Oral-History:Don Hooper

About Donald "Don" Hooper

Don Hooper grew up in Hamden, Connecticut, in the late 1930s. From an early age he expressed an interest in electrical engineering, later choosing to pursue the field at the Yale University School of Engineering & Applied Science. Graduating in 1947, he began a two-year rotational program with Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) in New Jersey. After completing the program, he decided to work with the distribution and transmission department improving and expanding the electrical power grid. Twenty years later he became involved with the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) in 1969, updating and revising it every three to five years. He retired from PSEG in 1988 and started a consultancy; at the time of the interview Hooper continued to serve as chair of the NESC Interpretation Committee.

In this interview, Hooper discusses his career in electrical power technologies and his work with NESC standards. He outlines his contributions to building the grid and the process of establishing revised or new standards and clearances in NESC. Commenting on the development of the electric and communications industries, Hooper expresses his concerns with the new smart grid applications.

About the Interview

Donald "Don" Hooper: An interview conducted by Alexander B. Magoun, IEEE History Center, 26 August 2015 & 14 September 2015.

Interview #756 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.

Copyright Statement

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to Oral History Program, IEEE History Center at Stevens Institute of Technology, Samuel C. Williams Library, 3rd Floor, Castle Point on Hudson, Hoboken NJ 07030 USA or ieee-history@ieee.org. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

Donald "Don" Hooper, an oral history conducted in 2015 by Alexander B. Magoun, IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. Hoboken, NJ, USA.

Interview Tape 1

INTERVIEWEE: Donald "Don" Hooper
INTERVIEWER: Alexander B. Magoun
DATE: 26 August 2015
PLACE: Ocean Grove, NJ

Introduction

Magoun:

This is Alex Magoun from the IEEE History Center with Don Hooper at his home on Stockton Avenue in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. This is August 26th, 2015, and we are here to talk about Don’s career in electrical power technologies and his work with the NESC standards as well. Don, you provided a nice outline here that we can work through. One of the things that you opened with was life in the electrical power or transmission and distribution [of the] 1930s, 1950s, a generation before you got started out of college. Perhaps you could explain some of that to begin with.

Hooper:

The typical pole line in that period was electric on the top, fire alarm [in] some cases, not all over the place, and telephone. Telephone was the Bell companies. The Bell companies were a consolidation that involved the Bell Laboratory and Western Electric. The Bell Laboratory, from my point of view and my understanding, was the finest investor-owned pure research and development laboratory in the country—probably in the world. I’m not talking about academic laboratories or government laboratories, but investor-owned laboratories. Western Electric made a fabulous product, very durable. I would maybe comment on that in a little bit also.

Magoun:

I was wondering when you encountered Western Electric . . .

Hooper:

The work practice back then was to climb poles.

Magoun:

The individual repairman's maintenance, installation. . .

Hooper:

Was based on climbing the pole.

Magoun:

With your spiked shoes?

Hooper:

With the spikes, the belt, and everything.

Early Life and Education

Magoun:

Fair enough. I would like to actually go back and say, where did you grow up? How did you get into electricity or engineering, what sort of family background? . . . Did any of this influence your future career?

Hooper:

Yeah.

Magoun:

Where did you grow up?

Hooper:

I grew up in Hamden, Connecticut, which was a suburb of New Haven.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

Mine was not a typical career choice, because I knew that I wanted to be an electrical engineer when I was in grade school. It was somewhere around sixth grade.

Magoun:

So this would be the late 1930s?

Hooper:

Late 1930s; I probably should have been a civil engineer, based on natural aptitude because I could think three dimensionally. I could understand structures, starting with the old building blocks that children play with, through the Lincoln Logs, and various things going on to Erector sets. There was no Lego back then.

But the Erector sets, when we were kids, we used to get together and pool all of our stuff and built some rather fantastic structures, so basically I had an idea of civil engineering. Mechanical engineering I could read about. I understood why a motor ran, whether it was gasoline or diesel. And I could understand basic DC theory and very basic AC, but AC I got lost when I got into the higher frequencies and particularly the communications, the radio and all of that. I did not understand all of that really, and I think that’s what piqued my curiosity; I decided I wanted to be an electrical engineer.

Magoun:

Were there any particular magazines or books that you read, or Hugo Gernsback publications. . .?

Hooper:

Popular Science, Popular Mechanics. Those were the ones that I recall.

Magoun:

You didn’t build any electrical projects or electrify your Erector sets, or things like that?

Hooper:

We had electric motors that we could use with the Erector sets, but we did not build from scratch.

Magoun:

Okay. But you did motorize some of your constructions.

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

This was with your brother? Sisters? Classmates?

Hooper:

Neighborhood kids, my age. My sister and brother were both younger than me.

Magoun:

Right, and your father was not an engineer.

Hooper:

No, he was not. He managed the local Connecticut Poultry Producers Office in New Haven. It was a co-op, egg producer’s co-op. I had family up in Litchfield County who were basically dairy farmers. Produce farmers, but dairy farmers. I can remember up in Litchfield County before they had electricity. They had telephone as far back as I remember, but they did not have electricity.

Magoun:

So your family would visit them for summer vacations or . . .?

Hooper:

Oh, we were up there vacation time, weekends. I actually worked on Uncle Eddie’s farm summers. But when I was working on the farm they had electricity by that time.

Magoun:

In the late 1930s.

Hooper:

Yeah. But I can recall when they didn’t. I can recall cleaning out the lamps and the kerosene lamps—the lanterns in the kerosene lamps and things like that: wiping the glass, trimming the wicks.

Magoun:

Then you had plumbing as well? Or not yet?

Hooper:

Well, they did not have indoor plumbing until they got electricity, which was a great advantage. Most people don’t realize it, but the great advantage in many ways to having an electrified house is you have indoor plumbing.

Magoun:

What does the electrical piece have to do with the plumbing? I assumed it was a separate system.

Hooper:

Because you can pump water from a well. And in most cases, people who had piped water out front already had electricity.

Magoun:

I see.

Hooper:

Very little water available from the local utility, if there was not already electricity.

Enlistment and Yale After High School

Magoun:

Okay. My goodness. So now you’re into World War II, or the early 1940s. You were a little too young to be drafted, or what was happening if you had finished high school?

Hooper:

Well we enlisted. We all enlisted before we were out of high school, but they weren’t going to take us at that point until we finished high school. But I had already pre-qualified for V12. I went into a V12 program and later the ROTC. [I] went to Yale [University]. Finished up actually in three years.

Magoun:

This was not Yale’s Sheffield School.

Hooper:

It was Yale [School of] Engineering. Sheffield was in there somehow, but Yale at that time gave a bachelor’s of engineering no matter what your specialty was. My specialty happened to be electrical. Others were mechanical or civil.

Magoun:

How did you end up finding your interest was in double E [electrical engineering] instead of the other two?

Hooper:

Well again, from back when I was in grade school. I had decided I wanted to be an electrical engineer.

Magoun:

Was there anything in particular that inspired you? Were there projects going on that made electrical seem more—was it radio, the exposition in Chicago?

Hooper:

Not to my recollection. It was just an individual interest and desire. One thing that I always think of in my college career was that the head of the electrical engineering department of Yale, and I don’t remember his name, but he used to challenge his undergraduates, the electrical undergraduates, to invent a variable-speed AC motor.

Magoun:

Which hadn’t happened at that time.

Hooper:

No, AC motors were strictly one-speed motors. Well, unless they were serious motors, that is, a traction motor. But that was entirely different. He wasn't talking about traction motors. DC motors could be variable speed very easily, but not an AC motor. But the transistor was developed just after I graduated and [the] transistor made the variable-speed AC motor possible.

Employment After Graduation

Magoun:

Okay. You graduate in 1947 and there is the beginning of the post-war housing boom, suburbanization, television is coming into play. You mentioned air conditioners. So how many different companies are trying to hire Yale engineering graduates? What sort of choices did you have in the spring of ‘47?

Hooper:

Well, we had a wide choice of companies to go into. I interviewed on campus [with] a few, not every recruiter. I had some ideas of areas I might be interested in. I had interviews with three different companies at their locations and settled on Public Service Electric and Gas [PSEG] in New Jersey as my choice.

Magoun:

Do you remember that interview in particular, what kind of questions they might have asked you or you asked them?

Hooper:

I don’t remember specific questions, and I’m not sure how much of it was in the interview at school or when I went to the visit. But I felt that Public Service had a very good training program for new engineers. They called it a “cadet program” at that time. We came in as cadet engineers. It was a two-year program and we went through all of the company departments on a rotating basis. It covered the generation, the distribution, of course, which would be our area of interest. But it also covered the commercial area, which they now call “customer service.”

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I’m not sure [which] ancillary departments in the general office that we spent some time with. But it was a rather thorough training program. It got us set to when we’re ready to go out into the field.

Magoun:

So after two years of that, you are now assigned or do you volunteer? Or is there some sort of choice about where you want to go in the company?

Hooper:

Well, you make your desires known. They ask. A lot of the fellows wanted to go into generation. There was a big housing boom, new load growth, everything that went with the housing industry to support it. There was a great pressure to build new generating stations and some fascination to that to young engineers. I wasn’t particularly interested in that end of it. I made known my desire for distribution early and that was accepted. We pretty much got to decide the areas we wanted.

Magoun:

What was it about distribution and transmission that appealed to you? Was it the intellectual challenges or something else?

Hooper:

That’s hard to say at this time, but looking back, I’m still glad that I chose it. You weren’t confined to one location in a generating station. You had the whole area. And while, yes, it’s challenging to build a new station and then you’ve got to operate it, it’s also challenging to build new in the field, add on and what have you.

Magoun:

Building the grid.

Hooper:

Building the grid, yes.

Living in Post-War Developments

Magoun:

So you have been assigned where?

Hooper:

New Brunswick, New Jersey.

Magoun:

I see. And you lived in New Brunswick?

Hooper:

We lived in an apartment for three years, a new apartment out near Route 1, George Street, the Route 1 intersection: Raritan Gardens.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

At the thruway there for three years and then we moved down to East Brunswick, down in Dunhams Corner.

Magoun:

This is a new post-war development.

Hooper:

This was a new post-war development. It was small. Most of the developments at that time were large developments or single homes: builders building single homes on lots, wherever you had the lot. This was a smaller development. It was a cut above the big developments. It was a little better construction, we felt, and it was. That’s where we chose.

Magoun:

So this new development has all of the latest conveniences in terms of electricity, telephone, television.

Hooper:

Well, yes and no. The electric industry was facing, as they say, a load growth problem basically due to TV and then a little later air conditioning, which kept doubling the load in the individual homes. All of the ancillary industries need to support this. The telephone company had the same increased demand due to all the housing and also demand for single-party service. They were also completing their open wire-to-cable conversion. All their new construction was cable.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Not open wire. When we moved to East Brunswick, we were the first house off of Cranbury Road near Ryders Lane. My wife went down to the local telephone company office to apply for telephone service, get a transfer from the apartment to the new house. She came home very upset, extremely upset. We weren’t going to have telephone for two or three months. She was very upset. I told her not to worry. I don’t think she believed me. I went into my offices the next morning and sat down with the boss, Art Horner. Not my immediate boss but the boss of the area. He knew we were moving to East Brunswick and I explained we weren’t going to have telephone service for maybe two or three months. That was going to be a little bit of a problem because I was on call. He looked at me and he said, “Oh.” Picked up the phone, called his counterpart at the telephone company, which office was up in Metuchen, explained the situation, gave him a couple of details. Then he looked at me and said, “You’ll have service.” And I went home and assured my wife we would have service.

Magoun:

[Laughs] Yes.

Hooper:

They ran a drop wire in on a couple of poles to our house. It was an eight party line. It was not a private line. So we put up with a party line. I don't think we ever had eight parties on it, but I know we had at least four to start with, and that dwindled down to two and then we were all alone on the party line. At that point the telephone company was after me to switch to single line service and I just kind of dug my heels in as a matter of principle on the eight-party line until I figured, well, maybe I’d better: something might happen that I wouldn’t really like. They might put another party on it.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

So we finally went to the single party service.

Magoun:

You gave in.

Hooper:

Oh yes, we gave in.

Magoun:

You’ve got to tell us something: you did or didn’t have a television?

Hooper:

We did not have a television. We didn’t have a television until—well actually our parents took pity on our daughter and thought she should have a television and watch kid shows. We had a little black and white TV with rabbit ears antennae.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Until we tried to watch hockey games. Watching hockey games on a black and white TV is almost an impossibility. We broke down and bought ourselves a color television set.

Magoun:

What was reception like. . . from New York City or Philadelphia or both?

Hooper:

Getting out of New York. We were too far from Philadelphia. That was the situation in the beginning. You had a telephone; you had a pole line, electric. Some municipal fire alarm, which is kind of disappearing. Bell system telephone. Then CATV [cable television] came along. That was a cable service.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

I was still in the division, I know. I think it was the later fifties before we had to deal with it. It was around before we had to deal with it in New Brunswick. But the latter part of the fifties we started getting applications to attach CATV cables to the poles. CATV was the new kid on the block. Nobody really knew how to handle it, what to charge for it. Everybody had a different idea. It was a national problem and finally the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] stepped in and determined how CATV attachments should be handled.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Each CATV attachment was counted for cross-rental purposes, based on one foot of pole space. They (the FCC) set up the methodology for determining how you determine the rent on the pole, and how you divide it up. So that was political involvement, if you will, and political decision, but due to the new technology.

Magoun:

I’m just impressed that if you’re saying transmission is good from New York, why would they get CATV as well?

Hooper:

It seemed to me that there were more channels available through CATV, if I recall correctly. But even at that time, in terms of what you consider today, it was a limited number of channels.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

I think there were some advantages with a CATV service. I don’t remember when we swung from the rabbit ears to the CATV. But we did while we were in East Brunswick.

Magoun:

All right.

Hooper:

The other thing that came along when I was still in New Brunswick was aerial lifts, bucket trucks. Nobody calls them “aerial lifts,” but technically they are aerial lifts and everybody calls them “bucket trucks.” That was a whole new work practice, because people now no longer had to climb the poles. Today, workers will do anything they can to avoid climbing a pole. Occasionally you will see a CATV truck without a lift, they’ll have a ladder up against the pole. He won’t put on his gaffs on and his belt and climb the pole.

Magoun:

They’re still using wooden poles, right?

Hooper:

They’re still using wooden poles. There are some other poles coming, but for the most part it’s still wooden poles. I remember that was in the late fifties because when we got our first bucket trucks in New Brunswick, the engineers went out to demonstrate how to operate the aerial lifts, the bucket trucks to Line Department (pole worker) personnel.

Magoun:

Yeah. [Laughs]

Bell System Break-up

Hooper:

Then one of the big things that came along, and I’m not sure just when this happened, was the break up of the Bell System.

Magoun:

‘84 was the year. It was a long, drawn-out process.

Hooper:

Yes it was, and Judge [Harold H.] Greene came down with his famous or infamous decision, depending on how you look at it, and all of a sudden Bell was a series of operating companies. Laboratory was the separate outfit and Western Electric was a separate outfit. One of the things that I felt was one of the detriments to the breakup of Bell is that Bell Labs no longer became a real research laboratory. It was completely independent, because what research they did, they did for hire. That, to me it was not the old Bell system.

Magoun:

Did PSE&G have a lab?

Hooper:

PSE&G had a lab in Maplewood [New Jersey]. It was a good lab from an electric company point of view. It was an excellent lab. It was primarily to support operations, to make tests, all kinds of tests at a generating station, and bring them up to the lab for testing when they couldn’t do it at the generating station. The lab techs would go out and do various things. There was no true research and I think very little development that came out of it. But it was a good operation.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The other thing with the breakup of Bell was that originally you had a Western Electric handset. I would call it the old black box, although I think before the break up you could get them in different colors and they didn’t have to dial it. They were into push buttons. You could take the handset and you could drop it on the floor once a day for 50 years and it would still work.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

Today you drop the handset and probably the first time, if not the first time, the second and then you go out and buy yourself a new phone.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

The good that came out of it was development of a whole new concept of communication: from dual party on one phone line to call waiting to call forwarding to you name it, all of the services that we take for granted now. Without even getting into wireless, which we’ll get into later. But all of the things that came out of it, the thing that was good about the breakup, if you will, it did lead to competition. Basically from CLEC, Competitive Local Exchange Carriers; telephone companies are either ILECs or CLECs. The Bell companies today, I think Verizon or AT&T, they’re ILECs: Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers. They’re the party that anybody can go to and get a telephone. The CLECs come in all kinds of forms. They’re trying to sell services, undercut Verizon and AT&T, if you will. They can come from a number of sources.

Magoun:

Yes.

Becoming a Consultant

Hooper:

After I finished with public service, I found myself in a consulting business. Not intentionally, but that was through my NESC work, which we haven’t even talked about. The lawyers started calling and the next thing I knew, I was a consultant. Three things come to mind. A couple of kids up at Dartmouth started a little communication company, around the campus. When they graduated, they felt they had a good thing so they started in the Hanover [New Hampshire] area, Hanover and Lebanon. That developed into segTEL [1998]. I did some work for them at one point. That’s how I know about it. But that was a CLEC, a competitive local exchange carrier. They offered telephone service competitively with whichever it was. I think it was Verizon.

There’s another company that I’ve done a lot of work with over the years and basically they tried to siphon the cream off the top. I don’t know if you are familiar with the old unpasteurized milk where the cream rose to the top? Well, they tried to get the cream off the top of the bottle. They’re in the business of connecting large information companies that had different locations connecting to gather with direct lines and facilitating, and they can do it better than the normal communication company.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Then just recently a municipal electrical company in Massachusetts, I was working with them and they’re trying to again get into the competitive telephone service to the local area. They already have some lines and they’re interested in expanding and so it goes on.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

There was a similar breakup in [the] electric layer. The generation function got separated from the transmission and distribution function. They had to separate out and that again was a competitive move. It was felt to be anti-competitive against the people that wanted to generate and get in. That led to new energy markets. I think it’s more or less a direct result of that, although I can’t prove it; it’s more an improvement to me. But there has been a great merging of the electric companies which came on since then.

Public Service is one of the few that has been briefly involved with Commonwealth Edison, Exelon, and that got divorced. That was internal politics, as much as anything, to be frank. That’s my take on it, if you will. That’s not company policy. But you have now various but fewer companies that control wider areas. Still, what many of these companies have found, they try to go to the overall holding company name. They found that they were using loosing the local tie. They have gone back to the individual company names and the holding company is not quite as obvious. Because people, for example, right here will connect with Jersey Central Power and Light, rather than a holding company.

Early Field Engineering Projects

Magoun:

Now if we go back to your first decade plus as in field engineering in the New Brunswick area, were there any particular projects there that were especially memorable or challenging?

Hooper:

Oh, there were a number of projects. I would say that because I did start it out, getting service to those homes. Then I went through up and handled broader types of things. One thing I got involved with, which I was going to talk about later perhaps, but was the photo cell for street lighting. Maybe we’ll hold off on that for just a little bit, but I did get involved in that in New Brunswick.

Magoun:

Okay, because you had this two-year period working with street lighting and the ornamental poles. It was mentioned on your CV.

Hooper:

Well, I have done some work on ornamental poles, but that was after I retired. That was actually right here in Ocean Grove.

Magoun:

[Laughs] Okay.

Hooper:

Which I wasn’t even going to bring up, but it’s of interest and maybe we can come back to that too.

Magoun:

I just saw it in ‘61 and ‘63 and I wondered what an ornamental pole was.

Hooper:

Was that in my CV in 1961 and ‘63? I’m not sure. Well, actually I started as a street lighting engineer, but that was because, well, the street lighting engineer had just retired. The distribution plant engineer was also out due to a heart attack. Back then companies kept titles and positions. So I walked in as a street lighting engineer, but basically I was covering both positions, until [Robert] Bob Morgan got better. But [he] decided he couldn’t come back as distribution plant engineer. He wasn’t well enough. He came back in an engineering position and then I became distribution plant engineer. Now, while I was in New Brunswick, however, still out in the field, well, I had always been interested in underground. That again is strange.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The only way I could qualify that is that pole lines, anybody can look up at a pole line and have their own opinion. But it’s hard to see what’s underground until you pull a manhole cover and get down in a manhole, and most people don’t go down in the manholes.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Underground has always had a fascination for me and I got into the underground work. That was one of the things I did like in the position. Actually in the position, at one point I was doing the underground engineering and I was running the underground construction department. Now, I say construction department with tongue in cheek: it was two and a half cable-splicing crews.

Magoun:

[Laughs]

Hooper:

It was very small. I was actually running both of them, doing both, doing some overhead work when I had time. So that was a variety of experiences. Then in our rotational training I was in the line department, which was our overhead and underground line construction, and maintenance department: I came in as assistant division line foreman. I kept my engineer title but I operated as an assistant division line foreman. I was responsible for all the three-man crews in the division. I also oversaw the tree trimming operation within the division. I did not have direct control over the contract crews; they were Asplundh crews. I did not have direct control over them, but if we had a problem I would contact the Asplundh supervisor. If he wasn't available, I would go grab a crew and direct the work. I enjoyed that year very much. Then I got involved in early planning for conversion from 4 KV to 13 KV distribution. But I left for New Brunswick before that was completed.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The other interesting project I thought was in Menlo Park [New Jersey]. The Menlo Park shopping center, which was off of Route 1 by the Garden State Parkway. That was our first really big shopping center. We put in some 480-volt spot networks.

Magoun:

Is this the one on Route 1 and the intersection there?

Hooper:

Yes. That was before it was an enclosed mall.

Magoun:

Now I’m curious that you’ve mentioned this underground; I’ve always heard power companies frown on underground because it’s expensive in upfront costs as opposed to simply maintaining the downed overhead wire. Every time we have a snow or an ice storm, people are all outraged and then the power companies say it just doesn't make sense.

Hooper:

That’s true even today. I was going to get into that later. But let’s cover it now. One of the things that came along, and that was basically after I was in the general office. It was after I was out of the field, the underground residential distribution. New distribution areas are going in underground. But it is entrenched, for the most part. It’s not in a manhole conduit system. It’s buried cable, mounted transformers, buried cable. This is for new areas; conversion of older areas is very expensive. In my time with the company and even today, most of the underground distribution is where it’s just too congested to have overhead.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Or in some cases where it is rebuilt for commercial, political or commercial—not company commercial, but as side commercial, political interest, for appearance to have areas underground. Basically downtown areas, that type of thing, for the most part. But we did have a number of underground areas throughout the company.

Magoun:

You mentioned the Edison or the Menlo Park shopping center.

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

Across Route 1 there is a very long parallel track of power lines running alongside.

Hooper:

Powerhouse Alley. [Laughs]

Magoun:

Tell me why is that there?

Hooper:

Well, that goes back to the very early genesis of Public Service, actually.

Magoun:

Really?

Hooper:

Public Service was really founded to put together all of the electric transit lines in most of the state, not the entire state, to gather together the electric power lines and the gas utilities, which were viable. Somehow or other they decided to take on the fledgling electric companies in the areas that were interested in it.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

That was almost an afterthought. Today, it’s basically Public Service Electric and Gas, and they got rid of transit. That went to the state because it was just uneconomical and there’s a whole another story which I don’t think we have time to get involved in. Private enterprise does not want to be in the transit industry because it has to be subsidized. Today the electric companies are predominant and the gas companies are strong.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

But the so-called fast lane, the main line, electric line from north to Philadelphia and right down through that corridor that you’re talking about. It was a wide corridor for transportation. You won’t see any tracks left, but it was taken over by Electric [PSEG], you know, for power use and it’s a good way to connect the northern to the southern part of the company and right down through the middle. So that is Powerhouse Alley and how it got there.

Magoun:

Very good, thank you.

Hooper:

But there were a number of new technologies, and some of these were going on before I went to the general office. Others after I went to the general office. You mentioned briefly the photo-electric cells. That’s the gizmo on the top of every streetlight. It sees the sun, and it doesn’t see the sun. If it doesn’t see the light, the light comes on. That made it possible to go from series circuits to multiple, to the individual powered streetlights. You’re probably not old enough to remember the series circuits string on the Christmas tree, where if one light burned out, the whole string went? That’s how the old street light circuits were. They were series circuits because they were run at a constant current.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

It depended on how much voltage it would take to drive it, how much drop you would get for each light. They were constant current circuits and they ran throughout and came back to the transformer that supplied them. Many of them started from substations. Some of them were started out in the field but they were a pain in the neck to maintain. They were very high voltage, if you did have an accidental open. They were quite a problem, and when the photocell came along, that enabled us to get rid of the old series circuits.

Magoun:

Mm-hm.

Hooper:

I worked with Cliff Hall, part of the rotational training in New Brunswick and balancing these old series circuits. He was in charge of the street lighting in the New Brunswick area. I worked with him. Again, it was kind of rotational, but he had to test them once a year to make sure they were balanced out and he would put more load on it, and then he had to change the weights on it. It was a thrust that this current went through that thrust the two portions of the transformer apart. The farther apart they went, the less current would flow. The less current flow, the closer they would come they would balance out and they were supposed to balance out right where they were. Nationally it was 6.6 amps. Public Service always had to be different. We were seven and a half amps.

Magoun:

Now when you are saying this is rotation, you’re not referring back to your first two years.

Hooper:

No, that’s with the little rotational assignment in New Brunswick, to know and understand, hands-on type of thing.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The photo-electric cell was very important actually to the whole utility industry. We accelerated the development or the conversion. I went in the general office just about the time some of this was happening. I was instrumental in working with photo cell suppliers, and evaluation and testing and one thing or another. That was interesting and I had hands-on experience with that. Another thing that came along was infrared scanning. This was where you find a body out in the middle of a forest from flying around in the area and you could sense the heat.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

They called it “Thermovision” at the time. They had a portable outfit and we were one of the first utilities to use it: ride down the street and scan the wires. If you found something that was warm or a hot spot that was not good. Because that was an indication of a poor connection and if you leave it there, it’s going to get worse.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

This has come a long way from the initial Thermovision to equipment that goes down and scans and automatically records and it’s all integrated with some computer technology there or you fly the transmission lines from the helicopter and scan them, again, using the infrared scanner. So that’s the first new technology.

Magoun:

ConEd, after several unfortunate accidents, ended up having a fleet of trucks that drove up and down the streets and they had GPS wherever they detected a voltage difference or something and they would send out the. . .

Hooper:

They were looking for voltage. They weren’t looking for hot spots. But it was mobile scan. That was different.

Magoun:

Wow.

Communications Projects

Hooper:

Then SCADA, Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition. We were an early user of SCADA equipment. It was early smart grid, if you want to consider it that. It was a lot dumber than the smart grid is today, but it was a really smart grid that would enable you to gather information, transfer it back, usually over a phone line at that point or go on to an automatic operation. We had the combination, and some of my people were, when I was in that group, were in the early stages of development of SCADA technology.

Magoun:

Is this again in the fifties in New Brunswick?

Hooper:

No, this is general office. We’re talking now the later sixties and early seventies.

Magoun:

I see.

Hooper:

Now switching out of the electric over to communication, the cell phone came along, and a whole new wireless communication industry. It was just an entirely different way of doing things, not electric. I was always amused because the first application was basically the beepers. When the beepers came out, everybody had to have a beeper. That used to amuse me because when I was back in New Brunswick, you know, the year I was doing line department work and not much of the other time, we had our own radio system, which was like police radio. We had three frequencies within the company and it was split up so that we could operate eight divisions on three frequencies without interference, through separation.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I knew what it was to be tethered to a phone. If you didn’t want to answer, you could always use the excuse you weren’t in the car, you didn’t get the call.

Magoun:

Right [Laughs].

Hooper:

I used to get a kick out of these people, because the first usage was basically for those uses. Or the people thought that they had to be available at all times.

Magoun:

That’s right.

Hooper:

People thought more of themselves than they were probably worth, the way I looked at it. Now I get a big kick out of it. Today, of course everybody is tied to their cell phone and I’m not so sure it’s a better world. But that was a whole new industry. Another thing that came along in communication was the fiber optic cable. This enabled all kinds of development, including the widely increased bandwidth.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

There were a lot of attempts to utilize the phone over power line, and when the fiber optic cable came in with a wideband spread, that killed it because that’s a very narrowband spread. That really didn’t have a potential for much growth. But the fiber optic cable was a tremendous development.

NESC and Handbook Development

Hooper:

That had some effect on the NESC.[National Electrical Standards Code] We really haven’t discussed my NESC involvement. I got involved with the NESC beginning in 1969 while in the general office. Joe Ewald, my boss at that time, had been involved heavily in the NESC. They had just come out with the sixth edition, and he was all set to roll up his sleeves and write a discussion of the sixth edition. That’s what he really lived for, just write up the discussion. Then he found out there was to be no discussion and he just lost heart. He wanted no part of it. He suggested maybe I should get involved, so I got involved with the NESC.

Magoun:

What was the purpose of the discussion?

Hooper:

The discussion explained the background it had. Well, the earlier discussions had all kinds of tables, which we now have on sag tables, for example.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

That was one of them, but the early discussions described some reason, now today we have the handbook, Allen Clapp’s handbook, Dave Marne’s handbook. They operate on two different wave lengths. Allen Clapp’s is more like the early discussions; Dave Marne’s is more a handbook approach, a how-to-do-it approach. Both valuable, but there was to be no more discussion when I got involved with the Code. That was beginning in ‘69, and I’ve been involved with it ever since. The Code, as you know, is now 100 years old. I’ve been involved with it 46, 47 years, almost half the Code’s existence.

Magoun:

So you weren’t using the Code back in ‘47 and ‘48, when you were consulting the handbook or in your own employment that PSEG used.

Hooper:

In New Brunswick.

Magoun:

That’s right.

Hooper:

In the fifties we operated basically from the company handbooks. We operated basically from the company handbooks. But there were at least two cases that I can recall where I got out the office copy of the NESC to check what was going on, and make sure I wasn’t missing something or the company handbook wasn’t missing something.

Magoun:

So why is there a company handbook?

Hooper:

Because the Code is not written for the average technician, or the average field engineer. The Code tells you what you need to accomplish. It does not tell you how to do it. That’s why you need the company handbook. I’m going to forget which one came first. In fact, they both may have been tied together with the same job, but I was building a 26 kV sub-transmission line, designing it, not physically building it. I was engineering it. We had a location next to basically a dirt lane. It was a two-rod road, a 33-foot roadway with this dirt lane going down. I had a pretty good idea where the property line was and there was a barn very close to it. It would be limited clearance, from the 26 kV conductors to the barn. I read the handbook and I thought well, “the hand book says it’s okay,” but I just wanted to be sure. It was okay, but I was assured by going back to the NESC and looking at the standard.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Not just the company handbook, but the national chain. The other job was that I had to get across the Main Line Pennsylvania Railroad down around Adams Station in North Brunswick [New Jersey]. The Pennsylvania Railroad was there and the Pennsylvania Railroad electrification was there. I had to get this 26 kV line across the railroad through the electrification. I picked a spot. It wasn’t right at the curb line of the road that crossed the railroad tracks; it went off or out of Station Road. We went off on to the railroad property. I had a spot picked between the catenary which supplied the train, and the 132 kV construction—oh, it may have been 115, I’m not sure. 100,000 plus transmission lines to the railroad above. It was quite a space there. Again, the handbook really didn’t cover that. It really did not cover it. So I went to the NESC and decided, yeah, it was okay. But before we could build the crossing I had to get ahead of the railroad, had to have drawings, and the railroad’s permission, and all of that. So yeah, I did use the NESC there.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

When I went to the general office, my department was responsible for the overhead construction handbook and the operation handbook, which much of that, not all of it, but much of it was based on NESC. When a new edition came out, we had to review, update as necessary, and make sure that we’re going to be in conformance with the NESC, so that what we were building would be compliant. That was my involvement before I got involved [directly] with the NESC and then I’ve been doing the NESC from ‘69 on.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

Now, the fiber optic cable. I mentioned the NESC with fiber optic cable because fiber optic cable really was another new kid on the block. Some of it wasn’t really covered. If it was a cable to a metallic messenger it could be treated as normal communication table. It really was helpful when the Code said it. But if it was ADSS, All Dielectric Self Supporting cable, it had no metallic elements. That one was different because it couldn’t conduct electricity, and you could do things with it and you could be safe. But what could you do with it? NESC had to get involved and spell that out. That was a big new challenge.

End of Tape 1

Interview Tape 2

INTERVIEWEE: Don Hooper
INTERVIEWER: Alex Magoun
DATE: 14 September 2015
PLACE: Ocean Grove, NJ

Introduction

Magoun:

This is Alexander Magoun of the IEEE History Center on September 14th, 2015, at the home of Donald Hooper in Ocean Grove, New Jersey. We are continuing an interview that we started on August 26th in the same location. Don, you were discussing new technologies that you had dealt with in the course of your career.

Hooper:

Yes.

Underground Residential Distribution (URD)

Magoun:

I believe the one we were about to approach when we were cut off was URD [Underground Residential Distribution].

Hooper:

Yes. URD was one of the things that came in when I was working primarily in the general office for URD, which has limited application in the total picture. It’s primarily used in new residential developments. URD stands for Underground Residential Distribution. It’s a good way to get a clean underground system in a new housing area. But it’s not a substitute for main line distribution, and certainly not main line transmission either.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

It does not replace the overhead systems where they’re already in existence, or where you may have new highways or something like that, new roads. That was one of the things that was coming on.

Magoun:

Would that be more expensive than continuing overhead lines to residential distribution?

Hooper:

It may or may not. Where you’re talking new areas, see, you could plow in cable; you don’t have the expensive poles. The underground cable is more expensive than an overhead and the padmount transformers are more expensive. It’s somewhat more expensive, but it’s not the big difference in cost between the conventional underground with conduit and manholes versus overhead.

Magoun:

We see every winter when there’s an ice storm or a snow storm and a bunch of lines go down and suburban neighborhoods are out of power and they all complain that these ought to be underground.

Hooper:

But URD in itself has problems. As it ages, you get more problems. You can get flooding, you can get corrosion, you can get things in the underground that you don’t have in the overhead. It’s going to come to this: as it ages, you’re going to have more problems with it and it’s more difficult to replace. An overhead system is much easier to replace defective elements than is an underground system.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

It’s a bit of a wash on that. In the long run it will be interesting to see how it goes, but there will be the pressure for underground and that type of area. And, I think, well-deserved.

Magoun:

So this URD, it applied largely to new suburban developments on open land?

Hooper:

Basically. As a new suburban development, it can be any open land that’s being developed, even within a relatively urban area. For the most part, it does tend to be more, shall we say, out in the country, away from the developed centers.

Computer Applications

Magoun:

Right. Now, you mentioned computer applications. I’m wondering: does this go all the way back to mainframe computers, or was this in the 1960s with the introduction to the minicomputers—DEC and IBM and that sort of technology?

Hooper:

Well, the utilities have always used computers. When they first came out—you mentioned mainframe—they were big and vacuum tubes and had enormous amounts of heat that had to be dissipated and so on and so forth. The biggest application in the utility industry, and I think both electric and communication, was for billing purposes. That was an initial use of computers. As they miniaturized, of course, they were used individually, but they were always used in systems, where many things were computerized.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Some relaying applications became very much computer control. For example, in the electric end of it, and I’m not that familiar with the communication development and the use of computers, but it certainly was used in communication also.

Magoun:

Okay. Did they contribute to the development of inter-grids?

Hooper:

We’ll get into that perhaps a little more later on, but they do get computer control in the control of the grid, in many ways—in terms of getting the information back, and then sending it out through computers. It may be completely automatic. Much of it [required] human involvement in triggering it off. As we went along in my time, the newer things that were coming in were renewable energy, primarily wind and solar. Much of this is after I had retired.

Pole Lines

Magoun:

Which is approximately, you retired in?

Hooper:

In ‘88. But again, I want to talk about looking towards the future. The one thing that has remained constant throughout my time with the utility and as I see it today, one thing that has remained constant is the pole line with the electric and communication facilities on the pole line. Albeit in a modern version, a much more modern version in many cases, but it’s still a constant, you still have the pole line.

Magoun:

What do you mean by the “modern version”? What does that compare to?

Hooper:

Well, you have all of the things that we have been talking about, computer control or different things of that nature. Just the natural development, if you will, of better materials, applications. Today’s pole line has a lot more users than there were originally. Originally it was the electric company, a Bell company, maybe fire alarm. Now you’ve got an electric company. You’ve got the incumbent telephone company. You’ve got competitive communication companies on the pole lines. And you’ve got all kinds of people wanting pole space, which adds to the problem.

Magoun:

Right. Now, can I ask you why they still use wooden poles?

Hooper:

Well, they use wooden poles because of expense, number one. They’re cheap.

Magoun:

Wood is cheaper than everything else.

Hooper:

They worked.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

There are more uses of ornamental street light poles, for example, and this may be in some of your URD areas, although some of the street lighting on your URD is on a wooden pole. It depends on what the emphasis is. There are fiberglass poles. The fiberglass and the reinforced concrete can be engineered to a more specific strength without variation. Wood poles are very variable. They are classed by length and by class, class meaning how thick they are and how strong they are, and of course, their certain size. Still there’s more variability in a wooden pole than there would be in an engineered fiberglass pole or an engineered steel-reinforced concrete pole.

Magoun:

Right. Nobody is developing engineered wood from, like, fiberboard.

Hooper:

There are some laminated poles. They were more for decorative purposes. But if you’re talking a wood pole, laminating a wood pole gets to be rather expensive and uneconomical. It certainly hasn’t caught on today, but that kind of brings us up from what I saw in my time and since I retired and started consulting.

The Smart Grid

Hooper:

Looking to the future, again it’s much of what we already discussed in the past, with more emphasis on renewable energy in all of its various forms, primarily at the moment wind and solar, but there are other things that are being talked about. The smart grid: much has been talked about the smart grid.

Magoun:

When did you first hear about a smart grid—do you recall?

Hooper:

No, I don’t know just when that came into common use. We never thought of it as smart grid. We tried to make the grid work. Smart grid means, in today’s parlance, as I understand it, getting information back and getting information out to do various things. One application is load control—well, let’s take residential, off-peak, water heat. If you want to call that smart grid, the water has a control on it. It doesn’t let it go on during peak times.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

But you can do more than that. You can go to load shedding in peak times, if it’s warranted, where the customer will be able to heat water, if they sign up for it, knock off the air conditioning, do all kinds of things. All of these things are a very simple application from smart grid, if you will. We thought of smart grid in some other ways by in terms of breaking up primary circuits with automatic throw-over: if you have trouble in one section, get sections to automatically throw over. Where they used to use re-closers to clear off a fall, but they couldn’t set up anything beyond an opened re-closer. This way, if you have a backfeed you can do things of that nature.

That’s a smart grid application. I see more emphasis in the future on DC transmission. I want to talk about system stability a little later, but DC transmission comes out of this renewable energy, smart grid if you will, where the source of the energy is not necessarily where the use is. That’s one reason for DC.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The other thing is long distance transmission. You get system stability problems, which again I wanted to talk about. But [with] DC you don’t have that system stability protocol, and IC [Integrated Circuit] DC [is] used more as a link. Now this is very common in Europe. DC transmission is much more common in Europe than it is in the United States. It’s used for basically those reasons: getting the electricity from where it’s being generated to a remote location where it’s being used, using an AC system, and getting involved with stability problems—but transmitting it over the DC link, if you will.

Magoun:

What accounts for that, given that Edison’s DC was always criticized for the inability to do long distance? What made long-distance HVDC possible?

Hooper:

The Edison system, you go back to the original. The Edison system was a DC system. But it was low voltage. You did not transform the voltage. So you had the generator and actually it was 100 volts when they started, and then it went to 110 and then the nominal voltage went to 120. So 110, 100/200, 110/220, 120/240, that’s what the generator put out and that’s what you got at the end. Well, that limits how much load you can transmit.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Incidentally, when I was working in New Brunswick at the center of town, at George and Albany Street we dug up part of an old Edison DC main while enlarging a manhole.

Magoun:

Really?

Hooper:

Yes we did.

Magoun:

[Laughs]

Hooper:

It was very interesting to see that. But with the AC system, you go [to] higher voltage, transmit the energy from the electricity with less loss, and then you get to substation and reduce it.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Then, when you get to each individual transformer down the street, then you reduce it down to what we call the utilization flow, which is around 120/240, that’s what I was talking about. Rather than having to use utilization voltage all the way from the generator to each consumer.

The problem with that is when you get in to long distances, if things start to go out as synchronism, because you got too much load that you’re trying to be put in the system over here, and then too much load dragged out of the system way over here. If the system goes beyond the stable, there’s a lag due to inductance.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

If the lag is too much it gets unstable, it breaks down. That doesn’t happen in a normal system, but when you talk about trying to transmit energy across the country, you can very easily get into stability problems. That’s what I see more with DC transmittal.

Problems with the Smart Grid

Magoun:

Do you see a problem with people setting up their own renewable energy and getting off the grid? This is one of these issues that are coming up in Hawaii now.

Hooper:

If they get completely off the grid, that’s up to them. That’s completely up to them. I don’t see a problem with it. They need back up, which is another thing which needs to be developed in the future, or storage. That would be storage. But if they want to work off the grid, that’s fine.

Magoun:

But it reduces the number of people that help underwrite the maintenance of the grid.

Hooper:

It does. On the other hand, if they’re off by themselves it may cost more to get the grid out to where they are. But if they just want to go off the grid in a populated area, then they’re not doing their share to underwrite the total, the common cause, if you will, yes.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Another thing which I see in the future: I see more use of, and we’re using them now, is robots. Now drones are the very familiar robot, if you will. They are a blessing and a curse. Used properly, they are marvelous. Used improperly, they have real problems. One of the uses for drones is to check hot spots. You may do a thermal study and you find some hot spots, or you get a drone and you can get up close and really do a nice little analysis in terms of what you got, close in.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

It’s a good use of a drone. There are other types of uses, and I can see all kinds of things using all kinds of robots, the mechanical man taking over the line person, if you will, but there are all kinds of possibilities. I see that out there coming in the future.

Magoun:

What are the drawbacks that you are concerned about?

Hooper:

The drawbacks of the drones?

Magoun:

And robots.

Hooper:

I’m not so much sure about the robots. The drones are the people flying them where they shouldn’t.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I’m not talking about utilities. Utility application is what I’m concerned about.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

People who are doing crazy things with their drones, like they do now, are going to inhibit the growth and use of drones in industrial applications.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

Now we get into a real problem which we have been talking around, if you will. That’s system stability that involves remote generation for one. Another thing that leads to systems instability is solar magnetic flares. They can cause all kinds of havoc and they have. Limited, but they have. Of course, the bigger the grid, if you get a widespread solar flare, how much do you interrupt?

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

And computer control, exposed to hacking. That can backfire. The problem with system stability is having too many eggs in one basket, if you will. Do we need this massive intercontinental grid, if you will, going way out? Or should we be talking in terms of smaller, self-sustaining grids, with ties between grids? That’s something which is going to have to be considered very seriously in the future.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

Then you have the unknown. I mentioned early on my old professor who challenged us to develop this variable speed, controllable, AC motor. We don’t know what’s out there. What is the variable speed AC motor of the future?

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Now backtrack just a little as to where we may be going in the future. As you know, because the NESC is 100 years old this year, they had a summit meeting in Washington early in the year. Pat [Patricia A.] Hoffman, who is assistant secretary [for the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability] of the U.S. Department of Energy, was the keynote speaker. She was excellent. She said she saw two things that stood out to her: one was predictive failure and the second was system security.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Now, predictive failure: I have some problems with the thought of being able to predict the failure in the system accurately so that you know that this is going to fail if we don’t do something about it in a month. I have worked with lawyers who think that you totally should be able to do this. Now you can do it, to some degree, if you’re doing testing. I’m not sure that that’s what Pat Hoffman meant by predictive failure. Nevertheless, testing is very important. Two things: we mentioned hot spots at the prior session, where you can do thermal imaging and find hot spots; and we talked about using a drone to go up and find out what your problem is. Is that predictive failure? If you’re not going to do anything about it, it’s going to fail. It means you do have to go out and do something when it comes to a certain point. I think she meant something more than that, but I’m not absolutely sure.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

System security: she said there were two things that concerned her—one was cyber security, one was physical security. I mentioned cyber security, or the idea of hacking. People getting in and hacking and then we want all our eggs in one basket. The physical security is another aspect that I can tell you that the utilities are concerned with. They’re concerned about cyber security, and they’re concerned with physical security.

Magoun:

When did the awareness of cyber security rise? Was it after 9/11 or were they actually working on it before 2001?

Hooper:

Oh, I don’t think that anybody was particularly concerned about it before the turn of the century. I think this is more in the last ten years, even after 9/11. This is when the concern with cyber security and physical security also, even of the substation on Pacific Gas and Electric.

Magoun:

Which one was that?

Hooper:

[A] Pacific Gas and Electric substation, where somebody was firing bullets in the transformers. They caused some damage, but there was no outage of service. That was a good sign. But if they hit the right things they might have caused shut downs. Why do people do this? I don’t know, but people do. That kind of sums up much of what I wanted to say.

Magoun:

Right.

Future Role of NESC

Hooper:

Other than, what is the role of the NESC as we look towards the future? Again, out of the summit meeting came two things and I fully support both. One, the role of the NESC—we’re talking the next 15 to 25 years—is not to limit development. The NESC should not be focused on rules that limit, but what the NESC should focus on is rules that will enable people to operate in a safe environment, operate safely. Don’t limit development, and operate safely.

Magoun:

But do those sometimes conflict?

Hooper:

Well, it’s like the drones.

Magoun:

Uh-huh. [Laughs]

Hooper:

If you’re not going to limit the development of the drones then fly them into the airspace. Let them get sucked up by an airplane motor and let the plane drop dead. Now if you want to, if you want to allow drones—and the NESC doesn’t cover drones, so I’m giving you an example that’s not that close to home.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

But I feel that drones should be allowed to develop in a safe manner, with restrictions on their use where appropriate. Don’t limit development, but do it safely.

Magoun:

Right, right. Okay.

Hooper:

That’s primarily what I had in mind, and what I wanted to cover. I don’t know if you have other questions.

Magoun:

I had a number, based on your Power Point slide show at the NESC meeting that’s been put up online.

Hooper:

Yes.

Northeast Blackouts of '65 & '77

Magoun:

Also, I had to say, as somebody who experienced I think at least one of these, where were you when the lights went out in 1965 or 1977?

Hooper:

When the lights went out where?

Magoun:

The big Northeast blackout in 1965 was the first time there was a massive breakdown of the lighting power system.

Hooper:

Well, I would have been in the general office for both times.

Magoun:

Do you remember either of them?

Hooper:

I think it was ‘75, was that the Northeast blackout?

Magoun:

Well, ‘77 affected more of New York City, and surrounding areas. ‘65 was all the way up to Massachusetts and Canada.

Hooper:

We were going to a meeting. I don’t know whether it was a building or I think we were in our headquarter building in Newark, and the lights went out. You know, “What happened?” Your electric company—the lights in the building, they’re out.

Magoun:

[Laughs]

Hooper:

I’m looking out the window and I said, “Well, it’s more than the lights in the building. The traffic lights aren’t working.”

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

[Laughs] Uh oh. Newark network is shut down. Newark network was shut down because there was no power to the Newark network. That was a much wider area than our building.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

But the ’65, I do not recall that one.

Magoun:

Okay. They turned it into a movie, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out. There were many babies nine months later.

Hooper:

Yes.

Work with NESC

Magoun:

I wanted to pursue some of your NESC activities and some of the work to get behind—they pass this standard and this year they focused on this issue over this period: to ask why, and who was for or who was against. What were some of the issues that maybe took a long time to resolve? So you started up with NESC in 1969.

Hooper:

That’s correct.

Magoun:

What was your initial role? Why did you volunteer, or were you tapped and why did they want you involved?

Hooper:

Well as I said in my presentation, my boss was heavily involved, and he lived for the discussion. I think it was NESC by then.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

But up through the fifth edition, they always published the rules and then they published the discussion. This would have been in the early sixties. The sixth edition was ’62 and “Joe” [George] Ewald was rolling up his sleeves to get involved with writing the discussion in the sixth edition, which explains the background, the reason for the rules.

Magoun:

Yes, okay.

Hooper:

The early discussions had tables, which were not necessary in later discussions because now we have sag tables and by then we had very different sag tables and a lot of other information. But it had valuable information in the early ones. Then he got word that there was to be no discussion on it. He just lost heart, and decided maybe I should start getting involved.

Magoun:

Oh.

Hooper:

So I got in. I didn't really take his place, but I did go in as a representative for AEIC [Association of Edison Illuminating Companies]. Joe had been representing AEIC. I got involved with a different committee. But that’s neither here nor there. It was a good way to get involved.

Magoun:

Mm-hm.

Hooper:

One of the things [I was involved in] is definitions. You quickly learn that you live and die by definitions. I got an early start with the NESC with definitions, which I’ve always considered did me well. That’s how I got involved.

Magoun:

This is Joey Wall. . .

Hooper:

Joe Ewald, E-W-A-L-D.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Actually it’s George Ewald.

Magoun:

His nickname was Joe?

Hooper:

Joe.

Magoun:

Okay. Who are the major participants or players, so to speak, in the NESC at that time?

Hooper:

At that time? Well, you had the electric company. You had at that time Bell Labs representing primarily the communication companies. This is before the breakup.

Magoun:

Right, Western Electric.

Hooper:

Western Electric wasn’t represented as such. Most of those came through Bell Labs. I think it was Bell Labs. [E. W.] “Slim” Glancy was Bell Labs. He was not a Bell operating. Slim was a nickname.

Magoun:

Okay. We can try searching that online.

Hooper:

The constructors were representative [of], well, I say electric utilities. They did all kinds of [construction for] electric utilities.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Government agencies.

Magoun:

National Bureau of Standards?

Hooper:

No, National Bureau of Standards wasn’t on this thing, but Rural Electrical Administration, Bonneville [Power Administration, Oregon], for example.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I’m not sure what some of the others were, but it was that type of representation. Somewhat as it is today, although today there are a lot more diverse communication industries involved. There were regulatory commission representatives, which then we kind of lost, which was too bad. Although they may be beginning to become active.

Magoun:

What happened to them?

Hooper:

I don’t know, but they kind of dropped out of the active picture. They were always represented in the main committee for voting. But regulatory people are getting back into the picture.

Magoun:

Was it part of the deregulatory initiatives under [presidents Jimmy] Carter and [Ronald] Reagan that perhaps they pulled out and let the private sector discuss these?

Hooper:

I don’t know. I don’t really know the political side of it.

Magoun:

Now, you mentioned in 1973 the IEEE became the administrative secretariat for NESC.

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

Is there a backstory to that? Why were they invited? Did they propose themselves? What happened?

Hooper:

Again, I don’t know. I hadn’t been in long enough to understand the political background with all of its intricacies. But that’s when the IEEE took over the NESC, or sponsored or supported the committee effort.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

It’s been a committee, an NESC committee that’s responsible for the Code, but then IEEE became the administrative secretariat. And IEEE has done a tremendous job in the ensuing years, as far as I’m concerned. A great job.

Magoun:

Gotcha. I noticed that the first NESC handbook under the IEEE was not until 1984. Or is that a separate publication from the usual NESC edition?

Hooper:

I’m not sure what you’re referring to in terms of ‘84.

Magoun:

Well, it said their first handbook.

Hooper:

The National Electrical Safety Code—the committee has never published a handbook. Allen Clapp has published handbooks. When his first handbook was published, I’m not sure. I thought it was before 1984.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Allen Clapp, and now there is another handbook. Allen Clapp’s handbook follows more the pattern of the old discussions.

Magoun:

A second handbook?

Hooper:

The reasoning why: the other handbook is more of a construction handbook approach, this is a how-you-do-it. Rather than so much the why, if you will.

Magoun:

Why did they abandon that discussion part that disappointed Joe Ewald so much?

Hooper:

I don’t know. I think from a Code point of view, you don’t get approval on a handbook the way you get it on a code. If the NESC is an accredited national standard, that’s operated under ANSI [American National Standards Institute] rulings.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

There are no ANSI rules that require it [the NESC] to have a handbook. You have to have an interpretation sub-committee. That’s one of the things you have to have. But there was never the need felt for the handbook. Allen stepped in and covered that, which further negated the need, although he worked with IEEE and I gather it publishes his handbook.

Magoun:

Okay, okay. That might explain it.

Hooper:

Dave [David J.] Marne is the fellow that has the other handbook.

Magoun:

You mentioned that the 1977 NESC edition. It says, “Retroactive application not required.” I didn’t understand what that meant.

Hooper:

All of the editions through the fifth edition—offhand, I don’t think a sixth edition, but I would have to look that up. But all through at least the fifth edition, each edition required the company’s electric, telephone, or whoever, that had construction in the field to update to the new requirements.

Magoun:

Okay, so you had to retrofit. . .

Hooper:

Yes, they were retroactively applied.

Magoun:

I see.

Hooper:

I don’t think the sixth edition did. The ‘77 edition definitely did not. There was a loophole, if you will, on the proactive application just to cover the whole thing, unless the expense was not justified, or unless the administrative authority accepted something. But that’s always been the case. Administrative authority can do what they want, the administrative authority being primarily the state public service commissions.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

For the most part. Basically anything built to the sixth edition, it had to be built to at least sixth edition, the standards. That was considered to be reasonably good and not requiring it to be updated.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

One of the reasons that you don’t necessarily want retroactive application on everything is that it gets very difficult to upgrade a standard. For example, there used to be five feet required horizontally from the primary to a building. That is now seven and a half feet. Later on you had to consider wind blowout and so that has been upgraded over the years. If the utilities had to go back and rebuild everything to meet that standard, there would have been great resistance.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

So it’s an ongoing thing, being that you can look at what’s really required in today’s application and new construction, and what you think should be done. There are a couple of things where you do an upgrade anyway: strengthen the poles, when the poles were replaced, for example. You have to work the new standard, but you’re replacing the pole anyway.

Clearance Changes

Magoun:

Okay. You mentioned between 1973 and 1990 that there was an emphasis on clearances.

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

Why did this become an issue in that period?

Hooper:

Well, it was an emphasis because we’re talking overhead clearance, with the conductor table at 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and at a limited span-length. That would vary with the area of the country. There are three zones: light load, medium load, heavy load. That would vary with the loading district, if you will. You had a span length and you had a temperature. They would take care of the normal variations. But if you heated it up to more than—let me go back a little and make sure if it was 120 or 115. If you heated it up too much, then you had to take that into consideration. So there were all kinds of matters for all of these various things: with the introduction of new materials, for example, aluminum alloy.

Magoun:

Instead of copper or . . .?

Hooper:

Instead of copper or ACSR aluminum, Aluminum Conductor Steel Reinforced.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Steel cannot be given the strength number of the aluminum conductors, being the current carrying member. Which was traditional, and the old copper was traditional. But you’re going to use newer things like aluminum alloys, or spacer cable, we get in all kinds of sags. Even the normal allowances were kind of difficult to account for.

You had all of these various factors. For example, Canada was using it [a new approach to stating clearances] long before we did. They went to a closest approach rather than a temperature limitation. They gave you the clearances to be maintained at closest approach. Now it doesn’t mean how long the span is. It doesn’t mean how hot you’re going to run it. You’ve got to know these things. With the highest loading you’re going to put on it or whatever you’re going to have, you still have to have this minimum required clearance.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Now in some cases that meant the actual clearance you needed was less than what was originally required. And in some case you go a day more, and obviously when you went into the factors, you would get most of that, at least.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

There’s some give and take. That was, I think, a big step forward, one which I was quite involved in, so I have some interest in it.

Magoun:

What was your role?

Hooper:

Well, in trying to develop a reasonable way to go about it. It was a feeling that drove a lot of fear into people: that they should go to this minimum approach, but use the clearances that were stated for 60 degrees Fahrenheit, which would boost the clearances automatically.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

Had to overcome that energy workout bill, way to explain it. Write it into and I got quite involved in that.

Magoun:

I see that it took until between 1973 and 1990. Is it a fairly long process?

Hooper:

No, it really wasn't even talked about before ‘77.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

It was talked about before ’77, because in ‘77 I switched to clearances. It was obvious that this is where the activity was going to be, and AEIC thought that I would better spend my time with clearances. We had some warning as to what was coming.

Magoun:

What was your technique for either getting the best way or your company’s preferences or assuaging these people the fears they had for the change? What made you so good at this?

Hooper:

Well, probably two things. One is understanding: understanding the various components, the various conflicting factors, and how they fit together. Another is being able to think outside the box. I worked with Allen Clapp quite heavily. That was one of the things that he always said about me, I had the ability to think outside the box.

Magoun:

Can you give an example in this process?

Hooper:

Oh, dear. Now to go back to that and pull out a specific example, I’m not sure.

Magoun:

Okay. Because this involved getting all of these other parties to NESC to agree, correct?

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

Is there a majority vote? Two thirds? Three quarters? Unanimous? What’s the decision?

Hooper:

In the committee, the technical committee, it’s majority vote.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

But that’s just to get a proposal on the table. When it goes to the main committee, it has to be three quarters.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

The main committee has to be three quarters. Substantial consensus, but the technical committees operate a majority vote.

Magoun:

Were there any close votes in this process that you recall?

Hooper:

In any of the processes there are close votes. Some are not close at all and usually for good reason. You see, anybody can propose a change, and the committees have to consider them. The committees can also form task groups.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

This is how we did much of the background work in getting them to go to a new clearance system. That was done not at the formal committee meeting. More of that was done in task forces or working nights, as Allen said, with a bottle and the two of us in a room, banging our heads trying to solve the problem. But for the final committee vote when they get approved, you have to have substantial consensus which is a three quarter.

Magoun:

Okay. You’re saying it goes to a max sag. Is that the issue from a temperature . . .?

Hooper:

Well, now we’re talking detail. When you’re talking about a major change, you’ve got to get to the point where people feel comfortable with it. That takes argument, persuasion, if you will. Not just an up and down vote. You’ve got to be able to express why, the advantages, and you’ve got the disadvantages, because there are going to be advantages and disadvantages no matter what you do. It takes discussion, and out of this hopefully comes something good.

Magoun:

Right, right. In the aftermath of this transition, this paradigm shift, you might say, “Did the people who were reluctant to go along find that this ultimately was a long-term benefit?”

Hooper:

Oh yes. There has never been any push to go back.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

Now things have been refined. Different things have been expanded, but it’s still within the same context of using the system.

Magoun:

Okay. There is a reference in the NESC timeline to the creation of the Federal Department of Energy. That was 1977, and the National Energy Policy Act in 1992. Did either of those have an impact on what you were working in? Do you recall these as events?

Hooper:

No, because I don’t think they affected the area that I was in. They had more to do with generation and interconnections. But they didn’t really affect the areas that I was in.

Chair of Interpretation Subcommittee (1991)

Magoun:

Fair enough. Now you became in 1991 the chair of the interpretation subcommittee.

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

Did people vote for you or do you get appointed? How does one take that role?

Hooper:

That was an appointment. I was already a member.

Magoun:

Yes. Who came and tapped you?

Hooper:

I can see him.

Magoun:

[Laughs] Who did he work for or?

Hooper:

It was IEEE staff,[Vincent Condello] prior to Sue Vogel.

Magoun:

Okay. What led to your promotion? Why did they like you?

Hooper:

Well, they thought that I would be able to handle the chairmanship, which basically is writing the draft interpretation based on what the committee members recommend initially or what they approve in terms of drafts. It’s a very interesting process. You’re talking why I became a member. Some of it is political and I don’t really want to get into the part of that. But the process is interesting. As they say, anybody can request an interpretation.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

But interpretations are not given for any request. You have to demonstrate why an interpretation is proper: either a rule can be understood to say two different things, or there may be conflict with another rule, or something of that nature.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

The NESC does not issue consulting advice. For example, they say well our company does this, that, and the other thing: is this the NESC requirements? That’s a request for consulting advice. We do not do that. If they say our company does this and another company does that, or maybe not the companies necessarily, but you know, there’s this opinion, there’s that opinion and this rule says that and this says this and it could be looked at this way, that way. That’s probably a proper request for interpretation, if it’s accepted. It goes out to the entire interpretation subcommittee. They have normally 30 days to get their answers to me.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

When we started we didn’t have computers the way we do now. It used to be all written, with copies to everybody else. But now you can, on the computer with a reply to all. They send their recommendations to me. Everybody on the committee gets the input that I’m getting.

Magoun:

Is this carbon copy or mimeograph?

Hooper:

Originally it was, well, a carbon copy, mimeograph—how do you do it? That could be a lot of fun, with multiple copies. But the computer makes it much easier.

Magoun:

Yes.

Hooper:

They send them in and then, when they’re all in or the 30 days is expired, I have to have two-thirds responses for two thirds of the committee before I can write a draft. I write a draft. The draft goes out and they basically get a month to respond, either they approve it or they don’t approve it and why, and their recommendations. That’s very interesting because you get a reply, “Geez, this is the greatest thing we’ve ever done, wonderful. Hooper, you’re. . .” And the next one, “Hooper, you idiot. What were you thinking when you wrote that?” It could be very interesting. We don’t always agree. If it was agreed, we wouldn’t need an interpretation.

Magoun:

So it’s a form of judgment or arbitration that. . .

Hooper:

Well, then everybody sees what goes on and if necessary I write a second draft. Because some of these guys pick up things. You know, I know what I’m writing, but it can be looked at differently however you look at it. So then a second draft will go out, and sometimes a third draft and fourth draft, and you usually get something by the third draft.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

If we can’t come—I need three quarters approval before I can tell IEEE—I don’t issue the interpretation. I tell IEEE we have reached consensus and here it is. Then IEEE releases it. But before I can take that step, I have to have approval of the proposal from three quarters of the members eligible to vote. It’s the same thing as [the] main committee approving a proposed change in the NESC, three quarters approval. So that’s substantial consensus.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

Usually you get that by the—well, sometimes it goes on the first draft. More often than not, it may require a second draft. Sometimes a third draft. By the third draft you’re skating on thin ice. Sometimes you can overcome that, but there’s only been a very few the interpretation subcommittee has not been able to agree on during my tenure.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I would say offhand two or three, something like that.

Magoun:

Are you still chair of that committee?

Hooper:

Yes, still active as chair.

Magoun:

In ‘93 the edition they switched to revisions every five years instead of three.

Hooper:

We ran a three-year cycle. There was an attempt to follow the NEC, which is on a three-year revision cycle. But it was felt by the people working on it, the technical people working on the technical subcommittee said it didn’t give time enough: one, for the users to absorb what’s in a new code and make recommendations, which is where you’ve got to start before you start another edition. Two, to analyze the recommendation issue you’ve got and develop alternatives if necessary; or start working groups to develop an alternative to the proposal that you’ve got, because maybe there is something but it can be done better.

Magoun:

Maybe. [Laughs]

Hooper:

There wasn’t time enough to go through all of the—it was hurried and you didn’t really accomplish what you were trying to do. It was thought that the five-year cycle would be better. Now the code has to be revised or reaffirmed in five years in order to retain accreditation. You can’t go beyond a five-year cycle.

Magoun:

Who’s accrediting it?

Hooper:

ANSI, American National Standards Institute. That’s one of their roles. To have an accredited ANSI standard, you have to do it every five years, or more frequently. But the feeling was that you could come up with better revisions and better codes if you go to a five-year cycle. I think it was a step well taken, personally. I do think so, because it gives more time for people to get used to us in the code and analyze it, and come up with recommendations. That’s a big plus. It gives time for the subcommittees to work and look at the recommendations they’ve got, decide what actions they need to do internally for the final proposals that go out.

Magoun:

Because I was thinking, isn’t this the time when the technology is changing even faster so there is more changes in five years than there were in three?

Hooper:

That’s the other side of the coin, but again if you take the attitude that you’re not going to hinder development but try to do it safely, the five-year seems to be working as well.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

There is another step, which I don’t think we’ve discussed, and that’s the tentative interim amendment. If something comes up that is deemed to be vital, a change is required that you can’t wait, then there is a procedure for a tentative interim amendment, or a TIA. That has not been used too much and it should not be used too much. There was a tendency in the beginning to go a little overboard, perhaps, but TIAs are relatively few. Because if there's something that’s technically wrong, I mean something that was published incorrectly, there’s ways that you can make them right and put the code correctly. But you can’t adopt new regulations. Through a TIA you can adopt a new regulation—and a requirement.

Magoun:

I see that there were clothing regulations. Why then?

Hooper:

This was primarily fire retardant. I think you’re talking about the clothing [that] is primarily for flash protection: a lineman or underground splicers. Underground personnel or overhead personnel, or substation personnel, working on the substation. If you’re subject to flash and the flash is hot enough, you can get burned very seriously.

Magoun:

Right.

Hooper:

This is where you need flash protection. And not only that—this is more recent—you have to make analysis of potential what the flash hazard is, so that you can have the proper protective equipment or other precautions, whatever are required. That’s just to keep the workers safe.

Magoun:

Were these new textiles or new materials that improve this flash protection that led to developing the standard at this point? I assume flash protection was an issue before.

Hooper:

No, I think it’s more recognition that with the higher volt issues, you have higher currents. Again I haven’t been involved directly in that. Certainly when it comes to clothing, I think new developments have made better protective gear available.

Magoun:

Okay.

Hooper:

I think that part of it is true.

System Changes

Magoun:

You are also mentioning there they keep raising the voltages. There’s a steady progression.

Hooper:

Well, distribution voltages for example. When I started, it was either 4 kV or 12, 13 kV. Now you’ve got 20 kV and a 34 1/2 kV for distribution purposes. You have that and you have higher transmission voltages which are harmful also. We didn’t have 500 kV or 750 kV transmission when I started.

Magoun:

What was it then? Do you remember?

Hooper:

Well, 220 kV was high. I should say, 230 kV.

Magoun:

Now I see that in ‘97 they also adopted the metric system values, metric SIs?

Hooper:

Yes.

Magoun:

That must have been a big step. Did they continue to maintain English as well?

Hooper:

Oh, that was because the NESC has international sections, so international use. Except for the United States these days, everything is metric. We should be metric. But we didn’t choose to go that way. I worked with the Edison Electric Institute [EEI] when it was being considered and I was on the metrication committee.

Magoun:

You think so.

Hooper:

I think so. I actually chaired the metrication committee.

Magoun:

When was that?

Hooper:

I don’t recall now. I want to say in the early eighties. I’m guessing a little bit in that time period somewhere. I was a member of the electrical goods sector committee for the American National Electric Committee or whatever it was, representing EEI. Of course, we had these guys that would take great pleasure in pointing out that the electric industry was, will be, half metric. We sell kilowatt hours: kilowatts are metric but hours are not.

Magoun:

Okay. [Laughs]

Hooper:

It was interesting because the Canadians did. I had a daughter living in Canada and grandkids growing up in Canada at that time. The Canadians made a governmental decision to go metric and the Canadians tend to be a little more docile, if you will. The government says and the people do. In the States it was a lot different, there was a lot of opposition. I think the government was one of the big factors in shooting down the move to metrication. Because it was a federal highway department [that] decided that they were going to go out and replace the speed signs. I think they were going to have dualized speeds but they’re going to go out en masse. And the people resisted it.

Magoun:

That’s right.

Hooper:

The people just resisted it. They said, “This is ridiculous.” That put a great drag on the move to go metric.

Magoun:

Right, right.

Hooper:

While even the Canadians were supposed to be metric. There was a ha-ha a little bit, but again they were teaching them the metrics in the school. Even the people who are out of school, they’re getting used to it. It didn’t become ha-ha so much, it became common.

It could have happened here. It’s too bad it didn’t. I can remember in some of the electrical good sector committee meetings sitting next to a guy who grew up with metrics. He grew up with them in a foreign country and he couldn’t understand why anybody would use the English system.

Magoun:

Right. Another reason the U.S. is exceptional.

Hooper:

It’s like the English counting in pennies, pounds, and pence.

Magoun:

Nineteen seventy was a big transition for them.

Hooper:

I used to enjoy going there when I had the English money, trying to get used to it, but it was a relief to come home.

Strength and Loading Issues

Magoun:

[Laughs] All right. I see you mentioned that between 1997 and today, that strength and loading issues are pre-eminent.

Hooper:

Yes, yes.

Magoun:

Why is this the case?

Hooper:

Well, they have a fancy word for it now. They’re going to a different method, if you will, which is more of an engineering approach to strength and loadings. It’s predictive in strength and loadings, and they’ve got some good reasons. If they get in a probability and a better sense then where you put the curves, in the most acceptable but, say, in the different manner.

Magoun:

Now you said this was more of an engineering approach. What was the approach before the engineering approach?

Hooper:

Well, the approach before was what worked and what didn’t work, primarily through the pole testing and one thing or another. That was the big thing, where the problems are and with the poles.

Magoun:

I also wondered if interest or concern was driven by the increase in telecom delivery cable services.

Hooper:

They put more load on a pole. There’re more communication users. They put more load on the pole, but I think it would have come anyway.

Magoun:

Right, right. That’s the 2007 edition. There’s the phase-out of the beginning of the alternate method for load factors.

Closing Remarks

Magoun:

Okay. I think we’re good. If you have anything else you want to add in conclusion?

Hooper:

I think we’ve pretty much covered it now. It’s been very interesting and I’ve enjoyed certainly my career. Still enjoying it.

Magoun:

[Laughs] Yes.

Hooper:

Still working, and I’ve enjoyed the discussion with you.

Magoun:

Excellent.

Hooper:

Enjoy the summer.

Magoun:

That’s very good, thank you very much.

Hooper:

Thank you, sir.