Rotational Energy at Work

I started working at Rational during the tail end of their phasing out custom hardware. They still had a hardware guy on staff to support their existing units. I think his name was Gerry. (I wish I could remember his full name) He was well and truly a demigod of hardware; he could build anything from the parts in the lab. My experience with Gerry was that he was the prototypical engineer, a no-nonsense kind of guy. So, when he told me a story, I believed it.

One day, while kibbitzing, Gerry related a disk platter story. At the time he was working for a place that made disk drives. But this was back in the day, so the platters were huge and everything was hand-assembled. They had a device like turbo-charged phonograph in their lab; I think it was for testing the platters. After putting a platter on the spindle, this device would spin the platter to high RPMs. Sure enough something happened one day (I'm not sure if it was mechanical or cerebral failure) and one of the platters began sliding up the spindle while at speed. Gerry said that they all knew what would happen the moment the platter touching anything stable and went running for the doors, only to return after the platter had expended its energy on their lab.

I have heard variations of this story over the years that sound pretty apocryphal. Generally, I would assume Gerry's tale to be one of those. But he was such a straight-shooter that I can't see him telling a tall one. And, since he'd been in the Bay since Day One, it's quite possible that his experience is the basis for some of those apocryphal stories. I don't know.

But it's a good story.


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