NOT MANY people tapping away at their laptops today remember when computers took up an entire room.
Louis F. Cimino did. He worked with such computers and was a pioneer in their development for eventual use in business, government, education, science and the military.
He was also prescient enough to predict that what he called "dumb" terminals, providing remote access to main computers on a time-sharing basis, would go the way of the horse and buggy, and that one day users would have their own computers on their desktops.
That was 10 years before IBM and Apple introduced the first personal computers.
Louis Cimino, who helped the city computerize many of its operations in the 1970s, and who provided computer terminals to 40 high schools in the region and to area universities, died March 17. He was 93 and lived in Roxborough.
Born the only son of Concezzio and Michelena Cimino, Italian immigrants, Lou grew up in Pottstown and Philadelphia. He had memories of stopping on his way home from school to pick dandelions that his mother made into soup or salads. He graduated from Overbrook High School.
"Lou was driven to improve his lot in life from a very early age," his family said. "He was part Machiavellian, part Yogi Bear and part Sgt. Bilko, and very ambitious, always looking for a hidden angle, and a bit of a visionary."
Lou first became involved with computers as an Army officer in World War II, stationed at the Pentagon. He left the Army in 1946 with the rank of warrant officer for the Army War College.
Armed only with his high-school diploma, Lou went to work for the General Electric Co. and rose quickly through the ranks during 14 years with the company. He became director of information systems and computer centers at the missile and space division, in Valley Forge.
During that time, he basically was in charge of all computer operations for the company. He oversaw all of GE's computer installations throughout the country.
Before IBM entered the business, the first commercial computer time-sharing system and the remote-access computer systems were designed and implemented under his direction.
He organized and ran the largest direct-access computer facility in the U.S., and took GE into the service-bureau business.
Lou left GE to start his own company with John Mauchly, co-inventor of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose electronic digital computer. Lou became chairman of the board of Mauchly Management Services, a nationwide management-consulting firm.
"He was an authority on organizing and planning the data-processing function and an innovator in motivating people and integrating users and the systems functions," his family said.
In the '70s, Lou met frequently with then-Mayor Frank Rizzo to computerize many of the city's operations. At the same time, he introduced a number of universities to time-sharing, including Villanova, Lehigh, Harvard and Fairleigh Dickinson.
For several years, Lou was a consultant to the Association of Schools, Colleges and Universities and helped it develop information-retrieval techniques for hiring and placement of teachers nationwide.
He designed a program for the College Placement Council, one of the nation's first college-graduate-placement systems. He also introduced terminals into the educational system at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, in Washington, D.C.
Lou later served as executive vice president of Union Fidelity Life Insurance Co. and president of Neshaminy Valley Information Processing. Under his leadership, the insurance company was recognized as the most automated in the industry.
Lou met and married his wife, the former Rita Sirvano, also the daughter of Italian immigrants, in 1945.
In his retirement years, Lou followed his father's gardening skills and planted a famous vegetable patch, the bounty of which was enjoyed by friends and family.
Besides his wife, he is survived by a daughter, Bernadette Marvel; two sons, John and Michael; eight grandchildren, and eight great-grandchildren.
Services: Memorial Mass 10 a.m. Monday at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 819 Cathedral Road. Friends may call at 9:30 a.m. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken.