Back to the History of Project Delta
As I sit here editing this document, using Microsoft Word 7.0 on a Pentium Pro-powered Compaq personal computer with 48 megabytes of memory, Project DELTA seems more than one world away.
In 1979-1980, when most of the events recorded here took place, Digital was the hot upstart computer company that was going to unseat IBM and make everyone who owned its stock (none of us had heard of options then) rich. Compaq, which is now trying to buy Digital, didn't exist; Microsoft was unknown outside Seattle. Radio Shack's TRS-80, about the only personal computer around, seemed like little more than a toy. A PDP-11 with a quarter-megabyte of memory could handle the needs of 25 or 30 users at a time, and expanding its memory by an extra half-megabyte took a major budget allocation. I recall using the ARPANET, the forerunner of the Internet, sometime during those years, but it struck me as a curiosity more than anything useful. At best, one could - with difficulty, and painful slowness - use it to send a data file from one machine to another.
In an age when every other 12-year-old has his own personal Web site, it is odd to remember that computers were once temperamental beasts the size of large filing cabinets, requiring the shelter of extremely powerful air conditioners and the constant attention of operators. The notion that high school students should be allowed to do advanced systems programming, often in assembly language, on one of these expensive machines was, to say the least, extremely unusual. In creating such an opportunity, DELTA emphatically fulfilled its educational mandate, though not exactly the way its founders envisioned; the "flying circus" was certainly not part of anyone's business plan, yet that episode alone may have helped shape more than a half-dozen careers.
This, then, is a memoir grounded in a specific time in the history of computing, and also in the history of our country: it was the age just before Ronald Reagan, when the CETA program helped put people to work and when teen-agers could legally obtain beer (the drinking age in Maryland, a short drive away from the DELTA offices, was 18 then, and though the original document is silent on the issue, I can now admit that the Saturday-night gatherings in Willard Hall often were helped along by a substantial quantity of Genesee Cream Ale). But in another way, it is timeless, capturing a moment in life that all generations have experienced - that moment in your late teens when you care more passionately about what's important to you than you ever will again; when you feel an idealism that makes no allowance for human foibles and failings; and when you do not hesitate to express your disappointment, loudly and publicly, when that idealism is disappointed, as it must eventually be.
Ed Jones, the central figure in this story, was a man barely into his 20s at the time. I can only imagine now what he thought of his rambunctious high-school-aged "staff." As I look back on it, he seems to have borne with remarkable grace and cheer his position mediating between us and the sometimes feckless administrators into whose care, one after another, the University of Delaware placed DELTA. He certainly took the original issue of this document with much better humor than he might have; we remained on friendly terms until losing touch as I drifted away from DELTA and DELTA itself fell apart.
The document you are about to read has been revised in three ways from the original. A few errors of grammar, spelling and typography have been corrected, and an occasional note of explanation has been inserted in [square brackets]. I've also taken advantage of that wonderful post-DELTA invention, the World Wide Web, to hyperlink to definitions of some of the jargon terms used here. The Jargon Dictionary is a much-expanded, elegantly presented update of the JARGON.TXT file that Rich Thomson found on another machine one day and insisted we immediately adopt as our official vocabulary; it was then that I heard words like "crufty" and "foo" for the first time. Most importantly, I've changed the tone of some of my comments. This memoir was not originally intended as an anti-Ed Jones screed, but evolved that way as I wrote and rewrote it at the end of an exhausting and emotional pre-college summer. Now, nearly two decades later, its main interest is as a record of what life was like at Project DELTA, in all its wacky yet serious variety. While the enmities and feuds that marked those years are an important part of the story, and have been left in here in their entirety, the bitterness and - to put it bluntly - snottiness no longer are, and have been removed.
New York, N.Y.
May 4, 1998
An Unofficial History of Project DELTA
By Alan D. Flippen
Copyright (C) 1980
This document is a history of my involvement with the installation known first as Project Delta, then as the Delta Educational Computing Center, and finally as the DELTA Educational Computing System. It dates from the fall of 1976 until August 1980. I have also included an appendix which traces the history of DELTA from 1965 until 1976. [Ed. - This appendix was FOUND on May 6, 1998, and is being posted as a separate document on the DELTA Web site.]
I have not attempted to make this an overall history of DELTA. This is because for the first two and a half years of the period covered by this document I was not in the mainstream of events at DELTA. Also, I have been informed that Dr. Robert Uffelman, DELTA Director, is preparing an official history of DELTA: no doubt he has access to documents that I don't and can do a much more thorough and complete job (if he chooses to do so) than I can. [Ed. - I don't believe he did so before his death in 1989.] I have instead concentrated on personal episodes that occurred during the time I was with DELTA, and so this document can be considered as a picture of DELTA during the time I was involved with it.
Because this is a highly personalized account of DELTA my opinions can be found throughout the document. Any opinion contained in here can be assumed to be mine, unless I have specifically attributed it to another person or to contemporary gossip. Also, my opinions as recorded herein are those I held at the time of the event they concern and may not reflect my current feelings on the issue.
My major source for this is, as I have said, my own recollection of events. I have also included things I learned from conversations with others (most notably with Gary Luckenbaugh, Dave Haislett, Walt Mahla, Ron Dozier and Ed Jones). Finally certain facts come from contemporary documents such as system-wide NOTICES and mail messages, memos and dittos that were available at the time.
Finally I would like to say that I realize that this document is by no means a complete picture of DELTA; for example, I have left out employees such as Ron Cox whom I never met or heard of at the time they were involved with DELTA. I have also left out many high-level plans, proposals, and other events because I did not know about them at the time. If anyone knows of any interesting events that I have left out of this document, I would like to hear about them.
August 26, 1980
I first became involved with Project Delta on the second day of the school year 1976-1977. Mount Pleasant High School had offered a course in "Computer Knowledge" that year: a course in BASIC programming using the Delta terminal. I had not signed up for it because I had no room in my schedule for it that year and because I was not really interested in computers. Apparently, not many others could find room in their schedules for a computer course either; only three people were scheduled for the class. Accordingly, an arrangement was proposed whereby interested students could learn programming after school as an independent study program. One the second day of school that year an announcement was made on the P.A. about this, scheduling a meeting for all those interested for that afternoon after school. More out of curiosity than anything else, I attended and was given the account number and password, and told how to run games, and a textbook: "Basic BASIC". I did not actually use the terminal until several days later.
Here is the situation with regard to DELTA and Mount Pleasant at that time. DELTA was running RSTS V06V-07 which was a modified version of RSTS V06A-02 (the modifications consisting of a rewritten terminal handler and accounting statistics logging). To log in from Mount Pleasant, one had to turn on the terminal, dial 453-0670 on the DATAphone, wait for the computer to answer (usually four rings), press DATA on the phone and hang up the phone. You then would go to the terminal and press the return key. This served as a means of 'automatic baud rate identification' and insured that you could dial up any line from any speed modem and not have to worry about setting the baud rate. [Ed. - 300 baud was the norm.] Once you had done this, RSTS would print the LOGIN header and you would input your account number [105,1] and password (HANDLE). You were then logged into the system. If the DATAphone was knocked off the hook while you were logged in, your job would be detached and a program called DETJOB would kill it.
The terminal at Mount Pleasant was located in a small room in the basement of the new wing just around the corner from the radio station. It was nominally under the control of Mr. David Vanwickle, a math teacher. The terminal and computer room, however, was actually managed by the students who used it. The most important of these was David Haislett '77, who had a key to the room (a very rare privilege). Walter Mahla '77, Jon Lebovitz '78, Alan Flippen '80, Ken Polleck '80 and Michael Makabeh '77 (this is roughly the pecking order that existed at the time) were also involved. For all intents and purposes Dave and Walt were the bosses of the room. They had first dibs on the terminal (and could even throw anyone else off if they needed it - Dave took advantage of this occasionally; I don't remember Walt doing it except in the case of an emergency). They served as "contact students" with DELTA. This involved being liaison with DELTA, procuring boxes of paper and terminal ribbons, and managing the school's disk allocation. They also had their own accounts to do development work for DELTA. I do not believe that they were privileged at that time (however, I would not have realized then what that meant). Dave had written a program called ACTMAN to take care of account cleaning-up; more about that later.
Things started off well enough. Ken and I were new users, both in ninth grade at the time, while Jon, Dave and Walt were all more experienced. Ken and I learned most of our programming from the book with help from Dave, Walt and Jon; Mr. Vanwickle did not know much at all about computing. By the middle of the year we were both at the stage where we were starting to learn about file processing.
By this time I knew what ACTMAN did. Dave used it to write messages to people by including immediate mode 'PRINT' statements in their programs [Ed. - meaning that the message from Dave would print out when the program's owner ran it], to kill files that did not have REM statements and to print directories. A rule had been established early on that all programs must have 'REM' statements with the name of the author of the program and the program's purpose. If a program existed without one on the account, a message would be put on the program that would remind the owner to put one on. If, after a certain amount of time (usually a week), a REM statement was not put on, the program would be killed. Also programs unused after a month or two would be deleted (RSTS at this time recorded the 'last access date' of files, rather than the last date of modification). As I know now (but didn't then), Dave used the program for its intended purpose (cleaning up accounts). At the time, however, the program was being abused; since Dave was the only one I saw running the program, I blamed him for it, although now I believe that someone else was responsible for the greater part of the trouble. Tensions were further heightened at about this time because of a program I had written. Called DIR, it printed a directory of files by going through and searching files for REM statements. Thus, you could get a directory of only those files which contained 'ALAN' in a REM statement. Because this changed the last access dates of the files it opened (all that were on the account), Dave did not like it, and actually killed it. This did not help the suspicions which were going around at the time.
The tension over files being killed reached its peak around February or March 1977. At about this time, Dave moved his ACTMAN program to his account and put a password on it. This went a long way towards solving the problem and, although I resented it bitterly at the time, was probably the best thing that could have been done.
About this time, Walt gained privileged access to the system. His project was to develop CMI Version 3. Since the RSTS V06V-09 monitor, and the RSTS V06B-02 LOGIN program (more about 6B later) would not allow him to log into his [1,24] account from a dialup line, he had written a program called TEST.BAS which would log him onto his account after he typed in the [1,*] password. Walt used to do this frequently from Mount Pleasant's terminal. From things he said and did, the rest of us soon found out what being privileged meant. Ken, Jon and I soon began trying to get Walt's [20,18] password. He was aware of these efforts and used to tease us by typing in his password slowly, and then changing it as soon as he had logged in. (He never, however, did this with the privileged password.) Despite all this, I managed to learn his [20,18] password without his knowledge. I came in, all ready to try it out one day around lunch time. Walt, Dave, Jon and some others were there; that was usual for that time of day, but due to the way lunch is scheduled at Mount Pleasant, I would have about 20 minutes after they all had to leave. Walt was logged on to his privileged account, doing some work, when some horseplay (normal for that time) broke out. In the course of this, a book was thrown at the DATAphone and knocked it off the hook, detaching the job. Walt logged back on, and rather than attaching to the job, decided to kill it. He typed 'UT KILL 14' on the terminal. Before the pressed RETURN, someone (I think it was Mike Makabeh) hit the DELETE key. When he did press return, therefore, the job running ERRCPY (Job 1) was killed. Walt realized immediately what had happened and attempted to put ERRCPY back before anyone at DELTA could notice. He did not succeed. In the ensuing free-for-all on the system, Walt lost the equivalent of a mild 'utility war' with Doug Barton and Aron Insinga. The privileged password was changed, as was Walt's, and I never did get on to his account.
The DELTA system was run at that time by Aron and Gary Luckenbaugh. Doug, Dave, Walt and Ron Dozier were also employees (there were probably more than these, but I did not know them). Mrs. Teresa Green was still the administrator. Also, I believe that Dan Grim was still involved. Aron was in charge of answering most of the GRIPES; Doug also did this. Gary remained in the background, for the most part, doing systems programming.
On April 4th, 1977, the Project DELTA PDP 11/50 began running RSTS V06B-02. This was a big event to all users, much more so than previous or subsequent version changes, for two reasons. First of all, the changeover was well publicized, both before and after it was made. Second, the changes from RSTS V06A to RSTS V06B were more drastic in nature than any other change that has occurred while I have used DELTA. The changes were magnified by the fact that for V06B, we went back to the DEC standard terminal service. At that time, the TTDVR did not include control/R support, a loss that was keenly felt by users accustomed to V06V (which did include this) [Ed. - CTRL/R was used to get a clean copy of a command line after deletions, which were hard to read on a hardcopy terminal, had been made]. After the conversion, also, the TECO editor was removed until we could get the 6B update (which took several weeks). These changes were all announced in a file called $NEWSYS.DOC, which was itself announced by a LOGIN notice. The file, when we all TY'ed it Monday morning, said "CHECK OUT THIS FILE TOMORROW (TUESDAY) AFTER WE HAVE HAD A CHANCE TO CREATE IT". The file was not actually created until Thursday, in the meantime generating many gripes from people (including me) who did not understand the changes made. Some actually thought it was an April Fool's joke, similar to that played on the first of April (when a LOGIN notice said 'THERE HAS BEEN A BIG DISK DISASTER. TYPE RUN $DISAST FOR MORE DETAILS' and $DISAST said 10 PRINT "APRIL FOOL!" \ END.) However, this is not the case. I still have a copy of this document (as, indeed, I have much stuff from this time). [Ed. - And I apparently still do, somewhere in my parents' attic.]
After the wars over file deletions disappeared, some of us turned to MACRO-11 as the next 'fad'. I learned MACRO by looking at Dave's and Walt's MPIP programs, and reading the RT-11 System Users Guide manual. By the time that school ended that year, I had a basic knowledge of the language. Another popular project was to rewrite system CUSPS such as EDIT8 and EDIT20, The rewrites generally became exact copies of the original, but served to teach the author about the programming techniques used in writing an editor. My attempts at this were a rewrite of RESEQ and a rewrite of TECO (I undertook this during the time that TECO was unavailable under V06B). Neither got very far. Unlike some others (notably Jon Lebovitz), I began writing CUSP-like programs on my own. Three programs eventually resulted: EDIT6, which was a simple editor combined with an ACTMAN-type program; SYSPAK, which was a directory, PIP, and HELP program all wrapped into one (and primitive as anything!), and EDIT4, the crowning achievement of this period, a combination of EDIT8 and EDIT20 that worked sufficiently well to be put on the library.
As the 1976-1977 school year drew to a close we received some disappointing news. Due to the lack of interest in the terminal that year (by the end of the year, only five people were using it), Mount Pleasant would drop its DELTA membership for 1977-1978. I had by this time gotten quite 'hooked' on DELTA and couldn't bear the thought of leaving it. I wrote a GRIPE to the staff, asking if there was any way I could use the system over the summer. The staff appears to have been quite disorganized at this point, and it took a while, but on the last day of school, I received an answer to my GRIPE. Doug Barton (I believe) suggested that I get in touch with Ed Boas at the Department of Education.
A few days after school ended, I did so. Ed was quite helpful and interested, and invited me down to DELTA sometime. DELTA was at that time in the process of moving from room 360 DuPont Hall into room 358. The first time I came to DELTA, the 11/50 had been set up in 358, but nothing else. I spent that afternoon helping Ed move tables into 358 to set up for the Beehive high-speed terminals that were to go in the center of the room. The next time I came down, DELTA was up and running.
The summer of 1977 was the first summer that I was involved with DELTA. I initially had the old Mount Pleasant account [105,1]; after a few weeks, I was given the account [20,3]. My project that summer was to write the C.A.I. programs now on account [1,150]. (At that time, they were on account [220,11]). This necessitated the use of a Beehive terminal. There were five of them at the time, all hardwired (KB41-45) and all 9600 baud. Generally, when I was there, Dave, Walt, Ron, and Ed would be using them, leaving one for me. However, as the newest of the group I was last in line for terminals. Although I didn't always get a Beehive, there was no dearth of terminals in 358; besides the five Beehives, there were five DECwriters (including KB0:). There were also two line printers, an 80-column one and a 132-character one, two DECtape drives, one magtape drive, one RK05 drive, two RP03 drives, a paper tape punch and reader, and all the phone equipment. In short, 358 was pretty crowded.
The summer staff, as I have mentioned, consisted of Ed Boas, Dave Haislett, Walt Mahla, and Ron Dozier. In addition, Gary Luckenbaugh, Aron Insinga, and Doug Barton dropped in occasionally. I do not recall seeing Ed Jones there, but I had not heard of him at the time and so would not have paid attention to him. Towards the end of the summer, Andy Cardinal began working at 358 frequently.
Walt's task that summer was to complete CMI version 3. Since I was working on a vaguely similar project at the time (CAI). I frequently asked for his help, and so I worked more with him that summer than with anyone else. Besides CMI, though, Walt found time to rewrite REACT, TTYSET, and LIST.
Dave spent most of his time (it seemed) on CUSPS: among the many programs he wrote that summer were LOGIN, NOTICE, SYSCAT, HELP, HLPMAK, DSKMON, and CHAR. I don't remember what Ron was working on. Andy seemed to be doing mostly his own programming, although he took care of the library as well.
When the summer of 1977 started, DELTA was still using the V06B standard terminal handler. During the summer Dave, Walt, and Ron installed several changes, including scope rubouts and CTRL/R. In addition, they obtained an early release of RSTS V06C and spent a week or so trying to get that to run on DELTA (as I recall, it didn't). All the dialup lines were disconnected for the entire summer, so it was easy to take the machine down. Nobody except those in the room would be bothered by it, and the only ones in the room were staff members (paid or non-paid; the term 'associate member' had not yet been invented).
Of all the different management that DELTA has been under while I have been there, I believe the summer group of Dave, Walt and Ron to have been the best. I did not begin to use DELTA until after the group of graduate students that included Dan Grim and Eric Nystrom had departed. Gary and Aron seem to have been hampered by the disorganization and confusion prevalent during Mrs. Green's last year at DELTA. Although I was not privy to the actual meetings and events at DELTA during that time, I can say this from my conversations with Gary and contemporary records that I found on some old tapes (GRIPES and ANSWERS). Gary himself was at least as competent as anyone else I have met at DELTA. [Ed. - And a very nice guy.]
Of the three senior staff members that summer, Dave was probably the leader. His 'style' of leadership was a very loose, very flexible attitude, as far as getting things done was concerned. Without standing on any kind of protocol or bureaucratic formality, if something needed to be done, it was. This style was admirably suited to the conditions at the time; it might be somewhat less effective now, with a larger number of staff members concerned, but I would still like to see DELTA have a go at it.
By the end of the summer, the system was running very well. All CUSPs that had been rewritten or revised were working, and all worked together. CMI and CAI had been sufficiently finished so that they could be used by classes. The tape library had been organized. The system library had been organized (I believe it was Walt who originated the idea of having auxiliary library accounts with logical names, such as GAME:) pretty much as it is now. On this high note, DELTA prepared to enter the 1977-1978 school year.
The staff for that year was seriously depleted. Dave and Walt entered college in September. Andy and I had to go back to high school: neither of us had terminals at home, and I know that I had a hard time getting to DELTA when someone would be around, since buses don't run late at night. No staff members (at the time) worked regularly on the weekends, and I did not have a driver's license. Because of this, I was not at DELTA at all during the fall of 1977; by October, in addition, my duties at WMPH, the Mount Pleasant radio station (I was news director at the time) took up quite a bit of time as we all were working on "Marathon '77". So, what I am about to set down comes not from firsthand knowledge, but from my conversations with those involved and from some documents I found later.
The staff that fall, initially consisted of Ron Dozier and Doug Barton. Ed Jones and Anne Dreizler were also around; apparently, they had been around for most of the summer of 1977, though I had not noticed them. Ron, at the time, was the most senior of the 'senior staff'; he ran the machine and answered the phones. Sometime that fall, Doug quit, disgusted, as Dave Haislett says, with the general air of disorganization and the broken promises that characterized that fall. In the meantime, Ed Boas had been looking for a full-time programmer to take charge of the DELTA system. At the time, Ron was working thirty hours a week, while taking courses at the University. He was willing to continue in his position, but did not want a full-time job. Ed Jones, on the other hand, did want the job, and the DELTA management felt that he was the best candidate for the job (one theory has it that Ron was too independent, with too many ideas of his own, while the management was looking for someone less likely to cause trouble). By the time Dave Haislett came back for Christmas vacation, the power struggle was over and Ed Jones had come out on top.
Let me digress now to give you some of the background of Ed Jones. He, as well as Gary Luckenbaugh, Ron Dozier and Andy Cardinal, came from Alexis I. DuPont High School. In those days (before the founding of Project DIRECT), A.I. was DELTA's biggest member (aside from the University). They had about six accounts, and many terminals, and used DELTA to develop some computer-assisted-instruction programs that many of their teachers used. Gary initially wrote these A.I.C.A.I. programs; the experiencce he gained by doing so proved helpful to him when, after graduating from A.I. in 1975 (along with Ron), he was assigned to write CMI version 1 for a then-unknown from the Education Department named Ed Boas. After Gary left A.I., Ed Jones took over the AICAI project. He (like so many others throughout DELTA's history) was a bit of a troublemaker at the time; the details are unknown to me, but apparently he broke security of DELTA and did so in such a way as to cause Mrs. Green to advise Ed Boas never to hire Ed Jones. After graduating from A.I. in 1976, Ed worked as an operator at DuPont and as a programmer at UDCC on their PDP 11/70 system (which at that time was running RSTS/E). At the time of his hiring at DELTA, he appears to have been a competent programmer, although without the thorough knowledge of RSTS/E that Dave and Walt had and that he would acquire later.
Returning now to my story, I will pick it up in the early spring of 1978. My father had discovered that he could borrow, at times, a TI Silent 700 terminal from the DuPont company that had an acoustic coupler built into it. I used this frequently to log in to DELTA. My account number at that time was [80,14], the [80,*] project at the time being where high school students had accounts (there were 15 at the time). Ed Jones was impressed, when I met him, by the fact that I knew MACRO and that I was working on a MPIP program (in view of the state of the program at the time, he may have been unduly impressed). He had two ideas for me. First of all, there were some improvements to DIRECT that he wanted to have made, and he thought that maybe by having it written in MACRO, it could be more efficient (though the idea of having a DIRECT program written in MACRO by a non-privileged user - when DIRECT must access the MFD and UFD directly [Ed. - i.e. a task requiring privileges] was a rather impractical one). Second, he wanted me to write a decompiler for object modules, similar to Dan's PALUP program. I worked on this for a while, and by the end of the summer of 1978 had a good bit of it going. I spent a day or two in 358 during Easter vacation in April 1978; other than that, most of my work was done from home.
No history of DELTA would be complete without mention of the 'Flying Circus'. Ed Jones' idea was to take a group of non-privileged people who had been around for a little while (and some who hadn't) and allow them privileged access to a system running from an auxiliary disk (with the real system disk sitting safely in the disk cabinet). The group of people involved included Karl Fraser, Brian Cloud, Tony Eros, and Jim Stallings. They would come down to Delta in the evenings, and Ed (or another staff member) would reboot the system from the SYSDEV pack (that was the circus pack) and let them have a go at it for a few hours. The circus members had accounts in the [90,*] project on the regular system pack By the summer of 1978, however, the Flying Circus had dissolved as most of its members achieved privileged status on the regular DELTA system.
The tradition of allowing former staff members privileged access to the system upon their return from school or work elsewhere had been firmly established by this time. Dave Haislett, thus, was privileged (and paid!) during the summer of 1978. He does not appear to have done as much systems-level programming that summer as he did the summer before; there was not as much need for it, because most of the programs he had written were still in use. Walt Mahla, however, did not return to work for DELTA, because his family had moved to Harrisburg and he did not have a place to stay for the summer. I myself do not recall much of that summer; I spent some time at DELTA, but not as much as the year before, because once again my radio station duties were taking up much of my time. I do know that DELTA was in a state of flux that summer, at least equal to that at the time Gary and Aron left.
In the fall of 1976, DELTA, which had been using space in room 360 DuPont Hall, had been asked to move its machine and itself, so that the Electrical Engineering Department (which owned the third floor of DuPont) could use the space for its own purposes. DELTA was moved into room 358, as I have mentioned, at about the time I became seriously involved with it. Apparently, this was a temporary, one-year arrangement. So, in the summer of 1978, DELTA was once again on the move. Since the College of Education was in control of DELTA at the time, the decision was made to move the staff room(s) into Willard Hall. Several proposals were advanced for moving the PDP-11 machine into Willard Hall as well; these had to be abandoned, despite the protests of the staff, because of cost, and the processor was housed in the Computing Center. In the fall of 1978, our hardware configuration was as follows: One PDP 11/70 processor (replacing the 11/50 which is now, I believe, in the possession of the EE department), two RP04 disk drives (replacing the RP03's), one magtape drive (a TU16, replacing the TU10), and one "line printer" at UDCC, which, because of problems with access to the machine room (these problems are more accurately stated as 'no access to the machine room'), was useless to the staff. We no longer had an RK05 or DECtape, or paper tape. The staff room was 203-1 Willard Hall. In there were three 1800-baud direct connect modems, connected to Beehive terminals, and many dial-up terminals. Line-printer spooling was done to an LA36 which was dialed-up at 300 baud.
The 'senior staff' as the school year 1978-1979 began were Ed Jones, Ron Dozier, and Anne Dreizler. Ed was a full-time 'programmer-analyst' and was considered the system manager. His duties at this time seemed mostly to be coordination of the staff and non-privileged high school students (the Flying Circus had gone out of existence, and the term associate member had not yet been invented). The rest of the staff were often critical of him, saying that he appeared not to be doing anything. Anne's main project was FORTRAN CMI development; I don't recall what Ron was doing. Although these three were considered equally 'senior', Ed was obviously the one with power.
Other staff members that fall included Tom Epp, whose main project was CMI version 3 maintenance; Karl Fraser, who was the system librarian, and Phil Bernosky, whose main interest was in music and graphics and was known for the NOTES program. NOTES was the first attempt at providing some sort of user-to-user mail system. [Ed. - Apparently modeled after the one on the University of Illinois "PLATO" system, and thus an early ancestor of Usenet!] Before this, the only way for a non-privileged user to communicate with the staff was through the GRIPE program; to receive an answer, he would have to wait until the staff member created a file called 'ANSWER.TXT' on his account and then he could read it. A non-privileged user (for instance, at a high school) had no way of communicating with another non-privileged user. There were, however, two ways for privileged users to communicate. The NOTICE program could create notices for LOGIN to print, and could restrict the notice to one account. The LOGMES program, created by Jim Stallings, would create a file MESSAG.TXT on the user's account, which LOGIN would automatically print. Neither of these two options was available to non-privileged users, however. Thus, when NOTES was first made available to the general user community, it became something of a fad; people used it to communicate with each other and for posting suggestions or questions to the world at large. The main disadvantage of NOTES, however, was that a user had no way, short of reading each note, to determine which ones were addressed to him. In addition, if a note was not in the general 'public notes file', it could take a bit of effort to find it. A few months later the LOGMES program was made available to all users; the popularity of NOTES dropped sharply and the program never really recovered
In the fall of 1978, the New Castle County School District became the school district for almost all of New Castle County, following court-ordered desegregation. For DELTA, the unification of 11 school districts was a stroke of luck. All high schools in the district, with the exception of Alexis I. DuPont and Claymont (because they had their own systems), became DELTA members. For me, this meant that Mount Pleasant would once again have a DELTA terminal. For 1978-1979, the terminal was placed in room 125 (which used to be a guidance office) under the direction of Mr. Robert Barfield. Mr. Barfield, while considerably more knowledgeable about computers than Mr. Vanwickle had been, still needed help in the finer points of DELTA and RSTS. As the most experienced DELTA person at Mount Pleasant at the time, I became Mount Pleasant's liaison with DELTA. (The only other person left from our 1976-1977 group was Ken Polleck; he had not kept up with DELTA during the 77-78 school year, but does appear again later in this story). This involved, on my part, keeping track of Mount Pleasant's disk usage and ordering paper and ribbons when necessary, which was basically what Dave Haislett did two years before. In order to do this, I wrote an account manager similar to Dave's ACTMAN program; however, the potential problems of 1976-1977 were avoided by my keeping this program on my own account from the start.
In mid-October 1978, the New Castle County School District's teachers went on strike. Schools were effectively closed for six weeks. The district did, however, make an attempt at providing educational experiences (spelled b-a-b-y-s-i-t-t-i-n-g) during the strike. Among these was an 'open computer room' policy at Mount Pleasant. This meant that anyone who wanted could come in and play games; it was first come, first served, and after a few days of it I decided to come down to DELTA to use the system.
I well remember the first time I walked into room 203-1 Willard Hall. It was on a Saturday, and Ed Boas came by to let me in. As you walked into the door, there were two 1800-baud lines on desks to your right, and one further back against the wall (all on Beehives). The rest of the room was full of LA36 terminals with modems. It was carpeted (358 had computer-floor tiles) and spacious (since there was no processor). It was, to tell the truth, very impressive. I spent a lot of time at DELTA during the strike. I had all the weekdays I wanted to come down, and people were always around. In addition to the staff members I mentioned above, there were several high school students I met then, including Ken Kane, Chris Brown, Bob Mader, and a thirteen-year-old (who I at first thought was Tom Epp's younger brother) named Rich Thomson. I was given CMI as a project, perhaps because Ed Boas knew that I had worked a little bit with Walt on its development, and the account [90,12]. At this time, there were three projects for non-privileged high school students. The [80,*] was for those students who had taken a seminar at one point or another. The [90,*] was the remnants of the Flying Circus (non-seminar people) and the [20,*] was for those who were considered 'non-privileged staff' (such as Tom Epp and Brian Cloud). A few weeks after I had been given the [90,12] number, my account was changed to [20,9].
Towards the end of November, 1978, Karl Fraser decided to withdraw from the University and enter the U.S. Navy. After he did so, Rich Thomson was given his account [1,38] and his job as system librarian. Apparently, this was done shortly after Rich had broken security on the system. While no one will admit this, more than 50% of those made privileged after November 1, 1978, had broken security within the previous three weeks. Rich, at the time he was made privileged, set two records. At 13, he was the youngest person ever to achieve privileged status; also, he had first joined DELTA in September 1978, and so had a total experience on DELTA of fewer than three months. This was a mistake of Ed Jones's; Rich was far too immature to handle privileges at that time (he admits this himself) and was not an experienced enough programmer to produce work in the quantity and quality expected of a privileged person.
After Thanksgiving vacation (during which, as during other Thanksgiving past and future, I did not spend any time at DELTA due to the WMPH Marathon), the teachers' strike ended. Although I now could use the Mount Pleasant terminal more frequently, I had by this time become caught up in things at DELTA in Newark, in a way I hadn't been since the summer of 1977, and thus began coming out on Saturdays, on the bus (usually). Ed Boas had given me a security pass for room 203-1, which entitled me to call Security and have them let me in the room when it was locked. On December 11, 1978, my fifteenth birthday, I was given an extra incentive to come out and use DELTA more frequently even than I had been. I was given privileged access to the DELTA Educational Computing System.
Unlike many others, I had not broken security immediately before being made privileged. I had done so during 1977; Ed Boas inadvertently let me see the [1,*] password (it was SYBIL) and I used it to get a listing of the LOGIN program when nobody else was around. I had also come close during the incident at Mount Pleasant that I have described earlier. However, both of those events were well before my being made privileged.
My privileged account number was [1,124]. This seems to have been the start of a curious tradition. The account name for [1,124] was 'CMI Version 4.0 Development'. Later people to be made privileged would also receive innocuous account names until they had become paid staff. The reason Ed gave for this was that 'important people at the Computing Center read our account list' and apparently the DELTA management did not want it to be known how excessive the number of privileged people was. And it was excessive; at one point during the summer of 1979, there were 29 different people with privileged access to the DELTA system.
My project, as the account name for [1,124] stated, was to develop a new version of CMI. This took me about seven months. In addition, I wrote the ERA programs (ERAINF and ERADAR) to manage a database for the Education Resources Association; the lessons I learned while doing this served me well with CMI.
Throughout the winter of 1979, I kept in touch with DELTA pretty regularly, spending on the average one Saturday out of three there. This increased by the springtime to one out of two. Often, I would be the only one there in the morning. By the afternoon when I would leave, however, at least three or four people would have come in. Ed Jones was a regular, as was Anne Dreizler, and sometimes, Ron Dozier. It was also at this time that I got to know Bob Mader and Chris Brown, who at that time did most of the CUSP development. A rivalry soon developed among us because of an Ed Jones policy regarding CUSP development. He would assign someone to work on a CUSP, and that person would then be in charge of that CUSP (for example, Bob Mader and DIRECT) and responsible for all further improvements to that program. Since there were only a limited number of CUSPS to go around, it soon became a race to see who could get the most desirable CUSPS. This policy had its merits; a CUSP would not be assigned to someone until they had proposed a significant improvement to it, and so it stimulated a lot of creativity and work, but by assigning CUSPS to people in this way, an organized plan for development could not be worked out.
Another policy that Ed Jones tried to implement during the spring of 1979 was a coding standard. To illustrate this, I am going to include different examples of code in this text; all examples will contain the same program instructions.
When I learned to program under RSTS V06A/V, there was no coding standard of any kind. Most people wrote code in upper case because NO LN INPUT was the default setting for all terminals, and EXTEND mode did not yet exist, so a sample line of code might look like this:10 OPEN "KB:" AS FILE 1% : PRINT "Text: "; : INPUT #1%, A$ : A$=CVT$$(A$,4%)
(with a line feed after the 'INPUT #1%, A$'). With the advent of V06B, EXTEND mode began to be used and backslashes began to replace colons, so that if I had written this code in the early summer of 1977, it might have looked like this:10 OPEN "KB:" AS FILE 1% \ PRINT "Text: "; \ INPUT #1%, TEXT$ \ TEXT$=CVT$$(TEXT$,4%)
For V06B, DEC adopted a coding standard in their CUSPS. The specifications of the standard are too long to reproduce here; they may be found by typing 'HELP CODE' on the system. Suffice it to say that the same line of code, written to DEC standards, would look like this:10 OPEN "KB:" AS FILE 1% \ PRINT "Text: "; \ INPUT #1%, TEXT$ \ TEXT$ = CVT$$(TEXT$,4%)
Many DELTA programmers, meanwhile, had adopted the practice of using upper and lower case in their programs. If this line of code had been written in August 1978, it would have looked like this:10 Open "KB:" As File 1% \ Print "Test: "; \ Input #1%, Text$ \ Text$=Cvt$$(Text$,4%)
When Ed Jones decided upon a coding standard for DELTA, he basically took his own and gave it the name "DEC standard" to make it more impressive. This line, written to 'Pooh Standard' (the name soon given to Ed's standard) would have looked like this:10 Open "Kb:Input.Cmd" As File 1% \ Print "text: "; \ Input #1%, Text.$ \ Text.$ = Cvt$$( Text.$ , 4%)
Ed's attempt to enforce a coding standard on DELTA, which was made during the spring of 1979, had mixed results. Some people (notably Bob Mader, Chris Brown, and Ken Kane) adopted the standard and still use it today. Some, like myself and Rich Thomson, adopted it for a while and then abandoned it in favor of the earlier (circa August, 1978) standard. Still others never tried it. Although I agree with the idea of having some sort of a coding standard, the way in which this was enforced, I believe, led inevitably to its rejection. A standard that people will have to program by should be agreed upon by those who will live with it. The choice of an arbitrary standard should not be attempted unless there are valid reasons why it is the only acceptable one.
Meanwhile, the first annual Computer Faire was held in March 1979 at Delaware State College. DELTA sponsored a computer programming contest at the day-long fair for grades 4-12. Tom Epp, Ed Boas, and I were among the judges of the entries in the contest (contestants were given problems, computer terminals, and two hours to write programs to solve the problems). The winner of the first programming contest and two runners-up (Bruce Siegell of Concord High School, and Mike Markowski and Phil Strohm, both of Mount Pleasant High School) later would become DELTA associate members.
Three new privileged accounts were created at about this time. [1,48] was titled 'SIGI development' and was given to Tom Epp. [1,50] was titled 'XEROX development' and was given to Bob Mader. [1,130] was titled 'CUSP development' and was given to Ken Kane and Chris Brown. Bob and Chris are known to have broken security immediately before being made privileged; I do not believe that Tom or Ken did. Although Bob was technically in charge of XEROX, his real project was development of DIRECT. In any case, this would all become academic within a month.
In the late spring of 1979, DELTA was given the contract to develop software for the Jobs for Delaware Graduates state program. A job of this magnitude had never been given to DELTA before. The only previous experience DELTA had had with large-scale software development was with CMI and ECPRESS; both were one-person projects, however. The organization of the project was left to Ed Jones. He appointed Ron and Anne as development heads, along with himself, and soon began roping in everyone he could find to help with software development. I was not included in the first phase, because of CMI. Bob Mader, Ken Kane, and Chris Brown formed the backbone of the development "team".
In the spring of 1979, DELTA purchased an LA120 terminal from DEC. The LA120 was connected to a high-speed line (since it can print at speeds up to 9600 baud) and became an object of curiosity, but little more, that spring. Eventually, a spooler would be written for it, so that it could serve as a line-printer, but that would come later.
In June 1979, moving day arrived again. For reasons that are still unknown (at least to me), DELTA was assigned room 011 Willard Hall, known as the "fish bowl" because it was surrounded by glass on three sides. Room 203-1 became basically an annex of 203, used by Ed Boas to teach classes. Over a period of a week, everything was moved down there and 011 became the main DELTA staff room.
Once again, as summer came, the alumni returned to DELTA. Dave Haislett, of course, returned to a forty-hour-a-week job. Jim Stallings, Stan Cobb, and Gary Luckenbaugh all showed up at times. Even Walt Mahla got a job at DuPont during the summer and found time to stop by (more about that later). The summer of 1979 was my first chance to become acquainted with DELTA alumni, and so I suppose the idea for this memoir originated then.
In June 1979, I became general manager of the radio station, and that, combined with our family vacation, kept me somewhat busy for most of June. When I returned to DELTA in early July, the summer was in full swing. I had been on the DELTA payroll since early May, for five hours a week, and in the summer, that was increased to thirty. In addition, for three weeks, I was a teaching assistant for Ed Boas's SICBE (Summer Institute of Computer-Based Education) course. Along with me, Ken Kane, Tom Epp, Kendall Redburn, and Bob Mader were aides. Tom and Kendall were experienced, having been aides the year before, while the rest of us were novices. Tom and Kendall, accordingly, decided to have a little fun by calling themselves 'spiders' and those of us who were novices 'flies'; a favorite remark of Kendall's was 'My, the flies are thick around here', which he would say whenever Ken or I were within hearing. The whole thing quickly got out of hand when Bob Mader was admitted to 'spiderdom.' Soon, DELTA was divided into the 'spiders' who were Bob, Kendall, Tony Eros, and Tom Epp, and the 'flies,' who were myself, Ken, Rich Thomson, Dave Haislett, and any others whom the spiders disliked. The 'flies and spiders' conflict took the form of Animated Notes (a program similar to the regular NOTES program, but with scope graphics capabilities, that was eventually used solely for harassment), 'utility wars,' shouting matches, and threats of physical violence. Eventually, the battles ended when a utility war (between Bob Mader and Ernie Perez) ended in the involvement of the computing center and the suspension of Bob from the system for two weeks.
Despite the quarreling, a lot of programming was accomplished that summer. I finished most of the programming for CMI version 4 and co-authored, with Dave Haislett, a program for the JDG project; that was the extent of my involvement with it that summer. (Dave, on the other hand, ended up rewriting the majority of the programs originally written by Ken Kane, Stan Cobb, and Bob Mader.) Due to Bob's deepening involvement in the JDG programming and Chris Brown's enlistment in the Army, I gradually became the person in charge of CUSP development.
Rich Thomson began work on an improved XEROX program [Ed. - which used an early version of a laser printer], a task which would take him more than 16 months to complete. Most everybody else was involved in the JDG programming. This project was written entirely in BASIC-PLUS, using blocked-record databases, and consisted of 'modules' (programs) that chained to each other. Despite the enormous amount of time spent of the project, it was all thrown into the trash a few months later.
By this time, our Associate Member policy had been vaguely defined (which is more than could be said for the situation nine months before). A person who wished to be an Associate Member would 'apply' to Ed Jones. In almost all cases, the person would then be given an account and a project. A staff member was appointed 'Associate Member Coordinator'; his job was to keep track of all associate members, what they were working on, and how much progress they were making. This job was initially fulfilled by Brian Cloud; after he joined the Army, it was taken over by Bob Mader. With very few exceptions, all the Associate Members were reasonably well-behaved; in fact, in many cases (and this has been true throughout DELTA's history), the Associate Members have been more well-behaved than the staff. 'Incidents' were fairly common, ranging from disk corruptions (as Rich Thomson and Chris Brown discovered one night when they said PIP [1,38]/MO:16384.=MESSAG.TXT and corrupted the UFD [Ed. - Chris gives a different account of this incident; he says that it was an honest mistake by Rich, and that, though he was present, he wasn't involved]) to utility wars, in which one participant uses various programs such as COMMUN and UTILTY to interfere with the work of another; this other, to end his persecution, can only try to terminate the first one's access to the system without being terminated himself. (These are called 'wheel wars' at Stanford University.)
The first major reorganization since 1977 of the system library took place in the summer of 1979. In 1977, the purpose of reorganization was to reduce the number of files on [1,2] and place some organization into the locations of files. At that time, the account [20,0] was used only as a library for the [20,*] project. It had more importance then, however, than it does now with respect to the [20,*]; programs such as FACAT, FAILSA, and even UTILTY were available to [20,*] users on [20,0] (in some cases, the user had to type the privileged password before he could use the program). Similarly, the account [1,0] was used as a library for the [1,*] accounts; after the reorganization, the programs left on [1,2] were utilities for all to use. During the first two years of Ed Jones' system managership, however, the account [20,0] gradually began to contain more and more utilities. This was the result of Ed's desire to get files off of [1,2] (for which he never gave a reason) and to centralize things somewhere else. By the summer of 1979, account [20,0] contained a melange of utilities, both privileged [20,*]-only, and general. It was becoming difficult to find programs, and the fact that most older programs were not moved (or if they were, were moved with little notice) and the tendency of some (including me) to put all general user utilities on [1,2] complicated the situation a bit. Accordingly, on my initiative, Ed, I and Ernie Perez, the new system librarian, got together and worked out a policy for the three accounts [1,2], [1,0], and [20,0] and moved files where necessary to enforce the policy. This policy, which is still in use (and working well, thanks to the cooperation of all concerned), stated that all utilities restricted to privileged use (regardless of authorship) would go on [1,0] (this was not a new idea); all utilities restricted to [1,*] and [20,*] use and all utilities not originally written by DEC would go on [20,0] (this was the first time in three years that the function of account [20,0] had been explicitly defined) and all utilities documented by DEC for non-privileged use (this includes DEC CUSPs that DELTA rewrote) would go on [1,2]. This policy proved to be an effective way to organize our utilities libraries.
I have mentioned Ernie Perez as the new system librarian. Rich had been removed from this job in order that he could concentrate on XEROX. Ernie, who was working at DELTA that summer and being paid by CETA funds (not DELTA funds), got the job of system librarian. Later in the fall, he would be hired full-time by DELTA and the position of system librarian would gradually slip into disuse. However, I will come to that later.
One of the more massive programming efforts that summer was the attempt to write an effective spooler for the LA120 high-speed printer. While in 203, we had been using a program called AIQUE, which was originally written by Ed Jones for A. I. DuPont (hence the name) and later taken over by Chris Brown. The program had some serious flaws, among which was the ease of breaking security by using the 'spooler' terminal (this was done by no fewer than three people!), and when Chris joined the Army at the end of June, AIQUE fell into disuse. Meanwhile, Walt Mahla had returned to Wilmington for the summer, as I have mentioned, and stopped in to DELTA. He asked Ed Jones for a 'small, easy project' that he could work on in the limited amount of time he would have after work. Ed's reply was to the effect that Walt would be wasting 'a great mind' by doing that. However, a solution was found to the satisfaction of all concerned; a spooler needed to be written, which Ed considered a big project, but Walt had written a program similar to what was needed a few years before. Walt and I spent a night at DELTA getting LPFAST (his program) to work; that program was in use for the greater part of the summer. When Walt left, I wrote a program called SPOOL which was a bit fancier (though not much more) than Walt's; that program (which is in dire need of a rewrite) is still in use now.
Stan Cobb is another of the alumni who returned for the summer of 1979. His specialty is FORTRAN; his projects were FCHART and SOLCOST. Both were massive programs for use in solar-energy projects. Both needed much work to make them function on DELTA. Because of the large amount of LINKing to be done with these FORTRAN programs, Stan preferred to work at night (when the system was not as loaded) and there was at least one time when Dave Haislett and I were the first in to 011, only to discover Stan asleep in his chair.
There are a few other things to note about that summer. Unlike summers before or since, there was no DELTA picnic. The money that had been earmarked for the picnic went instead to fixing an old refrigerator that Rich Thomson donated to DELTA. Meanwhile, the DELTA staff was invited to the SICBE picnic and the end of the summer institute; this proved to be a fine substitute and 'a good time was had by all.' Also, the staff and associate members were given a tour of the UDCC machine room; for many of us, it was the first time we had actually seen the DELTA 11/70.
The summer of 1979 ended the traditional way. All the alumni returned to where they had come from (an exception is Jim Stallings; see below). Everyone else was laid off on September 1, except Ed Jones, because of budget trouble (Dave Haislett was allowed to stay until mid-September because he had spent a few weeks earlier in the summer at school, and so part of his salary was still available). The paid staff, thus, consisted of Ed Jones and Jim Stallings, who was working that fall on a co-op program and so was not being paid by DELTA funds. As for the rest of the staff, Bob Mader became a freshman at the University of Delaware, and so slowly dropped out of DELTA activities. Rich Thomson, Ken Kane, and I stayed around, although non-paid (and in Rich's case, non-privileged); however, for the months of September and October, I had very little time for DELTA, because my radio station activity kept me busy on Saturdays and the time I could spend on the school terminal was limited. Kendall Redburn left the Delaware area; Brian Cloud had joined the Army; and Tom Epp became involved with other things and also faded out of the DELTA 'scene'. Finally, Ernie Perez was hired full-time at the end of September; his duties at first were undefined.
Mount Pleasant once again had a DELTA terminal in the fall of 1979. The same arrangements were made for that year as for the one before it, except that I left the account management to Ken Polleck (as I had left it towards the end of the previous year to Mike Markowski). Ken, in need of a course to fill up his schedule, had taken (actually re-taken) Computer Knowledge and ended up spending his time doing special projects for Mr. Barfield.
The fall of 1979 was a fairly stagnant period for DELTA. Development for JDG occurred in fits and starts; Ed Jones and Ken Kane handled most of it. During the fall, my major project was development of a disk optimization program; this was originally Ron Dozier's program, but he apparently lacked the time for it, and so I inherited it (as I have mentioned, I was inheriting many CUSPS at the time). MFDRDR, when first used, increased the system response time greatly, and was used sporadically throughout the fall. At the time, all it did was reorder the system disk MFD; more refinements would come later.
However, this time is notable for the many new associate members we would get; from Mount Pleasant came the 'fearsome threesome' of Dave Wiley, Tom Conte and Joe Augenbraun; their exploits are recorded later in this document. Eric Thayer came from Brandywine; Rich Rydgren came from Concord; Tom Hartmann from A. I. DuPont middle school (he was in ninth grade at the time). Many older associate members began to drop out during this time; among the casualties were Mike Markowski and Phil Strohm of Mount Pleasant and Matt Rider and Dan Greenberg of Dickinson.
After the Thanksgiving holiday (and Marathon '79), my activity at DELTA began to pick up. DELTA had given me a terminal at home on October 30 (I had had one over the summer, but it had to go back to Mount Pleasant when the school year started). Also, after Thanksgiving, I once again was on the payroll, this time for 20 hours per week. Finally, after the Marathon, I had more time to spend on and at DELTA.
The biggest single event of December 1979 was the arrival of RSTS V7.0. We got a special early release (early by about a month) of the distribution tapes (but no manuals) in order that Dave Haislett and Gary Luckenbaugh, home for the Christmas vacation, could set it up on the system. They did so, taking a couple of days of downtime for it. The installation of V7.0 was notable for its ease (we discovered absolutely no bugs in the system software) and the many new features (of course, these are documented elsewhere). The biggest single problem we had was that the internal FIP structure of FCB and DDB had been changed, and many of our programs depended on the information in them. Much of the task of fixing programs fell to me, as did the inevitable process of modifying the DEC-supplied CUSPS to include the DELTA features put in over several years. This is still incomplete; Ed Jones actually forbade the use of the RSTS V7.0 DIRECT program until all the features of the V6C one (including the useless features) had been put in. Despite strong protests from Dave and myself, the V6C DIRECT is still on the system.
At this time, my story brings me to the event which, in my opinion, started the fall of DELTA. It occurred on December 31, 1979, and is thus known and remembered at the "New Year's Eve incident". Room 011 Willard Hall adjoins the outside entrance to the building. When these doors are locked (as was the case on New Year's Eve), it was customary for those who wanted admittance to knock on the window of 011 and wait for someone to open the door. One this day, there were two groups of people in 011: the Mount Pleasant group, Dave Wiley, Tom Conte, and Joe Augenbraun, who had all come down in Dave's car; and Gary Luckenbaugh, Dave Haislett, Eric Thayer, and myself, all of whom had come in Gary's car. In addition, Ken Kane and Karl Fraser were present. Ed Jones was on vacation in Virginia, and had left Gary 'in charge'. Gary was not informed what 'in charge' meant, and really didn't know.
Dave Wiley, Tom Conte, Joe Augenbraun, and Karl Fraser went to lunch, leaving the rest of us working in 011. When they returned, they knocked on the window to be let in. All of us were busy at the moment they knocked. Before any of us had a chance to get free and open the door, Karl apparently ran full force up against the door, making quite a noise. This set off the rest, who began kicking and pounding on the doors and windows. The din and force were so great that we inside were afraid that something would be broken. Also, the apparent immaturity of those outside made us reluctant to let them in. Dave Haislett suggested that we call Security. This was done. An officer came by, let everyone in, and proceeded to sort out the mess. Initially, the Security men decreed that all those without keys to the building had to leave. The DELTA policy had been that a list was left with Security with all the names of those permitted in the building after hours. Nobody knew where the list was (it was supposedly online somewhere). While Security was taking names, Gary and I realized what was going on and asked Security if Eric could stay, because he had come with Gary and had no other way of getting back to Wilmington. The officer agreed, providing that we would 'take responsibility' for him. That we agreed to do.
Meanwhile, Dave Wiley had disappeared. We found him writing a nasty LOGMES to Ed Boas and everybody else describing the events from his point of view (biased, of course, as were all the LOGMES sent that day). He also, without getting permission (nobody there knew that he had to), called Ed Jones long distance in Virginia and explained the situation to him. Ed talked to Gary and the officers and managed to straighten out the mess.
After Security had left, Dave Haislett decided to say something to the Associate Members at fault in the incident. (After it was over, we all decided that the lack of a coherent AM policy had caused them to know nothing about DELTA policies, especially where their privileges (systems and otherwise) were limited and where staff members took priority). Tom and Joe refused at first to listen. They only did so when Dave killed their jobs and disabled logins. Their attitude so enraged Dave that he sent a very nasty LOGMES to the Eds about the incident and their attitudes.
Although one other thing happened during the New Year's Eve incident, it would not become known for almost two weeks. During the confusion, many privileged terminals were left unattended. Apparently, Dave Wiley took advantage of this to run ACCOUN and get a list of all the accounts on the system, WITH passwords, onto his [90,*] account. Later on, when we were at lunch (dinner really), he queued it out on the LA120. Nobody knew anything about it at the time. Imagine my surprise, then, when I received a message one day while working at home, that was not only blatantly obscene but had been sent from Eric Thayer's account (Eric and I were close friends then). To make things worse, the message was sent from KB12:, while when I did a WHO as soon as I received the message, Eric was logged on to KB49: (Brandywine's line, which was normal for him). We soon established that Eric had been logged on for a good hour and a half at Brandywine, and had been on KB49: all the time. Also, Eric had received an obscene LOGMES sent from, of all places, his own account. I immediately had my suspicions and alerted Ed Jones at DELTA.
The next day, January 9, 1980, was "Senior Cut Day" at Mount Pleasant. During the Christmas vacation, I had arranged with Gary to come out to DELTA that day. The timing proved to be fortuitous: I brought Ed the output from my terminal of the incident. Dave Wiley was also at DELTA that day. After seeing the output I showed him, Ed got on the phone with Tom and Joe. What ensued was an interesting example of human nature. With Dave Wiley listening, Ed mentioned to Tom and/or Joe that there was an all-powerful Committee on Computing which supposedly had the power to restrict someone from access to all computers in the State of Delaware. When this failed to move them, he said they were off the system until January 1, 1981, unless they explained the incidents of the previous day. About forty-five minutes later, they called back to confess. The end result was that Tom and Joe were restricted from the system for a month, while Dave Wiley was thrown off until the first of September.
At the end of January, DELTA had a staff meeting. Meetings had been common in the past, but none had yet been held that year. At the meeting, an attempt was made to define the responsibilities of staff and associate members. This was an important first step in repairing some of the damage caused by the New Year's Eve incident and its repercussions. Had the events which I am about to describe not taken place a month or so later, the result might have been good.
Gary Luckenbaugh returned to school in mid-January; Dave Haislett had left right after the New Year. At the time Gary left, Tony Eros was hired to do programming work for the New Castle County School District. Jim Stallings also returned to school, and Ernie Perez took over many of his responsibilities, including tape I/O and disk allocation management. By February, the "Saturday Evening Group" had formed. This was a group of staff and Associate Members that spent some or all of their Saturday nights in 011; the result was that going to DELTA on a Saturday was as much a social event as it was a time to program (although some good programs did get written then). The Saturday night regulars included Tony, myself, Ed Jones, Anne Dreizler, Eric Thayer and Rich Thomson. Generally, Tony, Ed, Anne, and I would come down at 5 or 6 o'clock and stay until midnight. Eric would have come down in the morning, by bus; Rich, who lived nearby, would be in and out all evening. [Ed. - In addition to the beer consumption mentioned in the foreword, these evenings also, for part of this group (especially Rich Thomson and Tom Epp), involved attending Saturday midnight showings of the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" - in costume, in Tom's case - at the nearby State Theater, which has since been torn down.] The record for staying late was set by Tony, Eric, Ed, Anne and me. One evening, Tony and I came down early (about 4:30) and went to Ed's apartment, where Tony and I worked on his car stereo. Later, we took Ed and Anne to DELTA. We stayed until the normal time, and then discovered it was snowing fiercely. To make things worse, the defroster was broken in Tony's car. Finally, after a couple hours of fruitless work at the apartment, Ed drove us home in his van; we got home about 6:00 in the morning.
George Washington's Birthday weekend - February 15-18, 1980 - was one of the most significant times in DELTA history. The problem started on Monday, the 18th. Tony and I had come down for the day (it was a school holiday). About 11 o'clock, Ed Boas came down to 011, took Ed Jones aside in a corner, and ordered him to remove Ron Dozier's and Anne Dreizler's accounts from the system. This unprecedented order caused Ed Jones to ask Tony and me, at lunch that day, if there was anything we thought we should do about it. After discussing many alternatives, we decided to write a letter to Ed Boas, with carbon copies to Dr. Uffelman and all DELTA alumni, deploring his action, pointing out that alumni have made many valuable contributions to DELTA, and questioning the wisdom of his move, noting that other alumni might have to reconsider their DELTA work because of such a capricious action. (At this time, I would like to make clear the difference between an ex-employee and an alumnus. An ex-employee typically feels no strong attachment to his former place of employment; while he may revisit it, it is usually to see old friends and the changes made since his departure. An alumnus, on the other hand, is concerned with the future progress of his place of employment and will do volunteer work if necessary to help it survive. DELTA rarely had ex-employees; its alumni number more than a dozen. [Ed. - In this sense, yes; in the larger sense, DELTA's alumni number nearly 100.]) The letter was drafted on Monday night and, signed by eight people considered 'staff' (Ed, Tony, myself, Tom Epp, Ernie, Rich, Ken, and Bob Mader), delivered to Ed Boas and Dr. Uffelman the next day. It appears to have accomplished its purpose; Anne was reinstated within two hours of Ed's receipt of the letter, and Ron was also given access to Anne's account.
The associate member policy was also changed at about this time. Associate Members had previously held accounts in the [90,*] project; later their accounts were moved to the [25,*] project. Staff members, meanwhile, each had two accounts, one in the [1,*] and one in the [20,*] project; the [20,*] was there for the sole purpose of security, because it was impossible to log directly into a [1,*] from a dial-up line (this was due to a program called KSET and written by Dave Haislett). Rich Thomson had been re-instated to privileged status in February and had also become Associate Member Coordinator. His job was soon obviated, however; instead, in an attempt to make the administration of Associate Members easier (and also to weed out those who did no work), each privileged person (with some exceptions, like UDCC staff and alumni) was assigned an Associate Member. The Associate Member thus 'adopted' was responsible to the privileged person (his sponsor) for doing his or her work. The privileged person was responsible for making sure that his AM had work to do. If the Associate Member did no work, it was the responsibility of the privileged person to find another AM to adopt. This caused a lot of griping at first, but things gradually straightened out. I 'adopted' Eric Thayer; Rich took Tom Hartmann; Ed Boas took Rick Rydgren; Ed Jones took Kenny Cowan of Smyrna; Harry Shelton took Bruce Siegell; and Tom Epp took Dave DiSabatino (I mention these because all of these pairings became somewhat notorious).
The Computer Faire was held again in March 1980. This time, many staff and Associate Members helped as judges and monitors. Among those who came down were Tony, Tom Hartmann, Eric Thayer, Bruce Siegell, Dave DiSabatino, Ed Gartley, and Harry Shelton (and of course, Ed and Penny Boas). Again, 'a good time was had by all.'
When RSTS V7.0 first came in, I had asked Ed Jones if I might be permitted to help generate the system at the Computing Center. Ed said no, for fear of producing a bad impression with those in power there because of too many people. Subsequently, I got myself a copy of the terminal handler as modified by Dave and began learning about it. I had gotten to the point of proposing some changes to it (among others, to include CTRL/V support) [Ed. - Cleared the typeahead buffer; DEC standard supported only the CTRL/U command, which deleted typeahead only back to the last carriage return] by late March. One weekend in late March, Tony and I were at DELTA when the system crashed and failed to auto-reboot. We tried to call Ed Jones, but his 'box' was on; we tried to call Ed Boas, but he wasn't home. So, we went to the Computing Center ourselves, found the problem, and brought the system up. This action prompted Ed Jones to take Tony, Ernie, and me into UDCC to 'train' us in startup procedures (since I had been in charge of the start-up files and the INIT program for nine months, part of that, at least, was redundant). This occurred on April 4th; within the next ten days, I had taken the system down twice and installed the CTRL/V feature, producing RSTS V7.0-11. Subsequently I would make several more changes to the terminal driver; I had even made plans for re-writing it to be more efficient, and would have done so in the fall of 1980, but it now seems unlikely that I will do so. [Ed. - I didn't.]
Around this time, Dr. Uffelman asked that all references to Delta Educational Computing Systems capitalize the 'Delta'; apparently, it is some sort of acronym, and from this point forwards in this document, DELTA is how it will be known. In the same message announcing this change, Dr. Uffelman mentioned the possibility of writing a DELTA history, and so further stimulated this work.
It is now time to introduce the Delaware CHOICES system. Since I was not involved in, and thus did not pay much attention to, the development of JDG in the fall of 1979, I can only approximate the sequence of events. I know that development of this system was continuing throughout the fall, but running into problems caused by the nature of BASIC-PLUS; namely, large data files and insufficient memory. To take care of the memory problem, it was proposed that the programs be converted to BASIC-PLUS II. Around this time, RSTS V7.0 came in. Included in it were improved facilities for the use of the database management system RMS-11 with our system's BASIC-PLUS II. (We have had BP2 almost as long as we have had Ed Jones; however, our copy was unofficial and so we had (and still have) no update for it; it is RSTS V06B BP2). By judicious use of RMS-11, it is possible to save much space in data files and speed up access time; the disadvantage is that it must be done in BP2 or MACRO and takes forever to taskbuild, in addition to requiring a 23K library in memory (in addition to the task image) at all times that it is being used. During the late winter and early spring of 1980, Ed Jones decided to scrap the original JDG system and replace it with an RMS-11-based system. Since BP2 has facilities for calling subprograms, Ed decided that the CHOICES system (as the new JDG/SOICC system was called, after one in Canada) would be modularized as much as possible. This eventually reached ridiculous levels, such as having a one-line subprogram to clear a screen called only once in a program. (I might note here that Ed swears by this type of modularization. Having had some experience with directing a project involving BP2 (see DEAMON development below), I can say that it greatly simplifies the administration of a group of programmers to have the programs broken down as much as possible into subprograms; however, I don't believe that it is sound programming practice to do so, because it makes the task of modifying the program much harder for someone coming in 'cold,' as I have had to do recently with SIS).
Throughout the spring, I did some development for CHOICES, the amount gradually increasing. As I became more involved in CHOICES development, I became more aware of how Ed Jones was directing it.
The more notable good points of his management strategies are as follows: He seemed to be more or less on top of things at all times, and seemed to know what everyone was doing and what everyone was supposed to do next. His coding philosophy did simplify things from an administrative point of view, and I felt that his insistence on many standards as to how things were modularized was a good idea, though I disagreed with the standards he used. He could, however, tend to be unhelpful when a programmer would have a question to ask him. All in all, he did a decent job; at the time, I could not have done a better one. One thing, however, was quite annoying. Ed had rewritten the LOGMES program (calling it FS for FeMail System (?!?!)) and had included the capability for sending mail to "mailing lists" of people; he would then send a two- or three-page LOGMES to one person and carbon copy it to staff, forcing people using 300-baud terminals to waste time scrolling through mail not really of interest to them. After all the staff removed themselves from the "JDG" mailing list one week, he modified his policy. [Ed. - Ed Jones was quite a bit ahead of his time here; users of modern e-mail programs like Eudora would recognize FS easily, in substance if not in graphic design. The problem of junk mail, of course, has only gotten worse in the intervening years.]
While CHOICES was the main concern of many DELTA people, Tony was developing a program for Dr. Pete Idstein of the New Castle County School District called SIS (for Student Information System). It was similar to CHOICES in that it used a large RMS-11 database and was developed along similar lines. Tony, however, did all the programming for it himself and did much of the design, so that the modularization did not always follow along the lines of CHOICES. The purpose of the program was to record competency information for students in the district, and produce reports on them by different criteria. This took the entire spring and, when Tony left, was still not quite done.
With the spring of my senior year approaching, I had a decision to make. At the time, I was interested in staying in Wilmington and working for DELTA full-time. However, I also planned to attend school (preferably Princeton) sometime. I inquired of Dr. Uffelman and Ed Boas the possibility of my being employed by DELTA in 1980-81. Over the next few weeks, I became aware of the plans that they had for DELTA. As it stood in March and April, DELTA was going to divide in two; one group, led by Ed Jones, would be doing software development such as CHOICES and SIS, while the other, led by Ed Boas, would handle "network operations," including consulting and dealing with high school students and AMs. The possibility was advanced that I might work under Ed Boas as chief programmer for these network operations, which would include CUSP programming (in short, a programmer's daydream). At the same time, DELTA was to get another DH11 multiplexer and one-half a megabyte of memory, and have many new members from SOICC, JDG and similar state agencies. Finally, DELTA was going to be rolling in the money produced from the sale of the CMI system to various groups nationwide. As I understand it now, most (if not all) of these plans are to be scrapped (if they haven't already) due to the recession. Paradoxically, because of the lack of funds and support from the University this spring and summer, more of the plans are working out than were supposed to (but I'll get to that later).
The Saturday night group continued full strength into May and June. By this time, our exploits had become almost legendary, at least in our own minds; among these were poking the BASIC runtime system out of residence (freeing up 16K when it was not needed, but slowing down the system when it was), having a security-breaking contest (we put a non-privileged user on a [1,*] and, while we staff members were watching him, allowed him to try and fix LOGIN so that he could become priv anytime), and reviving the Flying Circus momentarily (I did this one night during "downtime" at the Computing Center). Tom Hartmann had also joined the group of regulars later in the spring.
There were several "incidents" that spring. Tony and Tom Epp had tried for awhile to revive the NOTES system; about all they did was to spark a lot of interest in it. Those interested, however, found it a convenient place to exchange obscene messages [Ed: Again, NOTES foreshadows Usenet ... ]. Finally, despite many protests from the staff (who did use it, for the most part, seriously) NOTES was taken off the system permanently. Also, there were a couple of disk disasters that spring; in one case, the entire system was zeroed, while in the other only Ed Boas' and Ed Jones' accounts were gone. These incidents prompted Ed to ask me to create a bootable tape which had sufficient files on it to recover the system from dump tapes, which I did.
By the time June came, I could tell that this summer was going to be somewhat different from the past ones. For one thing, there were no alumni. Dave Haislett categorically refused to work for DELTA because, with a degree, he felt he could get a better job elsewhere (with the recession, that belief proved unfounded) and from things he said to me, I gathered that he no longer found DELTA worth his while. In addition, he returned to school in August to work before beginning graduate studies. Walt Mahla returned to work for DuPont but also left in early August. Stan Cobb spent the summer at college, working to finish his degree. Jim Stallings had dropped out of school and was working in Richmond, Virginia.
Meanwhile, the budget crunch was making itself felt earlier than ever. Instead of increasing everyone's hours for the summer (as was customary), management told everyone to work only the same number of hours they had been working. Also, Tony Eros was laid off. Many of us thought that this was less the result of money troubles than of his constant needling of the DELTA management over such matters as copyright laws. [Ed. - The dispute essentially turned on whether DELTA or the individual programmer owned the copyright. Tony, who - along with most of the staff - insisted that the copyright was his, not DELTA's, went to the length of calling the U.S. copyright office in Washington for copies of the relevant laws. Since there was little market outside DELTA for most of these programs, it was a question of pride more than money. When I originally wrote this document, I placed a copyright notice at the top as a reminder of this dispute.] This turned out to be a relief to Rich Thomson, who was at odds with Tony and had complained to Ed Boas that he suspected Tony of mysteriously zeroing his account several times.
Despite the money troubles, however, 011 was a busy place. A program called CEP (Career Exploration Program) had placed several people at DELTA; like Ernie Perez the year before, they worked for DELTA, but were not paid by DELTA. They, for the most part, did data-entry work. With their arrival, Dawn Hickman, previously in charge of this kind of thing, was promoted and began learning how to program.
The quarreling between staff members had reached almost epidemic proportions by this time. Unlike the 'flies and spiders' of 1979, these arguments were more personal in nature, and the hostility was more deep. At odds with each other for various reasons were: Tony and Ed Boas; Ed Jones and Anne Dreizler; me and Ed Jones (at one point, my irritation with what I saw as Ed's lack of leadership caused me to send a nasty LOGMES to the management saying in effect that Ed should be fired); the regular staff and the CEP staff; and Ed Jones and Tony (at times). These arguments did much to worsen the situation and prevent some good things from being accomplished.
As had become traditional by this time, DELTA was once more on the move in June 1980. Due to what was alleged to have been a racquetball game held one Saturday evening in front of the Dean's office [Ed. - Not quite true; as I recall it now, it was basically just roughhousing, though it may have involved a tennis ball or football, but the Dean, who happened to walk in on us, portrayed it as a racquetball game], the word had come down that DELTA was to be strangled. Room 011 was taken away from us. Instead, we were given room 133, which was a small office with four smaller offices branching off from it. Two of those offices belonged to other (non-DELTA) people, one belonged to Dr. Uffelman, and one was given to Ed Jones. In addition, Ed Boas, who had room 107 as his office, used most of that room to form the new staff room. One high-speed line was placed on Ernie's desk in 133; one went to the LA120 in 107; and one was shared between the monitor in the classroom 203 and Ed Boas's desk in 107. Ernie, Dawn, Joyce Mercado (by this time Ernie's fiancee) and Ed Jones worked in 133; Ed Boas, I and the other staff and Associate Members worked in 107. By now, people have started to become known for which room they work in.
I went on vacation towards the end of June, as the move was under way, and did not get back until early July. My duties in the summer of 1980 tended more towards CUSP development, rather than applications such as CMI. This was pretty much my own choice; I had just about decided that I was going to enroll at Princeton and, therefore, would not stay with DELTA after the 31st of August. Among the CUSPS that I finished up were the ATPRO/ATSER/ATPSEU package, a sort of QUEMAN and BATCH all rolled into one (I'm pretty proud of it), OPNDPY, a program originally written by Rich Burchnall but needing a total rewrite for RSTS v7.0 [Ed. - Ed Jones later helped me sell this program (I guess I owned the copyright!) to the Harrisburg newspaper for the grand sum of $88]; a new HELP system, the first CUSP to use RMS-11; and the DEAMON program. DEAMON [Ed. - Other systems would have spelled it daemon] had a curious history. It started as the program DSKMON, written by Dave Haislett; its purpose was to monitor open files and disk allocation, and report to the console any sudden or unusual changes; it also killed detached jobs when necessary (such as those detached from modems). Ed converted it to BP2, modularizing it in the process (this seems to have been his first attempt at modularization in a large-scale way) but not really altering the code. The rebuilt (that is the best word to describe it) DSKMON program was called DEAMON. Ed had some grandiose plans for the program, but never got around to them (because of CHOICES). When we noticed that DEAMON would not work for version 7.0 I asked Ed if I could be in charge of writing a new one. Ed agreed, providing that I not write any code myself, but rather have others write it and give myself a chance to learn 'leadership'. I did so because I wanted to have the chance to learn how to modularize a complete program. I learned from this project (as I have already said) that modularization does ease administration. Kenny Cowan and Harry Shelton were assigned to work on DEAMON; before it was finished, however, they left for the summer. I ended up writing it entirely in BASIC-PLUS.
When I returned from vacation, Ed Jones had some news for me. I was to learn all about SIS and prepare to head it up. It seems that he had heard that Dr. Idstein had come up with money to pay for a programmer for a year, to rewrite SIS from scratch. Like so many other things that summer, it didn't work out, and after a couple of weeks, I stopped having anything to do with SIS. Dave DiSabatino, meanwhile, had been placed in charge of SIS; as an Associate Member (although a privileged one) it was assumed that he could and would work on it without pay, and do as good a job as a paid staff member. He had trouble with it; apparently, Tony had not had time to debug it totally before he was let go, and Dave really did not have much experience before taking on SIS. Ed Jones further complicated things by insisting that Dave convert SIS to be identical, as far as build procedures and programming technique go, to CHOICES; this wasted a lot of time and effort and may have made the difference in the end. CHOICES, meanwhile, was having its difficulties. The name had been changed, to avoid conflict with the Canadian project; it was now CHANGES. (Both CHOICES and CHANGES are acronyms for something or other.) CHANGES, as it is now known, was (and still is) becoming very complex; too complex, at times, for even Ed Jones. At this time, it is somewhat in limbo; it is supposedly to be finished by September 1, but seems like it is one of those projects which will never really be done.
SICBE was held again this summer. The aides this time were Rich Thomson and Eric Thayer. In addition, a 'Summer Youth Campus' was held at DELTA; junior-high school students would come in for two-week periods and learn about programming. Rich, Eric, Dave DiSabatino, and Bruce Siegell were the aides for these courses.
DELTA once again had its annual picnic. It was held at Summit Airport (Ed Boas's airport) [Ed. - Ed Boas owned a small plane and occasionally took staff members for rides in it] and many staff members and Associate Members attended. Because I was on vacation, I was not at the SICBE picnic; I do believe that there was one, but it does not seem to have been as well attended by DELTA people as the one the year before.
This next section of this history is a brief description of DELTA as it now exists. The hardware configuration had already been included earlier in the document. We are running RSTS V7.0-13. The DEC standard RSTS is V7.0-07; Dave Haislett made three changes to RSTS and I made three, to bring it to -13. The staff at this point (paid staff) consists of Ed Jones, Ernie Perez, Ken Kane, and myself. Ed is in charge of applications development, mainly SIS and CHANGES. Ernie is the 'chief consultant' and is charge of tapes, disks, and dealings with the UDCC operators. He is also technically the 'system librarian', but does not seem to have done very much about it for months. Finally, he is developing a program for Dr. Dunkle of the Department of Public Instruction. Ken is basically working on CHANGES; he has another part-time job and prefers to spend his DELTA time on his terminal at home. My responsibilities are officially CHANGES development and XEROX development; however, I find myself being the Associate Member Coordinator, the systems CUSPS director, and much more. Dave DiSabatino said to me today that 'Ed (Jones) may be in charge of the system, but you're really running it'. That is the impression I get.
Besides the staff, there are five privileged people. Dave DiSabatino, as I mentioned earlier, is in charge of SIS. Rich Thomson is in charge of XEROX; he is on vacation this month of August and so XEROX was assigned to me, to see what I could do with it before he gets back. There had been talk of throwing Rich off of the system; Dr. Uffelman had taken a dislike to him because of his immaturity (which is lessening daily) and in addition, suspects him of having taken keys to Willard Hall from his desk. Eric Thayer is also privileged, he is another to have been made privileged after a security break. He is a general systems-CUSPS-type programmer, although he did work on SIS earlier this summer. Ed Boas has said that he would like Eric to be in charge of CMI after I leave. Bruce Siegell is in charge of DIRECT, and is also spending a great deal of time learning MACRO. Finally, there is Anne Dreizler. Anne is Ron Dozier's girlfriend and for several years was Ed Jones's apartment-mate, a situation that led to a bitter falling-out between Ron and Ed; the two have almost never spoken to each other in the past three years. Anne finally got a job at Getty Oil several weeks ago, and moved out and is living in her own apartment. Although she is still on the system frequently, Ed Jones has made several attempts to get her off. It seems that the war between her and Ed may end with her being denied access to the system, this time without anybody around to protest. [Ed. - Though Anne, Rich Thomson and I saw a good deal of one another that summer and spent the following New Year's Eve together, we lost touch after that and I don't know how this story ended.]
On Monday, August 18, 1980, Dr. Idstein came to Ed Jones in room 133. Apparently, the incomplete SIS program had been causing quite a bit of trouble at the NCCSD. Dr. Idstein had been promised that it would be working by the 18th. It was not. He thereupon gave Ed an absolute deadline of Friday, the 22nd. If SIS was not done by then, Dr. Idstein would write a letter to all the important people at the NCCSD and the U. of D., describing the situation with SIS. Such a letter could have resulted in ten New Castle County high schools dropping DELTA memberships, causing the end of DELTA as we know it.
The response to this letter shows the DELTA spirit at its best. Over the next week, Ed and Dave DiSabatino worked hard to finish SIS. When it became apparent they could not do it without more help, Tom Hartmann and I were recruited; despite the inadequacy (not to mention non-existence) of documentation on the innards of SIS, we both made fairly significant contributions to the program, working well past midnight on Thursday night, and when we got an extension of the deadline (from Friday morning to the next Monday morning), working late on Friday and Saturday nights as well. SIS was finished, to our relief and Dr. Idstein's satisfaction.
The SIS debacle, although it worked out well in the end, caused me to think hard about the organization of DELTA. It appeared that the main cause of this problem was the inadequacy of the staff assigned to it; there was no choice but to assign this to an Associate Member (Dave DiSabatino) because all paid staff were working to finish the CHOICES/CHANGES project. I believe that this showed that DELTA was dangerously over-extended in its commitments to organizations such as SOICC. Should this go on, the potential for another SIS-type situation is much greater, with the outcome less certain.
My belief that DELTA was overextended was reinforced by a conversation I had with Robert Tuzun shortly after SIS was finished. Rob is an Associate Member who has never worked on any project besides CHANGES. His education, thus, is very narrow in scope. When I asked Ed about this, he seemed to imply that CHANGES depended on Rob's work. To be forced to hang a large contract such as that for CHANGES on the work of unpaid volunteers is to live very dangerously.
The paid staff, as of this moment, are Ed Jones, Ernie Perez Ken Kane, Dawn Hickman, and myself. Ed, while doing little or no programming himself, basically acts as an administrator, overseeing other people's work on our "money projects". Even while on vacation at his parents' home in the Thousand Islands of New York, he logs in daily to check his mail and attempt to keep his head above water with CHANGES and SIS. While he is a skilled programmer, Ed does not have the respect of the staff that an effective leader needs. Ernie, on the other hand, is good at dealing with people; as DELTA's "chief consultant", he answers the telephone during the day and deals with questions from users. His greater need is a better knowledge of RSTS/E and programming. As he continues working for DELTA, he will be able to acquire this knowledge fairly rapidly. [Ed. - He did, and went on to a successful career with DEC.] Ken and I both have attitude problems; we both know that DELTA can be run better than it is now, and consequently find it hard to respect Ed Jones' leadership. This is not something that we can change, because as I have tried to show throughout this history (and any DELTA alumnus will agree with me), DELTA HAS been run better than it is now, and thus we find Ed's leadership unsatisfactory when compared with others from the past. Ken is planning to work for DELTA this fall under a work-study program at the University of Delaware; I am leaving for Princeton University in September. Dawn is a somewhat different case from the rest of us; she is not directly involved with programming, but rather coordinates the documentation efforts of the CEP staff. She will be a senior at the University this fall.
The more important and influential non-paid staff (including Associate Members) include Anne Dreizler, Eric Thayer, Rich Thomson, Tom Hartmann, and Rob Tuzun. Anne, although working at Getty Oil, still logs in daily to read her mail and do some CHANGES development. She lines up with Ken and me in the anti-Ed Jones group. Rich, at this point, is in limbo with DELTA. He has been on vacation for the month of August; during this time, Dr Uffelman is said to have made a decision to throw him off of DELTA, while Ed Boas (before he left on vacation) re-affirmed that he will have privileged access to the system upon his return. He was working on the XEROX project before he left; that project was turned over to me to finish up, but I have not had the time to complete it (I did do some work, though). When anyone asks me about XEROX, I say that there is much for Rich to do when he gets back; nobody (this includes the Eds) has said that he won't be back when I mention this, so I assume he will be allowed on when he returns. [Ed. - He was.]
Compared to these two, the DELTA lives of the others I listed are perfect bliss. Eric Thayer, so far, has not been asked to do any CHANGES programming. He did help out a bit with SIS before he left on vacation, and when I leave, Ed Boas has promised him that he will be in charge of CMI. He has been negotiating for the terminal that is in my house; I want him to have it., as does Ed Boas, but Dr. Uffelman is against it. Tom Hartmann is negotiating for a privileged account, meanwhile; Ed Jones asked Ed Boas to give him one about six weeks ago, and Ed Boas turned him down flat. Since then, he has been working hard on a variety of projects, in an effort to reverse Ed's negative feelings. I am much impressed by his eagerness and ability to learn, but have mixed feelings about him becoming privileged; he is well qualified for privs under the current policy but I feel the policy should be restricted severely, not as anything against him, but because the policy in general is too loose. If he does become privileged, he seems in a fair way to inherit much of my CUSP work. I have already mentioned Rob Tuzun; I am trying to do what I can for him before I leave, but he may remain as the perfect example of a misused Associate Member.
DELTA seems to have over-extended itself, not only with programming tasks, but also with last year's budget. Dr. Uffelman says that we have a severe deficit from last year that will preclude any hiring of anyone except Ed Jones (funding for Ken Kane this fall, if it happens, will not be from the DELTA budget); Ernie may be re-hired later this fall when some contracts come due. It is planned that we will get one-half of a megabyte of memory as soon as possible; it was supposed to have come in this week, but is not here. For the fall, it seems that CHANGES and SIS will be the major application programs under development. Dr. Uffelman had talked numerous times of revising and maybe eliminating the Associate Member program, but I would guess that this will not happen (because of inertia, the need for AM labor to finish CHANGES, and the support of both Eds for it). In any case, if Associate Membership is eliminated, DELTA will be in sufficient trouble with CHANGES that the AMs will be asked back (or DELTA will have had it!)
In conclusion, I can say that, despite the financial troubles, there may be a good future for DELTA. If Dr. Uffelman can learn a little bit more about DELTA as an organization (either from this document or from the so-called 'official' history of DELTA he is preparing) and work out a consistent and coherent plan for DELTA with Ed Boas, one that they can both agree on and live with; if Ed Jones can learn how to be a better leader and gain the respect of the staff in all matters concerning DELTA; if the staff and Associate Members can cooperate with each other and with the management, and last but not least, if the management of DELTA can promote an atmosphere of goodwill and a spirit of adventure among all, DELTA may become truly a great place to be. If these don't all work out (as is quite possible), DELTA will be left to muddle along; this is the natural state of all things Deltoid, and it has worked for twelve years, so why not longer?
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