A s in most other companies, many of Midland's processes were being automated. A new unit was being installed in a power plant which would almost double its generating capacity. The unit was nearly ready to go on the line. The method of handling the boilers, turbines, and auxiliary equipment was radically different from the system which had existed in the plant up to that time. Before, operating crews were split into three groups. One group fired boilers, another group operated auxiliary equipment such as fuel lines and switches, while a third group handled controls on the turbines and generators, together with the connections to the transmission lines, through a huge substation located between the plant and the river.
In the new unit, a smaller number of employees operated the interlocking complex of equipment systems by remote control. The firebox was seen, not through a peephole on the face of the furnace, but on a television screen. Instead of wrestling with a giant valve to regulate fuel or water, the operator flicked a switch or turned a dial, and electronic controls did the work. Instead of the heat, noise, and dirt on the plant floor, the work environment for operators and maintenance personnel now was a long, coolly lighted room, dominated by a gigantic control panel which was a maze of dials, colored lights, and switches. The roar of the plant was reduced to a hum; people were summoned not by the siren heard in the old plant but by a muted telephone bell.
Only a small number of the employees worked in the new unit. Most continued to work in the old environment, but there was