Celebrating James R Dean @ 100

2 Career

Wildomar, CA one-room school, attended in the early 1920s. JRD is in the 1st row, far right.  He went to schools where students wore shoes after his family moved to Compton, then to Dominguez before 1930.  He graduated from Jr. High in 1931 and presumably from High School some time later, then attended Compton College for a couple of years. He wanted to go to Art School, but changed his active intention to the more parent-approved Engineering at UC Berkeley (I believe he applied).  The need to work to help support his family, and then the war precluded further matriculating.

Education

Wildomar, CA one-room school, attended in the early 1920s. JRD is in the 1st row, far right. He went to schools where students wore shoes after his family moved to Compton, then to Dominguez before 1930. He graduated from Jr. High in 1931 and presumably from High School some time later, then attended Compton College for a couple of years. He wanted to go to Art School, but changed his active intention to the more parent-approved Engineering at UC Berkeley (I believe he applied). The need to work to help support his family, and then the war precluded further matriculating.
His brother, Corwin, worked at Douglas Aircraft Co., and JRD went to work there in December of 1939.  He worked in the Loft Dept. (lofting is how you get from 3-D curved surfaces to 2-D plans from which parts are manufactured, and back again - used in building boats and aircraft) and the wind tunnel model dept.  Later ( in the 50s) he was involved with implementing "numerical control" in the manufacture of aircraft parts - computer controlled milling machines, for instance.  He and coworkers were first programming computers by hard-wiring them, before computer languages were invented.  They invented their own languages , and later adopted FORTRAN - he spent lots of overtime at IBM on Wilshire in training.  Spent the rest of his career at Douglas applying evolving  computer technology to a wide range of engineering tasks and problems.  All of his programming was done without ever touching a computer (that was what keypunch and computer operators were for).  See an interesting set of papers from the 3rd annual Douglas Numerical Control Symposium (1960), below.

Douglas Aircraft Company 1939-1975, Long Beach

His brother, Corwin, worked at Douglas Aircraft Co., and JRD went to work there in December of 1939. He worked in the Loft Dept. (lofting is how you get from 3-D curved surfaces to 2-D plans from which parts are manufactured, and back again – used in building boats and aircraft) and the wind tunnel model dept. Later ( in the 50s) he was involved with implementing “numerical control” in the manufacture of aircraft parts – computer controlled milling machines, for instance. He and coworkers were first programming computers by hard-wiring them, before computer languages were invented. They invented their own languages , and later adopted FORTRAN – he spent lots of overtime at IBM on Wilshire in training. Spent the rest of his career at Douglas applying evolving computer technology to a wide range of engineering tasks and problems. All of his programming was done without ever touching a computer (that was what keypunch and computer operators were for). See an interesting set of papers from the 3rd annual Douglas Numerical Control Symposium (1960), below.
After being "retired" from Douglas-McDonnell (demote older guy, replace with cheaper younger guy, teach older guy a very hard lesson about "loyalty"),  JRD's model airplane buddy, Abe Gallas, offered him a job at Abacus, working at Rockwell on the Space Shuttle program. He ended up working another 2½ years on the Shuttle's backup computer system.  He went on a field trip to Florida and Houston to brief astronauts and NASA folks on the work he had been doing (see the results, link below). Included "VIP" tours of Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers.  Very cool.  And he was then able to retire at a time of his choosing.  He said later that he had no regrets regarding his career, he was satisfied, and he had, on the whole, really enjoyed what he did at work.

Abacus Programming - Consulting at Rockwell Int'l, Downey

After being “retired” from Douglas-McDonnell (demote older guy, replace with cheaper younger guy, teach older guy a very hard lesson about “loyalty”), JRD’s model airplane buddy, Abe Gallas, offered him a job at Abacus, working at Rockwell on the Space Shuttle program. He ended up working another 2½ years on the Shuttle’s backup computer system. He went on a field trip to Florida and Houston to brief astronauts and NASA folks on the work he had been doing (see the results, link below). Included “VIP” tours of Kennedy and Johnson Space Centers. Very cool. And he was then able to retire at a time of his choosing. He said later that he had no regrets regarding his career, he was satisfied, and he had, on the whole, really enjoyed what he did at work.