Apollo Guidance Computer Activities

AGC: Conference 4 - Alex Kosmala's introduction

Apollo Guidance Computer History Project

Fourth conference

September 6, 2002

kosmala2.jpg (18407 bytes)

Alex Kosmala's introduction


ALEXANDER BROWN: One of the things we've found has worked extremely well with these conferences is, if we just ask people to go around the table and introduce themselves briefly. I think we found at least two of the three conferences that we've had, questions that have been raised as a result of the introductions that have taken most of the morning session. So I'd like to start that today.

When you introduce yourself, I wonder if you could tell me a little bit about what you   did at the Instrumentation Lab and then what you did at Intermetrics, as part of your introduction of who you are and where you are.

And David alluded to the fact that we've collected a lot of documents. You wrote these documents. The human story behind them is sometimes quite difficult to recapture from looking at the technical reports. And so that’s been a very important layer that these conferences add is a sense of the human relationships and the human interactionships that went on as part of this project.

So could I ask you to start, Mr. Kosmala?

ALEX KOSMALA: Yeah, if the topic is the early days of Intermetrics, I’m probably not the most qualified, but John Miller is. These two gentlemen (Copps and Miller) here are part of the original five or six that split and formed Intermetrics. I joined the company about six months after these guys took that step and had punched some of the risk out of it and as part of the second wave of acquisitions from the Draper Lab and other places. I'm Employee No. 10, my proud boast.

I was on the Apollo program at the Instrumentation Lab by invitation actually. Having spent a year on the Polaris program, I met John and Ed here in 1959-'60. I guess they were rather hard up for people when they got that Apollo program, because they yanked me over from England. And nobody ever passes up an opportunity to work here for MIT.

So I joined the Instrumentation Lab and I was assigned to the Apollo program under these guys. I was totally overwhelmed for at least a year, just wowed by the complexity and the enormity of this thing and by the quality of the people that were working. I was just astounded.

Nevertheless, seven or eight years later, it was almost time to land on the moon and these guys founded Intermetrics and did the same to me again. They actually left before the culmination of their work, which was the landing on the moon, which happened three months after they founded Intermetrics. I was still at MIT at the time.

But, in October 1969, I joined Intermetrics in their office at 125 Harvard Street, jammed in there, with all of these people, plus a few others. Actually, those first years are a bit of blur because we changed from being primarily engineering contributors to a vast program to surviving in a competitive corporate marketplace. I was absolutely and totally new to making a company work. John, thank God, was around and he knew how to do that, but even then it was pretty tough sledding.

You'll hear about this from these guys later--we really didn't get much into solid engineering work really for quite a while, because of the need to bag contracts and keep people alive.

But, it grew. And, I think, three years after I joined, I was totally convinced that the money I'd put into it--because we all kicked in--these guys put a lot of money in. I put all I had, which wasn't as much, but that was gone, because I thought this company was going down the tubes. "Oh, yea, of little faith."

Well that was the beginning of the sort of climb up and pretty soon there were other people and more and soon you started bumping into people in buildings that you had never met before. So it was a pretty good success story. I think I'll end there, because I don't want to steal their thunder. So, I’m done for the time being.

Ed Copps' introduction