Kanwal and Ann during Christmas of 1971 in California. Second Photo Ann’s brother Mark and Ann outside our Sunnyvale Apartment.
1971 started not so well. Economy was beginning to go sour as both Vietnam war and NASA’a Apollo space program were starting to wind down. War spending without an increase in taxes had caused big inflation. For the very first and also the verylast time, a peace time wage and price freeze was imposed in America. Strange because it was done by President Nixon, a Republican. South Florida was especially devastated when NASA awarded Space Shuttle contract to Rockwell in Southern California, rather than to Pratt Whitney in South Florida. The South Florida economy was built around NASA spending. Real estate prices in Florida plummeted by almost 50%!
Ann and I got married in March of 1971. As I was preparing for the day, I got my draft notice in January 1971. It came as a bolt from the blue. I sweated being drafted and sent to Vietnam so I decided to to enlist in Navy or Air Force; neither of them would take me. I decided to fight it by declaring myself to be a Conscientious Objector. A very strange claim by a Sikh but I was determined to not let the Army send me to Vietnam. 50,000 draftees a month were being sent to Vietnam then. Eventually and luckily, I got a medical deferment. Ann also got the hardship discharge from the Air Force because closest Air Force Base at Homestead, south of Miami, was more than 50 miles away from West Palm Beach.
Having been laid off second time in my life by SEL, by a smallish company, I decided to hunker down by joining a large company. I went to work for RCA Computer Systems in West Palm Beach. RCA was a big conglomerate. It owned RCA television manufacturing, NBC TV and Radio, Hertz Rent-a-Car, Banquet Foods and many other companies. I thought it would be a more stable situation for me and Ann.
My job at RCA Computer Systems was great. We rented at a beautiful cottage on the beach at Palm Beach Shores and started our life together. Life could not be better for us.
On September 17, 1971 while watching the NBC Evening News I heard that RCA had decided to pull out of computer business. RCA’s was competing with IBM, selling compatible mainframes machines. Its strategy of “10% better for 10% less” was undone when IBM announced its 370 series to replace its 360 series. 370 machines were 40% better for the same price. This resulted in another bolt from the blue, my third lay-off in less than two years. It could not have come at a worst time as my savings had been totally depleted. RCA was generous in its separation benefits though. It provided us 3 months of salary and set up an office to help us get jobs. I scrambled to find a job but they were hard to come by. I eventually got two job offers: one in Southern California with Scientific Data Systems ( Later Xerox Data Systems) and the other with Singer Link in Sunnyvale in Northern California. I accepted the one in Sunnyvale. Santa Clara Valley was home to the newly emerging Semiconductor industry, where companies like Intel, National and AMD were new start-ups. Singer Link was an established player, providing flight simulators to Air Force, Navy and to the commercial airlines. It was a division of Singer Sewing Machines.
I and Ann got our old Chevy ready for a cross country drive. All our possessions fitted nicely in the trunk of that Chevy. On our way, we stopped for a day at newly opened Disney World in Orlando but were in hurry to get to California and start my new job. We arrived in Sunnyvale on November 28, 1971. I started my new job the very next day.
A few days later, Ann’s brother got posted at Alameda Naval Air Station near Oakland, which was only about 40 miles from Sunnyvale. It was great to have Mark join our life. While I settled in to my fourth job, I tried to figure out why did I get laid off so frequently? Was it me or just a bad luck? None of my friends was laid off.
Stanford and UC Berkeley are among the top 10 universities in the world. They are both in the Bay Area about 40 miles apart. But they are a world apart in their worldview. Stanford is a private University focused on excellence. Berkeley is much more focused on social justice.
Stanford churns out start-ups at a rapid pace. Google, Yahoo, Sun Microsystem, Cisco are a few of thousands Stanford start-ups. I can’t think of one of the top of my head as a Berkeley start-ups, though I am sure there are many out there.
I have been engaged with both of them for last 20 years, more so with Stanford than Berkeley. India’s telecom liberalization policy was forged at Stanford. Stanford runs an India Economic seminar every year. Berkeley is much more focused on cultural and political aspects of India.
Yesterday, Marc h 11th, I was at SIEPR’s annual economic summit at Stanford. It attracts top economists from all over. It had Larry Summers and Greg Manqiw of Harvard in attendance yesterday. They both have been the heads Council of Economic Advisers at the White House in a Democratic and Republican administrations. It also had Raj Chetty an up and coming economist of Stanford and formerly of Harvard. It was a delight to listen to arguments about the income inequality and its potential causes. Both left and right views were given an equal time.
Today, I was at Berkeley for a seminar titled “India under Modi”. I was a part of the panel on Digital Governance. I consider myself as a centrist with respect to BJP and Congress. May be not quite equidistant but I am distant from both parties. My observations that India a lot less corrupt now that it was when I was growing up and most of the petty corruption that one used to face on daily basis is mostly gone cam under instant barrage of attack. Most people had the dark (or darker) view of the technology. Digital technology under BJP is being used for nothing but nefarious purpose! Congress had a more benign view. I did not get to attend any other session but if my session is any indication, mind of the most people was made up before any debate.
Very interesting and stark contrast. Makes life very enjoyable in the Bay Area.