The Father of the PLC – Dick Morley

A legend in his own time – this article on Dick Morley appeared in our October Patti Perspective Newsletter and we want to share it on our blog as well. If you are a Dick Morley fan, read and enjoy!

Patti Engineering visit with Dick MorleyThe father of the programmable logic controller (PLC), the spearhead behind massive advancements in engineering, Dick Morley is a self-proclaimed “hermit” and “workaholic.” He really does not consider it work – his love for discovery still drives him to long hours on a daily basis. Dick Morley changed the face of our industry with the PLC. He is a pioneer in the areas of computer design, artificial intelligence, automation, and futurism. He has more than twenty U.S. and foreign patents, including the parallel inference machine, hand-held terminal, floppy disk, motors, and personal rapid transit. Dick has been a tremendous inspiration for our industry and we are just delighted to have the chance to feature him in our newsletter, sharing a bit about what we learned from him during a recent meeting.

Dick is an extremely intelligent man whose lifetime work has contributed greatly to the advancement of technology. He “retired” in 1995, but continues to write and work on a variety of tech-related projects. The PLC idea came from a hangover on January 1, 1968. Yes, really. Not only was he battling a serious New Year’s Eve induced hangover, he was facing the wrath of procrastination with multiple deadlines for proposals he needed to complete that New Year’s Day. “In my frustration working on all of these proposals, I noticed distinct similarities,” explained Dick. “It was then that a light bulb went off and I knew there had to be a better way to control similar types of machines. That revelation led to the concept of the PLC.”

“We had some real problems in the early days of convincing people that a box of software, albeit cased in cast iron, could do the same thing as 50 feet of cabinets, associated relays and wiring,” said Dick. He certainly found his way around convincing people, as Dick was an original founder of Modicon (now part of Schneider Automation, Inc.). He also helped to found more than 100 high technology companies. He has been recognized with many awards, such as the Franklin Institute’s prestigious Howard N. Potts Award, Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers’ Albert M. Sargent Progress Award. He was also inducted into the Automation Hall of Fame.

Our Director of Marketing, Georgia Whalen and Executive Vice President, Sam Hoff, spent a day with Dick last week. They were curious to learn all about his professional successes, personal hobbies and interestingly enough, whether he had any regrets. He said his biggest regret is not writing earlier in his career as it’s a big passion of his now. Why did he wait so long? Dyslexia. It held him back early on in his life, but with today’s software editing and voice recognition software, he relishes writing. He puts this hobby to good use through writing for four industry publications, as well as contributing to multiple books – his own and otherwise.

How does Dick describe himself? Quite frankly… “I am balding, overweight and handicapped. A workaholic and a geek with a good sense of humor. My presentations usually make some in the audience smile while causing others to be angry. And fear not, questions are always tolerated. A recommendation – have several cups of coffee before listening to anything I have to say,” he said.

In his personal life, Dick misses his late wife of 56 years, Shirley. They first met when she caught his eye at a bar. She was arm wrestling – with men – and winning! Dick immediately thought, “That is the kind of woman I want to be with!” They were married for decades and spent most of their years together happily secluded in a sparsely populated area of New Hampshire. With his loss of Shirley two years ago, Dick has inherited Shirley’s two dogs, Baby and Duffy, who keep Dick Company while he toils away.

Patti Engineering visits Dick Morley at the 'Barn'Of German heritage, Dick spent his early days on a farm in Massachusetts before relocating to in and around New York City. He attended MIT for four years to study Physics and lived in Cambridge before moving to his large property in New Hampshire with Shirley 43 years ago. He is big on privacy, so his 90 acre property that was previously a stage coach stop “back in the day” is just perfect for him. He calls the original home on the property “Shirley’s house,” because he spent most of his time in his office – the old barn on the property which he renovated back in 1986. At the age of 82, Dick still works 10 hours a day, six days a week. He takes Saturdays off to go see a movie, but it’s hard for him to pull away from his work.

Dick does not let his remote location slow him down. When there was a lack of efficient internet access in his area, he took matters into his own hands and built his own internet tower. To allow for his neighbors to enjoy the same internet access, Dick offers the opportunity to connect to his tower in exchange for fair monthly fee.

Another fascinating fact about Dick is, that in addition to having two biological children, one of which farms on a parcel taken from his property, he and Shirley raised forty children. Yes, forty! Typically coming from troubled homes in their teens, Dick and Shirley took in children and raised them as their own. It all started when their daughter brought home a “latch-key” teenage girl who needed a good home. Shirley was insistent that they take her in and she became their first foster child. The community learned of their generosity, and sought them out to help other children, teenagers and even young adults. Dick informed us that the only stipulation they insisted on in court before they would take in a child is that they would NOT receive any monetary compensation for it. They wanted it to be clear to the child that they were not taking them in for the money. This set the right tone for the new member of the family.

Patti Engineering's visit with Dick MorleyIt was a pretty amazing day that Georgia and Sam spent with Dick. They can’t thank him enough for his time and we hope you have enjoyed this short recounting of some of the things they learned about him!

On a side note, Sam picked up a few arm wrestling tips from Dick! Dick likely learned these from Shirley!