At the GE Computer Department Reunion
NC, October 4, 1997)
Odorous Drama in Three Acts
Vern Cooper, Mgr. Mrk.GE Computers
Charlie Lighthauser, Ex.V.P. -Martin
Chuck Ettinger Mgr. Prod.Serv. GE
Bud Feely, VP Data Processing -Martin
George Snively Mgr. Sales Financing GE
Narrator - Vic Casebolt
act takes place in the conference room in Martin Marietta’s
headquarters. Lighthauser and Feely are on one side of a conference table
facing the audience. Snively,
Ettinger and Cooper sit on the other side of the table with identifying
signs on their backs.
“You are looking in on a meeting at Martin Marietta’s
headquarters in beautiful downtown Baltimore.
Representing Martin is Charlie Lighthouser the Executive VP of
Martin and Bud Feely, Martin’s man in charge of the GE computers.
There were three others on Martin’s side of the table - but since
they didn’t have anything to say and our table is small, we’ve left
them out. Representing
the GE computer Department are Vern Cooper, Chuck Ettinger, George Snively
and three others, including Cliff Sink, who also were mute and not
represented here. Some of you
may find it hard to believe that Cliff Sink was mute but he couldn’t
decide whose side he was on”.
morning gentlemen. I trust
you found your accommodations satisfactory”
apologize for summoning you here like this, but as you know, we’ve been
encountering considerable difficulties with the GE 600 systems and we need
to work together to solve the problems.”
“General Electric is proud of it’s reputation for quality
products and I assure you that our computers were designed and
manufactured to the highest standards and were well tested before leaving
“I propose that we proceed as follows: You all know Bud Feely?”
“Bud will discuss the various problems that we are having with
the GE 600 systems, most of which I presume you are already aware of, and
then we would like to have your response.”
“Our Manager of Product Service has the answer to all your
problems and he will be in charge of making the few fixes that are
required. Say hello Chuck”.
“As you know, these problems have been costing Martin Marietta a
good deal of lost time and money and we would like to hear your proposal
to alleviate this financial stress while we’re working through the
“George Snively,” (turns
and looks at George)
“and I have prepared a proposal for an equitable sharing of the
costs of the fixes. But
first, we would like to have your understanding of the problems and their
magnitude. We will then
discuss our fixes for the problems. George will then prepare a financial
proposal based on our mutual efforts to correct the problems”.
“Fair enough. Do you
agree that we proceed in this order, Vern?”
“I prefer that you refer to me as Mr. Cooper in front of my
Feely, you may proceed”.
“Thanks, but I prefer to be called ‘Bud’.
I will discuss the hardware problems first.
We’ll get into the software problems a little later.
First, I’d like to talk about the way the tape drives shred
tape drives shred tape quite adequately”.
(Jim & John - you may ad lib a little repartee
(Vic - cut them off after a minute or two)
“I won’t have this cast of lousy actors bore you with all the
technical details of the problems and their proposed solutions that were
discussed over a period of two days. We will skip to the end of the second day and will
listen to what Charlie Lighthauser is saying”
I think that we have made good progress in identifying the problems
and assigning responsibility for their solution. I’m sure that we will
have an excellent installation if we continue to work together in the same
spirit as shown in this meeting. I’m
looking forward to hearing your financial proposal tomorrow
that evening in the Hotel’s cocktail lounge.
Snively, Cooper and Ettinger are sitting around a table.
“We look in upon our intrepid trio back at the hotel where they are
surrounding a cocktail table to keep it from getting away.
Vern Cooper is suffering from the side effects of the great
quantities of ‘medication’ which have been administered to him by the
“I think the meetings are going pretty well.
Lighthauser is going to go the extra mile with us if we come up
with reasonable financial concessions.
How are you doing on the numbers George?”
“Good. I figure that
delaying the start of the lease until they get rid of the IBM 7094s, the
reduced rentals until they become fully operational plus the assistance
you’re going to provide will save them about $3 million at the start.
We can recoup our extra costs by extending the lease term by 6 ½
“Do you think Lighthauser will go for it?”
“Yes. We talked
about such a thing in the original lease negotiations and he thought that
it was a good idea”.
“Who does he think he is? He
thinks he’s so smart and a captain of American Industry”.
“Who are you talking about?”
“Lighthauser, that’s who.
Just because he’s in the defense business he thinks he’s got a
leg up to becoming Secretary of Defense - but I’m going to beat him to
“Are you planning to go into politics?”
“No, I plan to use GE as a stepping stone to the Defense
Department like Charlie Wilson did”.
“Do you want to be Secretary of Defense?”
“ Yes. I consider
myself one of the ‘whiz kids’ like Robert McNamara.
Lighthauser thinks he’s one to but I’ll show him tomorrow!”.
“Your joking aren’t you.”
“I’ll show him tomorrow”.
The three get up and leave the stage.
And so off to bed with Chuck and George dismissing Vern’s talk as a
in Martin’s conference room as everyone enters. This time Lighthauser and Feely sit facing the audience.
“Good morning gentlemen. I
trust that you had a restful evening.
As for us, we spent a goodly amount of time going over your
proposed fixes last night and we think that they are doable.
However, Bud wants to study them further with his staff in Denver. Now, how are you proposing to alleviate our costs?”
“In addition to the extra man power that Chuck Ettinger is
providing and the costs that he is picking up we will defer the start of
the leases until you can return the 7094s.
Plus, we will stair step the initial lease payments until you are
fully operational. I
calculate that this will save you some $3 million on the front end.
As a ‘quid pro quo’ we will extend the lease term by 6 ½
“Off hand it sounds reasonable to me but I’ll have to put a
pencil to your calculations and….”
(interrupting) “You won’t
need to. Just take your $3
million and give me back my machines”.
“Wait a minute Vern. You don’t understand. The deal is
predicated on their keeping the 600 systems and those concessions are not
unrecoverable hard dollars”.
“Don’t tell me what to understand.
I want those computers back and they can have their $3 million”.
“Does he know what he’s saying?”
“No. Vern, we
need to go out in the hall and discuss this”.
“There’s nothing to discuss.
He can have his $3 million and I want my machines back”.
Silence. Then Lighthauser
looks first at Snively who can merely shrug and then at Ettinger who is
“Mr. Cooper you have made an offer that we can not possibly
refuse. Good day
and Feely get up and leave. Leaving
Snively, Ettinger and Cooper sitting
Thus ends another chapter in the saga of the GE Computer
Vern Cooper was congratulated by his FATHER-IN-LAW, GE Executive
VP, Hersner Cross, for getting out of the Martin agreement without a big