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From: zygot! (John Higdon)
Date: Mon, 02 Aug 1992 02:33:12 GMT
Subject: Re: An Open Letter to PAT and John Higdon writes:

> We were wondering if the two of you would take a few minutes from
> your busy schedules of doing whatever it is you do, and tell us
> all about whatever it is you do.

Well, OK. But, as Art Baker used to say on television before many of
the readers were born, "You Asked For It".

My interest in telephony began when I was taught as a toddler how to
use the phone to summon emergency help. The next thing my mother knew
was that I had found her address book and was calling all of her
friends. I was three years old.

I have always been fascinated by the telephone and its switching
systems. Thoughout my public school years, I would spend my free time
concocting devices that would attach (in complete violation of tariff)
to the line and provide value added services (for me, anyway). These
things included dialers, bridges, various extension phones for my
convenience around the house, etc. This activity led to the parental
units decreeing that I was to no longer have access to the family
phone. A phone in my name would be co-signed for, but I would be
responsible for the bill and under no circumstances would ever be
allowed to use the family phone again. I was thirteen years old.

By this time, I had cultivated many friends in the telephone company
(Pacific Telephone) who were delighted with the notion that "some kid"
would be so interested in what many thought was a very boring topic. I
gleaned all sorts of information about the switches (mostly #5
crossbar) and was given a lot of gadgetry that was otherwise destined
for the crusher. By the time I was in my senior year in high school,
the neighborhood was wired for private telephone service and my friends
were the "subscribers". There was access to "outside" lines and
completely automatic switching internally.

A repairman discovering some of my outside plant started a ruckus that
would prove to be a turning point. He came to my house, threatening me
and my parents with more evil than can be mentioned. He called out his
manager. Higher and higher levels of management were called out until
finally (several days later) the regional manager stopped by to visit.
This gentleman, Don Peters, examined the situation and pronounced that
if "there were more kids like this young man here, our society would be
a lot better off." My project stayed up. And over the course of the
years Mr. Peters' and my paths crossed on a number of occasions. His
passing several years ago was a sad day for me.

Anyway, on to college where I was to prepare myself for the teaching
profession. But that was not to be. A friend of the family had
resurrected a classical FM station and I was enthralled. I asked to be
given part-time work as an announcer. My qualifications? An intense
interest in the music and a music background. I was hired. But the
owner (who was also the station's engineer) discovered my other
interests which included things electrical. Imagine his excitement when
he discovered that he could entrust to my hands the patched up 1946
transmitter and even put me on call for its emergency repair!

Well, one thing led to another and my broadcast engineering contracting
business was launched. But maintaining broadcast transmitters on remote
mountain tops can sometimes get a bit old, so I moonlighted (mostly
with my radio clients) as a "telephone consultant". In the mid 70's,
CPE was starting to become a happening thing, and most people were in
the dark when it came to selecting terminal equipment. Those were the
days of the NT SG1s and the Stromberg Carlson E-120s. I even cared for
a large OKI crossbar PBX for several years.

In 1981, I decided that there was more money in the telecommunications
business than in radio so I put the broadcasting business on a back
burner and formed a corporation that dealt in the sales and service of
small to medium sized business installations. We became the region's
authorized sales and service dealer for the ITT System 3100 and grew
steadily for a number of years. Somewhere in all of this, I discovered
computers and taught myself such things as assembly language
programming and other very dry humdrum computer things. But as the
telecom business grew, it took more and more of my time.

And it took it in ways that were not appealing to me. Instead of being
able to "play" with telephone technology, I had to worry about taxes,
hiring, firing, managers, sales, promotions, and many, many other
things that interested me not. On December 31, 1986, I was out. I went
back to radio (to continue eating) and hooked up with another friend
who had just been fooling around with another hot new industry:

This fellow is a hardware wizard. He fabricates the most useful stuff
out of parts right out of the catalog. He and another person had made
some conference bridges out of a Vic 20 and a bunch of VIA chips.
These crude machines were making some people a fortune connected to
some 976 lines. Mind you, this is before many people even knew what
976 was.

This was the answer to prayers. A company formed producing this type
of equipment (but kept small-scale) gave me the chance to exercise my
various interests and talents, while allowing growth in any
yet-to-be-determined endeavors. Since then, we have graduated to
creating and programming what amounts to custom digital switches that
perform virtually any voice and switching applications. I finally got
to play with computers! Most of our customers are in the information
providing business, but we have now sold systems to general businesses
for various purposes.

So what is it that I do? I never got out of radio. I maintain three FM
transmitter plants and one AM. In addition, I handle those stations'
telecommunications which involve some medium sized PBXes that have ARS,
do bypassing (naughty-naughty), use DID, and have live talk show
situations. With associates, I participate in the creation of custom
voice and call processing applications in the capacity of programmer.
In fact, this evening I just returned from a trip to Reno for yet
another installation of one of our switches. As usual, there were some
last minute programming changes that were required.

And that is about it. There are some gaping holes in this little sketch
that anyone who knows me well will notice; and I think they will
understand the omissions. Shall we leave it at "boxes of color"?
Needless to say, rules and laws are now, and have been for some time,
obeyed strictly. But as people at Pac*Bell will tell you, I know those
rules very well and push them to the envelope.

Non telephonic data:

I have kept up my interest in music and am occasionally involved in
Bay Area concerts. I am an avid motorcyclist who rides both dirt (for
enjoyment) and street (for transportation and fun, too). I enjoy
writing and have occasional letter appearances in the {San Jose Mercury}
and the {San Francisco Chronicle}.

> [Moderator's Note: Interesting idea. John, will you go first?   PAT]

Done. E tu?

        John Higdon         |   P. O. Box 7648   |   +1 408 264 4115      | San Jose, CA 95150 |       M o o !

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