Then and Now

By Jim Whitman

November 2015

When I think of "the old days" at Boeing, I remember things about my first job that really stick out, like my first day of work touring the original "triple seven" factory, in Renton, Wash. -- 707, 727 and 737. In my first job, I got to see the first 757 go down the assembly line (later in my career, got to see the last one, too), and I got to walk down to the lakeshore with my whole department to watch a hydrofoil being launched.

From my desk, I could see the "curve of the earth" scribed by rows of green metal desks in the 10-85 building. We had shared black dial phones between desks and a pad of forms to fill out and submit to the plant fax operator when we needed to. I spent days poring over view foils (overhead transparencies), using adhesive labels to update status and taping on cardboard frames for the overhead projector that sometimes did little more than just reflect off of all the cigarette smoke filling the conference room from nervous presenters. I even learned to print and fold my own copies of blueprints hot off the drawing boards of the engineers so that we could get them into production.

Later, we got a department mainframe terminal with a dial-up connection -- we actually had to dial up a phone and place the handset into the computer's receiver. This seemed like quite an upgrade -- and all those punch cards we used to use for updating the computer ended up as great scratchpads for years.

Now I have a cellphone and a laptop that replace all of those things! But the parking didn't get better.