Bill McPhee

The following is a brief account of my life after GDA:

In the summer of 1966, having graduated from Tufts (where I was also a "day boy") with a degree in Mathematics, and having recently married (a marriage which, unfortunately, was to end, although reasonably amicably, in the mid-90s), I accepted an offer from IBM and moved to the Mid-Hudson Valley to become a systems programmer. 1966 was still the early days of computer systems evolution, a time when operating system software was still written in machine language; when Personal Computers didn't yet exist and Mainframe computers had gotten smaller but were still the size of a car; when computer memory cost $1,000,000 a megabyte instead of $1, when disk drives were the size of a washing machine instead of a matchbook; and when computers may have had bugs, but they didn't have mice.

Learning on the job, because in the mid-60's college courses on operating system design didn't yet exist, I spent the next several years designing and developing various aspects of IBM's high-end mainframe operating systems. Among the various esoteric and arcane items on which I worked, only one seems comprehensible enough to mention here. In the early 1970s, I was the lead designer for some of the earliest "anti-hacker" protection to appear in a commercial operating system.

More importantly, during this same period, in November of 1967 and July of 1970, my two daughters, Laurie and Cathy, were born. (I will spare you the expected parental praise and simply note that they have walked on water only occasionally - although I admit to having some difficulty obtaining corroborating testimony to that effect.) Perhaps picking up on the love of coastal New England that I still retain, both chose to get their college degrees from Boston area schools; and both are now living and working in the Boston area. Cathy was married in the chapel at GDA in 1996.

In the mid-1970s, my career turned towards management, and I spent the next several years progressing through various levels of management of software design and development, reaching the executive level in the early 1980's as Director of Office Systems. Again, most of the subject matter of these jobs is too esoteric to be of interest to people outside the field, but during this sojourn, I did manage to acquire a few of the basic truths of the business world, some of which I pass on here:

The Future lies ahead.

In some universes, 8 is approximately equal to 10, when the value of 8 is very large.

Sometimes there's nothing to cheer but cheer itself.

Often one should recognize: "If we don't change direction, we may wind up where we're headed."

Some tasks should be recognized early on as being like trying to teach a pig to sing, i.e., ultimately doomed to failure, and irritating to the pig.

Sometimes, doing your best is not enough; sometimes you just have to do what is necessary.

In the late 1970s, I got my pilot's license (single engine, land), purely for my own enjoyment. I am still a licensed pilot, but haven't flown as a pilot in a while due to lack of time. It's something I hope to get back to.

In 1985, I was named Director of Software Review, which was somewhat of a euphemism for the job of managing the technical and business support of a copyright dispute and related arbitration. This was a new world for me, a world of lawyers and legal arguments, of code comparisons, of analyzing the "look and feel" of software, of all night preparations, of endless negotiating sessions, lots of travel (including one memorable trip to Tokyo just for dinner), and a whole new set of arcane words, phrases, and concepts from the legal profession. For example, when an attorney wants to say something is "without charge," he or she is likely to say instead, "eleemosynary" (apparently it is very difficult for some attorneys to utter the words "without charge" - my apologies to any attorneys in the class). And in my experience, only an attorney would characterize someone's position as being "affirmatively negative." (In order to keep my PG rating, I will omit here any description of what some attorneys think of the arcane words, phrases, and concepts from the world of computers.)

In 1989, and for the next several years IBM and their outside attorneys needed someone to take on a special role, someone who, for certain reasons, could not be an IBM employee. So I was asked what it would take for me to give up my career in executive management, leave IBM's employ, and take on this special role. We negotiated that question for a while, and since mid-1989 I've been an independent consultant working under a long term contract jointly with IBM and Cravath, Swaine & Moore.

I continue to live in the Mid-Hudson Valley, although in order to be with friends and family I also spend a considerable amount of time in both the Boston area and on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

W. S. McPhee
9 Aspen Road
Hopewell Junction, NY, 12533
Phone: 845-221-1778
Fax: 845-223-1955