New Info on the Rice Computers

Zevi Salsburg, John Kilpatrick, Marty Graham (peeking out from behind a visitor and his wife)

I had a really busy day today. I know I say that all the time, but it’s true. Lots of running from here to there and so forth. It’s partly because more and more things just seem to fall out of the clear blue sky and land in my lap. (This isn’t a complaint, by the way. Far from it. I love the surprises.) Here’s one example: I got an email at the end of last week from my friend Bart Sinclair over in Engineering. He had found an thick file full of various items having to do with the R1 and R2 computers. Did I want them? Yes, I certainly did. A couple of these things we had, but many I’d never seen before. So I ran over there first thing this morning and got them. Since I completely lacked the discipline to just bring them to the Woodson and get back to what I should be doing, I sat and rifled through the stuff, thereby falling behind on my schedule. Naturally, I blame Bart.

For the curious, here’s the list he sent in his email:

* A set of documents that relate to some I/O devices used in the project (I recall seeing and using the Potter printer and the videojet printer) from 1971

* a manual on the operating system and assembly language programming for the Rice University Computer (1964)

* the basic machine operation manual for the Rice University Computer (1962)

* a technical report “Leaking Mode Computation on the Rice Computer” by Jean-Claude De Bremaecker, Jane Jodeit, John Iliffe, and Sigsby Rusk (1967)

* a technical report “A Direct Technique for Improving a Matrix Inverse” by Gary Sitton (1966)

* a technical report “Tags for Description and Control” by Jane Jodeit and Gary Sitton (1967)

* a technical report “A Machine-Oriented Logic Incorporating the Equality Relation” by Elbert Ernest Sibert, Jr. (1067 – this is actually a copy of his PhD thesis)

* a copy of Ed Feustel’s paper “On the Advantages of Tagged Architectures” (1972 – this is probably the most widely known publication to come out of the Rice Computer Project)

* a mimeographed copy of a description of the R2 instruction set (1972 – this was the computer that I and John Doerr worked on as undergraduates – failed miserably, but not our fault)

* a copy of “The Rice Research Computer – A Tagged Architecture,” also by Ed Feustel (1972 – this also had to do with the R2)

* a handful of design schematics for pieces of the original Rice Computer (1958-1960)

* a set of photos of people associated with the original computer, with names.  One that you might particularly appreciate has Zevi Salsburg, John Kilpatrick, Marty Graham, and a visiting faculty member and his wife standing in front of the computer console.  Another has Ted Schutz, An Hurd, Jo Mann, Jane Jodeit, John Iliffe, Phil Deck, Marty Graham, ?, Jim Peal, and Joe Bighorse posed in front of one of the computer bays.

* There’s also a letter, which appears to have come with the pictures, from Marty Graham to Kay Flowers in 1986. that identifies people on the photos with their titles, or in the case of Jodeit Mann, and Hurd, as math undergraduates.  Phil Deck was a graduate student in EE.

* a line printer print-out dated 27 August 1986 titled “AN ICSA CHRONOLOGY” (all caps, of course) compiled by Joni Sue Lane, beginning 1965 and going through 1985.  It would be interesting to know the occasion that prompted Joni Sue to put this together.  For whatever reason, this print-out was in the same envelope as the photos and letter from Marty.  Perhaps it was a copy that Marty had kept and was sending back to Rice along with the other stuff.

Here’s one of the pages. Frankly, I can’t make heads or tails of most of it but I strongly suspect that it’s quite meaningful to others. That’s why we keep things like this:

I haven’t had a chance yet to really dig down in the ICSA history but that is what’s most interesting to me in this batch.

Bonus: More signs going up on the buildings today–and these ones are both very visible and very pretty! This is one of the guys who put them in. He’s a really big Texans fan:

Here’s what the letters looks like. They have little dowel-like things on that back, which fit into holes the guys drilled in the buildings:

And this is the new sign up on Rayzor. I think it looks great. Very dignified:

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62 Responses to New Info on the Rice Computers

  1. effegee says:

    …ICSA history…

    Talk to Carlyn Chatfield in IT. She has been interviewing IT retirees and others to assemble an IT history which naturally includes ICSA. She has several hours of video and is working up a timeline.

  2. Wendy Kilpatrick Laubach '78 says:

    Hey! You finally found a picture of my dad, John Kilpatrick!

    He loved working with Zevi Salsburg. I still remember the day he answered the phone, listened, and said, “That’s the worst news I’ve heard in a long time.” Zevi Salsburg had just died of a heart attack, very young. It must have been the mid-1960s.

    When I was little I used to play in the computer building with the rolls of paper tape they used in the computers, and with the barrels of ball-bearing-sized little dots of paper (chads) they had punched out of the tape. You could hold on to one end of the tapes and throw them down the stairwell. The computer was huge; it filled a room with banks and banks of equipment.

    • Edward Feustel says:

      It was in the very late 1960s or probably the early 1970s. He was President of the Sigma Xi Houston Chapter and I was the Secretary at that time.

    • Hello, Wendy. I was a graduate student with your dad from the fall of 1959 through the summer of 1960. As I mentioned in a previous post, I switched to working with Zev — probably sometime in late August or early September of 1960. I must confess that I don’t remember seeing you in the computer room, but that is probably because I was there generally from about 10 p.m. until 8 a.m. Also, my third child was born in November 1959, so I had my own kids to enjoy.

      The computer was indeed huge — as I recall, there were two or three racks of vacuum tubes about 20 or 30 feet long and more than 6 feet tall. It took 14 tons of air conditioning capacity to keep it from overheating.

      Your mention of paper tape reminds me of Jean Claude deBremacker (sp?), who showed up every Saturday with a huge roll of paper tape containing a week’s worth of seismic data. Quite often he managed to let the roll spool out from the center (holding it by the edge and parallel to the floor), and wound up having to straighten it out by letting it hang down the stairwell. He probably didn’t enjoy that aspect of paper tape as much as you did!

      I became adept at gluing the chads back into holes, using a hand punch to create a new single hole, and splicing paper tape using Elmer’s glue and a 16-mm movie film splicer. Since it took a long time to punch out all of my programs, it actually saved time when I found a bug to change the octal code on the tape. These skills have never been needed again!

    • Scott D Bighorse says:

      My Dad was Joe Bighorse! Small world!

  3. mjthannisch says:

    I liked the rates for repair. I’d love to get my computer fixed that cheaply today.

  4. Guy Almes says:

    Is there enough documentation on the architecture of the Rice University Computer (aka R1) for an emulator to be written? It would be interesting to be able to write and run programs for it, if only as a way to understand better what it was like to use it, and to examine critically what its strengths and weaknesses were.

    • Edward Feustel says:

      I gave everything I had including listings of the OS and Compiler and instruction manual to Randy Neff, now a Docent at the Computer History Museum in California.

      • Guy Almes says:

        Could we get Randy engaged in this thread? With the passage of time, the historical interest in the “R1” increases. It may be possible to have enough documentation to build a real emulator for it, and that could be great for computer architecture history folks and may generate some cool projects for Rice Comp undergraduates.

        • Paul McJones says:


          I’m another volunteer at the Computer History Museum. Today I started cataloging the three boxes of Rice materials that Ed Feustel donated to CHM (lot # X4736.2008). After I get them cataloged, I plan to scan portions. I welcome feedback from R1 folks to help me do a better job cataloging and to figure out what to scan. I’m also in communication with Ed Feustel and John Iliffe. You can contact me at; see for some other software history projects I’ve worked on.

        • Guy Almes says:

          Thanks very much,
          — Guy

  5. Deborah Gronke Bennett says:

    Did you know about this online history of the R1? It has been online a long time – when Google was first available this page was the only hit for a google of “Ampex Core Memory”.

    I attended Rice with a friend whose father had been a graduate student who worked on the R2. The machine was located in an upstairs room in Abercrombie. That room was called “The Pit” when I attended Rice in 1976-1982.

    • Guy Almes says:

      Thanks to Deborah for the pointer to the History/R1/ web page; it is very valuable. It seems not, however, to be detailed enough to use to write such an emulator. Writing one could be an interesting project if the needed documentation were available.

      By the way, I worked on the R2 with several good friends in the 1971-72 era. As fascinating as that was, I have more interest now in the R1.

      • William Watson says:

        My late father, James Kenneth Watson, worked on the Rice Institute computer from early 1958 to late 1959, while it was under construction, and also from fall of 1963 through spring of 1966, while working on his PhD. I believe he completed his degree the same year as his friend Joel Cyprus.

        My dad had a small number of documents on R1. I passed most along to Adam Thornton, the author of the long article on R1. Adam said that he planned to eventually pass them along to the Woodson center. I kept my dad’s copy of the 1962 Basic Machine Operations manual. I suspect that manual alone might have enough information to create an emulator. If not, the other documents described in the first message in this thread ought to suffice.

        In 1958-59, my father’s main role was to make sure that R1 was clearly documented. Once it was complete, or nearly so, he moved up to Oklahoma University in Norman, and led the effort to build their copy of the machine, known as OSAGE. I’ve not seen any information about the history of that machine.

  6. Mark Linimon says:

    Mark Linimon here.

    I wound up with the complete design drawings for the R1 when they were thrown out around 1975 or so. I would be glad to donate them back to the University — but only given that the University is more interested in preserving them than they were back then 🙂

    I think it would be interesting to more fully document both projects. Myself and others such at Michael Donegan have been in touch about putting up a history of the R2, but so far all we have is various email messages to show for it. Doing post-mortems of why projects fail can be educational. (The short version: it was too ambitious a leap.)

  7. Edward Feustel says:

    Mark, Give your material to the Computer History Museum in c/o Randy Neff.
    The computer should have been done in TTL as Prof. Frank Huband suggested instead of the higher speed ECL which failed because of thermal properties and the lack of Ernie Siebert’s design time.. The PDP-11/20 front end processor effort failed because we obtained a wire-wrapped controller for the 2311 disk from a company that did not do a good design. It failed and with it all the I/O. Between the two failures, the project was doomed.

    • Newell Starks says:

      Hi all,

      I worked on the R2 during the summers of 1972 and 1973 on a NSF Grant. Spent many hours silver soldering new leads back onto ECL components.

      It is easy to second guess technology decisions with the benefit of hindsight. TI failed to make the transition from TTL to MOS in a timely way – actually letting LJ Sevin, then MOS Department head, to leave and form Mostek. The list goes on and on for almost every technology company. It is super simple to miss that wave.

      At that time ECL was arguably fastest – my recollection is that lack of a second source was the killer issue. It seemed to me that the heat transfer issue could have been solved if the lead reliability problem had not been there.

      Within the R2 working environment, my observation was that the interactions between professors, grad students and regular students was seamless. It was the first time that I enjoyed an almost titleless teamwork environment that is taken for granted in software development today. People principally appeared to contribute by meritocracy – some folks were simply better than others at different things and didn’t mind helping others.

      • Melissa Kean says:

        Thanks for the comment! I basically only understood the last part about the meritocracy but I really like that part. It’s what we’re supposed to be doing.

        • Mark Linimon says:

          I’m having to go through a bit of re-education these days. The current political reality is that “meritocracy” is seen as a toxic word meaning “government by the good-ol-boys club”. The original meaning I was taught in my 20s was strictly about technical contributions. Understand I’m not protesting this; the open source software project I am on is currently in a self-analysis mode about exactly _why_ our “club” seems to be exclusively white men, and the casual use of this word appears to exacerbate it. Could it be that even some of us good-ol-boys need to grow up a bit? We’ll see.

      • Paul McJones says:

        Here’s my interim web site for the Rice R1 and R2 materials donated by Edward Feustel and John Iliffe to the Computer History Museum. I should have posted this sooner, but I was hoping there would be a more formal version at CHM by now … someday!

      • Mark Linimon says:

        Amusingly I have doing a cleanout of my shed this week and found a piece of the ECL 2 days ago. IIRC it was an interface to an IBM typewriter and that circuitry was abandoned ~1972. I asked if I could have it when I started working on the project.

        It brought back some not-so-good memories. The ECL used was flat-packs because they were the fastest gates that could be acquired at the time (1ns?) But the selection was poor so most of the logic was quad NAND gate chips. (Mistake 1 — too many wires.) These things was then placed into these little plastic trays. Undereath the chips was a plastic runner-thingy that had flat conductors that you could trim to fit. IIRC that was only used for power and ground. Once that was in, the chips were put on top. Mistake 2: any mistake in the runner was permanent.

        Mistake 3 as I was told (as a freshmen, so long ago …) is that solder rotted the runners. So over time you had to go back and rework everything.

        That mistake made the machine totally fragile. e.g. if you bumped into one of the metal frames that had the dozens of trays in it, you were guaranteed to break at least one solder joint, leading to wasted time.

        By comparison the cache storage unit was made up of a handful of either MOS or TTL DIPs and that was on a piece of breadboard and never needed to be fiddled with.

        In my big cleanup this week we have not actually gone through my cardboard boxes yet — we were removing the stuff in front of it — so I don’t know if any other treasures will show up. Will keep people informed.

    • Mark Linimon says:

      IIRC at this late date, the disk controller was built by some Rice engineers who were starting a design company after they graduated. They had, of course, left out one minor design criterion: Do Not Allow The Head To Seek Into The Spindle. Fortunately with the loose physical tolerances of the time, we did not destroy the head the first time we, uh, found out about this flaw.

  8. I stumbled across this thread by chance while looking for pictures of Rice and the R1 — it is fascinating to see how much current interest there is in that unique machine. I like to tell people it was my first personal computer! I spent my first year of graduate study working for John Kilpatrick, intending to calculate the ground state energy for the hydrogen molecule. I made some exciting progress on our test problem, the hydrogen molecule ion, then ran into what I believed to be insurmountable technical difficulties in evaluating some nasty integrals. The available approaches simply could not work with the limited memory and lack of backup storage (no magnetic tape or disk drives). John and I had a couple of rather vigorous discussions, and I wound up working for Zevi Salsburg. I had three children by this time, and could not see a clear path for earning my PhD. I started working for Zevi in the fall of 1960, changing topics from molecular quantum mechanics to statistical mechanics of phase transitions (there is an error in the often-cited history of the R1 about my thesis topic — I never wrote any code for the hydrogen molecule or molecule-ion). At any rate, all ended well. John was on my oral committee, along with Franz Brotzen and Zevi. I finished my calculations about the end of summer in 1962, then suffered a severe case of writers block trying to get something coherent written about what seemed to be a huge amount of work. Over Zevi’s protest, after getting enough written for a paper covering part of our work, I went to work for Shell Development in January 1963, without having finished my thesis. My starting salary had been set at $1000 per month, and Noyes Smith, head of the Shell lab, said he would be happy to have me start work at any time, but my salary would be reduced to $850 until I passed my oral. Then he said my first job was to finish my thesis, and offered typing and drafting help as needed. What a great incentive! I finished pretty quickly and passed my oral on the Ides of March, 1963.

    I may still have some of the original code I wrote for my thesis problem — I have hauled it around for years, but may have tossed it in a rare fit of getting rid of useless stuff. If anyone is interested, I will send it to them if I still have it.

    To clarify some of the earlier discussion, I found a memorial issue of the Journal of Computational Physics, with a dedication to Zevi Salsburg written by John Kilpatrick. Zev died June 20, 1970.

    • Guy Almes says:

      This is very interesting. It points to the difficulties of doing (what we would now call) computational science during the early days of the Rice Computer.
      Also, by all means, keep the original code you have.
      It would be *very interesting* to see if that code could run on an emulator for the Rice Computer.
      — Guy

  9. John Iliffe says:

    Fascinating to read these comments. I have the warmest memories of John Kilpatrick, Zevi Salsburg and J Kenneth Watson. And yes, I remember Wendy’s visits to the Abercrombie Lab.
    On the question of emulation, I haven’t preserved details of the order code of R1. If there are obscurities in the available documents I could certainly try to iron them out.

    • John, it is really good to hear from you, even indirectly. Please send me an email to

    • Gary A. Sitton says:

      Hello, John, remember me? I worked at the R1 project and took a course from you also while working on my Master’s degree (which I got in 1970). I am 74 now and mostly retired but have done DSP algorithm and C code development for the last 30 years.

      Gary Sitton MSEE ’70

      PS: What ever happened to Jane Jodiet other than divorcing Max?

      • John Iliffe says:

        Hello Gary,
        Yes of course I remember sharing R1 with you in late night sessions. Jane Yodeit (Griffin) was really the backbone of the programming effort. We kept in touch for several years – I visited her in Minneapolis where I think she worked for Adabas AG. But she was too sharp for corporate life and when the chance arose she retreated to (I think) Santa Fe, by this time divorced. We corresponded for some years, and she responded to Adam Thornton’s queries in 1996. We kept in touch by email and card, then I got no response, so I assumed the worst. I see that Max is still around.
        Enjoy your retirement!

  10. Melissa Kean says:

    Do you guys think there’s any way you could all get together and let me listen? I don’t have any idea where you all are, but that would be a wonderful thing.

    • I live in Las Vegas, NV now. Don’t know where the other folks are — John Iliffe is the only person I know who has posted on this blog. It would be really cool to pursue this in depth. My notebook of code is about 3 inches thick, and pretty detailed. I even constructed flow charts for most of the routines.

      The first code I wrote and debugged predated the completion of the Assembly Program, AP1. I had some coding sheets printed so I could write in assembly language, and I also designed and had printed (mimeographed, as I recall) some forms for the corresponding octal code. So I hand-translated the assembly statements into octal, then punched the octal tapes on a Frieden Flexowriter. Looking at my notebook now, I am amazed that I ever had enough energy and patience to successfully write and use a program.

      • Guy Almes says:

        This is very interesting. Your notebook etc. would be a very valuable addition to the Rice Computer stuff at the Computer History Museum. Having both AP1 and octal would be of particular value in helping nail down the information needed to (a) build an emulator and (b) write programs and (whether by hand or by machine) turning them into machine code for running.

      • Lynn Jodeit Ouellette says:

        Dear Author,

        I am the daughter of one of the authors (Jane Jodeit) mentioned in this article. John Illiffe mentioned her time in Santa Fe. She had wonderful experiences in Santa Fe, was very involved in supporting the arts there. Unfortunately she did pass away in 1999. Do you know who I might contact to learn more about my mother’s contributions to this work? It would be meaningful to me and my children and especially fun because we have recently relocates to the Houston area!

        Lynn Jodeit Ouellette

        • Melissa Kean says:

          I will be more than happy to do some research and see what I can come up with. Thanks for commenting! If you’d like to come in for a vista you’d be most welcome.
          Melissa Kean

        • Paul McJones says:


          As I said in an earlier reply, I’m currently cataloging a set of documents (and some photographs) from the Rice Computer Project. As I get a little further into the project, I can point you to documents that she created. There are also a set of Polaroid snapshots of the participants, including your mother. If you’ll send me your email address, I’ll keep you posted.

          Paul McJones (

  11. Melissa Kean says:

    I’ll wrestle you for it, Guy.

    Seriously, Dwayne, you should at least think about placing this material in an archive and sending copies to other interested archives. It’s important.

    • Guy Almes says:

      Melissa, I’m told that the key archive for this will be at the Computer History Museum. So I think we’re in agreement. Although I’d love to participate, I’m not suggesting that I get the materials personally (apart from copies via the CHM).

    • I would be more than happy to place this information in an archive — just tell me whom I should contact. I don’t necessarily want to keep a copy of it, but it might be prudent to have it copied in case the original gets lost in transit. I don’t think it can be run through a document feeder — the paper is more than 50 years old, and a lot of it is on computer printout that was trimmed to letter size.

      Concerning its use for building an emulator, I guess the first question I have is, does anyone care enough to actually do the work? A lot of the complexity of the code was the extensive use of overlays mandated by the lack of bulk storage and the small memory. In recent years I have toyed with the idea of writing a MathCad program to do these calculations, which would probably run hundreds of times faster on my desktop workstation.

      In addition to the code I hand-translated, there is some that was compiled by AP1. Not only that, but in a final fit of documentation after I started to work for Shell, someone — probably Jane — wrote an inverse compiler to translate octal code into assembly language, called 1PA. So most of the code is now in assembly language (printed, of course).

  12. John Iliffe says:

    You are right to play down the idea of writing an emulator. The order code would be the easy part, but getting together a consistent set of manuals, system tapes, and applications would be daunting. Rice missed a trick in not marking the 50th anniversary of R1 in some way. I think the CHM should discount the possibility of someone (of whom only a handful remain) coming along and emulating the machine, and seriously consider binning the archives to make space for something else. But before doing so it would be worth sifting through them and extracting material which might be the chapters of an “overview” to complement Adam Thornton’s account, e.g. (1) hardware (2) system software (3) compilers (4) applications (5) legacy etc. As you can guess, I’m not a fan of “computer rebuild” projects.

  13. Pat Groves says:

    I worked on the Rice Computer Project as a grad student for Marty Graham from 1961 through 1965 or 1966. I have great memories of many long nights spent upstairs in the computer room typing on the Flexowriters to make the punched paper tape, pouring over the assembly language coding for our projects and working in the lab next door to construct new circuits for the computer. The group who worked there (including Joel Cyprus, John Iliffe, Jane Jodeit, Mary Shaw, Ernie Siffert, Sigsby Rusk, Joe Bighorse, Ken Watson, Algie Badger, Gary Sitton, Jean Claude De Bremaecker (who was also my geophysics advisor), Dr. Salzburg, and many others was a close friendly group who could always be counted on to help with the daily challenges and problems.

    People who worked on the Computer Project will remember such amusing things as the speed gauge which could, in tight loops, be gotten up to about 10K instructions per second, all the beeps that would start coming out of the computer (from an error correction) when a loop got too tight, changing the ribbons on the line printer, Dr. Graham’s continuing search for a new and better instruction to add to the machine, Ernie’s programs to make the lights on the console (or some pattern in the front rack) flash in patterns, Mary’s continuing work to get a higher level language compiler (What was the name?) to work, the daily computer shutdown from 2 PM to 4 PM when “the engineers” had the machine to replace burned out vacuum tubes, occasionally replacing one of the enormous CRT memory tubes, checking to make sure the cooling tower (Yes, the computer had it’s own cooling tower out back.) was operational, signing up for for 10 or 15 minute segments of time when Dwayne or Joel were not using the computer, etc.

    One significant difference in the way we programmed in those days — compared to today’s use of object-oriented programming where memory usage and code length are considered inconsequential — was that we would spend days if not weeks in attempts to remove a single line of code from a loop. We would look for very esoteric ways to utilize the index registers and other “hardware” registers to avoid storing in the electrostatic memory — which was only 8K in size until the installation of the core memory module purchased from Ampex in about 1966.

    At any rate, I would be very interested in being informed of any gatherings, virtual or physical, of any who worked on the machine.

  14. Bill Harris says:

    Pat, by “higher level language compiler,” do you mean Genie? I recall a Genie-LISP (or LISP-Genie or something like that), as well. It was basically Genie with CAR, CDR, COND, and a few other functions, as I recall. I recall doing some experimentation with it in a Hanszen class led by Dr. Siebert. Either he was adding equality to his resolution algorithms and my project involved exploring how equality improved performance of resolution, or he told me what to do to add equality, and then I experimented to discover performance improvements.

    Were there any other variants of Genie in use? With the talk of considering an emulator or not, I presume there’s no modern Genie compiler available, right (even without AP2 support)?

  15. Adam Thornton says:

    Hey, I know this is coming a bit late to the party, but I’m the guy who wrote the 1994 paper on the R1. I have a couple of the manuals and one for OSAGE. I would have to read through them again to tell whether they plausibly represent enough documentation to build an emulator, but the answer is not clearly “no”.

    • Guy Almes says:

      Adam, Very interesting. I look forward to hearing what you conclude,
      — Guy

    • I sent paper listings of the OS, the Genie Compiler, and all the Libraries to Randy Neff at the Computer History Museum. I also sent them the detailed computer manual — a couple of linear feet of stuff.
      One of the problems would be reconstructing “the switch panel” that could be used for debugging.

    • Cindy says:

      OSAGE? I would love to read that. My father Joe Bighorse was Osage Indian. Hmmmm, interesting coincidence?

      • williamwatson says:

        OSAGE was the copy of R1 built at Oklahoma University. A significant part of the role my father (Ken Watson) played on R1 was to ensure that it was thoroughly documented. At the end of 1959, my father left work on R1 and went to Norman, where he was instrumental in the construction of a copy, known as OSAGE. The name may have reflected the location of the machine in Oklahoma, or could well in part have been named in honor of Joe Bighorse, with whom he certainly worked closely on R1 in the 50s.

        My father gave me his materials on R1 and OSAGE, and I passed them along to Adam, aside from a copy of the 1962 Principles of Machine Operation manual that others seem to have had.

        More context, or history on my father and his connection. He was born and grew up in Ada, OK, started at the local college (then: East Central State Normal School?, now East Central Oklahoma University), then transferred to OU in Norman. After finishing his bachelor’s degree there in 1951, he worked for a year, then was convinced by an uncle to go to grad school. Shortly after he arrived at MIT, he realized that he was woefully unprepared. He got his Masters from MIT in 1955, but complained regularly to OU about their program. At some point, likely in the fall of 1957, while he was working in the SF Bay Area, OU got in touch with him and conveyed that it was “time to put up or shut up.” If he wanted to make a difference in their program, they had a plan, and a part for him to play in it. Rice had gotten funding to build R1, and OU had gotten funding to build a copy. The way my father described what he’d been told was that he was to head to Houston, stopping by Los Alamos “to pick up the plans” along the way. My father had met a young Stanford grad while skiing near Tahoe, and didn’t want to leave her behind. They got married January 4, 1958, and skied everywhere they could on the way to Houston. My father worked on R1 for the rest of 1958 and most of 1959. They then moved to Norman, where he built the computer. He evidently decided that he liked the academic life, as they left Norman and he returned to Rice for the fall of 1963. He got his PhD in the spring of 1966, likely working on R1 during that time.

        I just thought to search for information on his PhD, and found the 1966 announcement. He worked on “Fabrication and Switching Characteristics of Ferromagnetic Thin Films”. He landed a position at The University of Florida, and taught there until the fall on 1994, working for a while on magnetic bubble memories.

        I thought I remembered hearing that my dad was one of the early EE PhDs from Rice, behind Joel Cyprus, but see Cyprus got his in 1963, while my dad’s was alphabetically the fifth in 1966 alone.

  16. Adam Thornton says:

    I’m wondering how far we could get with implementing the machine as documented when it was behaving correctly, and not worrying too terribly much about fidelity to the inputs and outputs, or the mechanisms of the switch panel, to start with. If we can get something that just implements the instruction set and memory access, we have a lot more than what we started with.

    After all, it’s an emulator…we can start off with a completely nonhistorical mechanism for setting memory and register contents since they’re gonna be implemented as byte arrays anyway. Likewise, single-instruction stepping is easy to do.

    It’d be nice to be able to fork a copy of me that had time to do this.

  17. Clare Durst says:

    I worked as the SECRETARY to the computer project in 1959; it wasn’t complete at that time and i remember winding transistors. I had graduated from Rice in 1957, about a year after marrying Lincoln Durst who taught math at Rice (less of a scandal then, marrying a prof while a student, than it is now). I knew John Kilpatrick and Zevi and of course Marty, and John Ifill and the rest. Dwane, your name is familiar but that’s about it. I certainly remember Jane Griffin and she was an inspiration to me! We moved away from Rice in 1965. Lincoln was associate director at the American Math Society 1970-1985; he died in 2011. At Brown University, where I worked 1976-1998 I mostly did “computer stuff”, training people in the academic Deanery to use macs and PCs; I continue that in my retirement community in mid-coast Maine.

  18. Cindy says:

    I was looking for this R1 article which included my father – written early 2000 timeframe, but cannot find (the joys of finding 404 replacing a treasure). Perhaps you might have a method to retrieve.

    • Adam Thornton says:

      Not sure if this is the one you mean, but this is the one I wrote in 1994 (now at


      • Cindy says:

        It is the exact article and I remember your name, now that I see it. We displayed a printed version at my father’s memorial service. Thank you, thank you!!

        • Melissa Kean says:

          I just sat down and turned on my laptop to find this. You guys really made me happy. Thanks!

        • Adam Thornton says:

          My pleasure.

          I remember your asking if you could display the paper at his service, and saying that he had been very proud of the project and his work on it.

          I’m really proud of that paper (which is now almost half my life old, which is a strange thought). I’ve written lots of things over the years that made people better informed. I haven’t written many that made them *happy*, and knowing that this one did that makes me very glad.

  19. Pingback: “the construction of a high speed digital computer,” January 1957 | Rice History Corner

  20. effegee says:

    “It would be interesting to know the occasion that prompted Joni Sue to put this together.”

    I don’t think I ever saw an answer to this, so I’ll comment. These are my best recollections of events over half a lifetime ago. The spirit is correct even if the details are slightly off.

    Joni Sue was at that time one of the longest serving staff member of the various entities that became ICSA when Stuart Lynn arrived in 1971. While many of us talked about things that had happened at various points in the history of the various “Rice computing center” organizations, Joni Sue had the good sense to realize that even then we were beginning to get fuzzy about what happened and/or when. So she started keeping notes. I recall it was originally on a legal pad tucked in a file drawer. It was an ongoing project to keep track of what had gone on.

    The “occasion” for finalizing the document was actually quite simple. The Lanes left Rice after the spring semester 1985. Neal Lane was appointed president of one of the Colorado “front range” universities. (I think it was in Colorado Springs, but I can’t recall if it was UC or CSU.) Neal would return to Rice as Provost about a year later. But, because ICSA reported to the Provost, Joni Sue declined to consider returning to ICSA.

    What was ICSA would become two organizations starting in Fall 1987 and as many as five at one point in the 1990s.

    To my knowledge, no one updated Joni Sue’s history after she left.

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