The strange history of TRA
August 10, 2023
|My consulting company, specializing
in golf club engineering, is Tutelman Research. Here is my business
But the company started more than 60 years ago as TRA
(for Tutelman Research Associates). It was active from 1961 to about 1970,
then remained dormant until it re-emerged as Tutelman Research around
2000. But much more interesting was the actual purpose of the original
company, which was not the
purpose suggested by the name.
The ancient origins
all started when I was a junior engineer, a summer intern at IBM, in
1961. I worked in the Poughkeepsie NY building where they manufactured
their flagship mainframe computers. I discovered Datamation
magazine in the company library and on the desks of a few of my
colleagues. A lot of fascinating stuff there; I could read it just for
recreation. (Remember, I am an engineer. It's not just what I do,
it's who I am. So yeah, maybe geeky, but it definitely resonated
That was my first exposure to the concept of "trade journals". Until
the Web took over as the main way people got information, starting
somewhere around 2000, there were lots of specialized magazines aimed
at professionals in some professions. Which professions? The ones that
spend a lot of money on things that can be advertised in a magazine.
Most of the trade journals were sent free to qualified professionals.
What does "qualified" mean? You were able to fill out and mail a post
card you could find somewhere in the magazine, with your name, address, and some details about
your job and your company. No, they were not conducting industrial
espionage with the cards; they wanted enough info about each subscriber
that the magazine's advertisers would consider them a likely prospect.
I did mention that Datamation
subscriptions (and many other trade journal subscriptions) were free. More
specifically, they were 100% supported by money paid by advertisers.
The advertisers wanted to be sure subscribers were the target audience
for their products, so the subscription cards were questionnaires about
your company and your position in the company. I was an engineer for IBM, which was a prime target
audience for Datamation. I had no trouble at all getting a subscription.
trouble started at the end of the summer, when I moved back to the
family apartment in the Bronx and resumed my education as a senior in
engineering at City College of NY. Naturally, I wanted to change my
address from Poughkeepsie to the Bronx. Equally naturally, Datamation's
publisher wanted me to re-qualify at my new address. And I was no
longer an engineer for one of America's top companies. I was a student
at a public university -- not the prospect that Datamation's advertisers
wanted to target. What to do?
Original headquarters of
OK, they want an engineer at an engineering company? That's what they
will get. TRA was "founded", at least in my imagination, as an
engineering research and consulting company. I was the owner,
president, and chief engineer. I decided that "chief engineer" was the
best title to put on the qualification card, because the chief engineer
would be the decision maker for purchases of the stuff advertised in
engineering trade journals. The address was where I lived, 1 Metropolitan Oval; hey,
my apartment building's address even sounded
like a business address. Here's a picture of the original headquarters
of TRA, the apartment building I grew up in.
The next step was to convince our postman that mail addressed to "TRA"
went to apartment 6C. I don't remember how we managed it, but that in
itself suggests it wasn't very hard to do. And before I knew it, I was
receiving Datamation at TRA.
I rapidly discovered that Datamation was not the only trade publication
for electrical engineers and computer professionals. There were two
more trade journals I was receiving within a month or two. A feature of
trade journals was a big postcard folded into the middle of each issue,
with a lot of numbers on it. Subscribers usually called it a "Bingo card". Each number referred to an advertisement
in that issue. Circle the numbers for the ads you found interesting, mail in the card,
and you would be the subject of a follow-up. But it was seldom an
annoying phone call, as it would be today; phone calls outside of your
own town were expensive back then. So the advertiser would send you a
spec sheet or application notes, usually very educational. Occasionally
there was even a free sample.
Not one to rock the boat unnecessarily, I left the subscriptions as TRA
for a few years, even after I graduated and had a real engineering job. It
wasn't until I moved away from home that I admitted to Datamation and
the others that I now worked for Bell Labs.
TRA staffs upWhen I returned from IBM to City College, my brother Bob was already a freshman at CCNY majoring in mechanical
engineering. By the following year, he was aware of similar trade
journals aimed at mechanical engineers. So TRA got its second employee, a
mechanicial engineer, who subscribed to the ME publications. And their
advertisers seemed even more likely to mail free samples of their
To my recollection, my sister Ruth was never on the TRA staff. She was
a music student. The few music magazines back then were about the music
business (not interesting to her) or fan magazines for rock groups
(definitely not interesting to her). And I don't think any of them were
free. Today, there are also lots of magazines for music electronics and
studio equipment and practice. But even if they were available then,
the tech side of music was never Ruth's thing.
By late 1965, Bob and I had graduated from college and were employed.
Ruth was a college junior. While Ruth and I still lived at home and
commuted, we were adults and could manage our own affairs. So my
parents decided they would take a round-the-world trip for six months,
the first half of 1966.
You have to understand, my dad loved planning trips. With only a little
help frrom the AAA, he had planned the family's big trip
in 1951. He set up day-by-day itineraries, researched lodging and the
attractions where we should spend our time, and made all the
reservations for us. He was really good at it; he got us to experience
things that a travel agent would not have been able to. And he was
looking forward as much to planning this trip as to the traveling
itself. So imagine his disappointment when most of his letters to
Europe, Asia, and the Pacific requesting reservations were rejected.
Apparently it was one thing if you were in the USA making reservations
in the US, Canada, or Mexico. But if you were trying to reserve a
hotel, air flight, or even a tourist thing in the Eastern Hemisphere, it had to be done by an
actual travel agency. Well, Dad was not about to relinquish the
planning and arranging part of the trip; that was a major portion of
his travel bliss. So TRA diversified. It included a travel agency. Now
we had TRAvel,
a TRA company.
It was no effort at all for TRAvel to be recognized by our letter
carriers. To our surprise, it was also no effort at all for foreign
hotels, airlines, etc to treat TRAvel as a full-service travel agent.
Dad was able to make all the reservations he needed for the trip. He
and Mom departed in early January '66 and immersed themselves in an
exciting travel experience.
By March, something quite unexpected happened. Multiple times. TRAvel
started receiving checks in the mail from overseas. Remember, a travel
agency is a business. Its
revenue stream is commissions on sales. The checks were typically for
10%-15% of the price Dad and Mom paid. It amounted to a discount on all
the big-ticket items on their trip. That was not the reason we started
TRAvel, but it was a very nice bonus.
One consequence was the need to start a bank account for TRA, in order
to cash the checks. I didn't have much trouble opening a joint bank
account that recognizd TRA, where I deposited all the commissions to
wait for Mom and Dad's return. It was a big, happy surprise for them
when they got back. Banking regulations are a lot tighter today, and
they probably should be. I doubt I could open a bank account where I
sign for checks written to "TRAvel", without having at least a DBA name that was recognized by the state.
and Dad's foreign travel did not continue very far into the 1970s. From
then until the late 1990s, TRA was dormant. Neither the company nor the
name was doing anything. Then, as I was nearing retirement from what
was left of Bell Labs, I found myself with a reputation for knowing
things about how a golf club works. And I was being offered consulting
jobs (and one offer of full-time employment) by companies that
made golf clubs and their components. I got permission from my employer
to do such consulting, as long as (a) it didn't impact my work and (b)
it didn't have anything to do with the business my employer was in.
(Not a lot of overlap there; it was golf club technology vs computer
I needed a name for my golf technology consulting operation, and I just
updated "TRA" to "Tutelman Research"; you saw my business card at the
top of this article. Why change it at all, especially since the change
is a bit counter-trend; most company name changes in the past few decades are
from something meaningful to just an abbreviation. Well, it is now a
one-man operation, so the 'A' for "Associates" would be untrue, and
"TR" is already taken.
In fact, "TR" is already taken by multiple entities. One of them happens to stand for Technology Review, an engineering magazine which I have qualified to receive free. We have come full circle.
I have done a lot of golf research since then, some of it with a
consulting fee, some for free, and some just to satisfy my own
curiosity. You can find the output of my golf research elsewhere on this web site. For instance, this
graph is of a driver's "launch space", a concept I pioneered.
And it's all done under the auspices of what originated as TRA more than 60 years ago.
Aug 13, 2023