Computer Histories Page XIV

Story of the Picture

The photo being displayed was taken in 1970 in the Computer Room of Aetna Life and Casualty, 151 Farmington Ave, Hartford, CT. The background is the state-of-the-art IBM 360/65. The young women pictured were the trainers on the Implementation Team. They traveled to every Aetna Property and Casualty Field Office in the US to train local staff on the new system called SAFARI (System by Aetna for Fast Access to Records and Information).

There was widespread apprehension in Field Offices about having to learn new technical processes that would replace their comfortable manual processes of many years’ standing. One reason this photo was taken was for publicity to ease those fears. It illustrated to Field Office staff that the trainers about to arrive were not threatening or anxiety-producing—just a bunch of 20-something young women coming to help them learn the new system! It did not reveal the determination and skills of those young women to accomplish this task.

The woman holding the photo, Sonia Lipetz, was on that original team and is shown at the center of the photo seated on a table wearing a black and white striped dress with a white collar.

SAFARI was the most advanced system of the time in the Insurance Industry. It was an online, real-time updating system initially implemented to support Automobile Insurance. Field Office staff all over the US entered client data into terminals. Data was immediately transmitted to the computer operations center in Hartford via phone lines. The system edited data for both entry and logic errors, then calculated premiums, stored policy data, and sent results back to the originating Field Office within minutes. The policy Declarations Pages were printed in the originating Field Office on IBM Selectric printers. SAFARI also supported policy changes, and had offline connectivity to Aetna’s production batch systems such as Billing. The system functionality was expanded over the subsequent years to support Homeowners Insurance, and to process Claims for both Auto and Homeowners lines. SAFARI was the backbone of Aetna’s Property and Casualty business for decades. Programming and support staff numbered over 250 at its peak.