Multics
27 Feb 2017

ASEA Stories

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Ed Ranzenbach

Here are some personal stories from my time developing applications at ASEA in Västerås, Sweden in 1981-1983. Technical anecdotes are in the ASEA Site History.

The Land is Every Man's Right

First, Sweden is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I remember that when Gunnar Anderson turned 40, we all took sailing boats to one of the thousands of small islands off of Stockholm and invaded it for the weekend. The Swedes have this law that says that "the land is every man's right." This meant that you could pitch a tent on almost any piece of property, public or private, for up to three days and the land owner couldn't say anything. Charlie and I took advantage of this to explore the country.

The Honeywell House

This was a home for wayward Multicians. It was a large house that was leased by Honeywell Bull AB and served as temporary housing for all of us. I eventually moved into my own house but Jim, Charlie, Olin, and the rest of the gang lived in the Honeywell House.

Swedish Language Lessons

As a condition of our work visas we were required to take Swedish language lessons at night. The teacher was this beautiful young thing that was about 8 months pregnant. I remember Charlie and Simon started talking to her about when she was going to "sprog", an affectionate term for a youngling in the UK. They convinced her it was a verb for delivering her baby. Trying to speak Swedish was challenging because most Swedes take a few years of English in school and were anxious to practice. Charlie will tell you my Swedish was awful.

Don't Drink and Drive in Sweden

There was a story that the field engineers that arrived to install the hardware were taken straight from the airport to a welcome party, where they got suitably trashed. They apparently got in their car and while trying to find their way to the Honeywell House, decided to pull over so that they could relieve themselves in the grass alongside the highway. This attracted the attention of the local police who started questioning them and decided that they were drunk. He asked who was driving and they said they couldn't remember (perhaps that obfuscation a legal maneuver so that none of them could be blamed?) All three were arrested and thrown in jail. The punishment for first offense drunk driving in Sweden was to be sent to the north country for several months to cut timber (just ask Gunnar Anderson). ASEA and Honeywell had to intervene and struck a deal where they would be released from jail during the day to install the hardware and return to jail nights and weekends. Once the system was installed they were deported.

Simon, the Brit, was riding his bicycle home from the pub one night and crashed. There are so many cyclists that the Swedes had these little roads for bicycles separate from the main road system. They were complete with traffic signals. Simon ran a stop sign and crashed while trying to avoid another cyclist. He was afraid they were going to jail him for DUI as well. I think he paid a pretty hefty fine.

I had one run-in with the police. They would set up traps on Monday morning to catch people that had partied over the weekend and would still meet the definition of drunk. Their legal limit was a tenth of ours at the time. I wasn't drunk but I was speeding, on my motorcycle, with US plates. I made the papers and had to go to Honeywell AB headquarters in Stockholm to explain myself and was placed on probation with threats to send me home if anything like that happened again. I still have the ticket and newspaper article.

Skiing

Charlie and I learned to ski at a place called Åre, in the north, where the sun never comes up in the winter. All of us went on the trip. We drank lots of "grog", and took lots of saunas with nude Swedish women. When we left Sweden we went on a week-long ski trip to the French alps (a story for another time).

March 28, 2016.