IRMCO plays out 40 years of the future

IRMCO plays out 40 years of the future

Gary 'Government' Winters welcomes the dawn of high technology, and the birth of IRMCO, in 1961.

Ace Mover Ira Hobbs, aka acting CIO of the Agriculture Department, delivers a piece of the PC era.

Mike Causey, left, and Bob Levey'on stage and on one of two big screens'tell their tales.

GSA Administrator Stephen A. Perry delivers opening remarks at the start of the dinner.

The Interagency Resources Management Conference celebrated its 40th anniversary recently by going 'Back to the Future' at its opening dinner in Hershey, Pa.

What the 500 people in attendance learned during a skit that bracketed the dinner was that the future, in the words of Yogi Berra, ain't what it used to be.

The story begins in 1961, the year of IRMCO's founding, as conference director and emcee Emory Miller introduces Gary Government, played by the General Services Administration's Gary Winters. Mr. Government fits the profile: He's got the thick-rimmed glasses, short-sleeved white shirt, straight tie and pants that leave plenty of white sock showing above his black shoes. (His shoes should have a party; invite his pants down. That's, like, a 1961 joke.)

Gary, toiling under the gaze of JFK, is introduced to 'The latest in technology': an adding machine, a rotary phone, a ledger sheet and, it being 1961, a government-issued ashtray with a glorious desktop footprint. You could stock the thing with trout'at least, as soon as somebody invents Superfund and dredges all the butts.

But times are changing. Miller, with the help of introductory remarks by representatives of key computer companies'and the Ace Moving Co., in the familiar government IT forms of Ira Hobbs and Alan Balutis'takes Gary through the milestones that in their time were each the latest 'latest in technology.'

At the dawn of The Mainframe Era of the 1960s, we see mainframes'actually, cardboard cutouts'and a heavy load of punch cards. The punch cards look like the real thing.

Gary's career then progresses through the '70s'we won't go into his fashion statement, but you'll find him in any yearbook from the Disco Decade'as he pushes the limits of technology. There's a PC loaded with a 4.77-MHz Intel 88 processor, soon to be improved. And he gets to take work home and on the road with his handy, 24-pound portable PC with a 5-inch screen.

The presidential pictures on the wall change, a music-and-slide show encapsules the passage of time and speakers recount the advance of technology, telling of how PC power blossoms and a packet-switching project called Arpanet plants the seeds of the Internet. In between, guest speakers Bob Levey, Washington Post columnist, and Mike Causey, former Post columnist currently on radio, entertain the crowd with their war stories from roughly the same time frame.

Finally, the lights dim, smoke envelops the stage and 'Also Sprach Zarathustra' heralds the arrival of a backlit Gary Government, circa 2001. The players leave the stage toward a 15-foot replica of the city hall clock from the movie 'Back to the Future''sorry, no Michael J. Fox, no DeLorean. The clock spins, the soundtrack roars and the walls open. In the next room, dessert is served, music plays and the rest of the four-day conference proceeds. The future awaits.

About the Author

Kevin McCaney is a former editor of Defense Systems and GCN.

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