The following notes have been sent by people who were not able to attend the SAIL Reunion on November 22, 2009, These postings are presented in bloggish form (most recent first).


On 11/22/09 Frank Hilf <fdhilf at> wrote:

Watching the program on live webcast was one of the best 4 hours I’ve spent in years. I was surprised and happy to see Sebastian for the first time, and the “new arrivals” to the lab, what they’ve done, and his graciousness and respect and welcome to all the old-timers. I found a lot of what I saw and heard from the new guys to be stimulating and, maybe best of all, perhaps it gave hope that a few of them might be embarking on a path that will turn out to be fruitful, at least in the areas, such as language, that I was involved in. The thought passed through my mind a number of times that our future might possibly depend on them and on the lab’s continuing in the same spirit as those early days. We, the world, sure are in a fix, and we need all the help we can get from bright people who are given the unfettered freedom to seek solutions based on science, knowledge, experimentation. I know nothing about the new lab other than what I saw on the webcast, but I liked it a lot.

And you looked great, by the way. I’m sorry I missed your speech at the end. I was watching Lynn Quam and all of a sudden the line went dead, and that was it. The time passed so quickly that I hadn’t realized that over four hours had already passed. I can’t wait to see that follow up report or “article” based on your talk. And, of course, it will be great to see the full downloadable archive with your talk included.

It was very good to see John up there on the stage. I know he cut into the time by making all those comments here and there, but it was like seeing a bit of John from the old days, with his prods and his challenges. And to see everyone else.


On 11/22/09 Randall Davis davis at wrote:

I sit here in Weston, MA, watching the seminar going on in front on me via webcast, and revel in the thought that some of the SAIL work helped make this remarkable world possible. 


Unfortunately I have to do it this way, due to other travel constraints. I regret that I can't can be there in person to see so many people whose names are so familiar, and yet so far back in memory. 


The best I can do is share a couple of fond memories of events at the Lab. I will, as Les has noted, tell you what I remember, acknowledging the variation in memory that time and distance can produce. 

The Visit from the USSR Academy of Science

Though it was very much the cold war era, John McCarthy's connections with the Soviet Union led to a visit of a delegation of Soviet scientists. I remember noticing the curious makeup of the group: there were perhaps a half dozen senior scientists who watched all the demos with considerable interest. A second group of observers were gentlemen in the 20's and 30's, who all seemed to be about 6' 4" and barely able to fit their bulk in their ill-fitting suits. When asked, we were assured that they, too, were scientists, but they did seem to spend much more time watching the Russian scientists than they did watching the demos.   ''


There was also a contingent of US secret service folks providing the US end of security. As they came in  -- all cleancut, crewcut and a bit wide-eyed at the chaos -- they spread out through the building to take their guard posts. As I recall, Hans Moravec [?] and perhaps others decided to drive the robot cart out to one of the far flung balconies where a single Secret Service agent manned his lonely post. The cart slowly made its way along the walkway, and when he spotted it coming up behind him, the look on the agent's face was priceless. He watched it approach, give him a once-over with its camera, then retreat. I wonder what -- if anything -- he wrote about this in his duty report. 

You Are ... Where?

The Lab residents were used to its odd layout, but it could be bewildering to others. One day someone took pity on visitors by posting a crude ASCII-based map of the building in the entryway, with the usual You Are Here label.


Before long the ASCII map was joined by a topo map of Palo Alto, with a pushpin and string going from the ASCII map to the correct spot on the Palo Alto map. Not long after there appeared in sequence:

    a map of California,

    then a map of the US,

    then a world map,

    then a solar system map, then

    an image of a spiral galaxy, and finally,

    an evolutionary tree, from algae to homo sapiens,

all adorned with a pushpin and string indicating You Are Here.


It was a treat to watch visitors scan the collection, getting a quick self-service lesson in mind expanding perspective. The final addition one day was a string from the ASCII map to the spot on the floor where the observer stood, providing a (self-service) lesson in self-reference.

Watching The Genesis of TeX

When I was writing my thesis, one of the folks who also occupied the Lab on the overnight shift for a while was Don Knuth, writing code for TeX. I could tell what he was up to because Ted Panofsky's clever implementation of the video terminal system allowed you to map someone else's screen to your own.


What I saw by peeking electronically over his shoulder left me even more impressed: as far as I could tell, he wrote code straight across the page, no obvious line breaks, no indentation, nothing that makes it possible for mortals to write code that works. Don't worry Don, your secret is safe with me.


Don also walked by my office one night at 3AM on his way out, when I was typing away at thesis text. At that hour it felt like ideas went straight from my head to my fingertips without much processing in between, so I was clacking away frantically. Don stood in the doorway, paused, and said "I've *never* heard anyone type so fast...." OK, I'll take compliments where I can get them.


The Rolling Stone Evening

In October 1972, Rolling Stone send a young reporter and photographer to SAIL to do a story on the Lab and on the coming world of computers. The reporter was Steward Brand, the photographer Annie Lebovitz. It was a wonderfully chaotic evening, whose mood was nicely captured by the article itself (I suspect there's a copy in the SAIL archive), as various groups led Brand and Leovitz around to demos.


My task was to show them the hand-eye system. As a photographer, Annie was intrigued by the idea that a computer could take a picture. When I sat them in front of the hand-eye system to take their electronic portrait, Steward grabbed Annie's camera, pretending to take a picture of her; Annie responded by grinning, sticking her thumbs in her ears and mugging for his camera. Recently (i.e., 37 years later [!]), Bruce Baumgart retrieved the bits for this and turned it into a jpg; it's a great piece of (low res, b/w) history. I've attached it to this email; hopefully Les can include it in the pdf file he's been building with these replies.


Degree in hand (1976) I spent two more years at Stanford, as a post-doc in the Mycin group with Ed Feigenbaum and Bruce Buchanan, then went off to MIT as a faculty member in 1980, where I remain. Lots of interesting things have happened in the 29 years since then, but that's a story for another time and place.


I still remember fondly the hours spent up on the hill, the magnificent sunsets, the amazing sense of barely controlled chaos, the remarkable things that went on in the Lab, driven by the curiosity and talent of the assembled crew. To the folks who helped make it such a wonderful place -- my heartfelt thanks, and best wishes on the reunion day.



On 11/21/09 Marvin Minsky <marvin.minsky at> wrote:

Congratulations to all guests, medalists and, especially John McCarthy, for this celebration of SAIL's great history.  I got sidetracked this weekend, but will try to make it to the next such event.


On 11/21/09 Alan Kay <alan.nemo at> wrote:

I'm very sorry to miss all the doings and folks. Please convey my regrets and respects to all (and thanks so much for organizing the gig!)


On 11/20/09 Enrico Pagello <epv at> wrote:

I really deeply regret to miss the possibility to rejoin for a time again the exhibiting scientific community among which I spent 10 long months in the far-away academic year 1977-78. I came to SAIL at the beginning of my scientific carrier, thanks to the generous hospitality of John McCarthy, and I will always be in debt with all the people I met there for so many interesting ideas and hints I was able to grasp in artificial intelligence and robotics.

I had the chance to work on the AL robot language project in the research group of Tom Binford. But I remember as well the many scientific discussions with Richard Weyhrauch, about logic programming, and with Zohar Manna, about the theory of programs. I met also many other nice and smart people, that it would be too long to list them all here!

After my return to Italy, I was able to start my own research group in robotics, first at the Institute of Biomedical Engineering of CNR, in Padua, and then at the Department of Information Engineering of the University of Padua, where I am now a professor of Computer Science.

Later on, I spent more and more time in Far East, in Japan and China, (I have been elected this year a Fellow of The University of Tokyo), trying to merge my Western education with the Eastern approach to science and nature to better understand the meaning of modern technology, especially the one related to robotics issues, that are especially so popular in Japan.

I am continuing now to work in the research field of Multi-robot Systems that has been strengthened by the 12-years experience generated by RoboCup community that I contributed to establish as a Vice President of RoboCup Federation for some years. And recently, thanks to some connections with Japanese scientists, I developed an interest in Humanoids research (where Stanford is giving also a first-class contribution thanks to the excellent research of Oussama Khatib!).

But I never forget the quiet surrounding of SAIL, with so many Eucalyptus trees, clean air, and a beautiful view of Bay area with San Francisco skyline. I wish You may all have a successful and enjoyable reunion meeting!
 Dr. Eng. Enrico Pagello, Professor of Computer Science, University of Padua, Italy


On 11/19/09 Mark Kahrs <mark.kahrs at> wrote:

I deeply, deeply regret that I am not able to be there to see my many friends and colleagues from that era. Of all the places I have lived (under the machine room) and worked (in the office with Farmwald, Gilbert and Gosper), I have to say that SAIL is really on the top of the heap. I have never been in such an organization before or since.  It is a remarkable memory. It was pure unadulterated fun mixed with manic hackery. What really sets SAIL apart was the (mostly) benign leadership (dictatorship) of LES and JMC. Their acceptance and tolerance of projects of outsiders like JC enabled digital music technology and created CCRMA.


Would SAIL have been as special without the D.C. Power Lab?  I'm not sure. It's location was almost magical.  Morning after an all night coding session was exquisite -- the light over the hills was spectacular and the smell of the wet grass is still memorable.


The notion of a shared computing resource meant that users contributed to the communal good -- fixing bugs in shared code (like SAIL)was something we all did because it helped the SAIL community at large. By the time I left, the technology was ready for the changeover to personal computing.  With it, the dinosaurs like the PDP-10 would vanish and away went the notion of a shared, communal resource.


My time at SAIL was wonderful: I learned a lot, I played a fair amount of volleyball, rode up the hill on my bicycle refusing to admit defeat and experimented cooking with the new microwave oven in the Prancing Pony. Again, my fondest remembrances...


On 11/19/09 Charlie Wilson <seahunter at> wrote:

We are not going to be able to make it to the reunion after all. I am pretty disappointed as I was looking forward to reconnecting with old friends.


In the years since I left AI we have been living in the cabin we started in 1974. My interest in renewable energy became a 32 year career and Cietha became the first teacher in a community-started school 31 years ago. She is still there, now teaching the kids of former students and working alongside a former student who is now a teacher as well.


In 1980 I got involved with a couple other semihippies who had started a business selling solar panels. One of the partners had a fair amount of money from some of the illicit agriculture this area has become famous for and the other found some Arco 32 watt PV panels. They bought a hundred and we started selling them to other hippies who had cash in their pockets but no electricity in their homes. The business, Alternative Energy Engineering, was improbably successful and I've worked there ever since. We grew to become the biggest employer in the area for a while. (Remember, we are talking about being out in the sticks here, not Sunnyvale.) In the last 10 years I've been through 3 buyouts, one company rebirth and I just found out the majority owners Mainstream Energy of San Luis Obispo are moving my job to Sacramento. That was a bit of a blow but I wasn't completely surprised. AEE the company has been reduced to a "brand" belonging to Mainstream and they are consolidating the functions of both of the company brands in fewer sites. I could retain my job by moving to Sac. but we have deep roots here so that is out of the question.  


Those same deep roots make me pretty confident about my future employment. If I can't get a formal job I can be get lots of work as a self employed off-grid power system consultant (Sounds fancier than repairman doesn't it?) All the ones I used to sell equipment to have more installation and repair work than they can handle usually and assure me I would stay busy.


I wish all of you a great reunion, SAIL was one of the magic places and times in my life.


On 11/19/09 Steve German <sgerman at> writes:

Thank you for looking me up and inviting me to the SAIL Reunion.  I really would like to attend, but I live in the Boston area, and it was not practical to travel to California at this time.  I did consider coming, because my wife's family lives in northern California, and we  would like to visit them too.


I am glad that I had the opportunity to be at SAIL in the 1970s.  SAIL was a very stimulating place, and I met many very interesting people.


In the years since I left Stanford, I have been very active in the formal verification research community. I have been at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center since 1995.  I work on methods for verifying hardware.

I am especially involved in verifying the hardware protocols for large  servers and supercomputers, including cache memory protocols, message routing protocols, and such.


I would be glad to hear from other people I knew at SAIL. My home phone is 508-358-4044.


On 11/18/09 Martin Brooks <brooks.martin at> wrote:

... to JMC, and all others who make it to the reunion this weekend. And to you, Les !
I am alive and well in Ottawa, and grateful to be doing meaningful research.
My newest project is utilization of renewable energy for network services.
See GreenStar Network at


On 11/18/09 Jorge Phillips <jorge.phillips at> wrote:

I will not be able to attend the SAIL reunion although I did try to rearrange
my schedule until the last minute, albeit unsuccessfully. I am very sorry,
but hope there will be another occasion.

A fantastic idea to have a meeting of everybody that worked at SAIL!
I would have liked very much to get together with you and former professors,
mentors and colleagues, especially those from the PSI, PUNS and Program
Verification groups.

Your invitation brought back fond memories of old times, full of thesis work,
upside down schedules, Datadiscs, SAIL and Maclisp hacking, the III and Space
War, E, POX, PUB, NS, and so many more things that were harbingers of today's interconnected planet. All of these technologies developed in the golden hills near
Felt Lake, with the whirring sound of the Librascope in the background...

Great years, great thinking and great people. The best of times. I wish you all a great couple of days, and hope to meet again with some, if not all of you, at Stanford sometime in the future.


On 11/18/09 Peggy Waters <mjw3511 at> wrote:

What a surprise to hear from Les! It brought back lots of memories. Here’s a brief synopsis of my adventures since then: 

      Several years after I left AI my dog Sherry, who spent her puppyhood there, came down with spinal cancer and was paralyzed.  After an acupuncture treatment she was able to stand up again. From the treatments we got about 3 months of quality of life before she finally died. As a result of all this I became a licensed acupuncturist.

       I also do lots of wild animal rescue and rehab and am on the board of the local native plant society. I am now enjoying life in the santa cruz mountains. I won't be able to attend the reunion but I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to catch up.


On 11/17/09 Patte Wood <pattew at> wrote:

I'm sorry to say that I won't be able to be at the SAIL reunion as economics make it difficult to get there.  I'm sure you will all have a great time reminiscing.  I still remember my first week there when I turned around to find Hans Moravec's robot staring at me through the window and later getting everyone to help paint the front office and hallways.


I really hate to miss this event as there are many memories of past volleyball games, The Prancing Pony, YumYum (I still have a copy), AI Olympics and swims in Felt Lake.  I wonder if the ghosts of the robot vehicle and robot arms still wander the site spooking the horses. 

When CCRMA remained behind at the lab and became its own entity, I became the Administrator (a paler and somewhat less assertive version of Les Earnest but he had taught me well his wise ways of running the lab).  With John Chowning as the Director, we officially got permission from the University to house graduate students in the building carrying on the tradition of those early SAILers who built lofts in the ceiling.  It was quite funny to have businessmen from Yamaha in Japan visit the building where there were diapers drying on the railings and a couple of pink flamingos.  Many of them also were initated into eating the greasy burgers at Zotts.  So CCRMA carried on in the spirit of SAIL at DC Power until later moving to campus.

The Fire - actually, the person who went down to the barn to get the horses out was a just arrived visiting scholar from Barcelona (I think).   I had gone to the campus for a meeting.  Someone told me that the lab was on fire.  I had left my pitbull mix dog Nikki in my office and I wasn't able to get back to the building and didn't know if it was still standing or had burned for about four hours.  If I can find them, I'll email some of the photos taken during the fire.

Later, to celebrate the large grant that helped CCRMA survive, we bought an espresso machine for the prancing pony and held a ?pig, lamb, goat? roast (my memory is failing me) on the volleyball court.  The first outdoor computer music concerts were also held on the volleyball court.

If this "walkabout" is anything like past SAIL hikes, Vic Scheinman, Bruce Anderson and Bob Tucker, along with Les, will be competing with each other to see who is the fastest and will be way ahead of everyone else with others (me and Joan there in spirit) bringing up the rear.  Y'all, as they say in the South, have a good time!


On 11/17/09 Ruby B. Lee <rblee at Princeton.EDU> wrote:

Unfortunately, I will not be able to make it to this awesome SAIL reunion.  I cannot remember exactly what I did at SAIL - something about getting a machine to be an artist and produce original machine art that looked as good as abstract art? (Not too difficult actually :-)    I do recall how much I enjoyed working at SAIL on the hill - it had a wacky, creative feel to it that was great!

Ah well, my career has evolved into more down-to-earth stuff such as being at HP leading their microprocessor design teams, multimedia team and security architecture teams.  That was fun too - e.g., designing the first software-based movie player and video-conference system based on new micro-SIMD instructions in the processor. Then, more fun at Princeton as a professor.  Indeed, now I am looking at how to change the rules of the game so that attackers in cyberspace no longer have the clear advantage.  Led a nation-wide summit on this recently.  More fun and games...

All my best to SAILers - enjoy the reunion!

Ruby Lee
Forest G. Hamrick Professor, Electrical engineering dept,
Princeton University


On 11/16/09 Balint Domolki < bdomolki at> wrote:

I am a mathematician by education having spent all my professional life in computing. Just after graduation at Budapest University in 1957 I was lucky enough to get a job with the very first computer oriented organization in Hungary, being called at that time "Cybernetic Research Group of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences". Our task was very simple: to produce a computer (or as it was called that time "electronic calculating machine") for Hungary. After some debates - as computers were not sold in shops at that time, especially not through the iron curtain - it was decided to build a computer from the documentation of one of the early Russian computers, called M-3. My task - as a mathematician among the engineers - was to understand the "working" of the computer from the not too detailed documentation.


After that, many more computers came to Hungary and I did work in the software field at different - state owned - research and development institutions. Had two "half sabbatical" fellowships: in 1963-64 in Manchester, working on Atlas with the first syntax directed compiler called "Compiler-Compiler" of Brooker and Morris, and in 1974-75 in the Stanford AI Lab, working with Richard Weyrauch , trying to use his First Order Logic proof-checker (FOL) to program synthesis. Back in Hungary, I was involved mostly in the emerging software industry, managing some interesting projects, including the development of one of the first commercial Prolog systems, called MPROLOG, distributed - for some years - with limited success- in many countries  After the political changes in the 90s, I started a spin-off company called IQSOFT, being one of the successful software houses in Hungary. Having retired from the management of the company, I have worked as advisor for different organizations. In the last five years my main activity is managing a technology foresight project about the "information society" in Hungary in the next decade. It is a very interesting task, involving many reading about what is going on in the leading IT laboratories (like SAIL)


So, that is me, and I remember with much pleasure the nice and interesting time spent in 1974-75 in Stanford. Naturally I cannot travel to the reunion on Nov. 22, but will try to follow it on the web, as far as the time difference allows. Please convey my kindest regards to all people I have known (and who may remember me), especially to Richard Weyrauch, whose name I have been very glad to notice on your list of attendees.


Wishing a very successful Reunion,  Best regards


On 11/13/09 John Levy <info at> wrote:

I was at SAIL solely to work on a program for Raj Reddy's CS224/225 class (AI).  I wrote something that elided phonemes, presumably as a component of a speech processing system yet to be built. I fancied myself something of a linguist (English, French, German; later in grad school: Japanese), but the program only barely worked.  I don't think I was cut out for AI work.  I even managed to fail the AI Qual!


I ended up in computer systems architecture & operating systems, working first at DEC in Massachusetts (PDP-11 hardware and OS; and VAX), then Tandem and then Apple (Lisa).  From there I became a consultant for 10 years, then 6 years at Quantum (hard disks), and back to consulting in 1998.  These days I'm consulting on managing the transition to Agile software development; and acting as an expert witness in some of those ubiquitous patent lawsuits you read about.  I just found a publisher for my first book, "Get Out of the Way", a manual for managers of high-tech development.


Aside from the 5 years in Maynard, Mass., I've been in California since 1965;  I now live next to the Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County.  I wasn't enough of a researcher at SAIL to get my initials into the system, but I am working with at least one of the more serious SAIL researchers now on a patent case.  My regards to all who were at Stanford CS in the '60s & '70s.


On 11/12/09 Frank Hilf wrote:

To all my SAIL friends: I’m sorry I won’t be able to make the reunion in person, but if the telecommunication link works I’ll be watching/participating in real time from New York City. The years at the Power Lab Building seem like yesterday. I’ve missed the camaraderie, excitement, fun, and the never to be replicated fountain of creativity, excellence, decency and support that I experienced during those years, nurtured by the staff, all the personnel, faculty, students, everyone. The memories of those incredible years have never left me.

Thank you, everyone!!!!

On 11/8/09 Dick Helliwell <rph at> wrote:

I'm really sorry that I will be unable to attend this event.  I was hoping to see a lot of familiar faces and remember some good times.  I have fond memories of my time at SAIL.  I still remember the New Years Eve that Ralph Gorin and I rewired the paper tape reader on the PDP-10 so that we could make it go backwards and "rewind" the paper tape.


I'm currently living in Colorado Springs and working for DataDirect Networks, Inc.  I still work with a bunch of hackers!  It's fun, but I miss the sauna ;^)


On 11/7/09 Gunnar Grape <gunnar.grape at>, who hangs out on a farm in northern Sweden wrote:

Grapeshot regrets that he is unable to attend the SAIL reunion, but wishes to extend his warmest greetings to all his past and present friends, colleagues and teachers, fellow Sierra hikers, fellow volleyball netters, fellow nightworkers, fellow ...


The memories from my six Stanford/SAIL years are very precious to me, and still very much alive. Closing my eyes, I can walk the decks of our unique and wonderful building, which no longer exists, alas ...


I wish you all a great reunion and long and happy lives ... Bounce, bounce !


On 11/7/09 Bruce Bullock <bbullock at> wrote:

Sorry that I won't be able to attend the SAIL reunion, but great to hear from you and read all the terrific reminiscing emails.  I'm currently living on Cape Cod and helping some friends with yet another virtual start-up.

I was a visiting staff member at the AI Lab for a year in '76 from Hughes Research Lab (now HRL Labs). Hard to believe but that was so long ago that at the time I was the first person doing any research in image understanding and AI at Hughes. Hughes had no image processing hardware when I started, so I had to send photographs out to DICOMED to get them digitized and sent back on tape. Hughes also didn't have any timeshare computing available, so using a TI Silent 700 terminal with a phone headset connected, I "rented" LISP timeshare afterhours on a PDP-10 being run by an unknown insurance company in Columbus, OH....that later became the start of CompuServe.  So coming to the AI Lab was truly like being beamed onto another planet in so many ways. The fantastic people, facility and resources created by all you great folks at the lab was truly a life changing experience for me and a source of frustration for my management after I returned. I'm sure many of the students just took it for granted at the time, but it's obvious from reading other notes here it had a similar impact on many.

Best wishes to all and especially the friends I made while there.


On 11/5/09 Hamid Nabavi <hnabavi at> wrote:

This was such a nice surprise! Thank you for initiating/organizing this. While, unfortunately, I won’t be able to join you for the Reunion, I spent some time going over the list of names and other accompanying material and reminisced my time at the AI Lab during the late seventies. “Now here this!” I think was the message sent to all whenever you were announcing the imminent start of volleyball outside.


A couple times I brought visitors and proudly showed them our Hand Eye table and the manipulator/arm actions. However, due to the revolution that was going on back home in Iran, the most attractive facility at the AI Lab for me was the live AP Wire Service whose stories about the events in Iran I used to spend much time reading on my Data Disk terminal; something that lengthened the time of my RA appointment and completion of my Engineer thesis, which did not make Tom Binford very happy!


On 11/3/09 Bill Scherliss < wls at> wrote:

What a great idea to have a SAIL reunion, and I wish you the very best. I'm sorry to have to decline the invitation due to now-boring reason of exotic conflicting travel. I'll be in Qatar that day visiting the CMU-Q campus.

Please convey my best regards to all, including those late-night hackers who wore out the "9" and "0" keys writing code, those who still miss the page-header-summary feature in E, those who (also) lost out in the auction bidding for the retired Librascope disks, those who remember reading tweezed-in hackers' misfortunes at Chinese banquets, and those who wondered at the PDP-10's occasional complaints of "too much music."


On 11/2/09 Gregor v. Bochmann <bochmann at> wrote:

I cannot attend the gathering; I am currently in China. I spent my first sabbatical year (from the University of Montreal in Canada) in 1979-80 at Stanford University with the research group of David Luckham, which was located on the main campus. During that year I came often up to SAIL and enjoyed the nice view over the California country side. I also remember the older graphical terminals that were wide-spread at SAIL at that time; but I must say that I enjoyed more the Xerox Alto computers with their WYSIWYG interface for text processing. I learned typing on those computers, which has been a major asset for my career since then.

More seriously, I also experimented at SAIL with computer-aided program verification. I found it very tedious, and I did not continue to work in that area. However, I also met during that year Susan Owicki through whom I got acquainted with temporal logic (which was quite new at that time). She also introduced me to self-timed hardware design, as proposed by Mead and Conway, which inspired me to write a paper entitled "Hardware specification with temporal logic: an example" (with a hand-crafted proof) which was later much cited.

Finally, I would like to note that I met many nice people during that year at Stanford. And I should also mention that I did some work with John Pickens who was at that time member of Peter Neumann's group at SRI - also concerned with program proofs, temporal logic and related things. I wish everybody a pleasant reunion on November 22.


On 11/1/09 Barbara Ann Barnett <babaccordn at> wrote:

I wonąt be able to attend the reunion and will miss seeing those who I knew while at the AI Lab.  Although my employment as Johnąs secretary was relatively brief, I wonąt forget. Being a secretary in 1970 and logging onto a computer every morning. Driving daily up the curvy road from Arastradero to pass the “Caution: Robot Vehicle” sign which frequently gave me the feeling I was entering a different world, to me a strange frontier. I had no idea what was going on, but you were very kind to me, and I thank you.


I left the Lab in 1972 and entered a doctoral program in Clinical Psychology.  Iąve been in private practice ever since, and along the way spent 18 years on staff in Out-Patient Psychiatry at Kaiser in Santa Clara. I may retire soon, or may not. I certainly will continue playing jazz, swing, and singing. Didnąt know I was a musician? Donąt laugh, I play accordion!


On 10/31/09 Takayasu Ito <taka.ito at> wrote:

Nice to hear from you on SAIL reunion. The event looks very interesting. However, I will be unable to come because of conflict with domestic events. Hope that the reunion events are successful and enjoyable. Please extend my best regards to Profs McCarthy, Feigenbaum, Reddy, and other people.


On 10/29/09 David Shaw <David.Shaw at> wrote:

Nearly everyone else's excuses for not attending seemed to involve exotic travel, so in order to avoid conveying the impression that my own social calendar is entirely empty, I quickly made plans to give a talk at a molecular dynamics simulation conference at the Barcelona Supercomputing Center.  Or maybe the talk was planned in advance; I've had trouble remembering such things since sustaining repeated head injuries during the early 1980s as an NFL quarterback.  Or maybe I didn't; I can't remember for sure.


I do remember, however, the years I spent living in the future as a graduate student at SAIL.  I remember the wandering robots, the prancing ponies, and the instrumentless music, each measure of which consumed a large chunk of PDP-10 time.  I remember how intimidated I felt asking the systems wizards stupid questions (which were the only ones I was then capable of generating) in the middle of the night, and the awe I felt at the mystical rites and secrets with which only they were conversant.  I even remember a bit of the numerical analysis that I couldn't imagine ever using, but which turned out to be relevant to the research I'd be doing several decades later.


What I don't remember is any sense of our historical place in the emergence of an entirely new, deeply digital world -- the only one our three children have ever known.  Although I'm sure that some of you foresaw more than I did, I can't remember sharing a collective vision, for example, of how the Arpanet we took for granted then might someday turn into anything remotely resembling the Internet we take for granted now.  Et cetera.


Or maybe I've just forgotten.

Warm regards to all of you.


On 10/29/09 Dr. Barry I. Soroka < bisoroka at> wrote:

I regret that I can't attend the reunion, but I send my greetings to all whom I remember and who remember me.  SAIL was a temporary gig for me - research requires a monomania which is not mine.  My destiny was teaching, and I've been professing at Cal Poly Pomona for 22 years.  I am grateful to SAIL for the opportunity to work on the cutting edge with very smart people.  The graduate students gave me quite an education!  I have lots of great stories to tell today's first-year college students who think they know it all.


On 10/29/09 Jim Low < jimlow at> wrote:

I was pleased to hear from you about the upcoming SAIL Reunion. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend. Your note did get me thinking back more than 35 years to the time I was at SAIL.

I have fond memories of  the volleyball games,  I will always remember one game where there was a large dog (Great Dane???)  watching us play (and occasionally chasing a stray ball). At one point the dog was lying down near the court. During a lull in the game, it got up; came over to me and bit me (no skin was broken) on my calf. It then calmly walked back to where it had been and lay down again. I didn't think I had been playing that badly.

Those were different days. I remember during one set of student protests. I was down on campus during the day blocking access to the IBM 360 as part of a protest, and then in the evening coming out to SAIL to walk the grounds to make sure no protestors caused problems there. I will always remember watching Nixon's resignation on the TV in the lounge and then going out with several co-workers etc to celebrate.

I remember when the automatic payment system for a vending machine in the Prancing Pony was installed. SAIL seemed to get more press coverage, with TV camera-men and newscasters for that than we got for the more traditional research.

Hello to all my co-workers on the SAIL programming system, the WAITS implementers, the Hand-Eye Project, FOONLY, the MLISP people, and all the others.

I'm retired, living in Rochester NY. I worked for about 10 years in the Computer Science Department at the University of Rochester. I went to Rochester in 1974 with Jerry Feldman to start that department. I was a consultant to Xerox in Webster NY in printing systems and eventually became an employee as a research scientist. I'm keeping active with my "virtual" grandchildren (children of a friend of mine), babysitting, going to soccer and lacrosse games etc. I continue to snowshoe in the winter and whitewater kayak in the summer. I just took up horse back riding and will be going to Ecuador in January to visit with a friend and to test my new riding skills.


On 10/26/09 Juan Ludlow <juan.ludlow at> wrote:

Gee Les, what a great initiative.  It is good for people to remember that not so long ago we were doing, apparently, primitive things that have lead the way to truly remarkable stuff:  Remember news by ME!  What a precursor for everything we take for granted today... Remember the FOONLY... Remember prove ~a or ~b = ((NOT a) AND b) XOR (NOT b)!

Any way.  All this great work, while at the same time we were reading and discussing heavy duty philosophy. Regards to all. I will make it next time.


On 10/24/09 Denny Brown <dbrown at> wrote:

This is a great idea. Jake and I would really like to attend. But I'm playing in a baseball tournament in Florida, and we won't be back to Palo Alto in time. My team, the Norcal Antiques, will be playing in the Classics Division (60 and over ) of the Roy Hobbs World Series. We play at the spring training complexes of the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Hi to everybody from the Browns.

On 10/24/09 Arthur J. Thomas <Arthur.Thomas at> wrote:

Unfortunately work commitments preclude my attending what will no doubt
be a very enjoyable event. Please give my best regards to everyone. I recently
succumbed to the lure of the academic life (after being a free-lance consultant
in life science informatics for more years than I care to remember) and took a
"real job" to manage a new program in computational and systems medicine
(how's that for a job title?) at University College London. Knowledge
representation, reasoning and other AI-ish topics are a central part of my activities. I'm also involved in a project at Oxford to use multi-scale computational models of the heart to predict drug toxicity, and have a visiting position at the Oxford Internet Institute (where Yorick Wilks also hangs out) working on use of collaborative knowledge management tools in eHealth.

If any SAIL alumni/ae are passing through London or Oxford at any time, I'd be delighted to see them.


On 10/20/09 Clark Thomborson (formerly Thompson) < cthombor at> wrote:

I wish I could attend this reunion.  I'm having a fun trip down "memory lane" just reading through the invited-list! 


Here are some of my memories:

I was a Master's student under Lynn Quam during 1974-5.  Please give my

Best regards to him -- he assigned me to a very interesting project, giving me my first taste of academic research in computer science.  I didn't go on in computer vision; algorithmic analysis (a la Knuth) and computer architecture(a la Flynn) were uppermost on my mind in those days...


Les, your "bounce, bounce!" energy was infectious.  I imagine you still

Have it -- otherwise why would you be organising this event?  Volleyball was a great break from my master's research.


I was impressed by the computer-controlled vending machine (with input via a model-33 TTY, I think). I think I managed to get someone to lie about my age on the database, so I could order beer to go with the food I got from the machine when I was hungry. I only tried the double-or-nothing payment option once -- I have never been a gambler -- but it was all part of the light-hearted atmosphere. I recall an all-nighter in the summer of 1975, where my fingers were nearly crippled from playing the star-wars game on the PDP-10 -- I think I let my friends use the better 4-button (?) controllers, and the one I was using had only 3 of its four plastic button-covers.


I also recall being accused of plagiarism in my English class in May 1975 -- the prof apparently didn't believe it was possible for an undergraduate to produce a nicely typeset essay. However the charges were quickly dropped after I explained that I was using the SAIL facility and, I suspect, because the prof realised, on reflection, that such a mediocre essay on James Joyce could not have been published!


I recall putting about as much energy into trying to get my stereo-vision code to run as quickly as possible, as I did to improve its functionality. My big performance-win came when I managed to write the inner loop compactly enough that I could copy it into the register space and execute it from there. I vaguely recall being very impressed by, and taking good advantage of, some macros that gave a mini-LISP flavour to a C-like language. Two 18-bit pointers in a 36-bit word; variable-length bytes; that PDP-10 allowed a lot of scope for assembly-language hacking! However I never figured out how to persuade the OS to give me the "fast memory" -- my program ran a lot slower when its image data was in the slow-core (maybe 10 usec) of the main memory.  I recall getting parity-error reports about every 15 minutes -- making me wonder if my program was going to produce reliable results. I didn't put much effort into my Master's project report, though, and I couldn't be bothered to write an abstract or to build a title page when somebody (perhaps Lynn?) wanted to publish it as a tech report.  As a result, my first academic publication has a typo on its title page and an inaccurate abstract (it's a paragraph copied from the body of the body of my report): 


Clark Thompson, Depth preception [sic] in stereo computer vision, Stanford AIM-268 (STAN-CS-75-521), 15 pp., October 1975.


Cheers,   Clark

Professor Clark Thomborson

Deputy Head of Department (Academic)

Computer Science Department

The University of Auckland


On 10/20/09 Todd Wagner <Todd at> wrote:

It was great hearing from you. Unfortunately, I will be in Budapest from October 26 until December 7th. Here's a short bio:


After leaving Stanford I went to Intel in 1977 when it was still a small company (4 digit badge number). I developed the first commercially successful chip layout verification program. It basically took an electronic version of the schematics, the polygon database used to make the masks, and determined if all the transistors were formed and hooked up correctly. Trivial by today's standards, but at the time people were still checking designs by hand and it took 5-6 steppings (producing actual chips) at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars and about a month schedule slip each, to get working silicon. With my program everything worked on the first or second try.


Intel eventually moved from internal CAD (computer aided design) development projects to more tools supplied by external vendors, so in 1989 I went to Cadence Design Systems where I continued to work in the layout verification field (chip processing technologies are always getting more complex). I was in the analog group, and in 1997 was laid off when a new CTO decided the future was in digital technologies (at the time the analog division was 10% of the people and 30% of the revenue). He was let go a couple of years later (and the stock price was halved during his reign).


A year and a half later I joined a 10 person startup called DSM Technologies (deep sub micron) and developed a process technology database that made it easy to express design constraints graphically. Four years later Cadence bought DSM, paying $10M for a program written by someone they fired!


Sadly Cadence has gradually moved from being run by technical experts to being run by MBAs. Two years ago I was asked to train two programmers in India to maintain my software. They were smart, energetic, a pleasure to work with, far cheaper, and had no relevant background. In the next (quarterly) round of layoffs I volunteered, took the severance package, and retired. Since then the group I was in has been eliminated, the stock has been as low as $2.50 (currently around $8, it was in the mid $30s when I started the first time), those MBAs have moved on to help other companies (many with multi-million dollar severance packages), and a new set of MBAs as arrived.


Anyway, I'm having a great time and still live in the Bay area (Los Altos Hills) with my wife Sarah Tull. My three stepsons are in their 20s and 30s. I have been teaching folkdance classes for about 20 years and at the time of the SAIL reunion my wife and I are in Budapest. We own a flat there and will be out at the dance clubs 4 or 5 nights a week. My specialty is dances from Hungary and Transylvania, which I teach every Wednesday night at Menlo Park recreation center. Technically I'm still employed as a contractor to the City of Menlo Park recreation department. I have to admit that I miss technology, but I sure don't miss corporate bureaucracy and politics.


On 10/20/09 Allan Miller <ninewives at> wrote:

Wow, Les - thanks for organizing this.  It sounds like a huge amount of fun. I really, really wish I could be there, and it would almost work, but the timing just isn't quite right. I will be in Taiwan, where I am spending most of my time these days, and there's not a good way for me to get there.  But what a great crowd of people! Having this group in one place can't help but have anything other than a great result.


On 10/18/09 Aharon Gill <aharongill7 at> wrote:

Nice to hear from you. I probably will not be able to come to the reunion. Please give my best regards to all my friends.


On 10/18/09 Chris Chafe <cc at> wrote:

I'm sorry I'll miss the do. Out-of-town but I'm sure JC is attending. For my part, can you post this note to the SAILors in attendance?

CCRMA continues to welcome colleagues to tour the current world of computer music and / or reminisce about the good old days. We have some props (a few) to evoke those nostalgia waves. Feel free to visit the center, on campus, at the Knoll Building and to be in touch.

Have a blast, wish I could be there!


On 10/18/09 Ram Nevatia <nevatia at> wrote:

It is great that you are organizing this reunion. I would love to join in but I am expecting to be in Europe at that time; if plans do change and I can come, I will inform you later.


I have been on the faculty at USC ever since leaving SAIL. Things have been going well for me and SAIL experience has been invaluable in my career. I have lost touch with most outside the vision area and was pleased to see John at an IARPA meeting a couple of years back.


On 10/16/09 Douglas Hofstadter <dughof at> wrote:

I'm sorry I won't be able to make it out there.  I'm just too swamped with work and commitments here in Indiana to be able to fly out to Stanford, but I have

many fond memories of SAIL both up on the high hill with its great view (those last couple of hundred yards were killers on my heavy old three-speed clunker of a bike!) and later in the crazy sardine can of the Margaret Jacks building, and of course I have oodles of nostalgia for the wonderfully vibrant and creative atmosphere that characterized SAIL back in the 1970's.  There was a wide-eyed romanticism about AI back then that I think has, alas, largely vanished today, but it was truly exciting, even intoxicating at times, for all of us to be part of it at that time.
     In those old glory days at SAIL, speculations about the undecidability of Fermat's Last Theorem mingled freely with pictures of Cantor sets, Cantor dusts, Sierpinski gaskets, snowflakes, flowsnakes, blinkers, traffic lights, gliders, and glider guns, while somewhere down the hall, Principia Mathematica, Gödelian incompleteness, the halting problem, and other Ouroborous-like diagonalizations nestled up to Stanislaw Lem's "Cyberiad", Newcomb's problem, teleportation fantasies, and free-will puzzles, and elsewhere, Necker Cubes, Soma cubes, Go boards, impossible objects, anagrams, inversions, ambigrams, alpha-beta pruning hacks, recursive learning algorithms, garden-path sentences, goals, meta-goals, meta-meta-goals, and four-dimensional optical illusions competed like mad for attention, and last but not least, puns, paradoxes, and pseudo-paradoxes ran rampant in brightly glowing green letters on dark screens. Heady days they were!


On 10/16/09 Vint Cerf <vint at> wrote:

ack. i am in LA then and cannot make it to SF. My fondest recollections of the Power Lab were the signs written in the Tengwar and the Prancing Pony vending machine :-)
Oh, yeah, and the industrial scale robot whose arm went nuts one day.

Les responds:

Regarding the room names, when the University asked us to send them a map showing room numbers, we instead sent them one showing the Middle Earth names in Tengwar and Latin alphabets. Their response was to dispatch a carpenter who nailed a number tag on each door.


On 10/16/09 Pat Hayes <phayes at> wrote:

I doubt if I will be able to get out there in November this year, unfortunately. Best wishes to all, and happy memories. I still think of the design of the AC system in the Power lab building, and the 'robot vehicle' warning sign that kept getting pinched. I wonder how many of them there are still extant. I miss the non-PC login screens. And John's great way of tidying the surplus mail in his corner office.
For a young Brit, that was a great way to discover America. Pity the rest of the country doesn't quite measure up to SAIL in the 70s ;-)
Give my best wishes to John.


On 10/16/09 Ted Shortliffe <Ted.Shortliffe at> wrote:

Thanks for the invite, Les.  Sounds like a great event, with lots of old friends on the list.  Alas, I am already committed to being in Japan at that time.  Sorry about the conflict, but I won't be able to join you.


On 10/9/09 Martin Bresnick <martinbresnick at> wrote:

I'd love to come, but I am on tour in Korea during that time. Please give my best wishes to my all dear friends at AI from those pre-CCRMA days. Ah, 3AM at the Prancing Pony!


On 9/6/09 George White <gwhiteiii at> wrote from Carnegie-Mellon U. in Qatar:

Wow... what a list of luminaries! Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it back to the Bay Area in November, given where I am located currently, in Doha, in the Middle East.