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Biographies: Memoirs - Turning into Silicon: Further Episodes from Programming's Early Days Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129714D
Original Publication Date: 1992-Mar-31
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 13 page(s) / 60K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

Mark Halpern: AUTHOR [+2]


3309 Brunell Drive Oakland, CA 94602 USA

This text was extracted from a PDF file.
This is the abbreviated version, containing approximately 6% of the total text.

Page 1 of 13


Copyright ©; 1992 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Biographies: Memoirs - Turning into Silicon: Further Episodes from Programming's Early Days


This is the second installment of Mark Halpern's memoir, whose first part -- "On the Heels of the Pioneers: A Memoir of the Not-quite- earliest Days of Programming" -- appeared in Annals of the History of Computing Vol. 13, No. 1,1991. This part can be understood, I think on its own, but some passages win inevitably have less meaning for those who have not read its predecessor.

Mark Halpern

3309 Brunell Drive Oakland, CA 94602 USA

My drive across the United States with my family in-June of 1961 to take up my appointment as head, Computer Applications Research, at the Palo Alto Research Laboratories of Lockheed Missiles and Space Company (LMSC) was an 11-day odyssey that may be worth recounting someday in its own right. The trip included a full rain squall in West Virginia, a mechanical breakdown in Missouri, and a number of other events that suggested that we had offended some higher power, but we arrived safely in Palo Alto on June 12. Having arrived, we very nearly turned around and drove back. For openers, it was one of the hottest days ever recorded for that town, hitting 106 degrees at its peak. The good news continued with my discovery that the Computer Center of LMSC was having one of its periodic flaps: The Navy, our chief customer, was unhappy with us because we were not producing satisfactory results in some data-processing project, and there was a demand that some of the researchers move south some 10 miles to Sunnyvale, the site of the main LMSC manufacturing plant and the Computer Center, to help out temporarily. My LMSC sponsor, Dave Hemmes, was one of those affected by the Navy's wrath, and his welcome to me was somewhat diluted by his understandable preoccupation with working his way out of the current trouble.

Because of the flap, I learned on my first day with LMSC the harsh truth that the Computer Center people down at Sunnyvale were not friendly toward their colleagues at the Palo Alto Lab, which they called "the country club." First, we playboys got to work on the more glamorous research projects, many of our own devising, while they sweated over the big, dull, bread-and- butter government contracts. Then we twisted the knife in the ground by drawing part of our support from income they had earned. It was the principle of the thing. Money itself was not yet a big issue, since this was before Vietnam, and military research funds were plentiful. LMSC in particular was on a roll, having recently brought the Navy's Polaris program in successfully. In the event, very few of us at the lab were actually drafted for Sunnyvale duty, but the fact that it was seriously considered for a while, and the feelings on the part of the Computer C...