2017-05-25 / Around Town

Conversation with Ned Hill

Living in the Information Age
By Brooke Constance White

Many people would say that Newport’s Ned Hill has led a full life. He was a plank owner on the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard CV31 in World War II, serving in the final campaigns of the Pacific Theater. To this day, he recalls “Iwo [Jima] to the signing of surrender by Japan.” With the GI bill, he went to college and earned a degree in mathematics, a teaching minor and a lot of credits in poetry. Then he was recalled to service during the Korean War and sailed the Med (Mediterranean) on the USS Coral Sea, a Midway-class aircraft carrier.

After the Navy, he did contract work for NASA, preparing for various Apollo missions and living in an apartment next to Neil Armstrong. Later, he tested intercontinental ballistic missiles and developed original scenarios for the Naval Warfare Gaming System. Now, at 91 he is still an active local businessman and he and his wife, Linda have called Newport home for almost 40 years.

Hill remembers when computers were as big as a room. He has watched technology change immensely over the last 70 years. Today, looking back on the history of computer technology, he’s impressed with its evolution. He said that it’s been daunting and sometimes difficult to change with the times, but overall, it’s been an interesting experience being at the forefront of the Information Age.

You’ve lived through a lot of technology changes. What’s been the biggest jump in technology or the most daunting change? There’s a lot of science fiction that’s come true. Since 1957, when the transistor was invented, the technological operations of the world have seized on it. Its applications and growth has been exponential. Now we’re in a position where we have artificial intelligence. The technological world is taking advantage of every opportunity to intrude into every element of human life.

What’s a highlight of your career? There’s several. One highlight was the delivery of the satellite tracking radar. Another highlight was managing the Goldstone Deep Space Instrumentation facility the night that Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. We tracked him there. The last highlight before I quit being a highlight person was when I headed up the integration, test and delivery of the AEGIS software that shielded the fleet.

Do you enjoy owning Small Business Computers? Yes, I do enjoy it. It provides stress relief to people with computer problems by getting their computers back on track. It is true that a significant amount of work I do is not comprehended by the customer. Sometimes people come in with complex situations that require an in-depth assessment of what their needs are, and then don’t want to hear an explanation. They just want it to work. That can be entertaining.

How did you get into the computer repair field? It was part selection, part accident and part necessity. I’ve always given my grandsons two rules to live by. If you follow the two rules, you won’t have anything to worry about. First one is: never get into anything you can’t see the bottom of. Rule number two is pay yourself first. Put some money aside from every bit of money you get.

Do you feel like you’re making a difference in the community? Somebody will come in very distressed and in the case of small businesses, they might be losing money on a minute-by-minute basis, so it’s on us to put them back in business as fast as possible. If a small business has a failed network, we go in, do analysis, determine what needs to done and then do it.

Does the aforementioned lack of privacy scare you? There’s no such thing as privacy anymore and no, it doesn’t frighten me. It’s the new reality.

What’s your favorite computer? What’s your favorite computer to work on? None of them. None are favorites. They all have their particular uses. A computer is a tool; it’s not desirable or likable.

You’ve probably worked with some of the fanciest, most intricate computers. Do you always have the latest models of everything? I’ve got a good one, don’t know whether it’s the nicest or not.

The age-old question, PC or MAC? Depends on what the task is. It depends on the application. If you’re doing graphics work, Macintosh has better graphics application. But if you’re doing bookkeeping and data processing, the PC world is better equipped.

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