Back to the History of Project Delta
I didn't attempt to start a students' computing center. I had a problem to solve. If it hadn't been for the group of students that joined me at DICE (the Data Center of the Newark, Brandywine, Mount Pleasant and A.I. du Pont Districts), in 1971, who proved themselves to be superb human beings, we would not have moved to the University, and would instead have hired professional computer people to help me run DELTA from DICE.
In other words, Clark Baker, George Robbins, Ed Baker, Alan Hockberg, Rick Satterthwaite, Debbie Persoleo and a few others made the whole thing possible. Without them, you still would have had contact students and computer service, but not the DELTA that I was able to build. I reported regularly to DSAA, to Mrs. Josephine Myers, a professional educator for whom the Myers building at Tatnall is named. My ideas about education were well questioned and modified by her so that when I moved forth with my ideas about computers in education, I "did not walk alone." And without Dan Grim, Dave Robinson and the Electrical Engineering Department, the Delta that later generations got to know could not have existed either.
In the late '50's there was Sputnik. Our nation went bananas! We were not prepared; our educational system was not prepared for that level of technology. There came into being many sources of funding for education -- the U.S. Office of Education, Title III and others including the National Science Foundation.
Computers then were very specialized machines, designed either for business applications -- i.e. IBM products -- or "scientific," i.e., math-type applications. At times the differences were blurred; you could run FORTRAN math subroutines in batch on an IBM. But you had to write code "drivers" or have them written.
About that time Dr. Lamb of the Chemical Engineering Department (all engineers were heavily into computing) had successfully initiated a Computer Science degree program and an Academic Computing Center which was staffed principally by engineering undergraduates and graduate students. By 1966 DSAA [Ed. -- The Delaware School Auxiliary Association, a nonprofit foundation funded mainly by du Pont family money] had initiated a Computer Knowledge project with Dr. Lamb, for (math) teacher training in FORTRAN, with computer service on the IBM 1620 for those schools that chose to participate. DSAA funded the project at a declining level over 3 years.
About the same time the Department of Public Instruction, several school districts and the College of Education, in cooperation with the Computing Center and Dr. Lamb, were funded by USOE Title III for the EdTech (Education through Technology) project. That project provided an IBM 1401 with IBM 2741 terminals in the schools for a demonstration of administrative applications and Computer-Assisted Instruction, or CAI. It was housed in the computing center under Dr. Lamb's management, while the College of Education taught graduate courses in administrative data processing for teachers and Coursewriter for the IBM's CAI.
A partition of views was becoming set: the computer teaches the student (computer-assisted instruction, or "page turning"), or the student teaches the computer by programming it ("problem solving").
There was big research money around. University of Texas became a leader in CAI for IBM, the University of Illinois engineering department developed PLATO, and Dartmouth (home of Kemeny and Kurtz of BASIC fame) developed IMPRESS (on the DEC-10?) for interactive Social Studies data analysis, to name only a very few. There was heavy-duty competition, both for funding dollars and for educational philosophy. Research, publications and applications software (all in the public domain!) became very important stuff. For the most part there was very little applications software and most of that was not generally useful.
Because I had been in a participating district (the Marshallton school district), had taken most of the EdTech's administrative computing and CAI courses (at the College of Education) and had used FORTRAN in Math courses, I was asked if I would be willing to work in the University Computing Center and coordinate the EdTech project when it was funded for the next year. I thought that it would be a wonderful opportunity. I would work with the Computing Center, College of Ed, DPI and the schools. I started in the summer of 1967.
At the same time, Lyle Hartman had joined the Computing Center half-time (he was on the CS faculty the other half of the time). He was assigned responsibility for the DSAA Computer Knowledge Project and the establishment of an Academic Services Group. Because the USOE EdTech project funding was delayed, some of that work was put on hold and the rest was sort of merged with the well-organized Computer Knowledge project, concentrating on Math instruction. A course for Math teachers had already been developed.
I was temporarily assigned to help with the development of Academic Services. I was asked to "market" computer services via the existing software over all the campus, carrying 3-by-5 cards with handwritten documentation. I eliminated those few departments that were already users and concentrated on the non-user departments, principally those in the College of Arts and Sciences. I learned that few if any faculty members knew of computer applications for their classes, that they didn't use math problems and that they were unaware of colleagues who used computers. If they didn't use computers, how could they teach teachers how to use them?
This serious problem was noted by Mr. Hartman and Dr. Lamb. More professional staff was added to Academic Services. The EdTech project, having been unsuccessful so far as a demonstration project, was in effect merged with the DSAA project. I continued with Academic Services, doing my share of programming as required. Most was for the usual research projects or graduate students; none was for instructional purposes. I continued working on getting more funding from DSAA, looking toward an IBM 1130 with timesharing. I worked with Mr. Hartman to configure the system and develop the proposal.
It was about that time that, without warning, the Computer Science Department was split off from the Computing Center and Dr. Lamb was named Chair of the new department. A new Computing Center director was named. Over the previous year a committee had been established, consisting of Deans Heck and Ross of the College of Education, Mr. Hartman for Computer Science and myself. Without warning, Mr. Hartman announced that he was leaving the Computing Center and going full time with the Computer Science Department. The Computing Center Director asked if I could handle the project now called DELTA. DSAA approved my assuming full responsibility.
About June, I was informed by the Director of Instructional Systems of Philadelphia that she had found their 1130 FORTRAN totally inadequate but that there was a small software house in New York which was piloting a new BASIC interpreter for the 1130. She was going for it. Maybe I would like to try it.
So Mr. John Weaver of the Computer Science Department; John Ratzenberger, an undergraduate Electrical Engineering student, and I went to New York. We acquired the pilot version of BASIC after both had evaluated it. DSAA arranged for a test debugging session at DuPont's data center on a Saturday. John Weaver and I went. I happened to be reading the FORTRAN source code while he was loading the tape and found a misspelled variable which I called to his attention. He called the company and they said that it was the bug they had been searching for, and to please correct it.
An interesting time was had by all because the 1130 was installed about three days before the summer class for teachers began. The course was planned in FORTRAN and had to be changed to BASIC and all the other experienced users had to be trained in BASIC. John Weaver predicted that the amount of work was impossible; the probability of success was minuscule. But the teachers were very cooperative. We advocated the formation of computer clubs in addition to classes. It worked! John Ratzenberger was an excellent system manager! The Electrical Engineering Department came through as usual.
I was advised by the Computing Center Director that my work with DSAA, i.e., education, training and the schools, belonged in the College of Education, not the Computing Center. I was transferred to the College of Education, but I could continue to work closely with John Ratzenberger.
Since the DSAA project had now been more clearly defined (there is really more to life than hardware and systems software!) I could concentrate better on my part of the work in the College of Education. The University faculty (other than Math) were still not proficient in computing and therefore could not teach courses to undergraduates who would become K-12 teachers. Furthermore, there were no methods courses in the College of Education for teachers that had computer applications. Applications software was sparse or useless for the course strategies being used.
My job was to correct all of that. Hence, Project DELTA, Delaware's Total Approach to Computers in Education. My job was to get courses in all disciplines using the computer in some useful way. I reported to the Dean and could move freely within the College and on campus, wherever my work and ideas would take me. By that time I had joined and participated in the development of the student chapter of ACM [Ed. -- The Association of Computing Machinery, a professional society]. I was reading professional journals and learning what other professional Computer Science people were doing.
I developed test scoring, random test generation and a lot of programs that the Education grad students dreamed up (applications as well as teacher aids). I did all the coding and shared these ideas with teachers in the field. They, in turn, provided their comments and input. Some actually field-tested them. How do you take a "canned" program and incorporate it in your lesson plan?
Though my Computer Science knowledge was still primitive, Lyle Hartman had given me enough lectures on computer architecture and the structure of computer languages so that I could comprehend the discussions of the changes in computers. So when the new Computing Center announced that it had chosen the B-5500 for the University and that it would phase out the 1130, there was concern about the DSAA Computer Knowledge project and "service" to the high schools. The DSAA committee became very active. This committee included Lyle Hartman for the Computer Science department, Dr. David Robinson for Electrical Engineering, and the Dean of Education and myself for DSAA.
The immediate solution envisioned was a DEC-10 because that was the major computer of academic education and there was a lot of applications software. Also, its BASIC was excellent. However, reality set in because the cost was out of line with the DSAA and other support funds.
The next thought was that PDP-8's had been widely used in educational applications over the past few years. But they were not "state of the art" in timesharing. However, there was a new machine on the drawing boards -- the PDP-11 -- with a new type of BASIC at a price that was "moderate." There was hope! DEC was called in and the essential information was gathered for a proposal.
Mr. Hartman left the University, leaving the Dean of Education, Dave Robinson, DSAA, and me as DSAA's Project Delta director to prepare a plan that would provide the schools with their own computer. Where would it be placed? The Dean of Education negotiated with the Superintendent of the Newark District. The computer was offered a home at DICE, the data center for several school districts. I would, of course, have to leave the University to supervise this instructional computer installation. It would happen as soon as possible when the PDP-11 was ready to be shipped. DSAA approved everything and the planning proceeded. I continued doing my work in the College of Education (programming for faculty and graduate students, etc.), as well as my coordination work for DELTA and working with DEC in implementing this plan. Dr. Robinson supervised the complete computer planning progress. It was his work that enabled the installation to have a chance at success.
About October Dr. Lamb of the Computer Science department advised me that he had just learned that the PDP-11 was running behind and that the operating system (RSTS) was not completely debugged. Did I understand what I might be getting myself in for? I asked him if he thought I was capable of dealing with a problem of that magnitude. He said yes but told me to get myself prepared for a "bumpy ride."
I took all of the DEC system managers' training courses. Dave Robinson suggested that some of his EE computer club students might be helpful and said that he would be "around" when the system was installed.
I was leaving the campus late one afternoon and I decided to stop by the Computing Center to chat about DELTA. The Director was, of course, well aware of the plans to remove the Delta students from the 1130 and the center. (The 1130 was to "go" at the end of the academic year). We bantered a bit and the Director said that if I could get the DSAA students off the 1130 system in four weeks he would terminate DSAA's contract favorably. I was heading to the hospital for minor surgery, which in those days meant two days in the hospital. DEC was closed for the night. I called next morning and told our sales rep that it was a "GO" and to ignore the fact that I couldn't talk straight.
DEC was MAGNIFICENT! The plan was put in place and executed. We set up the PDP-8s with communications preparing for the delivery of the "11." DICE was superb in accepting this "stuff" that was not the usual data processing. My friends didn't quite know what Teresa was up to. But if the management approved, it must be OK. How wonderful are friends when they put their careers on the line and trust you!
There are several points that should be made clear. DSAA was an influential group (with some money) whose purpose was to improve education in the K-12 environment in the state. They did this by initiating and/or supporting ideas that would accomplish that objective. That meant teacher education and/or training via the University -- mostly through the College of Education. The "computer knowledge/math" component existed only through the Computer Science department via the College of Education Math curriculum.
While I was within the CC/CS Department I was a full-time staff member. David Lamb prescribed DSAA's activities and consequently mine. When the Computer Science department was split off and the Computing Center created as a separate unit, I was on the staff of the Computing Center and its Director set the rules. DSAA had no control because it was merely "buying time" for the students. Pursuit of Delta's objectives was disrupted. Therefore, DSAA and certain faculty were worried that the Delta objectives -- "To initiate the use of the computer as an ESSENTIAL TOOL in the teaching of ALL (K-12!) subjects," etc. -- would be aborted, that the schools would drop the program and that DSAA's funding would cease. And so I was moved to the College of Education, hoping to preserve those objectives. I became half-time staff at the College of Education, reporting to the Dean, working as what I came to call "an instructional analyst and programmer" for the Education faculty and graduate students who would be interested in trying to use the computer in instruction, and half-time DSAA, coordinating Delta in the schools and reporting to DSAA directly. This split was eventually to become troublesome. It also did what usually happens: half-time becomes full-time. Hence my work days increased from 9-10 hours per day to 12-16.
This experience, however, was fabulous! These people, by not knowing what they really wanted the computer to do, gave me the answers that led me to understand their instructional needs. In testing, what do you really want the student to have learned? How do you know whether you asked a poor question, didn't structure the idea so that the student could grasp it, etc.? Tests and Measurements is a very complex field! And I was able to get to the "soul" of the matter. I created individual test generation and test scoring programs of a complex instructional nature. Although other programs existed, they didn't do exactly what these people wanted -- a very important observation!
I continued to modify my programs (in FORTRAN and on the University computer) according to the evolving needs and interests of the faculty. They really learned about the essence of testing (the computer being a very useful tool!) and boy oh boy, did I learn! I subsequently heard that several of these faculty members and graduate students got tenure, promotions or their Ph.D. on the basis of my work with them. I had finally done something right!
In early Academic Services, I had become involved with History, English and Political Science. I had learned about NORC for political data and become the University contact person. Data came on tapes. Without the computer at the computing center, the data was unreadable, hence my involvement. Through this I had become involved with survey analysis and the construction of surveys. A large optical scanner had been part of the EdTech project. The computing center did the state testing analysis. The machine was available for others to use, hence my involvement with scanning of faculty tests, test scoring and analysis, and survey analysis. As soon as DELTA could acquire a small Opscan, we got one.
When I moved to DICE, I again wore two hats. I was Director of Instructional Services for DICE and Director of DELTA for DSAA. I was busy! I was systems manager, operator, programmer, instructor, coordinator for DSAA and trying to interest K-12 teachers to use the computer for testing, etc., for DICE. The staff at my disposal was -- ME!
However, I now had no connection with the University faculty. To gain control of the machine, we had lost a key element, access to University faculty and potential teacher education. Few of the non-math-and-science faculty were computer users. My hands were now tied.
Once we had approval for the computer installation at DICE, we had 4 weeks to get it installed. Dave Robinson had supervised the configuration and DEC was going into action. Ron Nichols, the director of DICE, worked with us to see that all the appropriate electrical lines, telephone lines, etc. were installed. I (wearing my DSAA hat) called a meeting of the teachers to announce the new plan. We held the meeting in the College of Education in the evening. Dave, our DEC reps and I conducted it. I announced the plan: the PDP-11 had been ordered, and while awaiting delivery, we would use a PDP-8 with timesharing (its capacity was 4 users, I believe).
DEC explained their plan for this installation: we would have the first PDP-11 on the East Coast and it would be dedicated to education. Dave Robinson commented on the background support of Electrical Engineering, even though they were not involved. (The teachers were not being led down a primrose path into oblivion.) We commented that the contact students who had been so VERY useful in the previous two years would continue to be more so now that we were shifting systems, because BASIC and other things would be changing. We also suggested that some of the students might want to participate in the installation process because that was not an everyday occurrence. The teachers were tired but supportive. Their computer activities had been limited, service had been uneven and they seemed to still be working alone.
Now to DICE. Mr. Nichols, a great person and longtime friend, advised me that though we were welcome in his "shop," I had to remember that his was a data processing installation and they had WORK to do. This was not a place for "kids" to play. They would be welcome under limited conditions as long as I was present and only during regular working hours -- 8-4:30 M-F. I had no choice but to accept that.
The telephone company installed lines and the data sets (103s?). I was immediately concerned when the installer started reading print diagrams about installation while saying he had never installed any of "these things." Then DEC installed the PDP-8. It was inadequate, but it worked. I used the console teletype for whatever purposes. I didn't have a dial-in line available to me (by that time I had a teletype and separate line at home). Some "kids," including Clark, George, Alan Hockberg, Debbie Persoleo and some kids from A.I., would drop by after school to see how things were going. (I don't know how much influence Dave Robinson, with his EE computer workshop for high school students, was having on them at that point. But as time went on, I suspected that Dave and Dan were constantly influencing them in their computer problem solving ability.)
The "8" era was relatively calm. I was supposed to bring test-scoring to DICE and would, of course, using my university experience, write the test-scoring programs. But I wouldn't do anything until the "11" was installed. Eventually the 11 was delivered and installed. The "kids" were permitted to observe. But somehow they "became handy" when work needed to be done. The conversion from the 8 to the 11 was made and all Hell broke loose! The system crashed about every hour. I was doing backups three and four times a day (on DECtape) so that students' programming assignments were not lost. They kept hard copies of everything. DICE phones were ringing constantly: "Did you know that the system was down?" I was on the phone with DEC constantly. DICE was getting fed up with the interruptions of their work. Patches were called in. I kept referring to the manual for the bootstrap loader. Finally George wrote it out and Scotch-taped it to the front of the 11. Clark, George, Alan and Ed, and sometimes others of their choice (i.e., Brandywine students) came down to exercise the system to see if they could discover what made it crash. They would go to school from 8-3, come to DICE and do some work until 4:30, then 5, then . . . 10 PM (when the schools were off the system). I was then working from 7:30 AM until 10 PM when we would all leave. Then I would get on from home and try to monitor the situation and get some work done.
By that time, those "boys" had proved themselves to be very adult in their behavior, and Ron Nichols and the rest of the staff accepted them. It was kind of assumed that "the boys" would be in after school and stay until some reasonable time.
The DICE staff complained about the incessant telephone ringing of the 103s(?). Clark silenced the bells. He also didn't like something about the way they were wired into my "office," i.e., partly the machine room. He rewired them.
George was forever doing something at the console. He was testing the systems documentation. He complained that there were sys functions that weren't documented, and asked if I would call DEC and ask about them. (By now I knew everyone in that DEC software division and they were used to me asking questions.) I did so and was informed that they were confidential system-manager functions, not to be released. George was quietly furious when I told him. I suggested that he (they) should do something to prove their knowledge and reason for knowing these things.
Shortly thereafter George showed me his printout of a decompiler by which he had documented every function and knew almost all of what they did. I called Maynard [Ed. -- DEC headquarters], and told my software contact that we wanted to come up and ask a few questions. DEC said it would be very happy to meet with "Teresa and her kids." I cleared it with DSAA (which agreed to pay for mileage, motel rooms and "McDonald's type" food). We met with a few of the top software specialists and, after pleasantries, George presented his decompiler list of functions with a description of what they did. Now, he asked, was his list complete or did DEC have additional views? Quietly, one of the "experts" left the room and returned with 2 managers. George again stated his case, assisted by his colleagues, Clark and Alan. It was a moment to remember. DEC was dumbfounded!! They told the "kids" what they wanted to know. We came home. DEC never "talked down" to us again. These kids had presented themselves as professionals. They were treated as such.
I could write an entire book on the episodes at DICE and Delta but I will try not to. Dave Robinson (and, I believe, Dan Grim, by that time) would stop by to visit. He would observe and ask many questions about the system. He began to collect information.
DEC was paying much closer attention. Software specialists would bring updated versions of RSTS (3.1, 3.12, 3.21, then 4.0, etc.), each with corrections. The system was getting better but far from stable. In the early revisions, DEC would send an experienced software specialist to install and watch over it. That might take several days, because the new version would have new bugs which had to be patched immediately. I was not and did not pretend to be qualified to do that. I would not risk the future of the kids who might assume they could. DEC's reputation was at stake. In any case, the kids got to work with top systems specialists who treated them as competent junior members of the team.
The students in the field were getting smart. They wanted to know more -- there was no intention at that time to "crash" the system, just explore. They learned to recover data from recently de-assigned disk space [Ed. -- This process later became known around DELTA as "garbage collecting"]. They were getting "stuff" from other students and systems work. The contact students' network informed the boys, and George wrote a program to write "Lolli" in every unassigned space. We then "Lollied" the disk every night. [Ed. -- According to George, "Lolli" was a girl from Mount Pleasant whom he had had a crush on.]
We were now part of DECUS and there were programs available through that group for the "8" and the "10." All of these programs were "public domain": they had been developed under grants of some kind, and it was the rule that any software developed through a grant was to be shared free of charge. We had a whole load of software to enter. However, the "10" software, for obvious reasons, was not directly convertible.
I started to take a few minutes daily to enter source code from the Huntington Project. Clark observed me on coming in one day and said he thought that he could find a few students who would be glad to help. Somewhere by that time Ed [Ed. -- Ed Baker, Clark's younger brother] had gotten into the picture.
Mr. Nichols was rather sensitive to who came to work in his "shop." So those who had already proved themselves became the judge of those to come in. They determined who was interested, capable, and trustworthy. Anyone who showed irresponsible computer behavior was discouraged from returning or cooperating from the schools. In a very short time, we had a user library on disk. A type of partitioning was occurring: while all were interested and becoming knowledgeable in everything, George was more interested in "systems," while Clark was more interested in "applications" and Debbie seemed to want to keep things organized. The "staff" of programmers was growing in number and competence. Clark seemed to keep everyone fully assigned and properly supervised.
I started working on the test scoring. I began coding on paper; Clark observed me and asked what I was doing. I told him. He chided me for my "inferior coding" and said he could do better than that. I said that if he wanted that job, he could have it. I would tell him what I wanted. He thought he could tolerate my analysis. He took on test scoring, which, though similar, was different from my work at the College of Education (K-12 testing is different from college). It was excellent work (which Ron Nichols was quick to note). Note that while I say Clark did all of it, I assure you that these kids talked to and helped each other. If they had learned a strategy either of computing or of RSTS, they shared it. I became their debugger. I would execute their programs to try to make them not work. When they produced a final program, the probability of its working perfectly was very high. With the test scoring, I had to do the production runs at night after everyone was off the system. Due to the volume and the execution times, I was working all night from home. George inserted a bell ringer function when the execution was completed so it would awaken me to do what was next.
I had been trying to get Clark and others interested in social science applications, but they felt that wasn't worth their time. Then I took a group including Clark and George to Atlantic City to an ACM regional conference. We each went our own way. I thought I saw Clark in some of the social science papers. I had found them interesting. On the way home, Clark mentioned that some of that stuff might be interesting after all. Hallelujah!
I made an appointment with Dartmouth, and Clark, Ed, George and I drove to Hanover and met with Mike Armer of their Computing Center and Dr. Edmund Meyers of the Sociology Department. The boys got to see and work with their DEC-10 and got a full explanation of IMPRESS (Interdisciplinary Machine Processing for Research & Education in the Social Sciences). It was a huge statistics program associated with a tremendous, specially formatted data base of U.S. census data. Ed Meyers and Mike Armer decided that to convert IMPRESS to the PDP-11 would be a tremendous task and that what we really needed was an appropriate subset for high school teachers. Dr. Meyers outlined precisely what he would want in the program if he were teaching a course for High school teachers. Both promised to consult by telephone with the boys as requested.
Clark and Ed went to work on Delaware's version, i.e., DEPRESS. They did it! Harold Belis, student contact at A.I., did a term paper using it. The teachers were impressed! At Dartmouth's strong urging, we wrote and published a paper in the ACM-SIGSOC Bulletin, Spring 1974. By that time it was called ECPRESS -- Ed and Clark's Impress. I purposely listed the authors in alphabetic order, thereby making Clark Baker the primary author, Ed second and myself last.
We were now being asked for copies. We personally delivered and installed the first copy in a very exclusive private school in New York state. Clark, Ed and George accompanied me. Since it was Ed's claim to fame, he would do the presentation. He installed the software and started to execute it. The first line printed out was the name of the program. It was something like "ECPRESS - Statistical Shit in the Social Sciences." I wanted to quietly leave the room, but Ed calmly said something like "Sorry about that, I meant to change it," and went right along with his demonstration. Ed had become a poised speaker. DELTA was now capable of several types of Social Studies analysis, including surveys which could be scanned.
As an aside, by that time Clark, Ed and George had been accepted as completely trustworthy by DICE. I was allowed to go home at a reasonable 6 or 7 PM after they had returned from dinner at a local McDonald's where Clark had finally trained them how to make a "Chocolate-Vanilla-Strawberry" milkshake. Mr. Nichols would advise security that "the boys" would be permitted to lock up and go home at whatever time they predicted they would leave. Of course, there was a time when George forgot the checkout procedure. I received a call at 2 AM from security asking might I be concerned that the alarm had not been set and there was no answer, and would I go to check. I had to get out of bed, get dressed, drive to DICE alone, check, then set the alarm. Wouldn't do it today but at that time, the world was different.
There are many other stories to be told but that phase was to end. With the system moderately stable (perhaps only one crash per day), Dave and Dan came to DICE at somewhat regular intervals. Dave was concerned that hardware was changing (improving) as were communications and terminals, that use was increasing significantly and that Delta, which was in a "production" environment, didn't have the capability to change with the times. Although the contact students were "teaching their teachers" and doing needed applications programming, I still had no opportunity to go "on campus" to talk or work with the departments and university faculty to discuss secondary teacher education needs. Even if I could, the University had no computer system which was compatible with the Delta system, and any applications software developed by the University faculty could not be easily transferred. In other words, although Delta could provide "computer service" to the schools, we could not use what we had learned about the user community and grow technically and instructionally.
Dave said that he saw so many technical problems without solutions that he could write a research proposal that would enhance the EE Department's objectives and bring Delta back to campus in that department. However, my role would be modified. He would take total responsibility for the hardware and system software in research mode while I would work with the schools and the instructional applications software. I again wore two hats: a coordinating (research associate) role in the EE department's DELTA project, and total responsibility for the schools for DELTA-DSAA. Dan became "systems manager" (i.e., "God" in George's words). The "kids" were invited to continue with DELTA in the EE Department. It was to become Dan's responsibility to do his own research for his Ph.D. dissertation, ensure that other graduate students of Dave's could do their research problems using the Delta hardware system, keep the system up and running for the high schools and assign work to students appropriately according to my needs as I handled the DSAA objectives. I was free to work on my "Ya ha" stuff, as Dave used to call it. Fortunately, Dan's interests were broader than EE and he learned how to deal with me. He could listen to my computer needs, translate them into EE requirements and explain simply to me how they might be achieved. It became the same type of relationship that I had had with Clark, Ed and George but on a significantly higher knowledge level. I looked forward to the move.
DEC brought out new systems which we were able to buy. We acquired a small OpScan for student survey data and analysis. George wrote at least the initial OpScan interface. I remember the day he and field service installed it and it worked! How happy can you get?
Dave began acquiring state of the art terminals. (How long could the schools get by with ASR-33's?) All the "neat stuff" that has been talked about was learned as these terminals became interfaced and enabled changes in the applications software.
Clark had begun to bring back ideas from MIT. He knew of a Braille machine that could be interfaced with a DEC system/terminal. We got the machine and Clark, I think, wrote the interface for RSTS. Dave subsequently started student sessions for the visually- and hearing-impaired. That involved the EE students heavily. I felt privileged to be part of that.
I started traveling to the schools. The Department fixed up a PDP-8 that I carried all over the state to let those schools in Sussex and Kent Counties see a computer "something like the one they were using." I worked up a "mini-CS" course, for the high school students.
I took time to attend professional seminars and other sites of educational computing interest. Clark suggested that MIT had a lot of interesting "stuff." I went there and saw their AI lab. It was impressive. Then I met with their LOGO people. We acquired a turtle and music box with LOGO for DELTA and it had to be made to run on our RSTS system. Seymour Papaert himself came to Delaware to conduct workshops for teachers on teaching Math to smaller kids with LOGO. We invited Fred Hoffstetter to see the music box demo. He was impressed. (Shortly thereafter, the Music Department started their own computer applications on their own hardware, etc. Hallelujah! Did we influence him?)
I had learned about a lot of applications software from other colleges that might be useful but ran on much larger systems. Some of this became an interesting CS problem and we had about six CS students doing independent study on conversions and two CS students studying all aspects of running an educational computing machine.
RSTS continued to be an interesting problem. No matter how safe the system was, the "kids" would find ways to "steal stuff" or to crash the system. What to do? Dan, using his systems manager knowledge, would write programs to capture the essential data to identify the crash or problem combination and patch the system to prevent it. It was an exciting problem of "one-upsmanship." I followed most of these experiences personally. It was terrific to follow the thought process of these kids and Dan (and, by now, other EE students and kids helping him) in the chase for discovery. The bug, with a suggestion for correcting it, would be submitted to DEC. There must be in DEC's archives a three-inch stack of software reports from DELTA.
I needed to know more about how the system was being used. What were the teachers doing by school? What were the students doing by school? What applications programs were being used? Those statistics could not be produced. Dan somehow saw that these programs got written. How many times I asked for something rather esoteric! Dan would frequently reply that it couldn't be done. Then very shortly thereafter he would give me the report I wanted. He had the program in my systems library. I could run it anytime. More of this "Ya Ha" stuff that EE's didn't care about.
At one point we had a party for the contact students. Debbie, Clark and Ed planned it. Bing's Bakery made the cake. Debbie designed what should be on it. It was the PDP-11 with the right colors. The bakery said it was the first time they had ever used black and purple in decoration. Were we really sure we wanted that?
The kids planned it and put it on. I believe it was at Dickinson High. Parents and students attended, along with DSAA, Dave and Dan. Everyone felt good about DELTA.
Having happily handed over the systems component (plus important EE research) to Dave, I was able to concentrate on the education part. I went to professional meetings, including ACM/IEEE symposia held each fall and spring in Washington, D.C. In that environment I learned! Professionals from many universities and government agencies were there. I heard what important computer research was going on, and got used to the statements: "That's great! But can it do.....?" "Not yet, but we're working on it." I became very sensitive to what was going on, what could be done, and what couldn't and why. I went to Queens College, the Center for Computers in the Humanities, DECUS meetings, and others. Sometimes it was appropriate to take students, sometimes I went alone. I reported back to Dave and Dan. Most times they knew about the research but were happy that I had gained a vague understanding of it. They knew about the engineering stuff, but not about the "Ya ha" stuff.
At some point I heard about Chuck Morrissey's Guidance Information System (GIS) and talked to him. It sounded great and we got a copy of it. I found it very versatile. At one of our training sessions for the teachers (which, incidentally, were conducted by all of us), I worked through this program with several of the principals. They saw great potential for grade 6 through 12 and planned to work with the teachers and counselors to implement it. Incidentally, on a later trip to a D.C. ACE/IEEE symposium, I talked with someone from the Department of Labor (or whatever group puts out the Dictionary of Occupational Titles) about the importance of this program in the schools. He said that of the 1700 jobs listed, about 800 titles would be gone and replaced by new ones in the next five to 10 years, and that students needed to be kept informed. He thought that GIS was one of the best for that purpose.
I reported this to Dave and Dan, and set forth to visit each of the high schools in the state, talking with counselors while they tested the program. I observed students as they used GIS, and their strategies. No two used it the same way. Then I got permission from Chuck to try some experiments using his database. I don't know who Dan assigned that to but it was quite exciting. Using this capability I found three counselors to cooperate in a project. The results were very interesting. I also discovered that many of the teachers found the library of programs "not quite useful" to them. They really wanted . . . well, each teacher wanted something different.
I reported frequently to the Dean of Education, keeping him informed of my activities and the findings. At last, a College of Education faculty member came to me about a course he was teaching for school librarians. Would I write a program to do .....? He knew exactly what he wanted, and it was a simple task that I could code. It was a combination of KWIC-KWOC [Ed. -- "Key Word In Context/Key Word Out of Context"] stuff with analysis. The problem was exciting and told both the instructor and me about the students, i.e., school librarians, and their work. There was nothing in our program library that would do it. It was great and he knew what he was doing. (By the next fall, he had left the University.) Another Education faculty member asked me if I would attempt to do something he was trying to do in Reading. Again, it would be easy coding, but very difficult to capture the data. I gave him the program that he asked for which told him that he really couldn't achieve his objective as defined. He worked to refine his problem. I finally got something working.
What was beginning to happen was that I was becoming their "kindergarten teacher," preparing them to get to computer applications in their classes -- stuff they wanted to do, not what someone said they should. This happened on several occasions with other departments. Faculty were turning to Delta for intellectual hand-holding. I would get them started and then hand the better-defined problem to Dan to be assigned for fairly good coding.
I worked with several departments. These programs were to be used either in the schools or for the training of teachers. Social studies wanted more census data, which we got; I think Aron Insinga had the job to convert it for ECPRESS -- no easy task. I don't know if he was able to complete it.
I worked with a Business faculty member in preparing for a course for high school teachers. It was a brutal exercise. I met with him over his detailed syllabus every Monday for six weeks from 8-10 AM, in intense analysis. I would suggest what programs might be useful, what procedure might be appropriate, etc. Then I would define what I thought should be done. The instructor would sharpen my translation. I believe Mark Linton did all the programs as well as "student assisting" in the execution of the course in Summer School. It was a wonderful success.
The contact students, and others, in the schools were very active with their teachers. They would share programs they had written -- doing what the teacher wanted. Scientific American had their computer games column monthly and many programs resulted from that. I believe "Game of Life" was one.
The Library course had opened new doors. Here was a possibility for Humanities. Aron discovered the existence of Webster's Dictionary in machine-readable form. It was available for research projects only. I called and described what I wanted to do. We received it after I personally signed a proprietary agreement. I also defined a project with ISI in Philadelphia which included several school librarians. I don't remember who had that assignment. It wasn't easy!
A teacher complained that he couldn't get his program to do what he wanted. Had he talked to the contact student? Yes, but he didn't understand what the student wanted him to do. I asked the student what he advised. If the teacher would use an Open file procedure instead of Read data it would work. Aha! I asked Dan if someone could write a program to analyze the programming language instructions used by the students. Well.... maybe, Dan said. I should talk to Aron. Yes, Aron said, I can do it, and he did. I asked three schools to set up independent computer clubs (no BASIC-PLUS language instruction), as opposed to classes (where a teacher provides BASIC-PLUS language instruction). They did so gladly. What I learned!!!!!
(I should note that when I say Dan assigned my programming requests to students, what he actually did was to say, "Talk to ....." . I did and got to know all of the students. They put up with me and my "ya-ha" requests. They were great people.)
The results of Aron's program, in addition to the general usage statistics covering what schools used what programs for what amount of time, were the basis of a paper at DECUS. It was VERY well received. It was also very well attended. And that was only one DECUS meeting; I, either alone or with students, delivered at least 10 papers at very diverse professional meetings in one year alone. DELTA was getting to be very well known! We were visited by many VIP's from educational sites from all over the East Coast -- as well as potential DEC customers. DEC and DELTA had great rapport with mutual respect for each other's professionalism. Dave was happy to show off the miscellaneous EE applications with different new terminals (as one example, Eric had created a great program for someone doing Chesapeake Bay research, on a Tektronix, I believe).
I attended an AAAS meeting, with I think its first section on "Computer Science," which included much computer engineering. It was a very impressive meeting, describing current research and some of the problems on the drawing board -- things that were going to be happening in 10 or 20 years. Wow, what a world! What we could do with the schools!
But then the Provost asked me to write him a report on what DELTA was about and my role in it. I was asked to attend several meetings with the Provost and Department Chairs, Suddenly, I was told, DELTA must change! But why? I asked my friend, the Dean of Education, and he said that Dave and I had been too successful: we had started a "turf war," the outcome of which was totally unpredictable.
He explained that the University was a clearly defined organization in which faculty had supreme status, and that each department had a mission statement which was reviewed and had to be approved by the appropriate committees. Electrical Engineering had to "tighten its belt" and rewrite DELTA accordingly, which meant no computer service to the schools. Because DSAA had no place in the University organization chart, I had none either. I could no longer go to faculty members to discuss educational computer ideas.
However, the College of Education had anticipated this, had discussed it and wanted Delta (and me) to come there. They were writing a proposal for this. It was to be in the new Occupational Education Department, of which Dr. John Matthews was Chair. I should go talk with John. I did so. I had known about and been very pleased with the formation of that department. The state needed it. Maybe there was hope yet.
I had a three-hour meeting with John. He explained the department's mission statement, his view of DELTA and how it could fit into his department. I was told what I could and could not do, according to University rules within the Occupational Education Department. He hoped I would agree to join with them in the continuation of DELTA.
Maybe I could, I thought. After all, I had enjoyed my work in the College of Education before. I could work with faculty in the College's other divisions.
No you can't, he said. You must stay in the confines of Occupational Education.
Can I talk to people in Career Planning? I asked. No.
Can I talk to school librarians? No.
Can I talk to ....? No. Only Occupational Education.
Where would the technical support come from? From DEC and from OE.
I asked if he understood the complexity of the project. He said they were redefining Delta to fit the College of Education's OE mission. I said I would think about it.
I went home, thought very much about it, and wrote my resignation to DSAA. Several days later while at my DuPont Hall desk, I took all of my personal tapes and zeroed them. I did so with other tapes for which I was personally responsible, i.e., proprietary stuff. I had become quite adept at instructional analysis as well as what I called "scratch pad coding." When my coding led to a final analysis, I would turn the problem over to the student programmers. So I had a lot of my "good stuff" ready to be handed over to them. I destroyed it all. Now, I thought, let Electrical Engineering and Occupational Education battle with DSAA. After a week for mind-healing, I put together my resume. It was time to move on.
It had been a great era, with competent, responsible EE/CS and high school students (kids having fun with Delta's computer "toys") and others in the "Ya ha" area enjoying the applications potential working together. I was proud to have known them, but now our "Camelot" had ended.
After leaving Delta in 1977, I went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. At Lincoln, my Business card read "Director of Computing Center and Manager of Information Resources." After being interviewed for the position of Manager of Information Resources by some rather impressive people from a consulting firm, I was offered the job. On leaving the interview, I was informed that "Oh, by the way, you are also Director of the Computing Center and responsible for the configuration of our new computer. We are working with DEC." Here we go again! PDP-11/70 RSTS and a different set of problems.
I retired in 1987, and after doing the usual things that retired people do, a friend suggested that I, having "loafed" long enough, should get busy by joining AAUW (the American Association of University Women) and getting involved with the Education Committee. I should volunteer in one of their projects -- School Libraries.
I prepared their data for "automation" and talked to teachers. A library is a school's center for information, and the libraries are the first to be automated, including being put on the Internet. Many librarians are being taught by parents to plan Internet access; only a few teachers have learned how to use it in their classrooms.
One teacher mentioned that she was required to teach about relevant careers associated with each topic in her science course. I asked if a career program was being used. No, she had no knowledge of such. I got brave and tracked down GIS via Houghton Mifflin. (As a senior citizen you can ask anything within reason and be treated politely!) I asked about this school in which I was volunteering. Oh yes, the company said, the school had licensed the Junior High version and it was still active.
No one in the library or office knew what I was talking about. They said I could help myself to search the Principal's curriculum support library. I did and immediately spotted the disks and documentation. "Oh, that stuff," they said. "Nobody knew what it was and it probably would have been thrown in the trash." Could I take it? I asked. Of course.
I brought it home, called the company, explained the situation and asked if I could load it on my home computer. Yes, they said, but keep us informed. I worked up a simple idea for use in the classroom, prepared trivial documentation for the teacher and loaded it on the library's PC.
The teacher tried it. She was ecstatic. It did what she needed for her students.
This was 1997; I had first put this on DELTA in 1975! More "Ya Ha" stuff. And Congress is still complaining about the lack of teacher preparedness.
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