SAIL Sagas

December 13, 2009

 

Les Earnest, Executive Officer of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Lab, 1965-80, Associate Chair of the Stanford Computer Science Department, 1985-88.

 

Below are some stories that were included with emailed invitations to a conference on “Sustainable archiving of SAIL” held at Stanford University on November 21-22, 2009. However one claim turned out to be erroneous, as noted below, and others may have been a bit distorted. I’ve edited a bit to fix errors and added a couple of new stories at the end.

 

Contents

Page                Subject

2        Stanley won the race

2        Spacewar started videogames

2    Automatic investments     

  3    Marriage refuted

  3    David Shaw and Glenn Close are Close

  3    Turing Awards

  4    Hot times in the hills

  5    Horse rescue by Bill Schottstaedt

  7    Grass fire narrowly misses computer music center, SLAC by Bob Beyers

         and Karen Bartholomew in Campus Report, July 3, 1985

11        More gatherings?

11       Results of the 20th Annual Spring Orgy, 1986 April 19

12    Off-road

13    Prancing Pony vending machine

 


Stanley won the race

The Stanford Racing Team, under the leadership of Sebastian Thrun, deservedly received a lot of media attention after winning the robot car race across the desert in 2005 with their entry named Stanley. I expect that robot vehicles will have a revolutionary effect on society when they become practical fairly soon and will be the first major application of artificial intelligence. Of course, after that it will be called "engineering" rather than "artificial intelligence", as always happens.

Spacewar started videogames
A recent article on "Videogames in Computer Space: the Complex History of Pong" in the Annals of the History of computers can be seen at http://www.computer.org/cms/Computer.org/ComputingNow/computingthen/2009/03/CT-Lowood.pdf. It points out that Spacewar, the first videogame, was originally developed at MIT by Steve Russell and his colleagues in the Tech Model Railroad Club. Steve then brought it to Stanford when he moved here to join John McCarthy and he and others then improved it. Meanwhile a company called Atari was formed independently to convert Spacewar into a commercial videogame but Bill Pitts, with help from SAIL colleagues Ted Panofsky and Phil Petit, beat them to it, putting it into the Stanford coffee shop and a local bowling alley. Bill called it "Galaxy Game" because the term "war" was a very unpopular on campus, which was deep in an anti-war movement regarding Vietnam. In fact, the DC Power Lab, where SAIL was located, got firebombed in an unoccupied room in the 1970s, probably by protesters who had learned that most of our funding came from the Defense Department. This resulted only in water damage as the sprinkler system went off and doused the Molotov Cocktail. While the Galaxy Game was quite popular, Atari observed that their version of Spacewar was expensive to reproduce and somewhat hard for people to learn, so they instead introduced the game of Pong which was cheap to make, easy to understand, and a great commercial success. Thus they ate Bill's lunch, alas.

 

Automatic investments

Beginning in 1966 everyone in SAIL selected a two- or three-letter identification for login. I see that 43 years later many, including me, still use their original IDs even though they have moved to different domains.

In the late 1970s a bright young SAIL computer scientist and entrepreneur identified as RWW figured that money could be made by creating a computer program that spotted trends in the commodities market and generated trades. He put a program together, tested it on historical data and found that it made money like a printing press. He then organized an investment club and sold shares for $5,000 each. Whereas most investment organizations warn new clients about the possible downside of investing, he built the warning into the name – the Black Hole Fund.

Many people in SAIL each bought a share, including me, and some went for more. Happily, a month after launch these shares had appreciated considerably and as time went by they went up even more, reaching somewhere around $8,000 within a few months. They then began to slip at an increasing rate and, when the fund reached a preset cutoff at around half the initial value it was liquidated. We later learned that the automatic trading program had indeed spotted a trend but it turned out to be the attempt by the Hunt Brothers of Texas to corner the silver market, which failed spectacularly, bankrupted them and cost us a few bucks.

DES was another talented young entrepreneur who, while working on his dissertation at SAIL, recruited several others to undertake profitable high tech projects. However he was eventually coerced into going out of business by his thesis supervisor, so he settled for a PhD.

He later got some experience on Wall Street and, ignoring the Black Hole Fund experience, went on to form a very successful hedge fund called D.E. Shaw & Co. that pioneered the use of automatic trading, as discussed in an interesting recent CACM interview at http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2009/10/42365-a-conversation-with-david-e-shaw/fulltext . He later founded D.E. Shaw Research, which focused on biochemical technology, and there created Anton, a special-purpose supercomputer designed to speed up molecular dynamics simulations by several orders of magnitude, a remarkable accomplishment. David won’t be able to attend the reunion but sent an amusing Regrets posting on 10/29/09 – see http://www.stanford.edu/~learnest/regrets.pdf.

I lost track of the above interview URL for a time and, while doing a web search for it, discovered that David married actress Glenn Close on February 3, 2006. That is an even more remarkable accomplishment, given that she was publicly quoted earlier badmouthing the institution of marriage. I wonder if she still has 101 Dalmatians.

 

Marriage refuted

In my last blurb I noted that while doing a web search I accidentally discovered that former SAIL denizen David Shaw had recently married actress Glenn Close. However that is not true; a classic case of name ambiguity. Who knew that there were two very successful David E. Shaws who were both doing biotech research? As it turned out, four former colleagues (Brian McCune, Paul Martin, Bob Filman and Harlyn Baker) straightened me out in a hurry.

David Shaw and Glenn Close are Close
In response to my apology for mistakenly stating that our David Shaw had married Glenn Close, he kindly responded:

"This happens all the time and is a source of endless amusement to us, so please don't feel at all bad about it. Among other things, Glenn Close's Wikipedia entry pointed to mine, and vice-versa, for quite a while before we discovered it, so the news of our fictitious marriage was long ago disseminated beyond any hope we might have had for epidemiological containment."

He went on to say that he and the other David E. Shaw and their wives have become friends and are now neighbors. "We can see each other's living rooms from our respective windows." They apparently get together occasionally to exchange misdirected mail.


Turing Awards

Turing Awards are generally recognized as the Nobel Prizes for computing, as discussed at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_Award. Remarkably, of the 55 such awards made over the years, 16 have gone to people affiliated with SAIL.

1969 Marvin Minsky for “artificial intelligence.” He and John McCarthy had co-founded the Artificial Intelligence Project at MIT in the late 1950s and Minsky spent a sabbatical year at Stanford as Visiting Professor during 1964-65.

1971 John McCarthy for “artificial intelligence,” a term that he introduced earlier. Prof. McCarthy was the founder of SAIL.

1974 Donald E. Knuth for his major contributions to the analysis of algorithms and the design of programming languages. Prof. Knuth was partially supported by SAIL and he often used the SAIL computer.


1978 Robert W. Floyd for “having a clear influence on methodologies for the creation of efficient and reliable software.” Prof. Floyd’s research was partially supported by SAIL and he often used the SAIL computer.

 

1980  A. Antony R. Hoare for “his fundamental contributions to the definition and design of programming languages.” Tony Hoare was a visiting scholar at SAIL in 1969.

1984 Niklaus Wirth for “developing a sequence of innovative computer languages: EULER, ALGOL-W, MODULA and PASCAL.”/ /Wirth was a member of the Stanford Computer Science Department in the mid-1960s and, with John McCarthy, contributed to the design of the first display-based timesharing here, called Zeus.

1986 Robert Tarjan (with John Hopcroft) for “fundamental achievements in the design and analysis of algorithms and data structures.”  Tarjan did his PhD at SAIL during 1977-80.

1991 Robin Milner for three major achievements in the mathematical theory of computation, a field he worked in at SAIL during 1971-72.

1994 Edward Feigenbaum and Raj Reddy for “pioneering the design and construction of large scale artificial intelligence systems, demonstrating the practical importance and potential commercial impact of artificial intelligence technology.” Feigenbaum joined SAIL when he came to Stanford in 1965 and Reddy earned his PhD there in 1966.

1996 Amir Pnueli for “seminal work introducing temporal logic into computing science and for outstanding contributions to program and systems verification.” He worked on mathematical theory of computation at SAIL during 1967-68.


2000 Andrew Chi-Chih Yao “in recognition of his fundamental contributions to the theory of computation, including the complexity-based theory of pseudorandom number generation, cryptography, and communication complexity.” Prof. Yao did some of his early work on those topics at SAIL during 1976-80.

2002 Ronald L. Rivest, (with Adi Shamir and Leonard M. Adleman) for “their ingenious contribution for making public-key cryptography useful in practice.” Rivest worked on his dissertation at SAIL beginning in 1969. The initiator of the concept of public-key encryption was Whitfield Diffie, also of SAIL.

2003 Alan Kay for “pioneering many of the ideas at the root of contemporary object-oriented programming languages, leading the team that developed Smalltalk, and for fundamental contributions to personal computing.” Kay spent two years as a post-doc at SAIL before moving on to Xerox PARC and elsewhere.

2004 Vinton G. Cerf (with Robert E. Kahn) for “pioneering work on internetworking, including the design and implementation of the Internet's basic communications protocols, TCP/IP, and for inspired leadership in networking.” Cerf came to Stanford as an assistant professor in 1973, was funded to work on what became TCP/IP under the same DARPA contract that supported most of SAIL’s work, and often used the SAIL computer in that work.

2008 Barbara Hubermann Liskov for “contributions to practical and theoretical foundations of programming language and system design, especially related to data abstraction, fault tolerance, and distributed computing.” She did her PhD dissertation on chess end games at SAIL during the mid-1960s.

 

Hot times in the hills
Former SAIL people may recall that rows of Blue Gum Eucalyptus trees used to line both sides of Arastradero Road, making it a beautiful country lane beneath the overhanging foliage. People who attend the Walkabout will notice that the trees have now largely disappeared. That was a result of the runaway fire that was started just downhill from the DC Power Lab on the afternoon of July 1, 1985, evidently by a well-known firebug who was seen enjoying the show shortly after it started. However nobody saw him light it. The Lab was occupied at that time by the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) which had been abandoned there in 1979 as a result of a disgusting political maneuver when SAIL moved back to campus.

It was a very dry summer and the eucalyptus trees by the road turned into torches. With help from a strong west wind the crown fire swept down Arastradero, traveling a half mile to Liddicoat Drive, near the freeway, in a few minutes and burning down a dozen homes. CCRMA was also threatened and when the people there promptly broke out the fabric fire hoses they were found to be full of holes, causing major water leakage, with nothing much coming out the end. This was a typical result of Stanford’s failure to maintain the building. Fortunately there were enough people around to put their hands tightly over the holes, reducing the leakage to the point where they could fight the fire. They successfully defended the building but it was a close call.

One person at the lab saw that a barn was starting to catch fire at the “Poor Farm” across the road, in an area that would later become part of Palo Alto’s Arastradero Preserve. Knowing that there were horses inside the barn, he went in through a small door to see if he could get them out. He found that the main door was padlocked but there was a car in the barn with keys in the ignition. He started it up and drove it through the door, freeing the horses, which ran uphill away from the fire and circled the lab.

As the trees burned and homes along Liddicoat Drive caught fire, the firestorm launched burning material into the air, lighting a number of fires downwind. I happened to be bicycling home from the Stanford Campus at the time and saw that the sky was black even though I was more than three miles from the blaze.

After the fire, Palo Alto removed the remains of the trees along both sides of Arastradero, turning it into a very ordinary looking road but ensuring that there would not be an exact repetition of that holocaust. They were a bit late in doing it, of course, but at least they eventually acted, unlike the City of Oakland which doesn’t seem to have learned much from two major fires in hillside area of their city.

During this fire, homeowners who evacuated as requested by fire officials mostly lost their homes whereas those who stayed and fought it with garden hoses saved theirs. However general conclusions probably cannot be drawn, since risk assessments must be done on a case by case basis but quickly.  


 
Horse Rescue by Bill Schottstaedt
The part of the preceding story about the horse rescue during the big fire of 1985 brought forth an eyewitness account from Bill Schottstaedt, below, that differs in significant details. This once again illustrates that stories often drift in the retelling.  Here are Bill Schottstaedt's observations.
--------------------------------------

July 1, 1985 the temperature was over 100 degrees.  Everything was absolutely dry, all the grass was dead. I was walking along the top balcony of the old lab toward the listening room (at the southeast end, I guess you'd call it), when I saw a small grass fire down the hill toward Arastradero Rd.  I ran to the listening room and asked John Strawn to call the fire department and warn other ccrmalites.  I ran downstairs and down the hill, thinking I could stomp the fire out.  By the time I got there, it had grown far beyond anything I could handle.  I did not see anyone else around, nor was there anything suspicious at the center of the burning ring of grass, so my guess is that some passing motorist flicked a cigarette into the bone-dry grass, and drove blithely away.

The fire continued to spread very rapidly.  Most of the ccrmalites left as fast as possible, but about a dozen of us stayed.  For some reason none of us broke out the fire hoses.  It seemed improper for a non-fireman to mess with them, and we expected the fire fighters to show up right away. But they didn't actually get to the lab for more than an hour. As the fire increased in intensity, the giant resin-soaked eucalyptus trees began to burn.  As each tree reached ignition, first a cloud of rock doves burst out of the foliage, then seconds later the treetop exploded in flames.

We could look down the hill and see that the horse farm was burning. I think I suggested checking on the horses, but Rob Poor thinks it was his idea.  In any case, we jumped in his car and drove down the hill. On the way down we passed a half-size fire engine that had been abandoned to the fire.  It was weirdly misshapen, melted, I guess, from the heat. So, the fire fighters had shown up, but had not made it to the lab.

At the horse farm, the fire was all around us, eucalyptus trees were going off like bombs, the farm house itself was already in flames, and the propane tank in the back yard was a roaring flame-thrower.  I remember wondering if it would explode while we were goofing around in the barn. 
The barn door was open, so we had no trouble getting in, and could see through the smoke that it was full of horses, locked in their stalls. I remember they were nervously banging against the walls and coughing. The barn itself was not on fire, but smoke was rising from the roof,
and coming in from the surrounding flames.  I could not figure out how the stall latches worked, but luckily Rob did, and he went through the barn unlatching the doors.  My job was to get the horses to leave the barn, but they didn't need any help from me.  My main contribution to the rescue was to get out of the way.  The barn eventually burned to the ground.

As the horses left, the ceiling started burning.  I remember thinking that Rob and I were in some danger because branches were falling and we were surrounded by flames.  As we ran back to Rob's car, I looked back at the farm house.  One of the horses had gone into the house,
and had started climbing up the stairs to the second floor!  This bizarre sight is probably my clearest memory of the entire fire.  The horse must have gotten away, because Rob says all the horses survived.

We drove back to the lab, and people finally started breaking out the fire hoses.  A number of them had rotted to the point that they were useless, but 3 or 4 were intact enough to direct water onto the flames. We spent an hour or so dousing the burning grass and trees on the Arastradero side of the road that surrounded the lab.  A fireman finally showed up and got us organized as a proper crew, clearing deadwood away from the road.  When I asked why it had taken so long for anyone to get to us, he said we were at the juncture of several (I think he said 5) fire districts, that there was a lot of confusion as to whose fire it was: "too many chiefs, not enough indians" was his summary.  The Portola Valley firemen were fighting at their end which wasn't moving anyway (the wind was in the opposite direction), and Palo Alto was apparently overwhelmed (hence the abandoned truck).

By nightfall, the fire had burned itself out.  In the dark, the lab was surrounded by black fields of glowing logs.  Each oak tree was encircled by embers, and every now and then a branch would crash to the ground in a shower of sparks, starting a small short-lived fire.

Bob Shannon and I stayed at the lab day and night for the next several days.  A Concerned Citizen apparently saw us and notified the police.  They drove up and I met them.  I think I recognized the policeman from a previous adventure with a run-away sheep (I could write a story about how not to catch a sheep, but not today). By chance, I had 1600 Arastradero Rd on my driver's license, and that satisfied everyone.

Stanford declared us Heroes, and offered us a banquet, but I was on night schedule and never got my free meal.

[Bill Schottstaedt later wrote: I found the Campus Report for July 3, and as you wrote, they reported that the police considered it arson.  They also reported someone driving a car through a wall of flames at the barn -- I don't remember this, but I'm worried that my memory is at fault.  It's possible the "Rob" I was with was Rob Currie, not Rob Poor.  Sigh -- it's no fun getting old.]

 

Below are photos and the text of the Campus Report article that Bill sent along.

 

 

Burning Barn

 

Grass fire narrowly misses computer music center, SLAC

By Bob Beyers and Karen Bartholomew in Campus Report, July 3, 1985

 

To Patte Wood, Monday’s grass fire near the D.C. Power Lab was a bad dream come true.

 

To Robert Currie, who sounded the first alarm, it proved an instance of remarkable derring-do: to help save trapped horses, he drove a car parked inside a barn through a blazing wall. The car was a Pinto, but it didn’t explode. [Pintos of that era were noted for having their gas tanks leak and catch fire after rear-end collisions.]

 

To Celia Fulton, one of 15 to 20 persons at the lab, home of the Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA), the horses sounded like a scene from “The Charge of the Light Brigade.” As they raced around and around the perimeter parking lot that helped keep the blaze from the building, she snapped her first two rolls of film on a camera bought earlier in the day.

 

Old fire hoses, leaking water “just like you see in cartoons”—as Fulton put it—were used by Chris Chase, Julius Smith, Mike McNabb, Bill Schottstaedt, Robert Poor, Dave Jaffe, and others to preserve the wooden structure built in the 1960s. Often compared to an abandoned starship, it is the home of five people among those working there.

 

 

Horses let loose from the nearby burning barn circled the D.C Power Lab.

 

 

Burning tree

 

One of the computer music “fire crew” members sprays nearby pine trees. A circular driveway around the lab and favorable winds helped protect it from the flames.

 

Winds blew the fast-spreading inferno away from the lab, damaging or destroying a dozen homes in Los Altos Hills and scorching hundreds of acres of rolling, tinder-dry grasslands and forest. Palo Alto police said the fires, first reported at 3:13 p.m. Monday, July 1, was “definitely arson.” They arrested a suspect but released him for lack of sufficient information. The Palo Alto Fire Department Tuesday estimated damage in the area would total $9 million.

 

A separate blaze, started by sparks from a disabled car on Interstate 280, spread rapidly northeast from the Alpine Road underpass through Webb Ranch to the edge of the IR6 building at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. It caused no apparent damage to the structure.

 

Helicopters from the California Division of Forestry (CDF) drew huge buckets of water from nearby Felt Lake to battle both fires, which were brought under control about 7 p.m. CDF planes dropped fire retardant in the area of the main fire. Approximately 200 firemen from Redwood City to Santa Clara were on the scene.

 

Eight Stanford police officers assisted Palo Alto police and the California Highway Patrol. Stanford Sgt. Richard Tipton said two Stanford motorcycle units scouted the area west of Freeway 280 to report fire conditions to firefighters. Tipton said more officers than usual were on duty Monday because it had been scheduled as a training day.

 

 

Some of the computer music students and staff who helped protect D.C. Power Lab from fire pose for a photo after their ordeal: (front row) /rob Poor with field glasses and Chris Chafe; (back row) Julius Smith, Mike McNabb and Bill Schottstaedt

 

When Curie first saw the fire, it covered an area about 30 feet square near the lab. After calling the Fire Department, he and a volunteer contingent went across Arastradero Road to help free horses inside a large barn at the Flying Tiger stable. A second group stayed to protect the lab. Several visitors from Spain left to help the firefighters and never came back.

 

Around 4:30 p.m. electric power to the lab went out. Fulton took refrigerated water to the firefighters, many of whom were pale from the intense heat. Lab residents remained on the alert throughout the night, as hot spots flared up and were extinguished.

 

Wood had seen it all before—in a dream two weeks ago. Following the dream, she discussed her concerns with her colleagues, but nothing had been done to have backup copies of their computer programs stored at another site. Had the winds blown from the opposite direction, a lot of their life’s work would have been lost. As soon as electric power is restored, perhaps starting late Tuesday, they’ll put finishing touches on compositions for a concert at 8:15 p.m. Friday, July 18, in Frost Amphitheater.

 

When Prof. John Chowning, who heads CCRMA, called from Paris, France, as planned Tuesday morning, he got no answer at the lab. He then called Wood, the center’s administrative director, at home. His concern quickly focused on personal friends who lived in the Liddicoat Circle area, hard hit by the fire.

 

From one side of the lab, the view of the rolling foothills remained unchanged Tuesday. From the other, there was total devastation. “It’s surreal,” said Wood.

 

Sometime this fall, CCRMA will move to new quarters on the main campus, as planned, its karma intact after a very close call.

 

More Gatherings?

[After the event] Most people seemed to have a good time at the reunion this weekend. There now is talk of holding an event like this more often than every 40 years or so. Given that the old folks have been given their due, to a first approximation, any awards at future SAIL events would presumably focus on recent accomplishments.

Of course we could include a nostalgic event such as another Spring Orgy, including a Felt Lake Steeplechase (provided that there are medical staff handy), a treasure hunt, and a programming contest run by Don Knuth. Instead of holding both fast and slow bicycle races we probably should focus on slow. And forget about the car time trial. The results of the most recent such event, the 20th Spring Orgy held in 1986, are attached. Given that there was a 14 legged race, we presumably would continue that incremental event by having a 15 legged race next time.


 Results of the 20th Annual Spring Orgy,  1986 April 19

SLOW BICYCLE RACE,FIRST PLACE,MARGARET LONGSTRETH, (track record is 12:51 by Dave Siegel)
SLOW BICYCLE RACE,SECOND PLACE,VIC SCHEINMAN
SLOW BICYCLE RACE,THIRD PLACE,MARTY FROST
SLOW BICYCLE RACE,FOURTH PLACE,MICHAEL LOWRY
SLOW BICYCLE RACE,FIFTH PLACE,JIM BOYCE
SLOW BICYCLE RACE,SIXTH PLACE,YDUJ

600 METER DASH,FIRST PLACE,MICHAEL LOWRY,1:52.96 (track record is 1:44.0 by Mike Hewett)
600 METER DASH,SECOND PLACE,BOB TUCKER,2:09.72
600 METER DASH,THIRD PLACE,JOHN MYERS,2:35.61
600 METER DASH,FOURTH PLACE,CHRISTOPHER LANE,2:58.06
600 METER DASH,FIFTH PLACE,VIC SCHEINMAN,3:05.39
600 METER DASH,SIXTH PLACE,JANICE ROHN,3:23.95
600 METER DASH,SEVENTH PLACE,MARTY FROST,7:15
600 METER DASH,SEVENTH PLACE,MARGARET LONGSTRETH,7:15

6 KILOMETER CRITERIUM,FIRST PLACE,MICHAEL LOWRY,11:39.52 (track record is 10:03 by Armin Staprins)
6 KILOMETER CRITERIUM,SECOND PLACE,LES EARNEST,12:24.21
6 KILOMETER CRITERIUM,THIRD PLACE,VIC SCHEINMAN
6 KILOMETER CRITERIUM,FOURTH PLACE,GUY MALACHI

FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,DICK KARP
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,TED PANOFSKY
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,CHRISTOPHER SCHMIDT
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,JANIC ROHN
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,CHRISTOPHER LANE
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,BOB TUCKER
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,PER BOTHNER
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MARGARET LONGSTRETH
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MARTIN FROST
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MICHAEL LOWRY
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,ALLEN VAN GELDER
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LYNN QUAM
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,VIC SCHEINMAN
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MIKE FARMWALD
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,HAYM HIRSH
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,DICK GABRIEL
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LYNNE TORIBARA
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,JOHN MYERS
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LYNN GOLD
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,CEEVAH SOBEL
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,IRWIN SOBEL
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,PETER LINDENER
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,BENJY LEVY
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,ED CONGER
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,DAN KOLKOWITZ
FOURTEEN-LEGGED RACE,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,RALPH GORIN

SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,VIC SCHEINMAN,11:40 by canoe (running record is 10:05 by CG)
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,BRUCE BAUMGART
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,TED PANOFSKY
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LESLIE THOMPSON
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,SECOND PLACE,MIKE LOWRY,13:04
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,THIRD PLACE,BILL PITTS,14:48
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FOURTH PLACE,WADE HENNESSEY,15:03
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,FIFTH PLACE,MARTIN FROST,16:07 by kayak
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,SIXTH PLACE,JIM DAVIDSON,16:20
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,SEVENTH PLACE,LES EARNEST,19:54
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,EIGHTH PLACE,ALLEN VAN GELDER,21:31
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,NINTH PLACE,LANCE BERC,24:17
SHERIFFS STEEPLECHASE,TENTH PLACE,JOHN MYERS,27:53

TREASURE HUNT,PLANNER,DICK GABRIEL
TREASURE HUNT,PLANNER,MARTY FROST
TREASURE HUNT,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,ED CONGER
TREASURE HUNT,FIRST PLACE TEAM MEMBER,BENJY LEVY
TREASURE HUNT,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MARIANNE WINSLETT
TREASURE HUNT,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,DAN KOLKOWITZ
TREASURE HUNT,SECOND PLACE TEAM MEMBER,ALLEN VAN GELDER
TREASURE HUNT,THIRD PLACE TEAM MEMBER,RON GOLDMAN
TREASURE HUNT,THIRD PLACE TEAM MEMBER,VIC SCHEINMAN
TREASURE HUNT,THIRD PLACE TEAM MEMBER,JOHN MYERS
TREASURE HUNT,FOURTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LYNN TORIBARA
TREASURE HUNT,FOURTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MIKE FARMWALD
TREASURE HUNT,FIFTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LINDA DIMICHIEL
TREASURE HUNT,FIFTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,JIM DAVIDSON
TREASURE HUNT,SIXTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,LANCE BERC
TREASURE HUNT,SIXTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,MIKE LOWRY
TREASURE HUNT,SIXTH PLACE TEAM MEMBER,HAYM HIRSH

SPRING ORGY,MOST PERSISTENT COMPETITOR,VIC SCHEINMAN

SPRING ORGY,CHIEF REFEREE,LES EARNEST

Off-road

Given that the DC Power Lab was in a scenic location near Felt Lake, there were always a substantial number of visitors who were not there on business. Some came to fish or go swimming in the lake and, as off-road vehicles became popular in the 1970s, some just wanted to zip around in the grassy areas, which unfortunately initiated erosion, causing gullies to form. I finally got a sign put up saying “No vehicles off pavement”, which worked with most people but there were a substantial number who chose to ignore it.

 

Whenever I saw someone tearing up the grass I usually confronted them, sometimes with amusing results. For example, as I bicycled up to the lab one time I saw two guys in an SUV just heading off-road and pointed out the sign to them. Their response was to gun the engine and head off anyway, so I gave chase on my bike. As they headed down-slope I stayed after them and, in their eagerness to get away they failed to notice that the track they were on ended in a swamp next to Felt Lake. Sure enough, they got stuck up to their hubcaps and I got a sheriff to come and issue a citation before allowing a tow truck in to pull them out.

 

I then sent letters to local towing companies telling them that they were not allowed to tow vehicles from our property without prior authorization, so that we could bring in a sheriff each time. The next time it happened I was duly notified, got the driver cited and authorized the towing. However when the tow truck went down the hill to pull the car out, it too got stuck. The towing company then sent another truck, which stopped further up the hill and attempted to pull the others out, but it too got stuck. The towing company then sent a monstrous tow truck that stayed on the pavement and pulled the other two tow trucks out, leaving the car stranded for a week or so.

 

On another occasion I confronted a motorcyclist who was apparently heading off-road and he agreed to stay on the pavement, but promptly took off on a trail that I knew led to the south side of the lab. I then bicycled over there and hid behind a bush as he came uphill toward the road. I managed to grab him around the neck and pull him off the bike before he knew what was happening. He promised to come back with his gang and take care of me the next day so I told him to bring lots of help. However I never saw him again.

 

Prancing Pony vending machine

The Prancing Pony Vending Machine was evidently the first computer controlled vending machine anywhere in the world. It was created to fill an unmet need.

 

Given that SAIL was about five miles off-campus and the nearest food source was a beer garden (Zotts) about a mile away, I initially set up a coffee and food room near the center of our facility and it subsequently got named after a pub in Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings". In fact all rooms in our facility were named after places in Middle Earth and had signs posted on the doors showing their names in both Latin and Elvish alphabets. At some point the Stanford Buildings folks asked me to number our rooms and give them a map. Instead we gave them a map showing room names in both alphabets. Their response was to send out a carpenter with numbered tags, which he nailed on each door.

Meanwhile we took turns buying coffee and food, which was offered for sale on an honor system basis. That worked well for awhile but it suddenly started losing money big time. We then negotiated with Canteen, which had an exclusive contract with Stanford, to put in a couple of vending machines. However we found that they were not restocked often enough and broke rather frequently.

I finally negotiated to rent a machine from Canteen that we could restock. They seemed to like this idea since it would relieve them of making frequent trips out to our distant facility. In fact they never billed us for the rental even though I repeatedly called it to their attention. Meanwhile I got Ted Panofsky to make a connection to our computer so that it could release the doors on the vending machine, thus making it possible to buy either for cash or, though a computer terminal, on credit. I then wrote a program that let people buy under password control and that billed them on a monthly basis via email. It was set up to randomly give away whatever was purchased on 1/128th of the purchases and offered a "double or nothing" option, which had an honest 50:50 outcome. I noticed a cultural difference in that almost none of the computer science students gambled, knowing that they would win 1/128th of the time if they didn't, whereas many of the music students did gamble. In both cases the Prancing Pony vending machine, having taken on the name of the room, seemed quite popular and we organized a team of volunteers to acquire the needed supplies and restock the machine at least twice a day.

 

The Prancing Pony also sold beer but only on credit and only to people over 21, since it knew everyone’s age. If a youngster attempted to buy beer it responded “Sorry, kid.”

Some years later I found out why the honor system had failed in the Pony. I was the founding President of Imagen Corp., which made the first desktop publishing systems using laser printers, and after awhile there a young woman employee felt obligated to confess that when she was a teenybopper, she and her girlfriends used to ride their horses up to SAIL, then went in and stole candy from the Prancing Pony. Thus, her misconduct contributed to a technological advancement.