Tuesday, February 15, 2011

If you are reading this...

If you are reading this post, please know that the computer you are using (if it has a disk drive) contains technology pioneered by my father, William A Gross, while working at IBM/Morgan Hill in the 1950s. Dad was part of a 5 man "Tiger Team" charged with developing the theoretical and technical engineering which would come down to us as the "magnetic head" which is the heart of all disk drives. His seminal book, "Gas Film Lubrication" was published in 1962 and is still in print undergoing active revision and is an industry standard.

Dad left IBM and disk memory, and went to AMPEX where he was VP of research (magnetic tape), and was involved in such things as the development of cassette audio tapes, video, and portable video recording. it wasn't until 1984 when he was invited to speak on the topic of Tiger Teams at an IEEE meeting in San Diego, that he learned that his research had attained such profound practical application!

I was but a tot during dad's years at IBM; he commuted in a 1956 VW Bug (comes in any color, as long as it's grey), but by the 60s I was old enough to help Al Stahler with the first field test of the first portable video recorder, a 90 lb monster backpack carried while filming; the test was a Stanford university football game; "instant replay" from the field was born!

I went to university to study Geology, and one day in the early 1970s startled my dad with the revelation that fossil energy resources are finite, a problem which captivated his immagination; having lost his dear wife, Shirley to a rare liver disease, he was ready for something new; with his new wife Sharon, and a new outlook on life, they moved to Albuquerque New Mexico where he took the post of Dean of Engineering, where he invested his creative energy in alternative energy and entepreneural engineering, as well as putting his social conscience to work finding ways to bring minorities into the engineering profession, and helping to develop engineering programs in third world countries around the world.

Dad was raised Baptist, but his response to the horrors of WWII was to become a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), in which I was raised, and which he has remained active all his adult life. I don't think dad ever has understood how my becoming Catholic is a logical and rational thing to do based on the foundation he laid in my childhood; the boogy-man of Catholicism used to terrify him as a child he never really outgrew, but he did not oppose it, seeing it as something that filled an obscure need of mine, never grasping the nature of the relationship.

And so as William A Gross (Bill) spends his last days in hospice, I beg your prayers for him and his beloved Sherry, and I also thank God for the gifts which He gave me through his servant Bill. We all fall short of the glory of God, but this dear man taught me as a child an invaluable lesson while camping: "Always leave a place better than you found it." until last week I didn't really appreciate how this lesson from the campground shapes life in general, and relations with people in particular.

Thanks to Anita at V-ForVictory who put out the earlier call for prayers while I was in Phoenix and Albuquerque with dad. it was a tremendous gift to spend those days with both dad and Sherry. thank you for your prayers. And thanks for indulging a bit of memory lane wandering.


  1. I feel awed at being on your blog, Mark .. lol .. thanks, for the information re your dad. You speak of him with reverence and love.

  2. We will be praying for him! Sounds like an amazing man.

  3. As a computer geek, I salute your father.

    As a priest, I offer you my prayers for him and all the family at this difficult time.