This blog was created for USASTRATCOM Long Lines Battalion Army personnel who served in Taiwan during the 1965-72 time frame. Specifically, those who lived and worked in and around Taipei are the target. If you worked at the Grass Mountain or Gold Mountain facilities or anywhere in downtown Taipei, we would like to hear from you. All are welcome to visit and contribute to this blog. Your comments and pictures are encouraged.

Friday, March 30, 2012

The $200,000 Mistake

Although the military had the latest in communications equipment, this wasn't always for the greater good.

The addition of computer machinery not only changed our work habits, but also spelled the end of the teletype method of message preparation and dissemination.

When we arrived in Taiwan in 1968, our punched paper tape relay center had a similar look to the one below.

We worked 12 hour shifts with messages coming in and going out at no more than 100 words per minute. 60-80 wpm would seem more likely. Regardless, it was slow.

This system was essentially the same used during WWII and the Korean War.

Photo from D. Nelson, Tape Relay Center, Asmara, Eritrea

Receive banks are on the far right. Messages received would be logged in. Then the message would be placed on a message tree in the middle.

The message would be logged in and sent with a copy of all transmitted messages being recorded on a monitor bank on the far left.

We served not only all of the Air Force installations on Taiwan, but also USTDC and USIS in the American Embassy.

Then, in the summer of 1968, we were introduced to a machine that was going to help change the entire punched paper tape relay system. That's what they said, anyhow.

We had a DTS (Data Transfer System) installed.  It was about the size of a Pepsi machine. No, there were no coin slots.

And, it came with an instructor!  This young man explained to us how we would log in and out messages which would increase the speed of transmission and reception by at least 4 or 5 times. 

My interest was small since I worked the Taipei Terminal area. This was also the morning after the night before when the cab driver dropped me off at Seven Star. A migraine headache was my main concern.

We knew that there was an IBM 80 column punched card machine in NARC when we arrived.  So, messages on punched cards were also being used in Taiwan. 

Then, since it was a non-automatic relay center, NARC also had installed a UNIVAC 1004 punched paper tape machine which sent and received messages from Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines. 

You will notice that NARC also had installed the twin to our DTS machine just a wall or two from each other.  They were connected to nothing else but each other.  

When this whole system went online, one person in DCS Major Relay was bound to our DTS and one person was devoted to the twin DTS in NARC. 

The UNIVAC 1004 did the actual connecting with the outside world while the two DTS machines just talked to each other.  The concept seemed logical to someone.  It just did not work. 

The tape, coming and going, jammed constantly and actually slowed down the system since it ruined so many messages so quickly.  One of my friends used to kick it and swear at it all the time. 

Complaints began immediately.  But until changes were made, both places were stuck with the DTS machines.  Only the DTS instructor had a great time. 

Finally, someone in command got the idea of simply placing the UNIVAC 1004 in the DCS Relay which eliminated the need for the two DTS machines. 

The DTS instructor told us that the U.S. Military had paid about $100,000 apiece for these two boondoggles.  The image above shows how both NARC and DCS looked before the end of 1968. 

The 2 DTS machines gathered dust in the Signal Compound warehouse and were still there when we processed out in August of 1969.

This is the UNIVAC 1004 with the optional paper tape punch shown on the right front of the machine.  With one person assigned to it, we were able to send and receive from Clark AFB at a rate of  about 1,000 wpm. 

This did change our work lives as we went from three shifts of 12 hours each to four shifts of 8 hours each.  The UNIVAC ran flawlessly and very seldom jammed at all.  It was a delight to the tape apes and the bosses. 

This is Sperry Rand literature which accompanied pictures and explanations of the Univac 1004. The 1004 was initially supposed to compete directly with IBM in the 80 column punched card market.

Fortunately for us, NARC already had an IBM and, with the punched tape adaptor added, the Univac 1004 exceeded our needs. Somehow, the Air Force guys at Clark AFB now sent messages directly to USTDC and USIS in downtown Taipei.

Now, a word about speed. When stroking keys on a typewriter keyboard, 5 strokes is essentially counted as a word. I'm not sure that tape messages, buzzing in and out, is equivalent. So, 1,000 wpm, if anything, is an underestimation of the speed of this non-computer.

For those of us in teletype communications, the writing was on the wall. If messages could be sent and received automatically at Grass Mountain, why couldn't a computer be installed at any location, thus eliminating the need for us?

Well, that's almost what happened. The first death knell for the teletypewriter was the facsimile or fax machine. Over an encrypted line, a properly prepared document could be sent directly to an address.

Then the personal computer resulted in the storage and eventual destruction of virtually all of the machinery we used during the Vietnam War. To see a short history of teletype communications, click HERE.

As for Sperry Rand, it kept swimming upstream against IBM. In 1986 Sperry Corporation merged with competitor Burroughs Corporation and formed Unisys Corporation which trades on the NYSE under the symbol UIS.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Bits And Pieces, Odds And Ends

Some of the pages in my Taipei booklet don't fit any category.  So, shown below will be some miscellaneous pages from the orange guide. 

Pictures from other sources will also be shown.

This little booklet has come in handy many times.

Seeing the two pages above on the embassies might bring back pictures of broken glass embedded in cement at the top of the compounds' walls.
Just beyond the railroad tracks, the Nanking (Nanjing) West Road's circle of restaurants was a great attraction. Eating there was another story.

Photo courtesy of

Here's an updated picture of the circle restaurants. It's been replaced by a modern edifice. Think of all of the odors this area once produced.

The zoo was practically across from USTDC.

The China House is long gone, but look at the spire in the area back of the building.

The Toy House museum still stands and is a big tourist destination. It obviously was there in 1969, but nobody I knew ever mentioned it. Then again, I probably wasn't listening.

The Republic of China made a rock and roll band abide by a dress code! Fortunately a few inches of hair was no stumbling block to greatness. They proceeded into oblivion.

Now appearing---Dynamic Five!

It was this First Theater referred to in the article.

Photo courtesy of Gary Roske

The focus of this picture for me is the red phone booth. There was one near the entrance to the East Compound and it cost $1 NT to ring up Taipei Military in the downtown Sugar Building.

Article from Pacific Stars and Stripes, 1969

My friend pointed out to me these signs on the floor of a movie theater lobby indicating that no spitting was allowed. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

H Housing, Grass Mountain, (Yangmingshan), Then And Now

One of the best contacts any of us Taiwan Military bloggers or Webmasters has is Army LTC Scott Ellinger.

He's provided us with much beyond pictures and copy. Since my military life was spent mainly on Grass Mountain, Scott has thrown me many bones which have formed the basis for some blog posts.

This posting is another example. I don't know where the black and white pictures came from, but they make for a good look at a section of Yangmingshan as it appeared around 1961-62.

Scott's "then and now"  PowerPoint shows his thoroughness and impeccable detail.

From the photographer's standpoint, you are looking down at the H Housing section on the outskirts of the village. 

The workers directly across in the picture are standing on ZhongYong Road which led directly to the back gate of the Grass Mountain work station. 

The key here is the guard house and the home beside it. 

The wall on the right is the dominant feature of this picture.  Almost all of the H Housing homes were identical. 

Based upon where we lived, my thoughts went to how the sanitary sewer lines were connected as well as the water pressure and source. 

All houses in the H Housing area look like this one.  What is surprising is that the roofs were mainly flat which indicates a continued effort at maintenance. 

Original PowerPoint slide courtesy of Scott Ellinger

Follow the two lines of the same color, and you will see how these houses look today and how they appeared about 50 years ago.

What was done here was to stroll up and down section H using Google Earth Street View. 

From there, we were able to find a larger picture of the black and white photo above it.  You can easily see the guard house and the first house on the left as it appears today. 

Check the wall on the right with the picture above it and the two photos match up pretty well.  The angle of the picture is everything

  For me, this is the first house to the left after entering JianYe Road. 

The home circled in yellow is the location of the third photo shown on this post. The house circled in blue is the one next to the guard house in the first picture.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Threads And Chains

It's been interesting to me how one photo can cause a chain reaction which may take somebody's ideas on and on until an entirely unexpected result occurs. 

It is similar, in some respects, to the "Six Degrees of Separation Theory." We know someone who knows someone else, and so on.

Just by these interrelated contacts, we are six people away from theoretically having contact with everyone else in the world. 

Because of the internet, e-mails, Facebook, Twitter and other inventions and discoveries, a recent look at the theory has lowered the number to 4 or 5 contacts.

Thanks go to Don Wiggins, Scott Ellinger and Larry Barton for providing pictures which comprise this posting. 

Their photos, although not necessarily related, cause the first and last pictures to be drawn together.

Photo courtesy of, 09/15/2010

One of Don's contacts provided him with this declassified 1969 satellite photo of the greater Grass Mountain (Yangmingshan) area.

Innocent enough, this photo debunked my thought of where the Grass and Gold Mountain work areas were located.

It also set into motion another man's efforts to clarify the many locations of what we were seeing.

Original PowerPoint slide by Scott Ellinger;
Courtesy, 09/19/2010

Army LTC Scott Ellinger took the first picture and ran with it. With his software, he was able to point out the Bank of Taiwan (BOT) housing areas in Grass Mountain.

Notice his Tien Mou area as well as the Navy hospital. 

For me, the "H"  Housing area was the most interesting, since we drove through it several times during our time in Taiwan.

There are 3 posts on this blog regarding 3 housing areas. Time, weather and neglect have tarnished the appearance of 2 areas, but the "H" Housing area is more pleasing to the eye now than it was in 1969.

There are about 20 individual homes in this area.

This red line is the turnoff from the main road onto Jianye Road which winds through the Section "H" housing area. You are looking north.

Heading south toward Taipei, we can see the Jianye Road street sign on the upper left.

The gas station is at the same location as it was in 1968.

This is an important intersection for this posting. Jianye Road continues to the left and on to the Taipei European School which can be seen in the background.

Turning right at this intersection puts you onto ZhongYong Road which continues past some more "H" Housing areas.

In 1968, this road continued all the way to the Grass Mountain work complex back gate. That is no longer the case.

Still on ZhongYong Road, we are approaching a guardhouse which is at the entrance of the high rent district.

Turning right will take you to the designated home in this "H" Housing area.

Photo courtesy of Larry Barton

Here we are near the end of the road. This photo almost wasn't posted previously as it was of a couple the Bartons knew.

But, they couldn't remember this couple's last name, so we posted it in case anyone knew their names.

Next comes the thread referred to previously.

Original PowerPoint slide courtesy of Scott Ellinger

LTC Ellinger had a different take on this photo. What interested him was the house.  He found the home as it appears today and matched it to how it looked in 1967.

So, that's how we got from one end of the thread to the other. I think it's cool to say the least.

It's all history, but I really enjoy "then and now" pictures.

Here's a full shot of the house in question.

The house above is circled in pink. It's right next to the drive leading to the cul-de-sac.