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November '09 Print edition


Brian Johannesson

I was born in Winnipeg in 1935, the youngest of 4 children. All of my grandparents emigrated from Iceland to Winnipeg in the 1880s.  My father was an Olympic hockey champion and had a 50-year aviation career.  My mother had a beautiful soprano voice and the ability to grow anything,

I graduated in Electrical Engineering from the University of Manitoba in1958 and moved to Montreal, to work for RCA Victor on the Avro Arrow radar system.  That worked out fine until October, when the contract was cancelled. I then worked for Bell Telephone Engineering, but resigned after 4 months from boredom.  One wonderful result came from that adventure as I met., my wife-to-be, Carole there.  We were married in May 1960.

I moved to CAE Electronics in 1959 and started proper engineering at last.  In a group of 25 engineers I was the token Canadian.  Two major projects I worked on were designing a computer for the Government Nuclear Bomb Shelter (the Diefenbunker) and a project to design of 32 monitoring computers for the Trans-Canada Gas

 pipeline system. After CAE, I moved to Sperry Gyroscope Co. to design computers to control machine tools. 

In 1967, because of the political situation, Carole and I decided to move out of Quebec with our 3 sons.  I came to Waterloo to work for Raytheon on Sea Sparrow missile systems for the Canadian Navy. 

I then moved on to NCR, where I led a group to investigate cheque imaging.  Now, 30 years later, that technology, many million times smarter and faster, is in common use. 

An engineer I worked with at NCR founded a company to develop vision systems for computers. I joined him but the technology was ahead of its time - there were very few applications for the device.

After that, I moved to a small company in Waterloo, RDM Corporation.  Their product verified the quality of the magnetic ink line printed on cheques.  This MICR line is used to automate cheque processing.  If the cheques are badly printed the whole automatic process stops and any bad cheques must be sorted by hand. Companies, printing cheques, had to buy RDM’s verifiers to prove the quality of their printing.

RDM moved on to point-of-sale cheque readers and scanners.  Nowadays in many US stores when you pay by cheque, the clerk drops your cheque into a small scanner.  It reads the MICR line and saves an electronic image.  The information is sent for verification and either accepted or rejected.  If accepted the cheque is stamped PAID by the scanner and is handed back to you.

After 48 years of arguing with computers, I retired not expecting to be working part-time for Ignis Innovation in Kitchener 19 months later .  Their products automatically correct picture brightness defects in LCD TVs and the new Organic LED TVs..

Carole has retired and volunteers at the KW Alzheimer society and attends Tai Chi classes regularly.  Her principal occupation is that of a loving Amma (grandmother in Icelandic).

Our daughter is a senior research analyst with CB Richard Ellis in Montreal. Her husband is a Chemical Engineering Prof at McGill.  They have one son and one daughter.

After flying in a waterbomber crew for 6 summers, flying tourists around the Caribbean for 3 winters and spending 3 winters in Sweden, our oldest son is now a captain with Jazz airlines.  His Swedish wife teaches high school French and Spanish in Thornbury.  They have two daughters and one son.

Our second son is an engineering project leader at ATS, his wife is at Scotia Bank.  They have two daughters and are now grandparents.

Our third son is a mechanical engineer at Christie Digital in Kitchener.  He has a machine shop in his back yard in which he builds bicycles.  He’s also slowly modernizing his 120 year old house in Waterloo.

Our direct family is now 18 people, between the ages of 8 months and 74 years.  That’s what can happen over 50 years of marriage!

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  705k v. 1 11 Nov 2009, 16:01 Don Grant