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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13 Responses to The I/O Song, 1978

  1. Hi Melissa, I love this co-sci rendition of the Seven Dwarfs, Heigh-ho! Good ol’ Rice dedication, perseverance, and follow-through—rewarded with a trip to the Pub :-). Hope you are going well! Kindly, Sheila Mayfield

    Sent from my iPhone


  2. Ken Grimsby says:

    I don’t know where the “I/O Song” originated, but I recall seeing this verse in the Thresher (November 10, 1975, page 11):

    It’s off to work we go
    The run was fun
    But now it’s done
    I/O, I/O, I/O

    It’s said there to be “from the Rice Graffiti Archives.”

    Another song parody I recall seeing in the Thresher that same academic year appeared in the April Fools’ issue (April 1, 1976, page 8). It’s based on Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Mother”:

    The answer is all inside your head
    She said to me
    The answer is easy if you
    Take it logically
    I’d like to help you with this problem
    In Diffy
    There must be fifty ways
    To integrate this mother

    She said it’s really not my habit
    To intrude
    But if I don’t help you now you’ll
    Get it wrong and we’ll be screwed
    So I’ll repeat myself
    At the risk of being crude
    There must be fifty ways
    To integrate this mother

    Just look in the back, Jack
    Evaluate the x, Rex
    No need to invert, Bert
    Just listen to me
    Just drop off the y, Guy
    Don’t need to divide, Clyde
    Then just integrate, Nate
    And remember “plus C”

    She said it grieves me so
    To see you in such pain
    I wish there was something I could do
    To stimulate your brain
    I said I appreciate that
    And would you please explain
    About the fifty ways

    She said why don’t you just
    Sit on it tonight
    And I believe in the morning
    You’ll begin to see the light
    Then she kissed me
    And I realized she was probably right
    There must be fifty ways
    To integrate this mother

    These lyrics were attributed, tongue in cheek, to “Witney Waldroth Winfred.” I’m pretty sure that “Diffy” refers to Differential Equations.

    I was a freshman at Rice during the 1975–1976 academic year. I was so amused by the Paul Simon parody that I shared it with my high school calculus teacher when I next returned to my high school for a visit. She was likewise amused.

  3. Pretty sure that this originated outside of Rice. Also “She’ll have fun, fun, fun, ’til her daddy takes the keyboard away…”

  4. grungy1973 says:

    Sump Pump 10 must be working overtime.
    (A floor-and-a-half below 1st floor Sewall)

  5. Mark Linimon says:

    The circa 1975 version (as graffiti in the Hermann Brown basement bathroom) was simpler:

    “I/O, I/O, it’s off to work we go
    The run was fun but now it’s done
    I/O: I/O.”

  6. Marc Hairston says:

    Confession time here. The “Witney Waldroth Winfred” who wrote “Fifty Ways” are (in order) Mark Whitney, myself, and Phil Adams (all SRC 79). It started one evening in spring 1976 when Whitney was struggling with his diff eq homework and complained one of the problems was too complicated. “There must be fifty way to integrate this mother and all of them are wrong!” Paul Simon’s song was a top hit at the time and so that was what he was referencing. We laughed and tried to extend the joke to other lines in the song (it was more fun that doing our homework) and the lines just fell into place. Fifteen minutes later we had the complete song, I’d typed it up, and we took it over to the Thresher’s misclass submission box. It was a small effort but it did spread a lot further than we intended. About a year later a friend told me they’d seen it posted on a bulletin board at MIT. ^_^

  7. Tommy LaVergne says:

    And that– is the rest of the story!

  8. effegee says:

    The I/O Song is song #7 in the SHARE JES2 Song Book”” (an archive of the text of which is at New songs were added to the back, so the low number and the reference to “HASP” suggests it predates mid-1972 (see below). It was likely in the same position in the predecessor “SHARE HASP Song Book” (no online copy discovered so far). There were a very small number of copies floating of both books floating around ICSA in the basement of Herman Brown Hall. It is likely that one or more of them was shared with one of the (pre-CS Dept.) grad or undergrad students. (I did a quick search for mine this morning and so far have come up empty-handed. Perhaps Mark Williamson can lay his hands on his.)

    HASP and JES2 were, respectively, IBM OS/MVT and IBM OS/VS2 spooling systems. When a punched card was read into the mainframe, a line printed to a line printer, or a card punched by the system punch, the spooling system was at work. (There were two other spoolers, ASP and JES3, neither or which were used at Rice.) HASP was installed on the IBM 370/155 when it was installed in August 1972. JES2 became the replacement for HASP after the OS/VS2 (aka “SVS” and later “MVS”) was announced in mid-1972.

    The printed copy in the post was made on a printer which struck the entire character against a cloth ribbon to make the character on the page. You can see the grain of the cloth ribbon, particularly in many of the capital “O” characters. The unevenness of the print (right side darker than left side) are consistent a cartridge train printer, such as the IBM 1403 at Rice which was often used to print text.

    • Melissa Kean says:

      What a great comment! No detail too small.

      • effegee says:

        The lyrics of any of the songs pale against the spectacle of 100-200 mainframe IT types gathering around a piano to sing them on a Thursday night at 10PM in the ballroom of a major hotel (such as SF Hilton, NY Hilton or Shamrock Hilton) in which the conference had been pouring free drinks since 6PM. A good time was had by all!

        • Richard A Schafer says:

          I found my 1989 copy of the SHARE/JES2 handbook, which I would be happy to donate to anyone who wants it. The version of the I/O song is quite different from the one Melissa found, so I suspect there may well be independent creation of the ICSA version. The singalongs at SCIDS were always fun, although I had one friend who liked to sing that refused to take part because the poor singing offended his ears.

        • Melissa Kean says:

          Richard, we’d love to have that handbook in the Woodson!

    • Michael Mauldin says:

      Peter P Hawle is a reference to our dorm room in Sid Rich, 1977-78.

      This version is a group effort between me (Michael Mauldin), Paul Milazzo, David Green, and Tim Hurst.

      We answered our phone, “Pete’s Pool Hall, best balls in town.”

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