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Norman learns how to make the machine do what he wants it to do.

Soon after hiring on at Boeing Aircraft I was to learn something about getting machines to do what I want them to do. Given my entirely pragmatic nature, I never believed that machines had feelings. Boy was I wrong.

I had noticed this hippy/biker/old coot type guy shuffling through the factory on numerous occasions. He had matching tie dyed headband and tank top shirt which he wore with bib overalls and really big custom made logging type boots. His beard would have allowed him a place as a roadie for ZZ Top. I mean, how could you miss this guy? Later I found out his name was George.

I had been moved over from the big Cincinnati Gantry mills to the White Sundstrand OM-1’s (5 axis milling machines). They had these prehistoric Swinc controllers about the size of a refrigerator on them. George had been assigned to train me on the Swinc control. He got me going fairly easily since the machine was all EIA code and I had run hundreds of similar machines. A few days later, George saw me struggling which is a key word for my being hopping mad jumping up and down and swearing a lot. He shuffled over like Robert Crumb’s Mr. Natural. “What seems to be the trouble over here?” says Mr. Natural. “This %$^&( Machine is the biggest piece of $&*))*&% I have ever seen in my whole &*#$^ life, that’s what is going on over here.” sez I. “Oh, well that’s because you aren’t treating it right, you have hurt its feelings.” George said matter of factly. “Huh?” stunned. “It is like a beautiful lady, you have to treat her with respect and dignity,,,man.” Then George went to the control and stroked it with the palm of his hand in a nurturing way while he whispered something to it which I could not hear. He turned to me and said “try it now.” “Yeah, right, I am not going to buy into this $#@& at all. “Try it”. So I pressed the Cycle Start button and the machine did exactly what it was supposed to do. I had tried the Cycle Start button at least five different times before George came over. It never did anything let alone produce a good part.

20 years later I teach machinists at a Technical College. George sometimes comes in to be a guest lecturer. He always tells this story. Once he does, my students suddenly understand why every time they see me run a program, I stroke the control and whisper nice things to her. Hey, machines have feelings too, man.

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About barryjyoung

Machinist, toolmaker, programmer, Machinist Instructor. Way too into metalworking.

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