People Stories

Big Electrons - Little Electrons Theory

atom and its electrons
PowerLogic automation solutions brochure from 1990
PowerLogic brochure from 1990 illustrating integration of power and automation


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At an IEEE conference in Dallas in 1989, Gary Anderson stunned the audience by revealing the theory of big electrons and little electrons to describe the relationship of electrical power and automation.


Groundbreaking Theory Revealed

Gary Anderson, an automation marketing manager based in Milwaukee, had been collaborating with Bob Kennedy on power monitoring since 1987.  Gary was fascinated by the potential of integrating energy data into automation systems (at a time when few of his automation colleagues had such vision), and endorsed the new DPACS product plans with enthusiasm.  Well known for his dry wit, his most memorable legacy might be his introduction of the “big electron-little electron theory” at the IEEE Petrochem industry conference (PCIC) in Dallas in September 1989.  Gary and Bob co-authored an IEEE paper and it was Gary's turn to present it at this major conference.  Gary described the symbiotic combination of power and automation (to a somewhat puzzled audience) by explaining that electrical power was made of “big electrons”—very powerful, but not very smart.  Automation and controls by contrast were “little electrons”—not very strong, but they were necessary to tell the big electrons what to do.  It’s now a part of IEEE history.

Birds, Brandy and Boog Powell

Gary was famous for his original perspective on many things.  Gary once suggested an idea for a restaurant that only served endangered species of birds.  The advantage: No one could send a dish back to the chef.  "I'm sorry, sir. You ordered the Spotted Owl Piccata. It was the only one."  I also vaguely recall Gary considering a mixed drink called "Brandy and Squirt"  (Insert your own ideas here.)  Finally, there was the baseball joke about the fourth Alou brother, Boog Powell, but I always confused the punchline.  Please ask Gary.

Always the Visionary

In addition to ensuring the commercial success of PowerLogic, Gary served as the team’s leading visionary.  He was first to identify the potential of Windows software (even before Windows 3.0) and advocated Ethernet as a network backbone for the industrial environment (long before such products existed).  It was Gary's idea to offer a "Quick Start Kit" for the Circuit Monitor, and Gary who found the vendor for the brand-labelled System Display.  Gary's contributions to the history of PowerLogic could fill its own blog.  Chief among these was attracting Chuck Strickhouser to Nashville to anchor the PowerLogic sales team.  Chuck would become a PowerLogic visionary and legend in his own right, as thousands of Square D sales people and customers would fondly attest.  Especially those who will always remember Chuck's week-long PowerLogic sales training courses.



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