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Frank Bush's Contributions to the Computing Profession

"Hello, I'm Frank Bush. Many of you may know me".

That was the opening of a guest lecture that Frank Bush gave to the Computer Science 410 class on February 15, 1984.

Yes, many of us may know something about Frank Bush but do all of us know the extent of Frank's contributions to the computing profession for the last 40 years?

Frank's speech to that Computer Science 410 class told some of his story and we want to expand on the career of Frank E. Bush, often known as FEB. Frank stated that he worked in the computer center as systems programming manager. But he did many other tasks besides systems programming; in fact, he rarely did systems programming. Rather, in his own words "he has been involved many years with systems planning, configurations, installations, a lot of administrative work, a lot of training, and a whole lot of trouble shooting."

Frank had a whiteboard in his office and during the complex project to migrate the campus email system to the Microsoft Exchange, he put a little sign up that said "Microsoft Exchange Server: Now Serving 919 mailboxes." The number grew as days and months passed. But what this sign really is saying to us is Frank E. Bush's devotion to serving and leading the campus into new eras of computing.

Frank's career at TTU spanned from 1965 as a student worker until 2008 as Systems Manager of Information Technology Services. For some 40 years, Frank has been a mentor and a colleague to many of us. We shared much.

Frank was part of the Computer Center at Tennessee Tech University as a student worker (1967-68), shift supervisor (1968-69), systems programmer/analyst (1969-72), systems analyst (1977-82), manager of systems (1982-2008). Frank left briefly to go work at Xerox from 1972 – 1977 as a Senior Systems Specialist and Field Engineer.

As a student worker, Frank did everything required from taking trash out to writing new programming systems on the IBM 1620 and 1710. At that time, the computer center supported Academic Computing alone, and that was mainly the College of Engineering. At this time the university had 2 computer centers with 2 computers and keypunch cards were the "user interface".

In 1969, the Administrative and Academic Computer Centers merged. Frank wrote a general ledger system for TTU in COBOL on the IBM 360/40. Also around this time, Frank graduated from TTU and spent 6 months on Active Duty at Aberdeen, Maryland. C. Jones was also there. So Frank and C. Jones wrote AMRMAINT for the TTU Records Office at Aberdeen and shipped the program back to TTU via the card deck.

When Frank returned to TTU from Aberdeen in 1970, the campus had a Xerox Sigma VI computer and he worked as a systems programmer. He also did analysis, design and programming of the TTU accounting system and the student information system. The Xerox mainframe system was very advanced in that it had 16 terminal ports and a 200 MB hard drive. Frank left to go work for Xerox Data Systems in Tulsa, Oklahoma for about 6 years.

Frank returned in 1977 to TTU. A Burroughs mainframe was being installed and Frank led the conversion to the Burroughs. During the 1980s the statewide network task force began the process of developing a new first-time telecommunications network for the TBR and UT systems. Jim Westmoreland was the chair of this important project. Frank was a key player in this pioneer effort serving in the technical implementation of this statewide network vision. This network would allow file transfers for the IA (administrative) systems between the TBR and the schools, interactive messages to be sent across the network, Gateway services so that BITNET could be accessible, the possibility of remote logins to other systems and exchange of library information. It should be mentioned here that this was a time before the Internet (BITNET was just starting up) and most did not have a personal computer in their office.

Also during the 1980s, significant improvements were made in the areas of administrative and academic computing. Along with this came the VAX/VMS systems and terminals all over campus to login to the academic and administrative VAX systems. Frank was again a pioneer in this area by learning VMS system administration early on. He conducted workshops around Tennessee teaching VMS system administration to the other systems people at other schools in the state. Frank also learned Unix during this time and installed the first Unix system on campus for the Computer Science Department.

Computing continued to evolve at Tennessee Tech and in the state and by the mid 1990s, personal computers were starting to pop up all over campus. The Internet became a reality. With these changes, other changes in the computer center were necessary. Instead of one to three mainframes serving the campus, all of a sudden servers were required to support specialized systems. The number of servers maintained by the systems group in the computer center grew exponentially during this time to as many as 60. This required the systems group with Frank at the helm to be positioned to deal with these challenges. Email became a reality for everyone on campus. The email servers went, in a period of 6 years, from accepting a few thousand emails a day with a few hundred spam and viruses per day to approx 400,000 incoming emails per day with 560,000 spam/viruses coming in.

Frank was also involved with DECUS (Digital Equipment Corporation User Group) and served as the tape librarian for DECUS. Many around the country knew Frank due to his service with this organization. Frank also served in leadership roles in the Fall Creek Falls statewide conference, The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and many other organizations. Frank taught courses at TTU both non-credit and credit. One of these "non credit" classes was IBM 360 assembly language. He also taught courses in COBOL and Fortran for the analysts and the customer engineers at Xerox/Honeywell.

No one can deny that Frank loved his profession and gave it his all to advance it. He saw rapid changes in the state of computing during his career. His varied experiences gave him wisdom and insight about this changing face of computing. On many occasions, if you asked Frank about something or a new development in technology or a related field (such as photography), he would show an article that he had just finished reading on it. Frank was serious at times, humorous at times, often a perfectionist, and many times Frank simply did not "suffer fools gladly". When he had things to do, he made it clear what his priorities were.

As you can see in this article, those who worked with him in the computer center or on campus, or knew him from many of the state computing organizations such as DECUS, ACM, Fall Creek Falls, and other training/conferences over the years, know that his influence will be felt for years to come and has affected many of us in a positive way. Frank's expectations of us were large, and we were anxious to live up to those expectations. He changed us with his devotion and brilliant intellect.

Frank's vision to embrace change and to look toward the future, made a real difference. Frank gave it his all. And, in closing, here is a comment from a colleague from another school:

"I sure had a lot of respect for Frank".

Yes, we did. We all had a lot of respect for Frank Bush.

- Compiled by: Richard Cashion, Chuck Wilson, Danny Reese, and Kay Hume


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