My friend Charles Platt (author of the excellent introductory guide Make: Electronics, which was O'Reilly's best-selling title) has written a 3-part reminiscence about his father, Maurice Platt, who worked for a British GM subsidiary, and the trip that Charles made with him to Detroit in 1957 when he was 12 years old.
In 1957, I was a sickly 12-year-old English schoolboy when I went with my parents on a pilgrimage to General Motors headquarters in Detroit. My father, Maurice Platt, was Chief Engineer and a Director of GM’s British subsidiary, Vauxhall Motors. His position required him to visit Detroit annually, where he would spend three weeks discussing designs for cars that he felt would appeal to people who weren’t Americans.
I don’t recall exactly why my mother and I were invited along on this particular trip, but I suspect that a polyp in my throat had something to do with it. There had been speculation, only revealed to me later, that I might be dying of throat cancer. The polyp turned out to be benign, but by the time it was removed I had enjoyed an insider’s view of GM. At long dinners where business was often discussed, no one imagined that a 12-year-old sitting in the corner might be listening attentively.