Martin Luther

Commenting on Scientology, Inside and Outside the Church

Information Technology, Part 1

This is the beginning of a series I wanted to do on org boards, IT (Information Technology) and INCOMM. If you’re not interested in any of these topics just skip posts with this title. These posts will be pretty much “inside baseball”, meaning that they have limited appeal, and then only for those who are especially knowledgeable in certain areas.

Some definitions first.

Information Technology (IT)
Anything related to processing of data in a computer context. Could pertain to hardware, software, networks or whatever. But it involves the input, shifting, moving, computation, or output of data on a computerized basis.
INCOMM
That arm of Church of Scientology management which had/has exclusive control over computers and the data in them at the management (and possibly local Org) level.
Operating System (OS)
That part of the software (programs) of a computer which deals directly with the hardware (disk drives, memory, printers, displays, etc.). For example, a key press at a keyboard would be transmitted to the OS, which would then send commands to the terminal display to print that character and move the cursor one space to the right. Anything which affects the hardware of a computer ultimately does so via a path which goes through the OS. Other programs function by sending commands to the OS.
Time Slicing
The process of having a computer do multiple jobs at once by “slicing” up the time of the computer to handle a part of each job during an interval. So the computer might take a “slice” of computer time to send a line to the printer, then print a message to a terminal screen, then compute some real estate formulas, then back for another line to the printer. Each task would take up a “slice” of the computer’s overall “compute time”. Early computers did one full job at a time and then went on to the next full job. Then time slicing was invented to make more equitable use of expensive computer time. Modern OSes also engage in time slicing today, but no one calls it that these days.

I’m going to start this series with quotes from some letters I had back and forth with people at INCOMM back in the early 80s. Those of you old enough to remember back that far may be aware that INCOMM was inaugurated back in the late 1970s or early 1980s to produce a raft of programs which were predicted to be useful to management. This was very early in the PC (personal computer) revolution. At this time, there was no winner in the PC manufacture race, and in fact personal computers were relatively rare. The Internet was something shared only by universities and the federal government. Ron had the idea that computers were now at a level where they could actually be configured to do effective work in the name of the organization. But a typically corporate computer setup was one where a minicomputer (smaller than a mainframe, but bigger than what would eventually be a PC) would be hooked up to “dumb terminals”. The terminals had virtually no computing power, that being vested in the minicomputer. At that time the OSes “time-sliced” to get tasks done. Undoubtedly, the first computers at INCOMM were minis, and it’s likely they would have used time slicing.

The quotes from staff at INCOMM were in response to questions I had sent them. I will not name names, but I may indicate positions they occupied on the org board. These quotes give insights into the internal structure and activities of INCOMM. I have no other specialized knowledge of INCOMM, other than some INCOMM promo put out at the time, and these letters.

In INCOMM, Qual as you know it IS in HCO. This is based on an advice. The Qual functions for staff in our Org become Dept 1A, the Department of Hatting and Enhancement. This department also has the Hats Section that is usually in Dept 1. I run this department. So HCO has 4 departments instead of three.

Div 5 in INCOMM is the “Quality Control Division”. This division examines the computer programs that are written to ensure that they work and are effective, and it examines the hardware systems to ensure that they are maintained standardly. All our products are piloted before implementation. When a pilot of a computer system is complete, it’s Qual that checks out the product for standardness, before it is implemented. Qual is responsible for the quality of the computer software and hardware systems.

In my department [Div 1A], I oversee the following functions:

  • Cramming
  • Word Clearing
  • Auditing
  • C/Sing
  • Training
  • Hatting
  • Hatting
  • Interneships
  • Medical Liaison
  • Library

The person writing that was a Class 9 auditor, for what it’s worth.

The next writer was the “Operations Secretary”, whatever that meant.

1) We do very EXTENSIVE programming.

3) We use a 16 bit microcomputer with Qume (ITT) terminals. (Actually many microcomputers.)
4) We use the computer manufacturers’ OS.
5) We have an eight Div org bd. With 3 tech divs [and] 1 qual div– the tech and qual related to computer technology. …
6) Yes, we service our own equipment.

I should stop here and note what some of the products of INCOMM were supposed to be. As mentioned above, there was a raft of programs which were supposed to be produced by INCOMM to assist management. There was a more-or-less full list of them put out in a piece of promo at the time, but the whole list isn’t really important. I will note here some of them I remember.

  • Mercury: This was an email program before email was really a “thing” on the Internet. Once implemented, staff at management level orgs were able to send “mercs” (email messages) to each other.
  • Target Nudge and Tally (TNT): To the best of my knowledge, this was a program which kept track of targets on programs and nagged staff when they weren’t done, among other things.
  • Red Arrow, Blue Arrow: I don’t recall, but I believe this program had something to do with stats.
  • Source Information Retrieval (SIR): This was the program to make any staff drool. All LRH issues in one place on the computer, and searchable.

Etc. Ultimately, INCOMM had programs which graphed stats and could give you a stat graph of any stat in any Org for any time period. I’ve see print-outs of stats which were four or five feet long and extending the whole length of an Org’s existence.

Now, I include these quotes out of letters from INCOMM personnel not because I have any brief for or against INCOMM. I include them because they say some significant things about how their org board was structured. And that’s a significant part of what I want to examine in this series.

The first thing I’ll say about INCOMM’s org board is that they probably didn’t train raw recruits in computer topics. I’m willing to bet that anyone who worked there and anyone they hired for technical positions already had some expertise in their chosen area of IT. This seems pretty obvious from the fact that the normal three departments of Qual were crammed into one department in Div 1 (HCO). I’m also willing to bet that recruiting was not a top priority for this Org, the way is was for Class IV (or V) Orgs.

Next, three Tech divs. One of the writers above said that after a program was piloted, it was sent to Quality Control (Div 5) to check for “standardness” whatever that means in this context. This means that piloting was done in Tech. If I had to guess, I would say that the three Tech divisions were divided up as: Div 4A, hardware; Div 4B, software (programming and such); Div 4C, pilots.

In a Class IV/V Org, you were building everything from scratch. Not only did you have to audit the PCs, but you had to train the auditors who audited them. Thus, you have a single Tech div with Dept 10 being Technical Services (support), Dept 11 being Training, and Dept 12 being the HGC, where auditing took place. But here in INCOMM, that wasn’t the case. You were purchasing the computers from a manufacturer, servicing them yourself (one whole division for all that). You were writing the software (definitely a whole division for that). And then you were piloting (this is actually a massive activity if done as it should be), making a whole division for that. After all that, on to Quality Control (Div 5).

What Quality Control was doing with this, I can’t say. They were checking for “standardness”, but there’s no way to know what that was. Implementation might well have been the province of Div 6. Makes sense– Div 6 in a Class IV/V Org being known as the “Distribution Division”. It’s certain this would not have been Quality Control’s job. The awareness characteristics for an Org’s Div 5 were “validity”, “enhancement” and “correction”. Validity in INCOMM may have been how closely a program was to its original design specs. Enhancement might have had something to do with new features. Correction might have had to do with bug fixes. Software production is more or less divided into four areas: Design and Specification, original software programming, fixing bugs and adding features. And in the case of software, one might also include a point about rebuilding for different hardware and other, newer languages. For languages, a program originally written, for example, in COBOL, might later be rewritten in C (a likely successor to COBOL for non-scientific applications).

In any case, that’s it for now. Just some quotes and some speculation involving what we don’t know about INCOMM’s internal structure. If you know more than I do about any of this, please comment and let me know.

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