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Report from Silicon Valley Roundtable
Long time Silicon Valley technologists visit the U-Maine campus to discuss computer history and speculate on future trends.
Silicon Valley companiesThe software industry has a rich and culture-changing history.  What really happened on the terminal screens in offices at the leading edge of innovation?  Visiting the University of Maine to tell their inside stories are Max Dietrich and Jacqueline Humfeld, with over sixty years of combined software development experience in California's Silicon Valley.  Max and Jacqueline will discuss computer history and trends and speculate on the the future of the computer industry during a roundtable discussion at Hill Auditorium.

Image (above): Silicon Valley companies.  Found at http://www.gepworld.com/images/siliconvalley.jpg

Image (home page): San Jose, California skyline.  Found at http://mr3047.k12.sd.us/State/Silicon%20Valley.jpg

Thursday, October 16, 2:00-3:15 PM @ Hill Auditorium, Barrows Hall

Jacqueline Humfeld's software has assisted strategic communications and has circled the Earth.  After college in Santa Barbara, California, Jacqueline worked on teams at a range of companies including Lockheed and Grid Systems.  At Lockheed, her office was in the infamous Lockheed-controlled "Blue Cube," a shielded, windowless room at Moffett Airfield rumored to control communications satellites during the cold war.  She worked in a team developing systems software for the Grid Compass, perhaps the first laptop computer, brought with the Space Shuttle Discovery into space in 1985.

Image: Jacqueline Humfeld in Lockheed's "Blue Cube" mission control, with Field Test Force Director Ed McMahon. Photo by an unknown Air Force photographer, 1975 or '76.

Later at Adaptec, Jacqueline wrote drivers for OS/2, the now defunct operating system created by Microsoft and IBM.  OS/2 had a provacative lifespan resulting out of a partnership between Microsoft and IBM.  Her skills working on core systems in assembly language and C++ extended to early desktop interfaces at Metaphor Computer Systems, a Xerox PARC spin-off.

With the current financial crisis in the United States, of interest is another activity of Jacquelines: with all of her background in computing, she is also a tax preparer.  The roundtable might turn up a couple of Jacqueline's thoughts on the economy.

Silicon Valley companiesMax Dietrich's software exploits in the Silicon Valley start at a much different place Iowa. Raised in rural Van Horne, Iowa, Max was first introduced to computers at The University of Iowa in 1966.  He worked for the department of physiological psychology as a programmer for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)'s PDP-8 computer, the first successful mini computer.  It was his "personal" computer, as Max was the only programmer in the department.

Image: DEC's PDP-8, introduced in 1965.  Found at http://wtechnikum29...

Why did Max choose U-Iowa?  Tuition was cheap for in-state residents. Books cost more than tuition.  But the opportunity led to a career working at the front lines of the software industry, hired after college to work for DEC as a systems developer in Massachusetts.   Max describes, "DEC was housed in a one-million square foot set of buildings on a pond in Maynard, MA.  The buildings were once a woolen mill which made uniforms for the civil war (both sides, I'm told).  The large time-sharing PDP-10 computer was housed in the basement (a dungeon really), because the wooden floors were not strong enough to support the computers and disks.  Buildings were connected with above-water tunnels."

DEC moved Max to Silicon Valley in 1972.  A year later he left DEC to join other companies.  At the first job he installed computers for traffic lights.  The second was VISA, at their primary data center handling credit card transactions.  Max notes, "I remember when we installed a satellite link to Alaska.  Because of the distance to the satellite, I had to increase the timeout delays for credit card transactions because of the time required to travel to the satellite and back at the speed of light."

Max settled at Tandem Computers in 1981, where he stayed as a Senior Developer for over twenty years.  At Tandem, he worked as a debugger and developer for their NonStop machines.  NonStop computers are designed to run without failure, handling worldwide financial transactions and communications with nearly 100% uptime.  Max handled the network architectures and peer-to-peer networking between NonStop machines, both relevant in discussions of Internet-based applications.  Tandem's machines continued to run many of the ATMs, reservation systems, stock markets, and other businesses that require 24/7 uptime. 

Image: Tandem's NonStop computer, introduced in 1976.  Found at http://intelligent-peripheral.com/images/s74famlr%5B1%5D.jpg

Max is the dad of U-Maine Assistant Professor of New Media Craig Dietrich.

We look forward to seeing Jacquie, Max, and you at the roundtable discussion on Thursday, October 16th @ 2:00 PM!

This event is sponsored by the University of Maine Department of New Media and Still Water: what networks need to thrive.

Updated: 2008-12-10 by Craig Dietrich

Updated: 2008-12-10 by Craig Dietrich
Posted 2008-09-22 15:26:08 by Craig Dietrich
Comments on this story... (toggle all)

New media history [Jon Ippolito, 2008-10-04 21:32:24]

It's great to see the history of computing crop up in the "New Media" department. I'm sure it will also be great to get this perspective for those students studying the quick obsolescence of technology in classes on variable media.

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