My First Oracle Position

The interview in the Pentagon went well on this snowy, January day in 1982. This position would be my fifth job in a little over four years. My secret clearance was little more than a building pass for the Pentagon. Top Secret and a compartmental clearance were in my future. The next six months were spent in an 8′ x 10′ room, door shut, no windows… a pencil and paper, post-it notes on the wall… learning SQL for the first time. No computer, not even a white-board… six months… waiting for a clearance. Self-taught with no time limit imposed. A book or two. No teacher.

Documentation for Oracle was rare since we’re talking about version two. Version one was the product produced for the CIA. The CIA contract was a $50,000 project that produced the first Oracle database. Now the Pentagon was paying millions for the next release to be created on a different platform.

Our office in the Pentagon was in the basement. The Pentagon is a five-sided building with five rings within, A thru E, when viewed from the top. Our office was between F and G, completely underground. There were several doors on our corridor that opened into piles of dirt. The Potomac River was not far beyond those doors. We were clearly outside the visual bounds of the building. There were few barriers around the parameter, as these were the days before we seriously worried about terrorists. The two concrete blocks that were outside to protect against something, I know not what since they were closer to the visible building than we were.

My interview was as much warning as it was a search for talent. I had very little talent. The decision to work in the defense industry was a big deal. This was not my first office in the Pentagon, nor would it be my last. It was the highest level clearance in my life. We joked that secret got you in the door, top secret allowed you to work, and the compartmental got you access to a coffee pot that wasn’t three-quarters of a mile away. Joked. I said, although, it was true.

Any security clearance requires secrecy be maintained, including long after the clearance is gone. Details being published in a newspaper is not declassifying the information. I respect that, but I still want to write. My accomplishments on this job are shown in the following paragraph:

“Duties included developing Oracle prototypes for the National Emergency Airborne Command Post (NEACP). Also developed a message handler system for AFSATCOM messages. Participated as programmer analyst on a message emulator to provide a prototype of AUTODIN and AFSATCOM message traffic. Developed a Submarine Location Display in FORTRAN using Oracle’s Host Language Interface (HLI, now OCI, or Oracle Call Interface).”

Those were only the accomplishments. Everyone’s got a story. I am not the exception.

I hope to tell a few of them here.

Update 7/22/2020 – Our RAC cluster has been up for 50 days now. That means that I have not been working on this site. There’s a new post today.