Rockwell Collins Retirees Association – Our Mission
“The purpose of the Rockwell Collins Retirees Association shall be to provide an organization and meeting place for the members and their families, where they can find companionship developed over their careers at Rockwell Collins and opportunities to pursue their interests in recreational activities, crafts, education and activities to promote the welfare of the community”.
The Rockwell Collins Retirees Association is primarily a group of Rockwell Collins retirees local to the Dallas, TX area. However, we welcome retirees, local to the Dallas, TX area, from related organizations which have worked directly for Rockwell Collins or one of the affiliated organization that were part of the Rockwell International group or spin-offs from that group.
Contributions received at the meetings continue to play a major role in offsetting the expenses of this organization. When the baskets are passed please be generous.
Another way to help RCRA is to purchase an ad in the newsletter. Any officer can help you with the details.
RCRA Roster Information
If you are interested in getting a copy of the roster of over 2,200 retirees, send your request directly to the RCRA Vice-President. The Contacts & Links page will provide you the information you need.
A Little History Lesson …
Have you got a story to tell about a program an activity at Rockwell Collins Dallas? You can use these stories as a model for the length we can handle within the website. Send in your story to email@example.com.
History of Collins in Dallas (1951 to Today)
In 2012, the RCRA leadership team, Bill Swan, John Estill, and Glen Dodson, created a Power Point telling the story of Collins in the Dallas area. You can view that presentation by pressing the button below:
TACAMO (Early 1962 to Today - Fifty Five Years)
The “Cold War” was lighting up! Mutually assured destruction was the only apparent deterrent to maintain relative peace in the world as the United States and Russia faced off on many issues. The submarine ballistic missiles were a key element of the nuclear forces triad that formed the back-bone of the strategic forces. The submarines received their orders over the VERDIN VLF system that allowed them to stay covert below the surface. But it was known that the Russians were targeting the ground based VLF stations. In 1962, Collins Radio, a recognized innovator in communications, approached the U.S. Navy with the concept of using C-130’s with high power VLF transmitters to “back up” the ground transmitters.Usage:
When the concept was presented, the TACAMO (TAke Charge And Move Out) system was “born”. The initial demonstrator was a 20 kilowatt roll-on/roll-off system. It was quickly followed by production systems that were permanently installed in C-130’s and transitioned to a 24-7/365 continuous airborne watch. Later, the C-130 was replaced by a 707 derivative and became the E-6 Mercury in August 1989. What began as a communications relay system is now a full blown command and control system carrying a command staff.
In 1962, who would have thought that Collins Radio, now Rockwell Collins and soon to be Collins Aerospace, would still be a major contractor for the TACAMO system. Fifty five years of “firsts”, we’ve been doing things in extraordinary ways. Thanks to all of you who contributed to TACAMO, the company, and the safety of our country.
E-6B Mercury Mission Has Expanded:
- TACAMO – Communications to Submarine “Boomers”
- Looking Glass or ABNCP – USAF Strategic Command Post
- ALCS – Airborne Launch Control System (Minute Man III / Peacekeeper)
Fifty Years of TACAMO Slide Show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4ilyKrCvuo
TACAMO C-130 (A Crewman’s Memories): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjaVr8hmAas
Video Clip of E6: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5tWjX-xiVVI
VQ-4 Morale Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJG1tSgaMEA
TACAMO Community Veterans Association: www.tacamo.org
For more videos on YouTube, search for terms like: TACAMO, VQ-3, VQ-4, E-6, Mercury
Internet Communications (1977 to Today)
When most the RCRA members started our employment with Collins Radio or Rockwell International, we had never heard of the internet. Today it is ingrained in our daily lives. The internet has come a long way in just a few decades. It has greatly improved productivity of companies, and individuals that use it. Do you realize that the path to the beginning of the internet and its widespread usage traveled through our company, Rockwell Collins, Richardson, TX?
On November 7, 2007 a number of Rockwell Collins retirees were invited by the Mountain View Museum of Computer History to celebrate the first three-network demonstration of TCP 30 years ago. That demonstration has now been recognized as the watershed point in technology that became the internet. Our RCRA President, Anant Jain, along with Jim Garrett and Mike Cisco attended from the Rockwell Collins team. A number of additional RCRA retirees who participated with Anant and Jim in 1977 were invited, but could not attend. The three networks involved in the experiment were the ARPANET, PRNET (Packet Radio Net from Collins) and the SATNET. While many people trace the internet origins to the ARPANET of the late 1960’s, in fact the word ‘internet’ means joining different types of networks together – as demonstrated by the experiment in 1977. Our customers at the time, Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf (now credited as co-inventors of Internet) along with representatives from Stanford Research, BBN, UCLA and Qualcomm were also present. Congratulations to our fellow retirees for being recognized as Internet Pioneers!
Recollections of Arthur Collins
Recollections of Arthur Collins
by Frederic (Fritz) Weigl, PhD
I was hired into the Dallas region of the Collins Radio Company in the summer of 1969, having just completed my PhD in electrical engineering at The University of Texas at Austin. My major areas of research at UT were lasers and holography, both hot new topics at the time. This was just when Collins Radio was entering the financial difficulties that later led to its acquisition by Rockwell. I was hired to start a research program in optical technologies, but internal research and development funding was cut within a year such that my optics project was soon terminated. Because Collins Radio was still investing heavily to fund the development of its new distributed computer/communications system, the C-System, much other unrelated IR&D funding had to be cut.
With my optics project dead, I was moved into a staff position, reporting to Larry Hungerford, one of the Assistant Vice-Presidents of Engineering at Collins Radio. I worked on several special projects that had nothing to do with optics, such as fixing a computer program to calculate antenna transmission fields, and I felt very much like a fish out of water.
One of the problems that the company was having with the C-System was determining how much communications link capacity was needed between the various elements of a distributed communications network. The problem was complicated because the communications demand was not always the same. If we provided too little capacity the system bogged down when it was most busy, and if we provided too much, to play it safe so to speak, it drove the costs prohibitively. Mr. Collins wanted a way to determine the right answer.
Someone found a book on congestion theory in telecommunications systems by Ryzard Syski, which described a highly mathematical, probabilistic approach to sizing telephone systems to traffic loads that might apply to the C-System problem. Mr. Collins reportedly spent all one night reading the book but did not really understand the mathematics within it. Nonetheless he thought it might help. Mr. Collins decided that the way to help solve the sizing problem for the C-System was to gather a group people within the company who were most highly trained in mathematics, give them the book, have them figure out the underlying mathematics and how to apply it, and then explain it to everyone else. Because this assignment was so important he would personally check on their progress daily.
It turned out that the best way to be recognized within the company as being highly trained in mathematics was to have a PhD in a field requiring mathematics. There were four of us in Dallas, Mike Barnes, who had majored in accounting and later became chief financial officer of Rockwell International, Glenn Hood, a mechanical engineer, Bob Pedersen, another electrical engineer, and me. We were all assigned to the new special task force along with two more experienced engineers who had worked on some of the hardware and software aspects of the C-System. We were each given a copy of Syski’s book (specially reprinted by the company), a special meeting place (a “green room” in company parlance) so we could work as a group, and told to get to work. We immediately left our own offices and all other work assignments behind and started to work. It was a daunting task. First we had to fully understand what we were supposed to do. There were several opinions within our group, but Mr. Collins and his immediate group of trusted assistants (of which my boss was one) helped us work through that in their daily visits. I had never met Mr. Collins before so I was surprised at the difficulty I initially had communicating with him. He spoke differently from the Texas drawl I was used to, somewhat in a low monotone, which made him hard for me to understand at first. Next we had to learn the terminology used to specify communications traffic and the measures of performance such as waiting time, probability of blocking, etc. I felt somewhat behind in this because I had never had any course work in telecommunications, but I was not the only one with that problem. Finally we had to understand what Syski was really saying and how to relate that to the C-System. That meant we had to understand how the C-System worked, which I did not. Those were interesting days, long ones too.
Mr. Collins’ visits came at irregular times during the workday, sandwiched into his very busy schedule, and they were always preceded by a telephone call to our green room to alert us. Somehow we got through Syski’s book to Mr. Collins’ satisfaction and were given the task of assembling a training course (with us as teachers) to be given to all C-System engineers at the various Collins facilities around the country. We then spent several weeks doing that (in Dallas, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Newport Beach, California) before writing a reference manual about it for use within the company. I wish I could say that our work made a big difference in the future of the company, but once again we were overcome by outside events.
I must have made a reasonably good impression on Mr. Collins because, as our special project wound down, I, along with Bob Pedersen, was assigned to another working group to interact with Mr. Collins. Mr. Collins spent several hours each day in technical discussions with his high level technical staff. This included an inner circle of top engineers. During these meetings they would have far ranging discussions about technical topics related to the C-System. Someone needed to document the results of these meetings using the mechanism of the company “working paper”, a technical paper written for internal, company-proprietary publication at Collins Radio. That was Bob Pedersen and my job. We would attend the meetings, participate if we had anything to contribute, and then write down the results for Mr. Collins’ editing and approval. It was a crash course in telecommunications engineering for me.
I was still very interested in lasers and optics, so on my own I decided to write a survey working paper on optical communications as well as several on other optics-related topics. Mr. Collins read the paper on optical communications (it was about 75 pages long as I recall) and was impressed with its completeness. One Sunday morning I was sound asleep in my apartment, trying to sleep off the after-effects from my apartment complex’s beer party the previous evening, when the telephone rang at 7:00 AM. It was Mr. Collins inviting me to his home for breakfast and to have technical discussions about lasers and holography. As soon as I woke up I, of course, accepted and drove out to his home. We spent most of the day (until about 2 or 3 PM) discussing optics, with me trying to give him intuitive models for how all of it worked. I was always pretty good at that because that is the way I tend to think too, so he and I hit it off pretty well. My work with Mr. Collins continued after Rockwell took over the company, lasting until Mr. Collins quit his technical consulting work with Rockwell in 1972. I was always highly impressed with Mr. Collins’ work ethic, his dedication to getting a job done even in the midst of major on-going competing events, and his intellectual curiosity. Mr. Collins had a way of getting the best from his people. My work with him certainly led me in directions I had not previously considered. It also made me better appreciate the importance of the business aspects of technology, not just the technology itself. One of my treasured possessions is an autographed copy of the book he later wrote with Bob Pedersen.
I remained at Rockwell-Collins for 31 years, finally retiring in 1999. After my work with Mr. Collins ended, I worked as Rockwell-Collins’ program manager for the ARPA Packet Radio Program, working with Bob Kahn and Vint Cerf of internet fame. Our packet radio network was part of the technical demonstration in San Francisco that was later designated by ARPA as the actual beginning of the internet. Later I served for a short time as Engineering Director for one of the Dallas divisions, worked as Technical Director on Rockwell-Collins’ initial MILSTAR development program, participated in some of the early Strategic Defense Initiative architecture development studies, and ended my career as Director of VLF Programs in Dallas with overall responsibility for design, production and integration of ground-based and airborne high power VLF radio transmitters and receivers used to communicate with US/allied strategic forces (bombers, submarines, and the missile fields). We also worked on communications systems for Air Force One and Commando Solo, an airborne psychological warfare platform used very successfully in the Gulf War. I never got back to my optics lab.