Education Laser Scanning Surveying Technology

From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse – Part 3

Image of platform From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse
From the Slide Rule to the Metaverse

From the “Slide Rule to the Metaverse – Part 3 will focus on the most important career decision of my life.

When I finished up some 3.5 years of teaching in the 2-year Civil Tech program at UNH in 1978 I had at least six grad courses towards my Ph.D. It was never my plan to get a Ph.D., but my mentor from WPI, Frank DeFalco coerced me into taking a graduate course each semester while teaching. They were free, so I did not have much to lose.

I concentrated on geotechnical courses and really fell in love with it. As it turned out I was given the opportunity to work with an expert in the field of soil liquefaction. Pedro DeAlba had studied under the world famous Harry Seed at Cal Berkeley who developed the science of earthquake-induced liquefaction. Pedro had just accepted his position at UNH and I became his first grad student.

On land liquefaction occurs when the ground shakes which is generally only during an earthquake. Offshore structures, such as concrete gravity platforms in the North Sea, experience continuous cyclic loading from wave action. The goal of our research was to see if we could acoustically determine the susceptibility of marine sands to liquefy. We made some progress, but to my knowledge that problem has never been solved.

In the meantime I was doing land surveying projects with Harry Berquist and began to develop a word of mouth business in Seacoast NH.

Upon graduation in 1981 I had the choice of moving to Norway, or San Diego to work for one of the large offshore oil companies. Or I could start my own surveying engineering firm. I went with the latter which was THE turning point in may career. One can only guess how things would have been in that most challenging of engineering worlds – marine geotechnical engineering. A good friend went to work for Shell in Houston that year and worked there his entire career.

So in the middle of one of the worst economies with interest rates approaching 20% I founded Seacoast Engineering Associates, Inc. in a 12′ x 8′ office in Newmarket, NH. All we had were steel tapes and transits and a Leroy lettering set to ink the mylar plats. For a computer I believe we were using the Texas Instruments handheld to check traverse closure and create the roads and lot boundaries. We were one step above the slide rule.

But things were about to change. Harvard dropout Bill Gates was cutting a deal with IBM to provide the operating system for the PC, with a lot of ideas that he had “borrowed” from Steve Jobs at Apple. That would change everything in the surveying world and most others as well.

Stay tuned.

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