LIMA — Larry Bryan's first day on the job was Jan. 19, 1970. It would be another two years before HBO launched. When he says he's been with the cable industry from the ground up, he's not kidding.After 42 years with the same company that's now known as Time Warner Cable, Bryan, 65, is going the way of those giant satellite dishes seen from Elida Road: retirement. His last day is Friday.Bryan has been a part of massive growth and technology change, and as he opens a new chapter in his life, the industry is on the cusp of more big changes.“When I started, we had 12 channels. We ran on WLIO's TV tower,” Bryan said. “But you know, the one thing that hasn't changed is that coaxial cable. The thing we used to connect people's homes is the same thing we use now.”Everything else has changed, even Bryan's title. His business card says he's the manager of headend operations for the northwest sector of the Mid-Ohio Division. What's a headend, you ask? It was a giant room with lots of cables hooked up to the satellite dishes that provided you all your channels. The room still says “headend” on the door, but the term is on the way out. They're now “hubs,” Bryan said. For the past few years, Bryan's job has been to replace headends with hubs, 29 in Northwest Ohio, from Versailles to just south of Toledo.At the Elida Road location, the hub is a chilled nerve center. Fiber flows everywhere, like the Play-Doh hair cut play set but neatly bundled and wrapped. Rows of servers in space about the size of an average living room serve the region's television, business data and Internet and home Internet needs. Anyone who understands that a thumb drive holds multitudes of what an old floppy disk could understands this concept: In not much space, and with small machines, Time Warner is processing a ridiculous amount of information.Two new pieces of equipment, each about the size of a cafeteria lunch tray and an inch thick, handle Time Warner's basic cable customers, those who get channels up to 70. They eliminated more than three rows of equipment in the room.“The technology evolves,” Bryan said. “We find a new way to add capacity.”A Lima-area native, Bryan graduated from high school and started working at Superior Coach, where his father did. After drafted into the Army and serving in the Vietnam War, Bryan returned home and knew he didn't want that job back. He followed some friends into the communications business, but a different end of it. While friends were going into radio and TV broadcasting, he followed the technology. He remains to this day an amateur radio operator.Bryan has a grown son and daughter. Between he and his wife, Linda, they have 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Bryan plans to continue consulting for Time Warner for a few months, seeing through some projects that are nearly complete and then enjoy retirement, including wintering in Florida.In the late 1980s, Bryan felt like something was missing in his life, and he realized it was a formal education. Through the University of Findlay, he earned first his associate's degree and then a bachelor's degree in computer science, finishing in 1998. It matched up nicely with the massive technology changes he was seeing in his job, he said.The diplomas are still on the wall of his office, but they're headed for a new wall, as he heads for another chapter.You can comment on this story at www.LimaOhio.com.
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