A Blast From The Past
One of the first from-scratch products I ever worked on was named “BEXR” (Beacon Extractor & Recorder, pronounced “Beck’s-uhr“). I proposed the name BEVR (Beacon Evaluation & Video Recorder, pronounced “beaver“), but it was shot down by the marketing department immediately for who knows why 🙂
BEXR was a custom hardware and software combo that connected to the raw, low-level, return signals received by FAA secondary surveillance radars from aircraft-based transponders. The product allowed FAA maintenance personnel to observe and evaluate the quality of radar and transponder signals in real-time – much like a specialized oscilloscope. In addition, it supported recording and playback capabilities for off-site analysis.
Despite it’s utility to the FAA, BEXR was politically controversial. Since non-conforming aircraft transponders were relatively expensive to fix and reinstall, owners of small aircraft did not like being “spied upon“. They did not want to know if their equipment was out-of-spec. Thus, BEXR’s mission was limited to troubleshooting only radar issues.
BEXR was comprised of two, custom-designed, 16 bit, PC-AT bus cards. They were packaged in a portable PC that was carted to/from the radar site under investigation. I was the BEXR product manager and the GUI developer. I wrote the GUI Operator Control Software (OCS) in C using Microsoft’s Quick C IDE. The software directly used the Windows 3.1 C APIs to display application-specific windows, dialog boxes, target positions, and control buttons/lists. Compared to today’s GUI tools/API’s, it was the equivalent of writing assembler code for GUIs, but I had a lot of fun writing it. 🙂
The reason I decided to write this post is because I recently ran across a pack of sticky cards that we used to market the product and hand out at trade shows. It was a blast from the past….