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Changing Computing: The Computing Community and DARPA

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129935D
Original Publication Date: 1996-Jun-30
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-07
Document File: 20 page(s) / 85K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

ARTHUR L. NORBERG: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

Narratives about historical developments during the so-called ";pioneer period"; of electronic digital computing, that is, 1940 to 1960, emphasize the role and desires of military and defense personnel. For example, in Herman Goldstine's memoirs, we learn of his role with the U.S. Army in developing ENIAC and as a project leader in developing the IAS computer [1]. He gives some insight into the nature of certain Army policies toward computer development during and immediately after World War 11. Moreover, Nancy Stern refers to many documents written by Army personnel that illustrate the Army's explicit part in the evolution of ENIAC and UNIVAC [2]. The Army formulated policy for their use in specific Army tasks at a time when the full competence of these machines was yet to be discovered. The role of military policies and people are also portrayed in Mina Rees' memoir discussing the Office of Naval Research (ONR) support of computer development in the 1940s and 1950s [3]. When researchers come to examine a larger, more extensive, ";military"; role in stimulating computing R&D, however, their writings are regularly faceless, motiveless, results-dominated descriptions of developments, even when they focus on the contractors and their products. In these works, the military services and the DOD stand in the background as sources of money, but are not actors in the events. Individuals from DOD are virtually never mentioned, and results are equated with policy intent [4]. Still, results, even from successful developments, are not a policy. Results are also not a program. In addition, the DOD is not a monolithic entity, where programs and policies are agreed to after due deliberation, and promulgated down to lower levels for implementation. In fact, DOD is a collection of fiefdoms of a sort, in which the interests of specific groups are implemented. A group may be involved in tasks where new instrumentation may be useful. as with the Army and ENIAC, or where new defensive systems were required, as with the Air Force and SAGE, or where new weapons systems were required as in the Strategic Defense Initiative [5]. For example, David Allison's study of Navy research activities [6] describes how a group of people in the services, led by a key individual, promotes and pursues the development of a technical system that affects an overall stance of the organization to which the group belongs. Admiral Stanford C. Hopper did this with radio in the early part of this century [7] and William B. McLean did this with the Navy's Sidewinder missile project [8]. One such group is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Recently, a number of authors have written about DARPA's contributions to computing, usually referring to timesharing and networking [9]. Each of these works focuses on the results supposed to be stimulated by military needs. Their interest in DARPA's contributions to computing, through its Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), reflects the influence DARPA has had on nonmilitary systems. DARPA/IPTO, hereinafter called IPTO, is responsible for the style of computing we have today. IPTO supported the significant research that opened doors to graphics, artificial intelligence, timesharing, networking, VLSI design schemes, and massively parallel processing, when combined with miniaturization of components. The design and achievement of the IPTO programs were due to the efforts of a small group of computer scientists frustrated with the direction of corporate R&D and its products, who emerged from the growing computer science community. These men-and before the 1970s there were no women in the group connected with IPTO-focused on radical technologies, organized programs to develop them, and promoted their use in various settings. To understand the evolution of DOD's 1960s policy for computing R&D, we have analyzed the backgrounds, research experience, and interests of the people engaged to design and carry out this policy, and reviewed the methods they used by in establishing programs [10].

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1996 by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Changing Computing: The Computing Community and DARPA

ARTHUR L. NORBERG

Between 1962 and 1986, the Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency provided significant support for computer science R&D. The design and implementation of the support programs of this office was the responsibility of a small group of computer scientists who emerged from the growing computer science community. Program directors focused on radical technologies, organized programs to develop them, and promoted their use in various settings, with substantial success. A better understanding of the evolution of the Department of Defense's policy for computing R&D can be gained from an analysis of the backgrounds, research experience, interests, and methods of the people engaged to design and implement this policy in IPTO.

Introduction

Narratives about historical developments during the so-called "pioneer period" of electronic digital computing, that is, 1940 to 1960, emphasize the role and desires of military and defense personnel. For example, in Herman Goldstine's memoirs, we learn of his role with the U.S. Army in developing ENIAC and as a project leader in developing the IAS computer [1]. He gives some insight into the nature of certain Army policies toward computer development during and immediately after World War 11. Moreover, Nancy Stern refers to many documents written by Army personnel that illustrate the Army's explicit part in the evolution of ENIAC and UNIVAC [2]. The Army formulated policy for their use in specific Army tasks at a time when the full competence of these machines was yet to be discovered. The role of military policies and people are also portrayed in Mina Rees' memoir discussing the Office of Naval Research (ONR) support of computer development in the 1940s and 1950s [3]. When researchers come to examine a larger, more extensive, "military" role in stimulating computing R&D, however, their writings are regularly faceless, motiveless, results-dominated descriptions of developments, even when they focus on the contractors and their products. In these works, the military services and the DOD stand in the background as sources of money, but are not actors in the events. Individuals from DOD are virtually never mentioned, and results are equated with policy intent [4].

Still, results, even from successful developments, are not a policy. Results are also not a program. In addition, the DOD is not a monolithic entity, where programs and policies are agreed to after due deliberation, and promulgated down to lower levels for implementation. In fact, DOD is a collection of fiefdoms of a sort, in which the interests of specific groups are implemented. A group may be involved in tasks where new instrumentati...