High Tech, The Pentagon and Texas Austin HIGH TECH for Texas. Almost daily the newspapers print its praises; sung by government officials and corporate executives. Governor Mark White travels the state selling high tech and entreating communities to band together to entice it here. Mayor Henry Cisneros has built a reputation on his goal of luring new businesses, including lots of high tech, to San Antonio. Mayor Kathy Whitmire envisions Houston with an economy based on “high technology research.” Last year, when Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation here in Austin, local media gave the new corporation about the same attention that a discovery of gold in the hills of Lake Travis would draw, while in Dallas, a city that had courted but failed to win MCC, there was-a gnashing of teeth and a committee appointed by the mayor to find out what went wrong. Other voices, not as loud, question the value of high tech for Texas. Minority leaders wonder what kind of jobs their people will be offered by an industry that traditionally ships part of its work to facilities in Asia and Latin America, including El. Salvador, to be done by low-paid women. Environmentalists point out that high tech industry is no longer called “clean” in California’s Silicon Valley, where the poisonous chemicals necessary to the manufacture of microchips have leaked into the air that workers breathe and the water that the whole community drinks, causing illness and birth defects. Add to this the fact that one of the best customers of high tech companies is the Pentagon. The military wants advanced electronics for spying, targeting, communicating; for “smart” missiles, bombers, fighters, and tanks. The alliance of business, government, and education that has formed to pull high tech to Texas is an alliance of bright, accomplished people, many of whom are willing to help make weapons for money. These people offer clerical and factory jobs to the unemployed and careers in science and engineering to By Nina Butts college graduates. “A lot of things the Defense Department buys . . . is from these companies with current technologies,” says Frank McBee, Jr., president of Tracor, Inc., an Austin electronics firm that does half its business with the Pentagon and made $24 million last year. “And I think the state of Texas is wanting and will get more and more industry of this kind. We have a good economic climate, we have a good climatological situation here, we don’t have yet a state income tax on either people or corporations . . . we have minimal union activity in this state with regard to these kinds of companies, and in Austin, in particular, there is the University of Texas, which is a great asset to companies like that. A&M is another asset.” Are the scientists at Tracor concerned about the morality of working for the Pentagon do they ask questions about the kinds of weapons systems they work on? “I would say we’ve had three or four or maybe five people in our whole career who have had any kind of hangup or concern like that,” says McBee, who is 63 and helped found Tracor in 1955 with associates from the Navyfunded Applied Research Laboratory at the University of Texas. “You get that [concern] around and about universities. Employed people that are out in industry are not quite that tender about the matter. . . . Some of them think about it at Tracor, but they don’t get all wrapped around the axle about it.” SINCE THE beginnings of the electronics industry, Texas has been home to electronics manu facturers, and many of them do business with the military. Texas Instruments state, also is the second largest defense contractor in Texas. \(The General Dynamics fighter plane factory in Fort oil-exploration firm in Oklahoma in the 1920s, then settled in Dallas. During World War II, TI’s discovery that the equipment that spotted oil could also seek out enemy ships, planes, and submarines led to a relationship with the Pentagon. ‘In 1958, electronics was revolutionized when a TI engineer named Jack Kilby invented the integrated circuit. The first system to use integrated circuits was a military device, a small TI computer for the Air Force. “At the beginning a lot of the driving force for transistors and integrated circuits was basically the Minuteman [intercontinental nuclear missile],” says TI spokesman Norman Neureiter. “That was the whole challenge. Recently the civilian momentum has come on much more rapidly.” Now TI, with a dozen plants around the state and facilities in 17 foreign countries, sells semiconductors, night vision equipment, radar, and the Highto the military. TI’s HARM contract is for $7 billion spread over 10 years. A good example of a TI invention is the hand-held, voice-controlled electronic repair manual that TI developed for Army recruits who work on M-1 tanks. “We had the capacity to put human speech into digital form,” Neureiter says. “We wanted to make use of all this great speech technology. . . . This guy’s in the field. Someone’s shooting at them their tank has stopped and they don’t have time to turn to page thirty-nine in a manual. They could call up repair instructions very easily using speech.” The director of the project, TI engineer John Harkins, explains,. “Some of these guys and girls have a real hard time reading, so this is to enhance comprehension. It’s a very integrated approach of applying technology and the human factor aspect.” The little machine, which TI will deliver to the Defense Department for testing next year, has a set of punch keys and a letternumber display but can also respond to eight different voice commands, even in noisy places, and reply by voice and pictures on its screen. “You plug it into the hardware on the tank,” Harkins says. “It can give oral warnings like `Hey! There’s high voltage in this 10 JULY 13, 1984
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