1960’s GE Trained Programmers

This is the third installment of a series I didn’t know I was writing

Today, I met Tom, who got his start working for a cotton mill owned by his father-in-law. In 1964, the mill was buying a mainframe, and his FIL convinced him to apply to GE to become a programmer: “He told me it was like putting railroad tracks together”. It wasn’t.

GE hired him and then trained him to write COBOL in a few weeks. They placed him on other cotton mills to code order taking software.

That led to a lifetime in programming. He started a company that automated letter writing for members of congress (writing “customized” form letters back to constituents based on their interests). Al Gore was a customer.

Today, he still runs a company that advises mainframe programmers on performance and other matters.

But, it all started because GE was willing to hire and train someone with no experience. It’s a lesson that I continue to hope will be relearned.