Posts Tagged ‘bbn’

So Long Leo, the Last of the Three, and Thanks for BBN

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

By Nick P. Miller

I worked at BBN from 1973 to 1981. At the time, I didn’t know how much that experience would affect my life – my career, yes – but also the many friendships and experiences I would have. You can go on the web, and find as much as you could want about Leo and BBN, so what I want to briefly describe here is my personal experience at BBN, and how that laid the foundation for the rest of my career, which will soon draw to a close. I view this as a tribute to Leo and the company that he, Dick Bolt and Bob Newman created.


Dick, Bob and Leo

I developed my work habits, my sense of professionalism and the paramount importance of quality, and responsiveness to client needs. Some say BBN had an academic environment. I think it was better. The people I worked with were not competitive with each other, but only wanted to provide the best solutions to client problems. Importantly, the results of our efforts were not “academic” but were practical solutions that helped clients sleep better. We worked together in informal teams, the constitution of which changed depending on the challenge at hand. There was no question that anyone could contribute ideas for solving knotty problems. I loved that – still do.

Because of those experiences, Andy, Bob, Carl and I founded a company that was in our own image of the best of BBN. We worked together to bring in jobs, hire people, mentor the younger, less experienced employees and, as we wrote in our first brochure, “provide an environment that encouraged personal and professional growth.” Luck played a roll, I admit. When we began, “micro-computers” were just becoming available and made our tiny company look much bigger in the quality of the materials we produced. Competition was less at the time as well. We believed, do the best work you can (constrained by schedule and budget), and the work and money will come. And so it did.

The last two times I saw Leo were at conferences. At the 2005 Noise-Con / ASA meeting in Minneapolis, I was eating lunch in the hotel dining room and saw Leo in line waiting in for a table. I caught his eye, and waved him over and we had lunch together. As we sat, I asked what interested him the most these days and he said, not surprisingly, concert halls. He talked about some of his recent experiences and ideas. I said he should stop by HMMH and talk about his work. He replied (at 91 years old – little did we know) that he’d been over a few years ago, and we should wait a few more years until he had something new to talk about.

The second and last time was at the 2014 ASA meeting in Providence. Wherever he was, people flocked around him to talk. I was hoping to catch him alone because I wanted to convey a personal thanks. It was after lunch and I was wandering, wondering what session would be of most interest to me, when I saw Leo alone with his walker making his way to the elevators. I hurried over to him. “Leo, Leo”. He stopped to greet me. I said, “You probably don’t remember me, but….” He said “Sure I do Nick.” “I just want to say that my time working at BBN was wonderful and led me to a fantastic career and I want to thank you.” Obviously, he expressed pleasure with my compliment. I meant every word of it.

Thanks Leo.

Some Stuff I Like to Think I’ve Learned

Thursday, April 21st, 2016

by Nick Miller

founders 2a

HMMH Founders (from left to right) Nick Miller, Andy Harris, Carl Hanson, and Bob Miller.

I began my career in acoustics, noise, and how people react to noise in 1973 after quitting the Air Force. Not that USAF was a bad experience – it taught me a lot.  After living with pretty liberal parents, and going to liberal universities and colleges for about 8 ½ years, I found I actually could like politically conservative people and shoot an S&W Combat Masterpiece with reasonable precision without really aiming.  But never mind that; it’s just that lessons for life are everywhere.

Anyway, I began at Bolt Beranek and Newman in Cambridge Mass, (BBN) and found myself in a liberal, open-minded organization where my group in environmental noise analysis and control was struggling to find the best ways to resolve or attempt to resolve the relatively new political issue of the public’s dislike of all sorts of noise – from factories to construction to race tracks to new parking garages to planes, trains and automobiles. We worked with and for the likes of Ted Schultz, Ken Eldred, Dick Bolt (testimony about the 18 minute gap in the Nixon tapes fame), Bob Newman, and other brilliant people of whom you may not have heard like Chuck Dietrich, John Shadley, Warren Blazier and other good guys.  Truly a great place to start a career and learn.

As BBN turned away from acoustics to computer workings like design of the internet, Andy, Bob, Carl and I founded HMMH in 1981 (guess what the initials stand for). It was, and continues to be, another great experience, if you can get past the initial stress of putting your house up as collateral.  I remember vividly the day we four with our spouses met with bank representatives and all signed papers tying the future of our homes to our future success (or failure).  Well, we actually succeeded beyond our dreams, had a heck of a good time working together, bringing compatriots in noise into the company, sharing ups and downs, and building a company of more than 40 people.  That may not seem large to most people, but for a boutique business, we thought – “Not bad.”

Andy was president until 1989, and then I was until 2004 when we handed leadership to Mary Ellen. Andy, Bob and Carl have all retired and I will be within a year’s time.  I’ve naturally started wondering what to do next, and what about my 40 plus years of experience?  Do I walk away and leave the battle field of political acoustics or not?  I’m leaning toward going cold turkey.  However, my son-in-law’s father pointed out how much experience, ideas and insights I would be taking away from the industry.

To get to the point, I have decided to at least write a series of blogs describing some of the things I’ve learned about noise and people, leadership and mentoring. This is perhaps a common human desire to pass on something of what one has learned in a lifetime career.  I’ve noticed that a number of old folks like to write books about their accomplishments.  I certainly won’t be doing that.  I’m not sure what I’ve accomplished, but I do know I’ve learned some things.  Also these things are not worth a book; I’m not going to do what I notice some authors do and take a few basic pieces of wisdom and use up 200 to 300 pages talking about them in different ways.

So, I intend to write a series of blogs over the next months. That is my intent, anyway.  I will start with issues of the discipline: noise and people’s reactions thereto in different contexts and to different sources.  This will be fun for me, anyway.

In Memoriam

Monday, October 28th, 2013

by Mary Ellen Eagan

Laymon Miller

Laymon Miller










Many of us at HMMH knew Laymon Miller personally – he was an important early contributor to the practice of noise control.  Laymon did much of the early work on aviation and highway noise control, as well as industrial acoustics, as described in this biography prepared for a University of Texas award that Laymon received:

Laymon Miller, Leo Beranek and Walden Clark of BBN in Seattle with Boeing 707 in background

Laymon Miller, Leo Beranek and Walden Clark of BBN in Seattle with Boeing 707 in background













Most of Laymon’s consulting work was: (1) Noise and vibration control for HVAC (Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning) systems in buildings; (2) noise control for manufacturing plants, aimed at meeting OSHA noise regulations for the protection of workers’ hearing; (3) noise surveys and noise control aimed at protection of communities against the intrusion of excess noise from manufacturing plants, highways, power plants, airports, etc.; (4) noise and vibration control of products for customer acceptance; and (5) vibration isolation designs for achieving very low vibration levels for particular instruments or processes.

From my perspective, one of Laymon’s greatest contributions – not only to the field of acoustics, but also to the world – is Bob Miller, one of HMMH’s founders and former Chairman of the Board.   Bob mirrors not just Laymon’s passion for acoustics, but his courtesy and grace, and is a constant reminder that scientific inquiry and curiosity are a wonder.

Laymon will be missed, and our thoughts and prayers go to Bob and his family.

BBN receives top honor

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

by Bob Miller

I was sent a link to an article in the February 1st edition of the Boston Business Journal the other day – “Raytheon BBN heads to White House to be honored by President Obama”.  HMMH has strong historical ties to BBN; not only did Andy Harris, Nick Miller, Carl Hanson and I all work there together for 10 years, but I had a particularly strong connection because my father, Laymon Miller, began working at BBN back in 1956.  It is he, now 94, who was largely responsible for my developing an interest in aircraft noise.  At about age 12, I accompanied him on a field trip to Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort where I first experienced the impact of aircraft noise on Navy housing.  I was a Junior at Carleton when I had my first summer job at BBN helping to defend what was then The New York Port Authority against a lawsuit brought by the town of Hempstead over aircraft noise from Idlewild Airport, now Kennedy International.

Thus, it was with some degree of pride that I read that Raytheon BBN Technologies was going to be awarded the National Medal of Technology and Innovation, which, according to the BBJ, is “the highest honor the U.S. government can give to inventors and scientists”.  It was especially noteworthy that the article cited three technologies for which BBN is known – packet switching (key to internet data transfer), the development of the ARPANET (the Department of Defense’s precursor to the internet), and “identifying flight patterns to reduce jet engine noise in residential areas”.  Ta-da!  The technology upon which HMMH was first founded.

Though HMMH has grown into much more, now 31 years later, Andy, Nick, Carl and I, as well as Chris Menge, Ted Baldwin and Dave Towers — all former BBN-ers – owe a part of our formative professional lives to the foresight of Dick Bolt, Leo Beranek, and Bob Newman and the years we all worked together.   And though others at HMMH may not realize it, all of our present careers here have been molded by a philosophy and standard of excellence that we first learned at one of this country’s most highly regarded firms.  I learned much from BBN and am personally honored to have been a part of it.

Standing on the shoulders of giants

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

by Nick Miller

Ted Schultz was one of my early mentors when I began my career in noise and acoustics.  When I first joined Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc. he was consulting to HUD, providing technical background for its noise abatement standards.  Throughout that impressive and detailed work, he considered annoyance as one of the important reactions to noise and, I believe, collected and analyzed social surveys relating annoyance to sound levels.  As a further outcome, in 1978, Ted published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, his “Synthesis of social surveys on noise annoyance,” (see also my blog of April 2010 ).  This article provided in its Figure 6 a curve giving percent of people highly annoyed as a function of noise exposure in terms of day-night average sound level.  This curve became associated with much of present federal policy for determining noise “impact” and is commonly called the Schultz curve.

For the past few years, there has been general concern that this curve may no longer accurately represent how people respond to aircraft noise.  Because Federal Aviation Administration noise policy is required by legislation to use a system of noise measurement that has “… a highly reliable relationship between projected noise exposure and surveyed reactions of individuals to noise….” (49 U.S.C Section 47502) it is important that the relationship of annoyance and noise exposure be reliable and reflects current conditions.

The Airport Cooperative Research Program is sponsoring research to design a new national survey of annoyance reactions and sleep disturbance caused by aircraft noise.  One objective is to develop an up-to-date, unbiased estimate of the annoyance / noise exposure relationship for US airports and surrounding communities – potentially an update of the Schultz curve.   We were fortunate enough to put together a team and a winning proposal to conduct this research.  Now, I must say that I knew Ted Schultz, Ted Schultz was a friend of mine, and I’m certainly no Ted Schultz, but I am nevertheless honored to be leading this team in work that is a direct follow-on to Ted’s impressive  accomplishment.