Sunday, April 01, 2012

Remember EDS? Perot Systems? Eagles don't flock!


It’s interesting to check up on what happened to old “nemesis” competitor systems and employers.
Remember the truism, “Eagles don’t flock, you have to find them one at a time”.

That used to be a favorite proverb of H. Ross Perot (independent presidential candidate in 1992), when he founded Electronic Data Systems in Dallas, sometime around 1962, basing his sales and technical force on ex military officers.  At one time it was located in Exchange Park near Love Field (at the end of the Oak Lawn neighborhood) of Dallas, TX; then it moved to a “palace” on Forest Lane, and then moved again to Plano. It made its mark by taking over IT departments of companies, especially Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans. Around 1979-1980, its presence (and takeover of the Texas plan) disrupted the political resolve of the consortium of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans that had been trying to develop a Combined Medicare Project, since the Texas plan had been one of the original sponsors.  (“They’re going to run to EDS as fast as they’re little legs will take them.)

Around 1968 or so, Datamation published an article “Turnkey to Profits” about EDS, which in those days had become notorious for its militant attitude about employees (since it depended on military officers for people, in those draft-driven days).  EDS was best known for its dress code, which insisted on formal dark suits, white shirts, and coats being kept on at work – because customers “didn’t understand computers”.  I actually saw one of its memos dating to 1972 that my boss at Bradford had kept (when I was working for Bradford in NYC in 1977).  Of course, IBM may have originated the prudish dress code, in the 1950s requiring men to wear over-the-calf stockings and garters.  EDS’s literature was sexist by today’s standards, talking about “men” as professionals.  In 1969, as I started my own first-job search before getting out of the Army (Feb. 1970), I got (out of morbid curiosity) it’s job application form, which had columns for “you” and “your wife” (rebuttable presumption, anyone?) and asked, with bald-face, “How often do you attend church?”

I actually went to an EDS job fair in northern VA in 1989, while at Lewin, at a huge data center facility near Dulles Airport. I recall peeking at the cavernous operations center, and seeing "UCC7" (or was it "CA7"?) on a huge Jumbotron screen. 

Now Dulles is owned by Hewlitt-Packard, and there is actually a small bank called “Eagle Bank”, probably unaware of the way EDS had used the term.  

EDS had a long history of its own, belonging to General Motors for a while, and GM couldn’t get along with Perot.  Then Perot formed his own “Perot Systems”, a smaller but similar consulting company, which now belongs to Dell!

I seem to recall that Perot lived on "Strait Lane" in North Dallas, at least back in the 1980s.  

Turnabout is fair play. 

Second picture: 100 Church St in NYC, 2004, where Bradford Administrative Services (Bradford National Corporation, eventually acquired by McDonnell-Douglas) housed its New York State MMIS contract and operations in the late 1970s.  

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