From SRQ Magazine, September 2019
Tech has been good for Andrew and Judith Economos. Now they will give back to students in the field.
Photo by Wyatt KostyganIn the days of office-sized computers with machines reading data off magnetic tape, well before anyone dared dream of a “computer industry,” Andrew and Judith Economos worked in the fledging field. There were no punch cards or motherboards or rockets to put men in space, but Andrew, a Sarasota son who spent summers working at Cape Canaveral, and Judith Economos, an Alabama native with her a doctorate in philosophy, ended up inside innovation centers like Sarnoff Labs in New Jersey in 1958.
“This was the time of the big, huge machines,” Judith recalls. She still remembers the novelty when she worked for a company in California named Rand where engineers found a way to input information in one machine and have it accessible in another. “They had the first network sharing I’d ever seen,” she says.
Andrew, who holds his own PhD in mathematics, not only saw the potential of technology, but built a fortune off it. While working at Sarnoff, he saw a way to use computers to help what was then one of the company’s troubled divisions—NBC. The burgeoning television network supported itself selling advertisement nationally but suffered embarrassing losses as staff struggled to keep track of time slots and videos. Inspired by a pioneering system used by American Airlines to book plane reservations, Andrew developed a way to reserve air time for broadcasts using available technology of the time. Nobody even thought to connect one of the screens at the network to a computer to use as a monitor. “We had to invent our own operating system,” he says.
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