardless of their backgrounds, all were full-time Honeywell employees located in Phoenix.   The team grew as the project evolved, but because of the isolated evnironment where they all worked, they soon became close-knit.  

Unheard of in today's work practices, the project relied on the collected talents and experiences on the individual programmers and designers, rather than a rigerous "design process" that many organizations use today.   The team was free to do whatever was needed to accomplish the project's needs - and everyone worked hard to "make it happen".   Looking back, Mike is sure the project would have taken longer if modern-day development procedures had been imposed on these people, who produced an extraordinary product that was state-of-the-art at the time.

Mike can't remember all team members, but many stand out:

Art McCabe
was the first WWMCCS Team manager.  He hired Mike in 1973.
Ken Roberts
became Art McCabe's replacement when Art was promoted to Director.  When the project was completed, Mike transferred to the main Honeywell plant, still working for Ken  To this day, Mike regards Ken Roberts as the best manager he ever worked for.
Tom Bader
was another Chicago transplant assigned to the team.
Leroy "Bud" Wilson
Bud's title (and job) was Lead WWMCCS Project Architect.  A quiet visionary, Bud lived almost 100 miles away in Prescott, Arizona and commuted to Phoenix every day.
Ron Cimino
One of the original WWMCCS team members, Ron was also an almost neighbor of Mike's.  He lived close enough to Mike that for a while they carpooled together, and their kids went to the same school.
Ron Lentsch
Mike's longtime cube-mate, who showed great care when Mike had the bicycle accident in 1988.
Larry Pettit
Larry joined the team after Mike, coming from Washington, D.C.  He became a part of the "batch" project and thus worked closely with Mike, Ron Lentsch and Reuben.
Doris Schaffer (Vance)
Doris was a programmer on the team; she later married a new Honeywell Director of Software Development, Ed Vance.
Antonnete "Toni" Sorrel
Toni Sorrel came to the project from Marketing at the main plant.  Her work was less technical than the developers, but was needed in the important WWMCCS documentation effort.  The system's concepts were so innovative that documentation needs were unique.
Marin Nagrilla
Marin was a programmer on the team for only a short time, compared to most.  Mike doesn't recall what happened to him...
Mary Maxine Williamson (Mary Max)
"Mary Max", as she was known at GE/Honeywell, was a programmer/developer who transferred from the main plant facility to join the WWMCCS team at the secure facility.   A relationship evolved with Art McCabe (who was divorced), and they soon got married.  Their relationship never interferred with the project's work.
Reuben Muns
The so-called "Father of the MunsMac software computer" was an older programmer on the team, and Mike had the provilidge to sit across from him during the project's development.  Mike considers Reuben as the greatest programmer he ever met.
Tom Rothacker
(Affectionally called "Tommy Rot"), Tom worked on the team in the "user interface" part of WWMCCS, just across the partition wall from Mike, Reuben and Ron Lentsch.  That part was distinct from the "MunsMac" component, and was overseen by the project's head architect, Bud Wilson.
Mike
(of course)
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Last Updated: August 30, 2018