Monday, June 20, 2005

Wirth-less …

Scott Sternberg, in Sunday’s Times-Picayune, reminds us that a "N.O. site made mark in computer history:"

"When demolition began last week, the long-derelict Wirth Building took its biggest step yet toward being reborn as a high-tech hub that will be a linchpin of the now-forming medical district.

But the site's high-tech future as a so-called BioInnovation Center -- it will house laboratories and biotech business start-ups -- will be a reflection of its past.

The Wirth Building was once a nationally recognized center of technological innovation. In 1957, it got one of the first IBM 705 computers …"

Reading about Wirth brought back some memories for me, memories from 1975 when I was briefly a political appointee of then Governor Edwin Edwards.

At the time, I was the associate director of the Louisiana Information Processing Authority (LIPA), the state’s central computing authority. The director, Ed Schellhaase as I remember it, ran the Baton Rouge computer center. As associate director, I was in charge of the N.O. center, then located at Charity Hospital.

It seems that the entire time I was there we were talking about moving the center to the Wirth Building, and I do not remember why it never happened. So, as a Wirth Building story this is pretty lame; it is obviously just a pretext to getting into a story about my experience in the first Edwards administration.

And it was quite an experience. I assume that the statute of limitations has run out on punishing the perpetrators of the illegal acts that I witnessed. I may be over-dramatizing; what I saw were really "only" breaches of ethics, but even then I knew how to "connect the dots." Still, as one of the most junior (and least "plugged-in") members of the administration, I am amazed that the "perps" let their guard down around me as much as they did.

I will further assume that my recollections of events of thirty years ago cannot be considered libelous. Hey, it’s only a blog, lighten up!

Beginning tomorrow, I am going to give this story some shape. Look for "Edwin and me, 1972."

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