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JACK ANTHONY BAIRD 1921-1986 BY IAN M. ROSS JACK ANTHONY BAIRD who, during more than ten years of his career at AT&T and Bell Laboratories, guided the plan- ning of engineering for the worlo's largest computing sys- tem the U.S. telecommunications networkdied May 23, 1986, of a coronary occlusion at the age of sixty-four. Far ahead! of his time, he implemented the necessary combina- tion of operations research, technical planning, and technol- ogy assessment so AT&T and other organizations could cope ·.1 .] ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ . with the demands ot large, complex electronic communlca- tions systems serving both civilian and military purposes. Jack Baird brought good judgment and good sense to the practice of systems engineering, thus paving the way for modern-day data networking and the computers it links. lack Baird's professional affiliations included being named a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engi- neers (IEEE) in 1969; he was also named a member of the Newcomen Society in North America in 1970 and a member of the National Society of Professional Engineers' industry advisory group in 198 1. He was elected to the National Acad- emy of Engineering in 1971. At the academy, he was an ac- tive member of the Committee on Telecommunications from 1974 to 1978 and served as chairman of its study pane} in- volving the U.S. Department of Commerce's Office of Tele- . . communlcatlons. 9
10 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES His service to the U.S. government earned him much re- spect. During his tenure at Bell Laboratories, lack served as a member of the Special Pane} on Common Carrier/Inter- connections for the Computer Science and Engineering Board of the National Research Council. After his retire- ment from AT&T in 1983, he served actively as the chairman of the National Research Council's National Security Tele- communications Policy Planning Environment Committee (National Communications System) and as a member of the Voice of America's Radio Emergency Advisory Committee. Jack Baird was born on May 27, 1921, in the small rural town of Omaha, Texas, the population of which was then, as now, less than 1,000. He was the only chilct of Harry and Allie Baird. His grandfather was the town doctor and served as Jack's role model, inspiring him to work diligently and think pragmatically while solving problems. As a teenager, Jack was a ham radio operator at a time when such activity was consid- erect extraordinary. He gracluatect from Omaha High School in 1939 (as the class valeclictorian) and entered the Electrical Engineering School of Texas A&M University, from which he graduated with a B.S. in 1943. He then married his childhoocl sweet- heart, Louise Taylor, also of Omaha, and joined the U.S. Navy as a racier maintenance officer. He server! from 1943 to 1946, spending almost two years on destroyer escort duty in the Pacific. After his discharge, Jack was hired by Bell Tele- phone Laboratories, thus fulfilling a boyhood dream. Working in Whippany, New Jersey, Jack spent several years in the development of military radar and communications systems. As a member of Bell's technical stab, he helped to clevelop the first racier system for freighters sailing on the Great Lakes. He also developed the first postwar high- altitude bombing system. At the same time, he pursued graduate work and receiver! his M.S. in electrical engineering in 1950 from Stevens Insti- tute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He then re- turnecl to Texas A&M under the G.~. Bill ancI was awarcle(1 a Ph.D. in electrical engineering in 1952.
JACK ANTHONY BAIRD 11 On rejoining Bell Laboratories, Dr. Baird resumes! mili- tary clevelopment work with particular emphasis on the ap- plication of transistors and other solid-state electronic de- vices. He advanced rapidly from supervisor to department head to assistant director, until he eventually became director of military systems development in INS, only six years after returning to Bell Labs. During this period, Jack's projects included the first appli- cation of transistors to digital computers. His pioneering work began with TRADIC (Transistorized Airborne Digital Computer), which evolvect into LEPRECHAUN, a radically new computer that was clevelope(1 for programming and logical-clesign research on (ligital computers for military real-time control applications. At the same time, Jack was also responsible for the development of the first transistor- ized mortar shell proximity fuses. As a director, Jack was involved in the development of the digital computer for the Nike Zeus anti-ICBM (Interconti- nental Ballistic Missile) system, which later was successfully demonstratect at Kwajalein Island in the Pacific Ocean. Jack presiclect over an enormously clemancling cooperative effort that combiner! the specializes! skills of a wide range of AT&T talents plus those of some fourteen major subcontractors ant! hundreds of other small subcontractors. In 1961, as director of military switching development, lack supervised the development of a major circuit and mes- sage switching network sponsored by the U.S. Army Signal Corps Project UNICOM, which was eventually known as the Defense Automatic Integrates! Switch (DAIS) system. The development of the system was carried out under the direction of Bell Laboratories with International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation (ITT) anct Ractio Corporation of America (RCA) as associates. This work resulted in the first demonstration of an electronic time-division switch, the fun- ciamental concept that is now used in multiplexing and switching of digital transmission signals. The foremost con- tribution of the project was its demonstration of the feasibil- itv of very large, flexible, real-time, storecI-program systems
12 MEMORIAL TRIBUTES for strategic communications. Many of the system's principal features have since been realized in operational systems. In 1964 Jack Baird was appointed executive director of switching systems engineering at Bell Laboratories. This new post brought with it the responsibility for all switching sys- tems studies ant! systems engineering of electronic anc! elec- tromechanical switching systems in the Bell system. As exec- utive director, Jack initiated significant efforts in long-range planning for the switching of local and long distance signals. Two years later, he became a vice-presiclent at Bell and as- sumed responsibility for three systems engineering divisions: transmission, switching, and ciata. At that point, he was di- recting long-range planning for the entire Bell system, plan- ning that involved digital transmission, traffic analysis, data and video telephone services, and advanced switching sys- tems. He hell] that post until 1973 when he became vice- president of engineering at AT&T. At the time of his retire- ment in 1983, he was vice-president of network planning anc! design at AT&T, as well as chairman of American Bell Inter- national, Inc. In addition, he was a member of the boards of Illinois Bell and Bell Telephone Laboratories. During his thirty-seven years in the Bell system, Jack Baird's competency in many systems engineering areas was often demonstratect by his assignments involving heavy bur- dens of technical management. Despite his realization that such duties would limit his individual contributions to his field, he always accepted the challenges and undertook the tasks that his country and his company asked him to per- form. Jack Bairc! was the antithesis of a flamboyant executive, preferring insteac! to guide his subordinate colleagues into flourishing careers as they benefited from his counsel. He was a quiet, unassuming, yet incredibly talented engineer whose work continues to serve millions of people around the world. Meanwhile, he never forgot his roots and frequently visited his friends and family in and near Omaha, Texas. He was a devotee! anct strong husband to his wife Louise and a firm, active father to his two sons, Robert and Glen.