[SIGCIS-Members] Here it is!
Michael Roy Williams
mwilliam at ucalgary.ca
Wed Jun 8 20:35:26 PDT 2022
When Brian mention Jack Good, it brought back a lot of interesting memories.
When I was about 21 I toured through Europe and the Middle East and, when money was running short, I started for home in Canada.
I had visited a friend in Edinburgh and stayed in a very inexpensive set of digs for a couple of weeks. During that time my friend told me of a lecture that was going on that afternoon to be given by someone named Donald Michie. It was about how a bulldozer could learn to level hills if it was given a set of matchboxes containing marbles and one would be added or removed when it did something right or wrong (it was early 1965 and my first introduction to computer learning).
At the end of the lecture I went up to the front and Donald and I got to talking. Before long we noticed that we were the only two left in the room and he invited me to join him for supper in the Faculty Club. After several more hours of discussion he tried to convince me to come and work for him and do graduate work with him as supervisor. I thanked him and said I would think about it.
I did think about it and wondered who might be able to give me some advice about Donald and his work. He had mentioned someone named Good at Oxford, so I began hitchhiking down there to see if I could find this Good chap. To make a long story short, I got caught in a torrential rain storm about 100 miles from Oxford in the middle of the night and was only saved by a kind truck driver who took pity on my and gave me a ride the rest of the way. He dropped me off in Oxford and gave me some hints as to where to look for the Good fellow. I eventually found him and a Porter at the College phoned to announce that a young man looking like a drowned rat was asking for him. I was then escorted to a nice room and told to wait until Good showed up and "please don’t sit on the good chairs until you dry out a bit".
Jack turned out to be a delight, got me some hot tea and stoked up a fire. He said he knew Donald well and told me a few things about him but was MUCH MORE quiet about how he knew him and what they had worked on (Donald himself had been relatively open about his time at Bletchley Park but, of course, left out most real information).
I eventually left Jack and never saw him again but was always thankful for the tea and fire that kept me from catching some serious illness.
When I got back to Canada I had a long talk with one of my undergraduate professors and explained what Donald had proposed and what Jack had told me. My mentor was of the opinion that I should be careful about accepting Donald's offer because it sounded (to him) as though Donald was actually looking for someone to program the Atlas computer for him and it would likely not be a good research project. We also discussed two other British graduate work options that I had been offered and I finally decided to go to Glasgow - it worked out well.
Michael R. Williams, BSc, PhD, DSc(h.c.)
Department of Computer Science
University of Calgary
CANADA T2N 1N4
m.williams at computer.org
m.williams at ucalgary.ca
From: Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk>
Sent: June 8, 2022 3:41 AM
To: Ceruzzi, Paul <CeruzziP at si.edu>; Dag Spicer <dspicer at computerhistory.org>; Michael Roy Williams <mwilliam at ucalgary.ca>; Doron Swade <doron.swade at blueyonder.co.uk>; members at SIGCIS.org
Cc: don knuth <knuth-bug at cs.stanford.edu>; Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk>
Subject: Re: Here it is!
I in fact found three brief published mentions of the Colossus project predating that 1970 article by Jack Good, though neither they nor it revealed the "Colossus" name . This was I believe first revealed to me by Donald Michie.
These revelations are all described, and a full quote of Good's single paragraph summary of Colossus is given, in my 1972 article "On Turing , and the Origins of Digital Computers", a copy of which I attach. (This is the one paper I dared to publish before I managed to get official permission to prepare and submit a paper to the Los Alamos conference.)
I'm pretty sure I was alerted to the existence of Good's paper by Michie - I'm certain that the International Journal of Environmental Studies was not on my personal browsing list! __
School of Computing, Newcastle University, 1 Science Square, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE4 5TG
EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
URL = https://www.ncl.ac.uk/computing/staff/profile/brianrandell.html
On 07/06/2022, 20:50, "Ceruzzi, Paul" <CeruzziP at si.edu> wrote:
The first public discussion of the Colossus came several years earlier, in a paper by I. J. "Jack" Good, "Some Future Social Repercussions of Computers," in the journal International Journal of Environmental Studies 1 (1970), 67-79. Good worked at Bletchley, although that was not known at the time. His paper talked about the evolution of generations of computers to a point where it would spontaneously say "Cogito Ergo Sum," and then shortly thereafter "I am that I am" (Book of Exodus, King James edition). Good's ideas also found their way into 2001, a Space Odyssey_ where he served as a consultant to Kubrick.
I came across the paper a year or two later at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City.
From: Dag Spicer <dspicer at computerhistory.org>
Sent: Tuesday, June 7, 2022 11:12 AM
To: Michael Roy Williams <mwilliam at ucalgary.ca>; Brian Randell <brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk>; Doron Swade <doron.swade at blueyonder.co.uk>
Cc: Ceruzzi, Paul <CeruzziP at si.edu>; don knuth <knuth-bug at cs.stanford.edu>
Subject: Here it is!
External Email - Exercise Caution
Los Alamos Conference… 1976.
Brian, as I’m sure you recall, you and Doc Coombs were the smash hit of the entire thing.
My mini-blog: https://computerhistory.org/blog/computings-woodstock/
The playlist of lectures: https://computerhistory.org/playlists/international-research-conference-on-the-history-of-computing/
(I hope it isn’t too irreverent to call it Woodstock… I tried to say something modern… the joke’s on me I suppose since Woodstock happened *before* the conference and is hardly considered modern anymore, albeit it did foreshadow some features of modernity).
Please let me know your thoughts… if you so wish.
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