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Data & Voice Networks


Ancel Hankins became Proj Manager, Data Engineering in 1978. He came from DCC (Data Communications Corp) in Memphis where I worked. He soon hired Terry Cox.

When Ancel arrived, they were just starting to migrate to higher speed lines. Modems and communications equipment was under raised floor. Anytime there was a problem, you just called the phone company who would scrounge around under the floor till they found the correct modem and line to test.

Network Control consisted of two people. Vernitta Rogers and one other.

Ancel rented some time on the Burroughs 6700 at DCC and we ran some of the same network models we had there. This provided an evolution plan for the circuits to all the stations. He then built a Datacom test facility and brought the phone lines and modems out from under the floor. He installed analog and digital patch panels, oscilliscopes and a data scope so the circuits could be monitored and problems diagnosed before calling the telco repair people.

By the time I arrived in February 1980, there was now a large Network control department headed by Ray Peek, who had come from Cook. Ancel had 3 employees(Terry Cox, Dick Winter, and Greg Woychik).

Network Org as of 1980

Ancel Hankins

When I went to work at Fedex, Charlie Brandon was one of seven or eight vice presidents. He was in charge of all data processing, programming and telecommunications. Larry Lake was the recently hired Manager of Telecommunications. Reporting to Larry was Jim Moore – radio, Jack Cockrill – telephones, Vernitta – data comm operations, and me – data communications.

Gary(Ragsdale) joined us later. We were all supervisors with no people and started building staff right away. They had a dual processor Burroughs B6700 with daisy chained Burroughs terminals locally distributed throughout the hangar area and Incoterm controllers serving customer service. Communications to city stations was via IBM 3767 teleprinter terminals. There were about 5 circuits with 20+ terminals on each. They were homed into a concentrator in Memphis that was tied to Continental Airlines' message switching system in California. The telephone system was a Bell provided switch.

The plan was to expand the Burroughs system to develop new applications, including a customer service system. A small IBM would be obtained to run some off the shelf administrative systems. Charlie met with the Burroughs CEO to finalize the details. The CEO at the time was known for keeping his customers “reluctantly loyal”. There was not enough deference to Charlie and Fedex, so all Burroughs service was terminated at the end of the existing lease. So there was less than six months to get replacement systems and applications in place, including a replacement for the in house customer service application.

Negotiations were already underway with Cook Industries for some of their assets. Fedex wound up buying out Cook Industries' DP center and systems in Clark Tower, including their place in line to get the new large mainframe IBM. Many Cook employees came over as part of the deal, with their original Cook hire date as their Fedex hire date. Eddy Honeycutt had a start date before Fedex came to Memphis.

Howard Bedford, the Wizard of Avis, and his crew were hired to develop the new customer service application using ACP (Airline Control Program) on IBM. My understanding is that they would not come to Memphis, so part of that deal was to create a new development center in Colorado Springs. ACP was used for very high transaction rates such as hotels, airlines, car rentals, etc. It was a highly specialized system with few experienced programmers.

The big problem was there would be about a 6 to 12 month gap between the end of the Burroughs lease and the planned completion of the new customer service system. Kathy Crockett was tasked with coming up with an interim solution. She contracted with a minicomputer based data entry company to develop a system. When the software was ready to test, I set up an in house network for them. When I understood the architecture and operational requirements, I told Kathy it would never work. I advised her to keep good notes on any problems encountered as they continued development. She later told me her notes saved them when the project failed and the contract was canceled.

Now she had no solution and only about 3 months to find one. Putting on her diplomatic hat, she and Howard negotiated a stripped down version of the ACP  system with essential functions that could be ready in the time frame required. I believe the Burroughs contract had to be extended for a while, but the system came up and mostly worked.

Jim Barksdale ran Cook’s DP center. He stayed with Cook in their reduced business role. Some time later, he joined Fedex as VP reporting to Charlie Brandon and with Larry Lake and Bob Kramer reporting to him as Directors. John Schwarzmann joined us later.




Jim Moore Memories

 (Call Center Cutovers) I remember all the Burroughs and the call center with the big lazy Susan, not sure where it was, not airport hangars, anyway, I went to EWR during the cut over just in case, there was a big physical switch or patch panel to cut back if we had to,,, but it all worked well, and for the first time, a great deal of calm came to the call area,, then dispatch was the obvious next “out of control” area and I knew we had to do something about that,, the rest is our history..  

(Concerning how Charlie Brandon met FWS) Actually, I know Charlie knew Fred before FedEx started. But I don’t doubt that at some point they did meet and Fred engaged Charlie in the very beginning.

Fred would come to Memphis with a prospective Saber Liner client and sometimes before heading back to Little Rock he would come by the Tape Plant, that Robert Williams and I ran, called Plastic Products, where we were making tape masters and creating 8Tracks and the new Cassette pre-recorded tapes, this all before my being drafted and sent to Nam.  Charlie would come by and we’d work on stuff for John Fry’s Ardent Recording Studio, or the startup of TGI Friday’s and Lafayette’s Music Room at Overton Square, (Frank Doggerel, Ben Woodson, Charlie Hull, all acquaintances of Charlie and Fred and John Fry (Ardent),,, This crowd all came from deep pocket families and knew each other, I touched these guys for one thing or another they were all different, and all very interesting. But Fred was unique, he was driven, you could tell, whatever he was doing, he meant business. ,,,, Ardent was a second job, after Nam of course, around 74.

FedEx History: Interviews with Jim Moore

Part 1 - FWS concept of FedEx, early stations, Call centers & DADS
Part 2 - Designing the first Call Center, Re-designing Dispatch, first use of wireless for Scan data transmission for Cosmos IIb
Part 3 - Growth & Pkg Volumes Part 4 - Jim Moore --- Epilogue

Some comments on Jim Moore memories:

Printers in Vans: Jim commented that originally management wanted printers in the vans versus a display terminal. I am sure this was so dispatches could print in the van for the courier. This idea kept re-popping up from time to time.
Scanners in Vans: At one point in the 1990's we researched and tested scanners in the vans as part of the FedEx desire to digitize the airbills and transmit origin scan data as quickly as possible to COSMOS. We looked at several scanners to do this, all which would have mechanical issues.
GPS in Vans: When couriers were delivering packages to customers, Dispatch knew approximately where each courier was located due to info from the DADS terminal itself. In the 1980's and 90's FWS kept pushing for ways to get all pick up data into the Systems to pre-plan nightly launches, and pre-plan delivery routes at the destination stations. GPS was $500 each to begin with but prices greatly came down in the early 2000's. By that time the PowerPad project consolidated both the Supertracker and DADS programs.
ZAPMAIL: When I first started I was told that DADS was meant for the top 30 cities, and other cities as the volumes increased. Phase I of Zapmail required the couriers to pickup a document and get it back to the station within an hour to allow for time to deliver the fax on the destination side. This required all mobile couriers to have DADS and Jim's group rapidly rolled it out to eventually 385 stations.
Radio Licenses: The foresight and intiative of Jim Moore, Richard Dunn, Nathan Lemmon and the rest of the Radio Group to procure and deploy 800+ licenses, towers and systems was a great asset to FedEx. By the time Jim's group had access to all of these licenses and locations, the FCC greatly restricted private access for these radio channels. Our competition was only able to deploy a few private locations, and eventually tried private data systems with Motorola which proved too expensive and later cellular systems for short calls every 30 minutes.
Repair: Jim also set up a repair shop to maintain all the radios, DADS terminals and other Telecom equipment. He also got together a group of young guys who spent most all of their time travelling city to city, installing equipment. This group of young guys eventually formed a company now called Cetacea Sound in Memphis.


The Winn Network Era

Larry Lake was the Director of Telecom. Reporting to him was the organization listed above.

Sometime around 1983, Larry left the company opening up this position. Winn, who was a manager over communications software in Computer Operations won the job.

Winn had worked at Cook,and had left with many others as that company tettered on bankruptcy. He took a manager position after the 40 Cook people came over with the IBM systems.

Between 1983 till his retirement around 2004, Winn ran the Telecom department except for a couple years when he was the CIO/COO of Caliber Technoligies.

I worked for Winn for 15 of my 28 years at FedEX.

Under Ron Ponder, Dennis Jones and Rob Carter many developments were completed as Winn's responsiblities evolved to not only Telecom, but Publishing, training, Powership software development, data security,scanning, hardware development and eventually all the technology architecture and support at FedEX.

Although this was initially a Telcom group, it expanded to many other facets including, which were all under Winn:

Rollout of DADS to 385 locations Jim Moore & team
Dev of 1st Cust Service Workstation JimmyBurk, Miley Ainsworth, David Pike & teams
PowerShip development Jim Thannum
PowerShip III -small desktop automation device JimmyBurk, MileyAinsworth & teams
SuperTracker Plus-design of new mem board JimmyBurk, Bruce Lindow & team
EST-65,000 inhouse desgined tracker w/laser and infrared communications JimmyBurk, Bruce Lindow & team
Evol of Network to Backbone multiplex net N.E.T Jim Moore, Roy Beard, Denise Wood & team
Evol of Network to Packet Net JimmyBurk, Dale Browning & team
Evol of Network to Router based Network JimmyBurk, Dale Browning & team
New DADS -in house design of 45,000 new terminals JimmyBurk, Bruce Lindow & team
Interface of DADS to SuperTracker for scans Jim Moore
MSDS-new imaging, scanning and dimming devices JimmyBurk, Brett Bonner, Mark Thomas, Jim Turpin & teams
Purple Lites-design of new letter sorting equipment JimmyBurk, Brett Bonner, Mark Thomas & teams

Winn oversaw most all Telecom projects in the 1980's, 90' till his retirement in 200x, except those assocated with Zapmail & associated Satellite systems.

Winn also championed the development of the follow-on SuperTracker which resulted in 65,000 new handheld mobile devices call PowerPads, used by the courier work force.

Engineering(Design & Development)

This following section is mostly about design of hardware in the last half of the 1980's till around 1995. The Telecom department under Winn had expanded outside the normal voice, data and radio projects to one involving hardware and software development. Communications software under Les Wilcox was re-org'd to Winn as was Powership software development.

I was promoted to Managing Director of Network Engineering around 1988 by Winn. This department included voice, radio, dads, and data networking.

Bruce Lindow was Sr Manager of Dads and Engineering. Bruce had come from NASA in the mid 80's to work on Satellite Systems.

The following hardware was designed in Telecom in the late 80's to mid 90's.

Approx Date Project
  Development of new DADS in Truck terminal; over 50,000 units built
  Design & development of flash memory board for SuperTracker(62,000 units built)
  Design & development of Enhanced SuperTracker (62,000 units built)

SuperTracker development

Somewhere around 1986 Harry Dalton's department had coordinated the rollout of over 40,000 SuperTrackers and related support hardware. With this rollout, FedEX couriers could scan packages on pickup, and scan packages on delivery plus type in the name of the person receiving the packages.

This increased FedEx's positive control of each package. Customer Service agents could now have information about the package whenever the customer called. Also, any exception information was entered by the courier.

As with all mass rollouts there were operations issues. There were increasing hardware failures and failure of the SuperTrackers with their battery life. Several options were being investigated including putting chargers in the vans to refresh the batteries between stops. In some cases batteries had even melted.

New Task Force

Winn asked me to put together a task force to find root causes and fixes for the repair and battery issues.

A lot of intensive work was done by Bruce's department, the repair department and software groups to isolate problems.

Bruce found that the major cause of the battery issues were over-charging and not charging correctly. His department developed battery hospitals and methods to correctly drain and charge the batteries.

This task force won a Silver Quality Award for their efforts.

With new knowledge about the Supertracker, Bruce's department came up with 50 new hardware fixes for the SuperTrackers which improved reliability.

A few years later, when there was no more memory for software available in the device, Bruce himself designed a new flash memory board at home. This gave about 6 more years of life for these devices and greatly sped up performance.

With increased knowlege of the internal workings of the SuperTracker, Bruce's department later re-designed the SuperTracker, adding more memory, laser scanning, Infrared communications and other enhancements. This project was called Enhanced SuperTracker or EST.

Sotware for the Enhanced SuperTracker was under Rob Carter & MD Gene Farrar. It was initially intended also as a conversion from FORTH language to "C" but timeframe didn't allow this. MD JP Sarkis was assigned to oversee developing the conversion using FORTH for the new device.



1990 SuperTracker Quality Team

Here is a photo of Quality Action Team of 1990 to improve the SuperTracker reliability and Operations.

CIO Ron Ponder asked Winn Stephenson to form a team to address the issues.

The team was very successful and received the Silver Quality Award.


AT&T History (funny video)

While this video is not directly related to FedEx, it will be interesting to my co-workers from the Telecom Department.

Hundreds of co-workers have served in the Telecom Dept at FedEx. This first director I know, was Larry Lake, who left after a few years to work at Am Express. Winn Stephenson took reigns and except for a few years, ran the departemnt as it expanded into many other areas, including Comm Software, Automation, training, hardware & scanning development and numerous other disciplines.

AT&T and Bellsouth were our primary networking partners, with Northern Telecom, Cisco and Rockwell providing much of the data and voice equipment.


David Pike








The 18 years of work experience at FEDEX was fun and exciting. We worked on
some really cutting edge technology. Of course, you do not realize this until
you go to work at another organization. What was cutting edge technology then
is now standard offerings or now obsolete.

I remember the first time the Corporate Technology Complex (CTC) was opened with
the call center and the rather large C-band satellite we called the white
elephant. Satellite voice was popular because of the cost for AT&T (monopoly)
services. We had serious technical issues with echo cancellation and delays due
to the 22,500 miles transmission up/down. We were able to align and balance the
signal strength to manage the quality of the service. Now days the cost of
fiber and Internet is so cheap that satellite voice is now obsolete except for
TV in remote locations. Those were the good ole days.

It is hard to believe that I have been in Ohio for almost 18 years. I have
worked at NCR, Nationwide Insurance and The Ohio State University. I guess Ohio
is my current mailing address, but my roots are still in Memphis. Time flys by
when you are having fun.