Jed's 30-year Service Award

On May 22, 2002 I received my 30 year service award (a little early actually - I won't have 30 years of UC service until the fall of 2002). As noted in the May 31, 2002 Currents article above I was able to make good on a challenge I set for myself early in my UC career at LLNL to walk down to receive my service award on my hands.

Here are links to some additional photographs of this event or related to it (you can remove the final "-s" from the first three to see a higher resolution version if you are interested):

  1. The start of my hand stand walk
  2. Finishing the last step
  3. Receiving my service award (great to have supervisors who are good sports!) (Here is where I should have been smiling for the camera)
  4. A hand stand stair walk at LLNL circa 1978
  5. Comparable handstand stair walk from Stuttgart, 11/94 (and an mpeg of same)
  6. A collection of random handstand images

There were a couple of things that I was disappointed in with regard to my handling of the award. Firstly that I didn't ask the photographer to wait until I smiled for the camera. I did look up and smile as I usually like to do (e.g. somewhat more like in this picture), but not until after he had taken his last photograph. I suppose I could fix that with digital image doctoring, but no sense cheating ;-).

The second thing I was disappointed in was that I didn't get a chance to share my old war story. The other 30 year recipients were asked to share a story, but when Horst asked me for the story of the hand stand challenge (meaning well) I felt I didn't have time to share another story. Except perhaps for some of the challenges like the hand walk stair loop and the no touch unicycle ride to the second floor office I think the story of the 30 year pin challenge is a bit boring. I had hoped to share the story of my (the?) earliest days as a computer connecting "road warrior".

Since I don't have a limited time here, I'll just include that story here (a bit longer perhaps than I would have told at the awards ceremony). This story is included in slightly different form with more context in the Computer History interview I did with George Michael - so I didn't have to write it just for this page. Perhaps when I receive my 35 year service award I can rectify those two disappointments. In the mean time here is the story for anybody who might be interested. It is somewhat long and likely not of much value to anybody not interested in the early days of computing:

Very Early Road Warrior Experience (1973):

My first assignment at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (then the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory, LRL, at Livermore) was as a staff member in an operating system security research group called RISOS (Research Into the Security of Operating Systems). There were a number of aspects of the RISOS work, but one aspect was working as a "tiger team". Our job was to connect to a variety of computers/systems and break into them. As a hacker (in all senses of the word) coming straight out of college, this was a delightful opportunity for me. The RISOS work took place during the early days of the ARPA network (RISOS started in 1972, the ARPA network had it's earliest beginnings in 1969 and was just coming into its own with ~40? nodes by 1972).

Since our group was ARPA funded, ARPA footed the bill for an IMP (Interface Message Processor) and communications lines (56kb/sec was as high speed a line as one could buy in those days) at LLNL to connect to the ARPA network. I had the opportunity to be LLNL's technical liaison for our ARPA network node. In that role I got to work on many of the early ARPA network (later Internet) protocols like telnet and FTP. That was a fascinating time in the development of network protocols.

ARPA preferred that we use the ARPAnet to connect to the computers that we broke into whenever possible - to learn more about the efficacy of the ARPAnet. However, since many computers at that time were not on the ARPA network but did have telephone dial-in access, we also had telephone dialers that we used to connect out from our computer system. The operating system for our computer (a PDP-11/45) was a self designed, capability-based operating systems called "RATS" - the RISOS ARPANet Terminal System - but that's another story. We even had an outward "WATS" (Wide Area Telephone System) telephone, a line that would allow us to make long distance telephone calls for no incremental change. That line was quite expensive, but in those days there was a saying at Livermore, "Why use lead when gold will do?" Strictly speaking such funding flexibility didn't necessarily apply to ARPA research, but it seems ARPA wanted to give us all the communication flexibility we needed to do our work. Even beyond all its communications equipment our whole computer system was mounted inside a trailer that could be hooked to a truck and hauled into a classified site to connect to computer systems that didn't have communications outside a security perimeter (remember, ARPA is part of the Department of Defense). It was quite an interesting setup to work on for somebody just out of college.

Anyway, to get on with the story, one time in 1973 I inadvertently crashed a system while testing a security flaw (more of that story can be found in the Computer History interviews, specifically my interview if you are interested). The people who ran the system (Bolt Beranek and Newman, the designers of the ARPANet IMP and also later the folks who analyzed the Watergate tapes) were quite upset about having their system crashed - even though they had supported our efforts to test the security of their system. Computer time on time shared systems like theirs (a PDP-10 TENEX system) cost many hundreds of dollars per hour in those days. That crash initiated a whole flurry of email (a very early technology at that time) where I found myself defending our system testing techniques, times, etc. via email.

While all these email exchanges were taking place, I was scheduled to take a business trip back to Washington, D.C. and then some vacation time down to visit my aunts who then lived in Florida. I wanted to be able to continue to defend myself and RISOS while I was on vacation. I didn't want us to have to jump through all sorts of hoops to keep doing our work.

I decided I should try to keep in touch with the discussions while on travel and during my vacation. At that time there were a few computers scattered around the country called TIPS or Terminal Interface Message Processors. These TIPS allowed one to dial in by telephone and get connected to the ARPA network. They acted much like dial-up Internet Service Providers do today. There was a TIP in Washington, D.C., so I could stay connected there. However, the only TIP in Florida was a long distance call from where I was going to be on my vacation. Long distance calls were very expensive in those days. I couldn't impose on my aunts by asking them to foot the bill for hours of long distance telephone calls to the nearest TIP. I was afraid I would be out of contact while I was visiting my aunts.

What I decided to do was to write a program that would dial out from our RATS computer system (with that outward going WATS line) and allow whoever it called to get connected to the system. Writing the software was a hurry-up affair because I was about to leave for Washington, D.C. What I wrote was an assembly language program for the PDP-11 that would input a time and a telephone number and then call the telephone number at the specified time. I think it's worth mentioning that back then we had these big TI (Texas Instruments) Silent 700 "portable" terminals which you could hardly pick up. Also, since the computer was going to call me, I had to have a different "answer" modem, another two or three pound wooden box. So, in addition to this heavy and unwieldy terminal, I had to lug around this answer-type modem on the plane trip to DC and then to Florida.

I had to work for quite a long time on that software. Since I was going to leave on Sunday and I had plans for Saturday (I was going to go windsurfing - something that was also just starting in those days) I felt I needed to get the software finished Friday night. I worked on it until about 3 AM. Saturday morning I finally thought I had it ready. I knew I was going to have a difficult time waking up to go windsurfing at 9:30 AM. I thought it would be clever to have the computer call me to wake me up. This would both test my program and probably startle me enough to actually wake me up. My alarm went off that morning but didn't really wake me up, I went right back to sleep. Then, sure enough the computer called. It called right on schedule at 09:00. I picked up the telephone and there was no sound from the other end. Not even a modem whistle since it was originating the call. At that time I had developed my own whistle to the point that I could get a computer to think I was starting a modem handshake (easier at 300 baud than at today's modem speeds). I thought I would try that whistle in this case to verify that it was the computer that was calling me. I did the whistle and verified that it was indeed the computer that had called me.

After I had done the verification I hung up the phone and immediately started going back to sleep. About thirty seconds later, the phone rang again. I pick up the phone. It was the computer again. I only instructed the program to call me once. Why was it calling me back? I hung up the phone again. It rang again. At that point I began to realize I was in trouble. My telephone was essentially out of order. I had to take the receiver off the hook. My program had gone into a telephone-dialing loop. Instead of popping, I had pushed. I had pushed that same number back onto the stack of calls so it continued to call the same number again and again. It took about 3 or 4 hours before the program overflowed its memory segment (4k bytes!) and crashed. Only then could I use my telephone again. The wakeup was effective and I did go off windsurfing. I was just learning back then in 1974. Later on I figured out the minor problem with the software I had written and corrected it. That was one of a couple of incidents that got me to be a little leery of mixing computers and telephones.

It turned out that the corrected program actually did work when I was in Florida. My aunt and my cousin were very impressed. I used the TIP in Washington D.C. to set up the first call to my aunt's home in Panama City, Florida. When I was in Panama City I told my aunt that at 7:30 in the evening the computer was going to call. Of course, she had no idea what I was talking about. I got everything all set up and sat waiting by the telephone as it got close to 7:30. Right on the dot at 7:30, the phone rang. I started the TI Silent 700 terminal and the modem and got connected to our RATS system. I was able to get and send email (to defend RISOS some more). I also demonstrated an early Star Trek computer game for my cousin. He still remembers that experience to this day. After Panama City, I was going to Miami to visit another aunt. While on the line in Panama City I set things up for a later call to Miami where my other aunt lived. Things worked there also. That operation went better than I expected. With our system and that software I was able to travel anywhere in the US that had a telephone and get free access to the ARPA network.

Years later when I first heard the term "road warrior" used in the context of traveling with computer access I though back to that experience and figured I must qualify as one of the earliest road warriors.