About Me At Age 40

This is me, Joe, at age 40, after I had been at Sperry Gyroscope for thirteen years. We had worked on about half a dozen marine engineering innovations, mostly having to do with nuclear submarines, which were brand new in that post-WWII period.

The most important of these projects was part of the development of the Polaris submarines making up the Ballistic Missile Submarine Fleet. These submarines could fire missiles from underwater, which could then go 1000 miles and hit a small target. And this was before there was any GPS.

Our job was to develop the navigation system for the ship, which told the ship exactly where it was and aligned the missiles as they took off toward their targets. The position had to be good within a fraction of a mile and the alignment data had to be accurate within a few seconds of arc. These accurate data had to be provided while the submarine was underwater for three months at a time. This was by far the most demanding navigation system that had ever been developed up to this time.

I was the lead Imagineer and the System Engineering Manager for this innovation, building and supporting the navigation systems for the first thirty-one boats of the Polaris Fleet. This project obviously was a project of many parts, and involved a small family of imagineers and many different system component builders and supporters. When we began the innovation of the navigation system we had a group of about forty engineers, but when I left Sperry at the age of 42 the work and support group for the thirty-one submarine navigation systems in operation had grown to more than one thousand. So you can see that we had a rather high degree of success.

Part of this effort involved the installation of the first digital computer that was in a system on a Navy ship. And this computer used silicon transistors well before the silicon transistors were brought to Silicon Valley in California. I left Sperry to return to California, my home state that I was very fond of, but I was not the one who brought silicon to Silicon Valley.

I had been a member of the IEEE since it was created (and still am) and because of the success of the navigation system was made a Fellow of IEEE. To be a Fellow of IEEE is to be recognized as an Imagineer.