Anecdotes of my working life

At the beginning stands an episode of my early years in High School:

We should learn the construction of an external tangent to two circles, a series of completely abstract construction steps. Teachers often have no understanding what they are doing to pupils by this instead of teaching associations for already well-known points and thus offer successful learning experiences.

Some years later I encountered this construction again and thanks to in the meantime better developed technical sense, it was immediately clear to me:

(1) That's only a parallel displaced construction of tangent to a circle and that I can do since I know that

(2) the tangent is a perpendicular (normal) line to the contacting radius (or cord going through the mid-point of the circle) and because I know, that

(3) a triangle whose apex runs along a semi-circle, always has a right angle.

Only by the logic association of these three theorems known to me I am able to construct this and internal tangents too, today after 45 years spontaneously, without having had any practice.

My memory was never my strength, but I could rely on my "technical feeling" and my knowledge of details predominantly was placed in one book, "Das Grundwissen des Ingenieurs" (The Basic Knowledge of Engineers), which I bought around 1960 in Dresden. That book has accompanied me over the years, in the study of electrical engineering, and my whole working life.

But also good East German books have mutated over the years from an easy to understand guideline for practitioners into academic mystery books, whose seven seals I was not able to break sometimes any more.

Some years ago, a young colleague found my old book so good that he procured one for himself - second-hand - nearly 45 years old.

As an electrical engineer of the pre-semiconductor era, I began in an automobile company and was surprised how often I had to support the machine-builders with the theory of strength.

That time I was given the task to examine the effects of bending swingings of crankshafts. I remembered once to have heard something of magnetic rotary fields of electrical machines, with the core statement: "Two circular rotary fields of different amplitude and opposite direction of rotation result in an elliptical rotary field."

This approach and because (2 or more) alternating fields result in a magnetic rotary field, as well as the appropriate formulas of trigonometric functions from the book "Mathematische Formelsammlung" (Collection of Mathematical Formulas) - likewise from Dresden - made the solution possible for me.

My boss at that time, Mr. St., pointed out before a large circle of colleagues regarding preceding efforts: "There were professors with us who wrote complicated formulas on the wall and no one understood a thing." My remark to that, "I only had considered it briefly, and then it had been clear", suddenly caused loud laughter among the group.

The substance of my study is still today in only one file, including a sheet of my 1963 lecture on alternating and rotary fields. With the "academic" formulas on it I am today like my boss at that time, but with the approach in my head and the book in my hand I could still program that today!

This time at the end of the 60's and beginning of the 70's, I transitioned into the data processing field, in order to evaluate such things. In no one of the languages used in the following decades except FORTRAN I was able to program freely from my head. Increasingly I worked with "Copy and Paste".

I don't want to forget to mention my favorite language, "APL", which accompanied me for two decades and from which I was separated by force in 1994.

A lot of years I lived on the Robinson Crusoe island of "APL" in a host archipelago and departed from "real" technology, in order to develop and manage "mwsys", a multi-user, multi-tasking data bank system for stock management, which included parts lists in unlimited depth, automated ordering, production planning and controlling.

At the beginning of the restructuring "tsunamis", which struck me like Odysseus on the wild shore of the PCs, my boss, Mr. Fl., asked me after 27 years if I knew of another interesting activity in the company, which I could take over.

A colleague who had been washed away earlier, Mr. Ma., had offered me the preliminary development of vehicle electrical systems, about which I understood naturally nothing, but for which I nevertheless thanked him and assumed. The following years were sometimes very difficult in-plant, but amazing in terms of external contacts.

Because my boss in this new task, Dr. Br., possibly did not want to travel there, in 1994 I was sent to Massachusetts Institute for Technology in Boston, to observe alternative electrical systems in a small illustrious team. When we struck, I disputed against the resistance of prominent people as Dr. Bu. for the logical nomenclature 3 x 14V = 42V .

With my explanation exactly of this coherence, I found my name introduced into the "world literature", on the title page of the Hansen-Report ( from April 1998:

Dieter Blauensteiner .... explained that the present voltage is not really 12 volts: "The nominal voltage in today's vehicle is around 14 volts [voltage while your engine is running] - that's also the nominal voltage of the alternator, and 14 times three is 42".

The Hansen Report from New Hampshire is read world-wide, even though only by a limited number of "persons selected".

Dr. Br. also wanted me to set up electrical system simulation by means of Accusim with MIT what actually means with an MIT student , only because the tool was already in-house. My contribution in this was developing the non-electric algorithms. I put up the tests in EXCEL and soon completed these by electrical approaches. Even if with EXCEL no Kirchhoff rules can be solved, I could nevertheless regard a certain measure of feedback. I called this 6MB EXCEL program swiftsim - "swift", because a new calculation took only seconds.

Except for my colleague Dr. Sch. hardly any one wanted to know something of this working aid. And Accusim failed in the long run, because it could not work on mixed systems and to imitate mechanics by electrical circuits is nonsense.

The continuous tsunamis washed the bosses hither and yon. The next, Mr. Ka., was not very much interested in 42V at the beginning, but when it looked as it would come up he decided to take part in the "MIT-Consortium" meetings instead of mine :–((  , who should become a battery specialist now.

Some years later no one wanted to take on the expense for conversion to 42 volts anymore.

But before that, partly as a parting gift, Mr. Ka. asked Dr. Ri. to procure the simulation tool Saber, which I could not see much more than a child's play at that time.

The high-level personnel could not be persuaded from the mistaken belief that the purchase of an expensive tool would solve the tasks! Quite the opposite, with such a tool the expenditure is enormous for some years.

The next boss was now again Dr. Br., who thought that I should have to know something of Saber now. The formalisms of this tool remained to a large extent strange to me, but with "Copy and Paste" and my rumored disposition toward perfectionism and the art to restrict to the essential and thus simplify to a warrantable amount I worked on logical contents until new solutions came out.

All non-electric algorithms for models I could get problem-free using my old EXCEL sheet. I was not pleased by the currently available battery models also because of their costs. But I successfully set up a battery model by myself which was even more suitable to the application.

The last restructuring which I was allowed to live to see, presented me three new bosses in the hierarchical order. Since because of a hiring freeze my successor has to be got from the fund, no one remained who could comment on the difference between network approach and signal flow approach (Conserved versus Non-Conserved).

As it is with prophets in their own land, so I was asked only by "foreign" specialists to report on simulation. Internally, one could count the crowd of my "followers" easily on one hand.

All my warnings and the offered references such as Dr. Schwarz, Fraunhofer Dresden or Bausch-Gall as well as other specialists were ignored.

With such rapid changes in lower and middle management, no one feels responsible anymore. Nobody has to lie on the bed as he made it and the successors make a clean sweep with strange broom. Such a system ensures that there is in fact no lasting responsibility.

Lectures - I have experienced many in which slides filled with writing were thrown onto the wall and the lectures explained something else. Should I read fast or listen, both isn't really possible - where were the important statements hidden?

While not deaf, I often had difficulty hearing quick and indistinct speech and separating important auditory signals from background noise, holding onto the hidden bits of important information and keeping my concentration focused.

I often could not follow such lectures, and I wanted to make better ones. In addition, my bad memory came. How could I guarantee to not lose my train of thought?

Thus I provided PowerPoint presentations, each important statement appearing individually and successively by mouse-click. I knew thereby exactly what I had to say, the listeners did not experience stress, and had the chance to read what they had perhaps not understood acoustically and I could speak casually - slowly, loudly and clearly enough!

These presentations and my external contacts sweetened the last years before my intended retirement. The Sonthofen MUG in October 2003 (Mentor Graphics User Group Conference) will remain unforgettable for me particularly for the side entertainment.

My last "grand entrance" I was allowed to experience in the Fraunhoferinstitut Department for Modeling and Simulation in Dresden.

I would like to emphatically thank my simulation colleagues of VDA/FAT AK30 "Simulation of Mixed Systems means VHDL-AMS" for the fabulous cooperation in my last years.

These colleagues gave me a parting gift of tickets to the Theaterkahn in Dresden. Thus Dresden became the Alpha and the Omega in my vocational career development, the beginning = book and the end = Theaterkahn.