• Your Letters

Don't Forget Bill Biles

In your recent InTech article, you called Pat Kennedy the “father of plant historians.” No doubt Pat indeed brought to market in 1985 by far the most popular and widespread, essentially the de facto historian, in the industrial marketplace. But to my knowledge, Pat was not the first to introduce a historian with a compression algorithm to minimize data storage. That honor should go to Bill Biles of W.R. Biles & Associates, who introduced the (later named) AIM System before Pat’s PI. Biles & Associates was formed in 1970 before both Oil Systems and DMC, where Charlie Cutler was also ex-Shell and a colleague of Bill’s. I learned this when I worked for Biles from 1995–1997. Biles & Associates struggled to transition from VAX VMS to Microsoft Windows, something that Pat successfully did with PI. As a result, SimSci (now AVEVA) acquired them in October of 1997. The AIM system has long since disappeared. Unfortunately, few people are left to know the origins of Biles & Associates, as Bill passed not long after the SimSci acquisition, and we lost Charlie earlier this year.
Joseph O. “Joe” Perino
Research Analyst
LNS Research, Cambridge, Mass.


Belated Thanks for a Great 75th Anniversary Issue

I sat the 75th Anniversary Issue aside to remind me to send you this thank you note, but forgot it until straightening out my office today.

Bill, I sincerely appreciate the kind notice and photo that you included in the [Titans of Automation] timeline of your “Milestones” article in the September/October 2020 issue of InTech.  You honored me, greatly, by placing me among very distinguished instrumentation and automation pioneers.  I am happy to report that among those on the 12-13 two-page spread, I am the sole survivor.

Offered not as criticism, but simply to add to your trivia file, if you keep this kind of stuff: ISA was founded in Pittsburgh, where I joined the staff in 1967; its annual budget was under $800k in 1978, when the Executive Board voted to relocate to RTP and to obtain a $1M line of credit to pull it off.  That was a pretty gutsy position taken by the Board.  As it turned out, the 1980 Conference and Exhibit in Houston generated so much revenue that we never had to draw on the line of credit.

I’ve often reflected that the boldness of that Board decision set the stage by emboldening future Boards to approve several future million-dollar decisions: acquiring a building in Raleigh to establish a training center, acquiring an extensive video-tape technician training program and, of course, building a new headquarters/training center in 1996. By the way, the title of the Instrumentation Technology trade journal was shortened to InTech about then [1978], somewhere along the path of the society’s scope broadening from instruments.

All the best to you, and stay well.

Glenn Harvey
ISA Executive Director, 1977-1999
Valdese, NC


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