The I/O Song, 1978

Last weekend the Computer Science Department celebrated its 35th anniversary with a big event. It was by all accounts a wonderful weekend and the best part (for me, anyway) is that some deeply meaningful historical information surfaced. This comes courtesy of Michael Mauldin, a CompSci graduate from 1981. Where he got it I don’t know but it seems to have been in general circulation at some point back in the ICSA (Institute for Computer Services and Applications) days. It’s a weirdly compelling little song, and it even has a happy ending:

My source reliably informs me that “the paper itself looks as if it was printed on either an IBM Lineprinter or an NEC Spinwriter (both fascinating pieces of obsolete technology.”

Bonus: Line into Sewall busted. It looks spectacular.

This was the coolest part. I was scared to get too close to it, like I’d get sucked in and never be heard from again.

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The Lights in the Mech Lab Cloisters

I got a question today about the original lighting in the cloisters on the front of the Mech Lab. I almost laughed at how easy this question was—I remembered right away that we have a great picture from the 1910s that looks straight down that sidewalk with a perfect view of the ceiling vaults. Heck, I even know what file the picture is in!

I could not have been more surprised when I pulled it out for a look.

There weren’t any lights at all. Wh–??

Now I have to figure out when they first put them in, which will be no easy task. Don’t count your chicken before they’re hatched, I suppose.

Bonus: I think this is the last working original drinking fountain.

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First Draft: Space Science, 1963

I found these among the papers of Alex Dessler, the founding chairman of the Space Science Department. The first draft, in Dessler’s handwriting:

And the final product, almost as first written. And red too. One might question the need for so many fonts, but what the heck:

Bonus: Dessler is one of my all-time favorite Rice faculty members. He’s a pleasure to listen to–smart, curious, honest. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s a link to his short paper about the early days of Space Science at Rice. It’s really good. (I will say, though, that the one thing he couldn’t have known was that while it certainly looked as though Rice began serious development of space science in reaction to JFK’s moon speech on campus the deal had been cut quite some time before.)


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Friday Follies: Bean-a-prof, 1958

Ann has murder in her eye and I say who could blame her:

Bonus: Hungry Rice folks wouldn’t let a little thing like a Gulf Coast downpour interfere with their enjoyment of farm fresh hors d’oeuvres. (Hat tip to Brandon Martin, campus videographer, who found shelter in the Media Center.)

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HMRC Thursday: In Which I Am Utterly Astonished

Gobsmacked, really. By this photograph of Rice Provost Carey Croneis with the 1960 Rice commencement speaker, Chancellor Harvie Branscomb of Vanderbilt University:

Some of you may recall that I’ve written a book about the desegregation of the major private universities in the South, including Vanderbilt. So when I looked at the date–June 3, 1960–I understood immediately what was going on in Harvie Branscomb’s world at that particular moment. By any measure it was pretty bad. That spring the Vanderbilt board had insisted that a black graduate student in the Divinity School, James Lawson, be expelled for his role in the Nashville sit-in movement. Lawson was a serious pacifist who had been sentenced to a prison term for refusing induction into the army. That spring he was also serving as the regional director of the Fellowship for Reconciliation. He worked closely with the students who had begun sitting in at lunch counters, advising them on non-violent techniques and generally encouraging their work. His expulsion set off an explosive controversy at Vanderbilt, all of it covered by the national press, which escalated rapidly over the month of May. Only three days before Branscomb spoke at Rice nearly the entire faculty of the Divinity School resigned, and Branscomb was in the midst of intense negotiations with multiple enraged parties while he was in Houston. If you want to know what happened (in excruciating detail) get a copy of my book.

Under the circumstances I’m less surprised that his speech was boring than that he managed to give it at all:


Bonus: Reverend James Lawson’s papers are now at Vanderbilt and there is a scholarship named in his honor.

Extra Bonus: Fresh grass, sprinklers functional. We’ll see.


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“Compiled From The Best Authorities In Both Languages,” 2019

Here is a story of absolutely no importance that nonetheless has left me feeling mildly haunted for the last couple of weeks. I had occasion recently to take down from a shelf in the back room of the Woodson an old French-English dictionary:

The facing page is what got me:

This book had once belonged to Miss Wheeler, Dr. Lovett’s long-time assistant, who was last seen here with her friend Pender Turnbull in this post. Why she had it and how it wound up in the back room of the archives are of course unsolvable mysteries, but I’m used to those. I’ve also grown accustomed to the sensation of being surrounded by ghosts. At this point I’ve got company with me on every step I take on campus. What seems to be bothering me about this particular thing is that when I’m gone it will just be another old dictionary. I understand that this is the way of things but some times it’s the tiny goodbyes that seem the saddest.

Bonus: A loyal reader sends these lovely night images.

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instituteRice, 2019

instituteRice is a collaborative project that has been underway for a couple of years.  I’ve waited to share it until now just to make sure that it’s all up and running properly. In short, it’s a map of the Rice campus that allows a user to move through time and space in order to see the campus change. This screen shot of the title page explains what’s going on here better than I can–I freely admit that I don’t understand the machine, I just feed it:

 And here’s the link that takes you to the live map:

There’s a lot here to explore–images, drawings, plans, maps of all aspects of the physical campus from trees to footpaths to buildings –so have at it. Click on everything–it’s fun. And it’s still, of course, a work in progress so we welcome all questions, comments, corrections, and scathingly brilliant ideas.

Bonus: Not only is this pretty, it also makes a nice, soft bubbling sound. Nonetheless, I’m guessing it wasn’t a particularly welcome development.




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