Boeing Frontiers
August 2003
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Volume 02, Issue 04
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A step back in virtual time

A step back in virtual timeThe beginnings

It started by transmitting data via telegraph in 1916 to help sell bi-planes to military customers in Washington, D.C. Then, as B-17s darkened the skies over Europe during World War II, computer technologies advanced almost as quickly as aviation science. On one front, electronic methods developed to break codes changed forever the way we transmit information. On another, the ability of the computer to store and process large quantities of data pioneered early guidance systems and helped process change data as bombers streamed from hangar doors.

Postwar breakthroughs

After the war, the Ground-to-Air Pilotless Aircraft missile was the first Boeing product designed with the aid of a computer. This was the 7-foot-tall analog Boeing Electro-Mechanical Computer that required 3,000 vacuum tubes to drain the heat it generated in its 11-by-24-foot, dust-free, temperaturecontrolled room.

"Using this machine, a problem that would have taken 100 engineering labor-months can be handled in about two hours' running time," claimed a poster.

Boeing heritage companies also were breaking new ground in the new science of electronic data storage, transmission and processing. In 1950, the McDonnell Aircraft Company replaced its punch card equipment with IBM card-programmed calculators and, in 1955, placed the largest-ever order for analog computers for IBM 650s and installed two IBM 701s, the first commercially available electronic computer.

Engineers at North American's Autonetics division developed America's first computerized navigation system and, in 1955, sent the first solid-state computer into flight for the Navaho missile guidance system. McDonnell's McAuto, formed in 1960, supported computer-assisted design and company business functions and had one of the largest online data-collection systems in the United States.

First Webs woven

The first Boeing Web was spun for NASA and the moon-landing program during the 1960s and early 1970s. Boeing provided mission support and staff for the Saturn V moon rocket at Huntsville, Ala., Kennedy Space Center, Fla., and NASA headquarters, Washington, D.C. To meet this communications challenge, George Stoner, vice president and general manager of the Boeing Space Division, established the "Blue Network."

A step back in virtual time"We've all got to read from the same sheet of music in real time," Stoner said in a 1969 interview.

As many as 160 NASA and Boeing managers located in Washington, D.C., Huntsville, Cape Kennedy, Houston, Seattle and New Orleans met "virtually" at the same time to collaborate and solve Apollo-Saturn engineering issues.

Meanwhile, North American's Autonetics developed integrated technologies for the Boeing-built Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. This was the first government contract to use micro-electronic integrated circuits in a major defense program. In addition, the Minuteman program demonstrated how electronic communications could link human controllers and missile defense systems around the country. In 1965, North American's Autonetics linked several computers together to demonstrate the capabilities of multiple systems in a command and control situation—the birth of network-centric operations.

New ways of doing business

"Marketing and performing computing services involves a whole new way of doing business," said Boeing President T. Wilson in 1970, at the formation of Boeing Computer Services.

During the next decade, BCS supported several different systems, and each computing system used different access methods and protocols (ways to communicate). By the 1990s, technology had progressed so that the local area networks and wide area networks within Boeing were integrated. Finally, the manufacturing, engineering and business systems could communicate using common protocols.

A step back in virtual timeVirtual Office begins

"By 1993, Boeing employees began to view the Boeing intranet as reliable, functional and manageable," said James Farricker, Technical Fellow, Chief Engineer Boeing Network. Two years later, Boeing launched www.boeing.com.

Boeing was using Computer-graphics Aided Three-dimensional Interactive Applications and Define and Control Airplane Configuration/ Manufacturing Resource Management to cut manufacturing costs and improve airplane quality. But at first, these processes required thousands of dedicated lines at great cost to the company.

Boeing worked with IBM so that dedicated network environments were eliminated and workers could easily move their laptops between locations. By 1996 the Boeing Intranet had become an enterprisewide utility.

"It saved millions of dollars," Farricker said.

To maintain security and provide remote access for employees, partners and suppliers, Boeing established its security perimeter where Boeing proxy servers filter and monitor external World Wide Web access.

The secure perimeter enabled other vital virtual office services, including Web conferencing. The

evolution of the public Internet, high-speed Internet access and virtual private networks allowed reliable access to the Boeing network from almost anywhere, at any time.

On March 23, 1999, Boeing implemented the Virtual Office program. According to the program overview, "removing the impediments of time and space for Boeing employees is a desirable goal, critical to the company's success."

 

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