I still wonder how I got that job

“Can you draw a circuit diagram of your project on the black board?” asked one of the interview panel members. He had my project report in his hand.

“No Sir”, I replied politely.

There was shocked silence. The 8 panel members exchanged looks. Finally one spoke. “Why not?”.

Sir, first, I did not design that circuit, I copied it from a “Popular Electronics” magazine article. Second, it did not work. The external examiner was kind enough to give me marks for my effort. Finally, and this is the strongest reason, I don’t want to design circuits. I want to work on computers.

Having said my piece, I stood there looking at them. Finally, one of them cleared his throat and asked “What do you know about computers”. All the others leaned back, and looked at me.

“May I go to the board and describe whatever I know?” I asked the gentleman. (Later I found out that his name was Lakshmi Narayan, and he was the second in command at the Computer Division). He nodded. I went to the blackboard, drew an architecture diagram and rambled on. Everything I read two days earlier, from Bartee’s Digital Computer Fundamentals, came tumbling out.

After what seemed like an eternity, I got the first question. “How many types of addressing are there?” Direct and indirect sir. My confidence was slowly leaking out and evaporating into thin air. I was not sure whether it was the right answer. “Have you heard about implied addressing?” was the next question. “No, Sir” I said promptly. I had a clear knowledge of my known unknowns.

Mr. LN smiled gently. He looked at others and that invisible signals flashed among them. You can go Mr. Dorai, he said. “Thank you, Sir”, I said and stumbled out of the room.

I did not know what to make out of the interview. I was there longer than many of the candidates. I spoke most of the time. Is that good or bad? I had no idea. I was OK with either result. I know that if I get in, it will be into the Computer Division. I already had a job.

Around lunch time, my friend Prabhakar came to meet me. He was smiling. “You got in”, he said. I was a bit confused but happy. I did join ECIL in 1972, in February. And I did get into the Computer Division.

I have thought about that interview a lot. I still can not figure out why I was not booted out for not answering any of the questions well. I must have provided some comic relief to the tired interview panel.

A couple of years later, I was writing diagnostic programs for a DEC PDP-11 clone (btw, PDP-11 was one of the most popular mini computers in the world). I moved from hardware to software and that was one of the major forks in my life.