William Jolitz - Early Years

On the formative history of William Jolitz. Part of the Jolitz Heritage Site for the Jolitz Family of Silicon Valley.

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Son of an Aerospace Family

William Frederick (Bill) Jolitz was born in Michigan. He grew up in the midwest, east, and then finally western United States, as the family followed the aerospace business around the country. William Jolitz attended Lynbrook High School in San Jose, California, and worked at NASA Ames Research Center while a high school and college student. While attending the University of California, Berkeley he was part of the Homebrew Computer Club .

He graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Computer Science and has been a member of the Berkeley Engineering Society.

William Frederick Jolitz NASA Projects

While in high school, William Jolitz worked at NASA Ames Research Center supporting a number of projects:

  • For Dr. Gordon Auguson in the Space Sciences Astrophysics branch (SSA), he lead a small team that machined, ground, polished and figured an 9 inch hyperbolic secondary mirror for the Kuiper Airbone observatory.
  • For Leonard McGee in the Flight Systems Navigation branch (FSN), he ported a navigation simulation program from an IBM 360 to a CDC 7600

  • June 1974 Certificate signed by Hans Mark.

  • For Charles T. Jackson Jr. and Dallas Denery in the Flight Systems Navigation branch (FSN), he assisted in a computer automated navigation and guidance system for general aviation aircraft.
  • With the Sensory Aids Foundation, he designed and built a prototype talking computer development system for the blind.
  • Various other systems integration projects (30+) involving scientific and navigation issues, including a paper on navigational error estimation.
  • William remembers - "Back in the mid 70's, many of us in the Berkeley Computer Club would carpool and drive down to the regular meetings of the Homebrew Computer Club at the Stanford Linear Accelerator (SLAC) Auditorium. The lobby would sometimes have commercial (e.g. Cromemco Dazzler), hobby (someone's KIM-1 or Altair 8800), or garage shop (Woz's cherrywood box Apple 1) machine. "Random Access" period with Lee Felsenstien wielding a stick to direct or to call to order, with Adam Osbourne in the back of the room with his perpetual box of books (I bought one!). Sometimes a presentation as well.

    Gordon Auguson, NASA Ames Research Center, SSA branch

    "Back in the early 70's NASA had a student internship program, where in the early afternoon a bus would collect up students from Lynbrook, Monte Vista, Homestead, and Sunnyvale high schools. We'd arrive at Ames around 2pm, and leave around 6pm.

    One of my assignments was working for Gordon Augason in the Space Science Astrophysics (SSA) branch. He was doing far infrared astronomy with airborne telescopes.

    McGee Letter of Reference

    "In 1975, I finished up in Lynbrook High School in the mornings, and attended DeAnza Junior college in the evenings. In the afternoons and following school, I worked at NASA-Ames Flight Systems Navigation (FSN) branch for Leonard McGee, who loaned me out at times to various projects to 'fight fires'.

    William Jolitz, Mary Lingell, Charles T. Jackson Jr., Donald B. Billings, 1974.

    "While working for Leonard McGee in FSN, I got to know the wildly creative aeronautical engineer Chuck Jackson. He was from that school of engineering where if you thought you could do something, you threw together a prototype and got it into the game ASAP, no matter what it was built from. Following high school and into college, did dozens of "mini contracts" (RFP/RFQ) for him and Dallas Denery.

    HP 9825A Programmable Calculator

    The "Blind Programmable Calculator" project, around 1976, sponsored by the Sensory Aids Foundation and NASA was an attempt to radically reduce the cost of access to technology to the blind. At the time (and true today), braille printers were very costly. They were the primary means of access. The idea was to use realtime adaptive speech synthesis to allow applications to "speak" visual interactions, and to do so without altering the computing environment in any way. In other words, a gadget that could snap on to a computer (in this case a HP 9825A programmable calculator) and intuitively talk the screen/keyboard interface.

    William Frederick Jolitz attended the University of California, Berkeley during a period of great change and opportunity. While still staying involved with NASA and "Silicon Valley" to the south (often by motorcycle, same day), Cal's environment of science, engineering and technology was very different.

    Before Cal, William Jolitz was used to technology like the IBM 370/145 DOS/VS (BAL, PL/1) of the local college, either the IBM 360/67 TSS (Fortran, PL/1G) or the CDC 7600 (Run76, Compass) of NASA, or the UCLA IBM 360/95 and Stanford 360/65 (Algol W). Science was liquid helium dewars, oscilloscopes, and actual measurement of physical observations. Engineering was breadboarding of devices and equipment acquired from affliated groups in a shared budget relationship.

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