CAE retiree, Mehr Kapadia, has published an important memoir covering his lifelong career in engineering. Entitled An Old Engineer Remembers, Mehr describes the book understatedly as “a short history of what early real-time computer control systems and electronic systems engineering were like”. This is a serious “must read” book for anyone with a professional connection to these themes, who’s in the overall business world, getting into engineering as a young person, or simply interested in “what goes on” in an industry that touches our lives every instant of the day. Who wouldn’t be interested, right?
Mehr outlines his younger days leading to his first job as a junior software man at English Electric in the UK, then covers subsequent jobs, such as automating underground processes at a mine in Arctic Norway. As his story unfolds, he illustrates how computers and software evolved, but also includes interesting anecdotes about all the travels to do with his work — what people are like in different corners of the world, all the great learning experiences as one travels hither to thither, etc.
Eventually, Mehr moves to Canada to begin a lifelong career with CAE. He describes much about how software-oriented projects are conceived, bid upon, then won or lost in the market place. He adds graphic descriptions of all sorts of projects, especially where computer control systems are paramount, such as controlling flight simulators, shipboard machinery and weapons control, machinery and electric power transmission for the great James Bay hydro project of the 1970s, the same for vast hydro systems in as China, the USA, Venezuela, global air traffic control systems, etc.
Mehr enjoyed CAE from Day 1, including such aspects as its international mindset, observing: “The easygoing internationalism is one of the nicest things about working in Canada … a company like CAE is too large to exist by solely relying on the Canadian market. It had to become truly international right from its early days, so an internationally flavoured staff was a big plus. We could always find someone to speak and understand almost all the major world languages and cultures.”
CANAV’s own Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story is already recognized as the benchmark for the company’s general history. However, what Mehr’s book does is explain things in depth vs my book’s sweeping view. So … these two books are nicely complementary. Anyone who already has The CAE Story will delight in Mehr’s book, mainly for its detailed explanations and opinions about such leading edge projects as how, with CAE as prime contractor, Ontario Hydro computer-automated its great nuclear power plants of the 1970s, how the Canadian Forces did likewise with its fleet of new “City Class” patrol frigates, or how Transport Canada automated air traffic control from BC to Newfoundland. While The CAE Story has something to say about such topics as flight simulator visual systems, Mehr’s book drills down into that and such other special CAE topics as computers – how they have evolved, which types suit particular projects, etc.
An Old Engineer Remembers is necessary reading for anyone with an interest in what CAE has achieved over its seven decades. Any employee or retiree really needs a copy … point finale! Certainly, every present executive and CAE board members must read this book. Without doing so, their education “will be sadly lacking”, as one of my old-time high school teachers used to say. The book’s also highly recommended for students beginning any level of engineering studies, and for engineering department heads who should seriously consider it as obligatory course reading. Naturally, not all is “rosy” with Mehr’s coverage, for CAE does come in for its criticism, especially regarding management (e.g., decision’s badly made, or, CAE’s need “to continuously fight the bureaucratic tendency … to play safe”).
Get your copy of An Old Engineer Remembers here . This book is a few dollars very well spent and I had my copy delivered within a few days. Meanwhile, if you still don’t have your copy of Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story, here’s how to order:
CAE Prestige Club Gala
On Thursday, May 26, 2016 members of CAE’s Prestige Club held their grand annual dinner at the plant on Côte de Liesse in Montreal. Prestige Club members have put in 25 years with the company (I met one retiree with 42 years on the payroll).
Attending this year’s event, I was able to meet (for the first time in person, in several cases) many CAE people who had helped me complete a company history that was as authoritative as possible. Shaking hands with the likes of Byron Cavadias, Mike Cregan, Bob Duthie, George Morrow, Dave Tait, Bob Kemerer, Jack Shlien, Rolf Vissers and Les White was an amazing honour.
I’m still hearing from people in the know with their informed critiques of Aviation in Canada: The CAE Story. Lately, when Mehr Kapadia first got in touch, it was by way of his comments about the book. He comments:
Dear Larry … my congratulations. Your recent CAE history really is a great, well-researched book. I’ve found it most interesting going through the early history from long before I joined the company. You have to be complimented for the effort and care that you took.
We Canadians have a bad habit of not blowing our horn when we achieve something great. As I might have mentioned, I am of the opinion that CAE probably was the world’s best systems engineering company for many years. I think I can say that, as over the years I dealt with most of the best large US and UK engineering companies and I never came across any as good as us.