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– Lou Yurek's BTI Stories

I worked in the BTI Support Department from 1979-1992 and feel I could make a rich contribution to the BTI chronicles.

I'm just touching the surface of 13 years here -

To start, realize BTI pioneered (yes pioneered) the process of remote support, a concept that is a "given" in the IT industry today. I was hired by Walt Scott to work on his "Phone Team" - the group which solved 80+% of all customer issues remotely by using our local "big brother" computers to dial in to customer sites in the US and Canada to repair disk data errors, etc. - at a speed of up to 300 baud. When remote repair was unsuccessful, we would either send a part from our Sunnyvale depot thru FedEx, or we would dispatch a member of Rodney Hoffer's "Travel Team", or both.

When I was hired, the BTI8000 was in development. Paul Brumlow, Dale Burley, Greg Doudna, John Wattle and I were chosen to be the first support team for the BTI8000.

Paul was the Team Lead, a former Texas Instruments engineer who designed a "sniffer" board as a tool to help developers diagnose many 8K design problems early on.

Dale Burley and I led the 8K phone team (and later "CSS", or Customer Software Support). Dale helped with SSU microcoding, and I developed an RS232-based data transfer system which could do 5K-8K data transfer - handy when communicating to your new 8K from your old 5K system; and both of us wrote a number of "apps" which we later used in conjunction with the new "big brother" - that is, Harvey Thackston's "RDF" - Remote Diagnostic Facility - which communicated with remote BTI8000s at the "lightning" speed of 9600 baud!

Greg Doudna and John Wattle were the 8K "Travel Team" - but at first we all traveled to installations - Henco in Virginia, Toltec in Brea, Ca, to name a couple. At our peak I believe the 8K installed base was less than 20 systems worldwide.

In short, the BTI8000 was a powerful (and scalable) piece of iron - incredibly powerful microinstruction set (ask Ron Crandall about "zigzag byte mode") - and super UNIX-like operating system - but that was it. As I recall, we were banking on our early adopters to create the apps, and that didn't really happen to any great degree. Along came Intel and the microprocessor, the PC, client-server, etc...

I've got many more memories to share (and photos as well, as I was the "unofficial" staff photographer for BTI in the later years), not to mention lists of "phone team" names - Dave Ratz (had the backup "big brother" in his San Jose basement), Gary Korstad and Stan Jacoby - the famous "Second Shift"; Eldon Bard, Ben Zeider, Joel Zussman, Bruce DeLaCruz...

Well, hope this adds to the history bank - plenty more to share, looking forward to hearing from you -

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