a young radio ham at a time when rectifiers were connected to bedsprings and communication was in code. Charlie also built a crude TV set before graduating from high school.
While still in high school he earned a living doing sundry jobs, including collecting bills. He also supplemented high school work with evening courses and by tutoring mathematics to Union College students many years his senior.
In 1926, at the age of 18, convinced he knew more than many college professors, he gave up college in favor of a job with General Electric at its Schenectady laboratories. His unusual talent was quickly recognized, and his supervisors encouraged him to take additional courses of his choice at Union College.
At the GE labs he worked in instrumentation development, magnetic materials testing, and even wind measuring equipment. After four years of lab assignments, Charlie enrolled in GE’s advanced engineering course, a program offered to only the most promising college graduates after they had finished the GE test engineering program. In that program advanced engineering theory was honed to the rigors of the real world. He was one of nine students selected to complete the three-year course out of an initial group of 30. This was at the beginning of the 1929 Great Depression, when many young engineers were let go.
In 1934 he joined General Electric’s Central Station Engineering Department (later called Electric Utility Engineering Department) in Schenectady’s Building 2. This group of engineering luminaries, first led by Dave Jones and later by Sel Crary, was at the forefront of international power systems engineering. It was full of challenges in the broadest definition of systems engineering, including its electrical, mechanical, and control dimension—challenges that extended from power generation to transmission, distribution, and utilization.
Because of his unusually keen insight into complex technical problems, Charlie was in constant demand by various GE manufacturing departments, to tackle first-of-a kind problems in protection, control, and reliability.