1660238366782 Pollard

Thank you, Dick Morley

Nov. 1, 2017
Remembering a good friend who happens to be the father of the PLC

I was volunteering at a Canadian Mackenzie Tour golf tournament at my home course in Innisfil, Ontario, which hosts golfers from around the world. A Canadian golfer named Sebastian Szirmak came by and said, “Thank you for your contribution to our tournament. We couldn’t have the event without you.” His girlfriend was his caddy, and she reiterated Sebastian’s feelings.

I thought to myself, “Wow. Being noticed and thanked in the middle of their golf round is surprising due to their focus.”

I was duly impressed, and I thanked them, as well. We are Canadian, you know, eh.

So how can we thank someone who really needs to be thanked immensely? And who is that person?

Dick Morley—that’s who. While not a Canadian, he acted like one many times. Dick died this October after a long and prolonged struggle with life. But, even until the end, he was his same witty and colorful self. There is a video of him accepting the first-ever Control System Integrators Association (CSIA) lifetime achievement award.

To see him smile and laugh with his buddy, Rick Caldwell, is heartwarming. Rick, Dick and I were part of a SCADA conference in Bogota, Columbia, and I saw there the relationship that Rick and Dick had built.

Dick and I had built our own relationship, as well, and this relates to Dick on so many levels. He and his bride, Shirley, came to our wedding in 2003. Our relationship became personal, as well as professional. That is who he was though.

I first met Dick at a roundtable held by Jack Grenard, publisher of the first magazine in our industry called Programmable Controls. Jack wanted to start a new publication, and I said to Jack that I wanted to be part of it, thus the roundtable. Many had not met Dick before that roundtable, and I started the ball rolling as we broke for dinner by simply saying, “Hi, Dick, May I shake your hand and say thank you?? He was embarrassed, but then Chuck Kallal from Mitsubishi asked the same thing.

For the rest of the evening, Dick held court as he moderated the roundtable. People who didn’t know Dick Morley a few hours before certainly did after the roundtable ended. I can’t tell you the feeling I had when it was over, and I felt I had just met a rock star.

Most know about Dick Morley the inventor of the floppy disk, ABS brakes and this thing called a programmable logic controller (PLC). The latter is what we know him for, and we need to thank him for getting very drunk one New Year’s Eve, because it was on the next day he sketched out the PLC as he saw it, and it evolved to the industrial powerhouse that it has become today.

Having said that, there are many others who were close to the same areas, but it was Dick that moved forward and garnered the “father of the PLC” moniker. Odo Struger, the father of Allen-Bradley’s PLC was Dick’s skiing buddy. I wonder what conversations happened on those ski slopes?

Dick was a sensitive and caring guy. I still have the email telling me he was. And that is true Morley. Telling it like it is. I wonder what our automation life would be like without Modicon and Morley.

I have no idea if Morley was like Steve Jobs. I never did ask him that. He believed that, as engineers, “we make the world.” But then he was philosophical at most times.

He was inventing every day. He would often call and pick my puny brain based on an idea he had. I was flattered but then learned that he already knew the answer as such. He really just wanted to share. When we talked tech or the world, my head always hurt afterward. He made you think, and think hard. Like, what if you could predict when a hurricane or tornado would hit hours if not days before?

He was in an assisted living space for the past two years or so, so he was getting the care he needed.

He was visited by Deb Morrison, his “Deb knows all” right-hand gal; Don Clark, VP of Schneider Global; and many others who kept in constant contact with him during his final time on this earth. Why? Because he built those relationships, as well, and maintained them.

He and his wife Shirley helped upwards of 40 kids who had become life-challenged. These kids would stay with them and learned the word, “no.” He said once that, if he had written a father-knows-best book, it would have one page and one word, “no.”

“No Matter What” was their mantra. It was plastered on their fridge. Together, he and Shirley would survive anything. And they, by most accounts, had a balanced relationship. Shirley was as strong as he was. Shirley passed away a number of years before Dick, creating something that Dick had trouble dealing with—grief. He is human, after all.

Regardless of who he was, he will most likely be remembered for what he was—an inventor who followed through. Without that follow through, the PLC would still be here, but it would have had a different father. But it doesn’t. It is Dick.

Thank you, Dick Morley. Thank you.

About the author: Jeremy Pollard
About the Author

Jeremy Pollard | CET

Jeremy Pollard, CET, has been writing about technology and software issues for many years. Pollard has been involved in control system programming and training for more than 25 years.

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