Saturday, February 27, 1971


In Los Angeles, Don LaPointe takes his wife Mikhail to the office with him, confident he will get away in time for a planned picnic. Eight hours later, the phones in Room 822 will still be ringing, and Mikhail LaPointe will have her first day's experience as a rookie product scheduling expediter.

LaPointe and Skip Schroeder resume their frantic search for a System/360 Model 40, a 1403 N1 printer, a 1403 Model 2 printer, a 1416 print train, a 2540 card reader, a 2501 card reader, two 2821 control units, a 2314 A01 disk file, four 2401 tape drives , and eight keypunches -- a total of 40 boxes. Schroeder remembers: "I thought my finger would drop off from dialing. I was really breaking up people's weekends. We pulled them away from their golf games -- from everything they had planned."

Gayle Jackson and other San Antonio branch people visit the fire scene. The computer room vault is opened to reveal unharmed reels of tape and disk packs. When Herbrich had closed the door on evacuating yesterday, he saved records that would have taken weeks to recreate.


Racing for VW

Mike Nugent

Mike Nugent
Mike Nugent, a computer test technician in Endicott, alters machines taken from the shipping dock so that they fit together as a replica of the Volkswagen system.

The LaPointes, who have given up their picnic plans, spend the afternoon in Room 822, IBM Western Region Headquarters. Mrs. LaPointe recalls: "I was somewhat familiar with computer terminology. But I think I shocked someone at the San Jose plant. I was talking with him on the phone and also to my husband. When I said, 'Okay, honey,' the man on the phone stopped talking. The line went dead."

Skip Schroeder locates some IBM tape drives in a warehouse in Houston. In San Jose, Calif., James Klemmer, manager of the disk pack production control department, is recruited to find replacements for the disk packs that had melted on the drives. He arranges to have 12 boxes shipped by air.

IBM's plant in Endicott, N.Y., joins the search for equipment. While George Martone, an equipment feature analyst, checks out the features needed on each piece of gear, Mike Ritchey, manager of shipping, and Fred Caverly, manager of sales order and entry, searches the shipping dock for the right machines.

Also in Endicott, Mike Nugent, a computer test technician, and Bernard Bruetsch, product test engineer, alter pieces of the system so it will fit together as a replica of the Volkswagen system. Robert F. Utecht, in the IBM Poughkeepsie systems test organization, makes similar efforts to duplicate VW's central processing unit.

Racing for VW

Bob Utecht

Bob Utecht
Bob Utecht has a similar job at Poughkeepsie -- modifying equipment so that it will match up with the installation destroyed in San Antonio. "Finding the right machine solved one problem," Utecht says. "But we had to make sure we could replace the replacement."

IBMers in Rochester, Minn., report snows so heavy they won't be able to ship any card readers. The 2540s and 2501s are then added to the Endicott list.

By mid-afternoon, SMD's August L. (Gus) Schroeder (no relation to Skip), John J. Phillips, James P. Darcy, Jr. (parts expediting), and Donald J. White (shipping), are hard at work in Poughkeepsie. They pack the Model 40, plus a dozen other items that must accompany it. Peter K. Britton (traffic) begins working on transportation from his home.

Racing for VW

James P. Darcy, Jr.

James P. Darcy, Jr.
James P. Darcy, Jr., buzzes through the Poughkeepsie plant, where he and other SMD people pack the Model 40 and a dozen other items to help get Volkswagen back up and running.

Gus Schroeder recounts: "Once we found we had the equipment there and could pack it, we thought everything was all right. We got everything together and then more problems popped up. None of the airlines could take the machines until Tuesday. We called an air charter company. They told us it would cost $35,000 to fly to San Antonio. We started calling local truck lines and everyone we reached said they had restrictions on where they could go, and Texas was out. Finally we lined up a truck in New York City and we thought we had it made. Then they called us back and said they couldn't find any drivers. Time meant everything and here we were with a Model 40 ready to go and no way to get it there."

Finally, Endicott's Ronald Chase, a transportation analyst, calls to say he has arranged for a van to move equipment straight through from Endicott to San Antonio. Chase suggests that Poughkeepsie contact a local mover to get the Model 40 to Endicott so the entire order can go on the one truck.

Pete Weber, IBM's national account manager for Volkswagen, normally works out of the Cranford, N.J., branch office. But this afternoon, he is at the IBM facility in Raleigh, N.C. He hears his name over a loud speaker. When he learns what has happened in San Antonio, he is on a plane there an hour later.

9:45 p.m.

Weber arrives in San Antonio a few hours ahead of a private jet carrying members of Volkswagen's corporate staff from New Jersey.

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