[TUHS] BTL summer employees

Robert Diamond rob at robdiamond.com
Mon Aug 3 01:12:30 AEST 2020

I was one of those high school employees, but worked year-round on weekends and full time in the summers into college. I came from the Explorer’s Club (scouts). Walter L. Brown of the Radiation Physics deptartment hired me mainly as a sysadmin on his lab’s PDP 11/45. (I still have all the manuals!). I also did some coding for him - one project I remember was doing some sort of processing of raw data from a magnetometer on the Voyager-1 spacecraft. I also worked for Steve Bourne re-writing some FORTRAN code into C. 

I would use the terminals in the Unix room typing my school papers using troff, printing them out on the phototypesetter, and presenting them in a Bell Labs white cover. I got to chat with Brian and Dennis and Doug (hi Doug!) and others often. 

I remember having lunch downstairs in the cafeteria and learning to play GO and having conversations with random employees that blew the mind of this teenager. I remember Steve Marcus showing me his speech synthesizer and speech recognition system, playing with a Unix system running in a box the size of a toaster oven, going to talks that mostly went over my head but still learning a huge amount, wandering those long hallways and peeking into people’s labs, ogling at the Cray in the computer center, etc. 

Those years created a future for me: I worked at AT&T (Long Lines and International) and Sun Microsystems, and still use Unix every day at Two Sigma (a quantitive hedge fund with a huge Unix infrastructure). 

Not sure I made any lasting contributions, but it left a lasting impression on me. 


> On Aug 2, 2020, at 9:42 AM, Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:
>> My unscientific survey of summer students was that they either came
>> from scouts, or were people working on advanced degrees in college.
> Not all high-school summer employees were scouts (or scout equivalents -
> kids who had logins on BTL Unix machines). I think in particular of Steve
> Johnson and Stu Feldman, who eventually became valued permanent employees.
> The labs also hired undergrad summer employees. I was one.
> Even high-school employees could make lasting contributions.  I am
> indebted to Steve for a technique he conceived during his first summer
> assignment: using macro definitions as if they were units of associative
> memory. This view of macros stimulated previously undreamed-of uses.
> Doug
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