I’m not sure why I’m writing all this, but if nothing else, it’s a bit of autobiography that someone may find interesting. Anyway it clears my mind of some clutter and is an actual topic to scribble about.
During my years in the cable company, there had been some major innovations. One was my first sight of a BetaMax video tape recorder someone had set up in the office. Also a manager laid his hands on a widescreen television. It was an enormous yoke. It’ll never catch on! One day the Technical Manager borrowed a satellite dish from the nearby university and the two of us spent a happy time scanning the skies for signals. It was a success but I didn’t for a moment think anyone was going to buy an eight foot diameter dish on its own trailer.
Then the storm clouds arrived.
Relays used to be based in the old White House on the RTE campus. Suddenly we were moved to the furthest possible location from the studios while still remaining on RTE land. Rumours started about mergers and sell-offs. The rumours were all denied by management.
Then we were moved off the campus and into Dublin City Centre [Hawkins House – Dublin’s ugliest building]. Rumours grew stronger that there was something nasty going on. It was then announced [via newspaper reports] that Relays had merged with another company and that the name was changed to Cablelink. This led to an interesting scenario where those of us originally employed by RTE were semi-state while the rest were private sector. This led to all sorts of anomalies in wages, entitlements and security. We [RTE mob} demanded to know what the situation was. We were told nothing. The rest of the staff were furious that we had fewer deductions from our salaries [because we had less entitlements but they didn’t want to know that]. It was a very unhappy place to work.
Then we heard [via the newspapers] that the company was now for sale. I applied for a transfer back to studios but was told I belonged to a grade that no longer existed. In effect I was no longer an RTE employee and if I wanted a job there I would have to apply as an ordinary outsider with no special privileges. I was assured however that the fact that I was now paid with a Cablelink cheque instead of an RTE one was just a simple matter of efficiency.
There were strikes, mainly at the frustration of hearing everything via newspapers. The staff were never consulted or even informed. Eventually all the RTE staff got a letter assuring us that legally our status as semi-state RTE employees was secure and that we retained full pension rights and access to all RTE facilities. [Note: years later I found a letter from RTE’s lawyers to prospective purchasers explaining that the letter that had been sent wasn’t worth worth the paper it was typed on and its sole function was to keep us quiet].
The office was moved again, out of the city centre to its own building in Ballsbridge
At this point I was applying for every job that RTE advertised. It didn’t matter if it was something technical or making tea in the canteen, I went for it. Personnel got used to me turning up for every interview.
A job was advertised where they were looking for a computer programmer. That was one job I decided not to apply for as I would be up against university graduates and my only experience was on a Sinclair Spectrum. But then I realised that if I didn’t apply, Personnel would wonder why I hadn’t and this could count against me at the next interview. So I applied anyway just to keep the bandwagon rolling.
Two hundred people applied for that job. We had a series of interviews whittling down the numbers. Then us survivors were sent for a written test with multi-choice answers [it looked one of those intelligence test things]. I carefully completed the page. With two minutes to go I suddenly realised there were five more pages. I frantically lashed through those pages just answering the questions with random ticks. At my next interview they mentioned I had had the highest score in the written test. The Gods were with me?
Ten of us were then sent on a two week programming course [in COBOL!]. Six of us survived. I was offered the job!
But then Relays/Cablelink wouldn’t let me go. They said they had no replacement for me. A war of words broke out between the two companies and finally I was told I was released.
As a footnote, the day before I officially left to become a programmer, Cablelink was sold to Eircom [National phone company] and all staff including the RTE ones were informed they were now Eircom employees.
And thus ends my time with televisions. From then on it was computers and no one wants to hear about them?