Corrections and comments on "Engineering's 150 Years" in the Summer 2004 issue of Michigan Today

The following section from the summer 2004 issue of Michigan Today (Volume 36, No. 2) drew at least two corrections:

An ancestor of the Internet was born right here. 1966: Computing frontier. Armed with a new IBM 370 mainframe but no operating system, College programmers began to develop the Michigan Terminal System (MTS), one of the world's first computer networks and one of the longest lasting. MTS was a pioneering system that was in several ways a direct ancestor of the Internet, offering early forms of email, file-sharing and conferencing. Housed at first in the North University Building (NUBS), then at the Computing Center on North Campus, MTS spawned the MERIT network (a collaboration of U-M, MSU and Wayne State), which led in turn to the creation of NSFNET and the Internet. MTS itself remained central to U-M computing for more than 30 years—a remarkably long life for a computer system finally shutting down for the last time on May 30, 1997.


E-mail related to the Michigan Today article

posted Dec 15, 2014, 4:22 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Dec 15, 2014, 5:28 PM ]

The following note is to Bert Herzog from Bernie Galler regarding Bert's letter to the editor of Michigan Today in the summer of 2004:

From: "Bernard A. Galler"
Subject: Re: Correction "Engineering's 150 Years"
Date: July 28, 2004 6:58:40 PM EDT
To: Bert Herzog
Cc: Jeff Ogden, Scott Gerstenberger (wsg), Shifrah Nenner, Mike.Alexander, Gary Pirkola, Rolf Deininger, Suzan Alexander, Liz Sweet, Gavin Eadie, Barbara Murphy

**  Good for you.  Just another example of taking credit when they
shouldn't.  If you look at the CoE exhibit for the 150th anniversary
in the gallery of the Media Union, you will see that they take credit
for the Computing Center and MTS there, also.  I'm willing to believe
that they just don't know the history.

Bernie



And an e-mail exchange in May and June 2004 among several people who were associated with the U-M's academic Computing Center:

The cast (in order of appearance):
  • Bernie Galler, U-M Professor of Computer and Communications Science, Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, and Associate Director U-M Computing Center
  • Mike Alexander, System Research Programmer, Research Scientist, U-M Computing Center
  • Gary Pirkola, Systems Research Programmer, Associate Director, U-M Computing Center
  • Bill Clayton, Editor, Michigan Engineer, U-M College of Engineering
  • Jeff Ogden, System Research Programmer, Associate Director, Sr. Associate Director, U-M Computing Center
  • Scott Gerstenberger, Systems Research Programmer, U-M Computing Center
  • Susan Topol, Writer and Editor, U-M Computing Center

From: "Bernard A. Galler"
Subject: Do you know...?
Date: May 6, 2004 10:14:56 PM EDT
To: Mike.Alexander

Do you know if there were any Computing Center programmers who worked
on MTS  who were in the College of Engineering?
Bernie
--
Bernard A. Galler

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Do you know...?
Date: May 7, 2004 11:11:46 PM EDT
To: "Bernard A. Galler"

You mean Engineering students who worked for the Computing Center? There weren't any Engineering students who worked on MTS (at least not to any significant extent) unless they were also Computing Center employees.  I'm not sure I knew the student background of all the people who worked at the Computing Center, but I can't think of any who were Engineering Students.  By the time Computer Science became part of the Engineering School, not many students were interested in working on MTS.  Engineering students in general never had much use for it since it was too simplistic for their taste.

         Mike

From: "Bernard A. Galler"
Subject: Re: Do you know...?
Date: May 8, 2004 8:37:21 AM EDT
To: Mike Alexander <mta@umich.edu>

**  Thanks, Mike.  The reason for this question is that the College
of Engineering exhibit at the Media Union celebrating the 150th
anniversary of the College takes credit for the Computing Center's
existence and MTS.  It talks about CoE programmers who developed MTS.
I shall let them know.

Bernie

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Do you know...?
Date: May 9, 2004 1:00:09 AM EDT
To: "Bernard A. Galler" <galler@umich.edu>

That's a joke.  The Engineering School was one of the biggest opponents of MTS,

From: Gary Pirkola
Subject: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 12:40:39 PM EDT
To: "Bernard A. Galler"
Cc: Scott Gerstenberger, Mike.Alexander, Gavin Eadie, Jeff Ogden

Bernie - Not sure why this came to me, but you could probably answer better than I who, involved with MTS, was also in the College of Engineer at the time (as opposed to CCS or Math or  ...)? Others feel free to chime in - Gary

Begin forwarded message:

From: "Clayton, Bill"
Date: June 17, 2004 10:38:15 AM EDT
To: "Pirkola, Gary"
Subject: Info about the Michigan Terminal System

Gary,

I'm the editor for Michigan Engineer magazine. There's a section in the upcoming magazine about the Michigan Terminal System. It mentions that IBM didn't provide the software for the IBM 360, so U-M programmers wrote their own. My question is: Were any of those programmers from the College of Engineering?

I hope you can take a moment to reply.

Thanks, in advance.

Bill Clayton
Editor
Michigan Engineer
University of Michigan College of Engineering
"Celebrating 150 Years of Engineering Excellence"

--------------------------------------------
Youth is wasted on the Young...

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 2:01:39 PM EDT
To: Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler"
Cc: Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie, Jeff Ogden

I already answered this question a month ago.  Although the question came from you, Bernie, this article may have been the reason for it. As I said then, I don't think there was anyone from Engineering involved much in MTS.  There were probably consultants from Engineering and some of them might have done minor work on MTS, but none of the key players were from Engineering.  Engineering always disliked the design of MTS and didn't want to have much to do with it.  That's not surprising since we were consciously targeting non-technical users, a somewhat unusual concept at the time.

          Mike

From: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 5:06:50 PM EDT
To: Mike Alexander
Cc: Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler", Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie

What role, if any, did Bert Herzog play in the early days?  He was an
Engineering faculty member.  Not sure the timing is right, but Eric
Aupperle was a lecturer and Research Scientists with Engineering.
Dick Phillips and Dick Volz were both Engineers, but there
involvement was later too. Scott was/is a UM engineer, but I don't
think he had an appt. with the Engineering College.

   -Jeff

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 6:25:08 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Cc: Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler", Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie

Bert was with Merit, not the Computing Center, before he went to Colorado and had little to do with MTS.  I don't think Eric had much to do with MTS either since he was primarily involved with Merit.  Neither Dick Phillips or Dick Volz ever had much to do with the development of MTS.  They were both heavy users of it, but not involved in writing it.

I just mentioned this conversation to Pat Sherry and he reminded me that he has a degree in Engineering.  Jim Sterken might too, he couldn't remember and Jim's not around right now.

Regardless of the fact that some Engineering students might have worked on MTS, it's not reasonable for the Engneering College to claim MTS as their work, particularly since they tried to get the University to stop wasting money on it.  It was developed in spite of Engineering, not because of them.

          Mike


From: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 18, 2004 8:35:02 AM EDT
To: Mike Alexander
Cc: Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler", Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie

I agree that it is unfair for the College of Engineering to claim
credit for the development of MTS.

Dick Phillips and Dick Voltz were both Associate Directors at the
Computing Center, but after much of the initial development had been
done.  Dick Phillips was involved in database work (selection of
Spires) and graphics if I remember correctly. Dick Volz was involved
in data communications.

Jim Sterken is a College of Engineering grad (ME I think). Al Rubins
(Merit) is also a CoE grad. (ME). Bob Husak (Merit) was a
CoE-Dearborn grad.

None of this changes the fact that it is outrageous for the CoE to
claim credit for the development of MTS.

   -Jeff

From: "Bernard A. Galler"
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 18, 2004 10:14:04 AM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden, Mike Alexander
Cc: Gary Pirkola, Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie

**  I think we are all assuming that since Gary was the original
contact on this one, he will respond to them.  I just didn't want any
misunderstandings.

Bernie

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 18, 2004 1:17:16 PM EDT
To: "Bernard A. Galler", Jeff Ogden
Cc: Gary Pirkola, Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie

Susan Topol got essentially the same message that Gary got and forwarded it to me with a CC to Bill Clayton.  I responded to both of them, but with much less detail than in this conversation.  I don't know who else Bill Clayton sent the message to or how they may have responded.

        Mike

From: Gary Pirkola
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 18, 2004 1:33:20 PM EDT
To: Mike Alexander
Cc: "Bernard A. Galler", Scott Gerstenberger, Gavin Eadie, Jeff Ogden

Mike - In the interest of consistency, it might be better if you just take the original message that Bill Clayton sent to me and that I forwarded to you, and respond to Bill, saying that I forwarded his message to you,  and answering his question (again) in the same way as you did with Susan's, with copy to me if you like. That way Bill will start to realize that he's going to get the same answer no matter who he asks the question of. If you don't want to do that, I'm come up with a response that reflects the conversation we've had. - Gary

From: Scott Gerstenberger
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 6:26:03 PM EDT
To: Jeff Ogden
Cc: Mike Alexander, Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler", Gavin Eadie

I don't think that either Bert or Eric had much to do with MTS,
except that their projects used it -- Bert perhaps more than Eric
since there may have been some connection between the CONCOMP
project and MTS -- not sure. Wasn't Dick Phillips an Assoc Dir
at the Computing Center at some point? I'm not sure that implies
he had much or anything to do with MTS though. I don't think
Dick Volz had anything to do with the development of MTS. I
never had an appt within Engineering (unless the CONCOMP project
was in Engineering). What about Frank Westervelt? He was
certainly an Engineering faculty member.

Scott

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 6:44:42 PM EDT
To: Scott Gerstenberger, Jeff Ogden
Cc: Gary Pirkola, "Bernard A. Galler", Gavin Eadie

Frank certainly had a lot to do with MTS, especially getting it started. However he did it as a Computing Center employee, not as an Engineering faculty member.  That may be a subtle distinction, but I certainly never thought of him as a representative of Engineering, in fact I didn't remember that he was on their faculty until you mentioned it, Scott.

           Mike

From: "Bernard A. Galler"
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 2:43:55 PM EDT
To: Gary Pirkola
Cc: Scott Gerstenberger, Mike Alexander, Gavin Eadie, Jeff Ogden

 . . .

We did have Frank Westervelt, but he is the only one that I can think of.  I don't think Bert HHerzog was involved at all.
Bernie

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Fwd: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 21, 2004 4:02:45 AM EDT
To: "Clayton, Bill"
Cc: Gary Pirkola

Gary forwarded this copy of your message to me and a number of other MTS old-timers and asked me to respond.

MTS was developed by a diverse group of programmers who worked for a number of universities around the world.  A few of these were working on or had already obtained degrees from UM College of Engineering, but this was something of a coincidence.  All of their work on MTS was done as a Computing Center employee and not in conjunction with the College of Engineering.

There were also a few Engineering faculty members who had joint appointments with the Computing Center.  The only one of these who had much to do with MTS was Frank Westervelt who was instrumental in getting the work started as the PI of the Concomp project.  He left the university shortly after MTS was started and never did any programming on it.

Although many people in Engineering used MTS, most of the computer scientists in Engineering thought MTS was a waste of resources and didn't want much to do with it.  This is somewhat understandable since it wasn't suitable for, or meant to be used for, computer science research.

--
Mike Alexander              
Ann Arbor, MI               


At 10:41 AM 6/17/2004 -0400, Bill Clayton wrote:

Susan,

I'm the editor for Michigan Engineer magazine. There's a section in the upcoming magazine about the Michigan Terminal System. It mentions that IBM didn't provide the software for the IBM 360, so U-M programmers wrote their own. My question is: Were any of those programmers from the College of Engineering?

I hope you can take a moment to reply.

Thanks, in advance.

Bill Clayton
Editor
Michigan Engineer
University of Michigan College of Engineering
"Celebrating 150 Years of Engineering Excellence"

From: Susan Topol
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 2:52:34 PM EDT
To: "Clayton, Bill"
Cc: Mike Alexander

Hi Bill!  As you probably know, most of the programmers that worked on MTS were employed by the UM Computing Center.  However, there may be a School of Engineering connection/collaboration in there somewhere.  I'm copying Mike Alexander, one of the MTS co-creators, here on this reply.  Mike may be able to tell you about any School of Engineering involvement.

Best of luck with your article!    --Susan T.
_________________________________________________________________________
Susan E. Topol
Technology Writer
Internet2

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 17, 2004 6:41:01 PM EDT
To: Susan Topol, "Clayton, Bill"

I've had this message forwarded to me via several paths today.  I also got a similar question about a month ago.  I'm not quite sure why the College of Engineering is so interested in MTS all of a sudden, but here's my take on things.

There were a few Engineering students who were also employees of the Computing Center and worked on MTS (Pat Sherry, for example).  However they worked on MTS as Computing Center employees and not as Engineering students and there was no involvement of the College of Engineering in MTS.  Quite the opposite, in fact. Engineering always thought that the design of MTS was misguided and kept trying to get us to change it.  This isn't surprising since our target audience was people who were not computer experts, but who wanted to use computers anyway. This seems obvious now, but wasn't so obvious in 1966.  Not that we avoided doing things for Engineering, and many engineers used MTS, but if there was a conflict between ease of use and sophisticated features, ease of use usually won out.

        Mike Alexander

--On Monday, June 21, 2004 2:32 PM -0400 Susan Topol wrote:

That's an interesting summary!  I didn't know about the School of
Engineering views of MTS development!  "The mainframe for the rest of us!"  ;-)

Hey, that's a good slogan.  Too bad we didn't think of it while MTS was still around.

From a purely PR perspective, I imagine the School of Engineering is
just beating on all possible bushes to showcase the school's
achievements over the last 150 years (in conjunction with the
anniversary).

From: Mike Alexander
Subject: Re: Info about the Michigan Terminal System
Date: June 27, 2004 1:53:50 AM EDT
To: Susan Topol

Right, but apparently (according to Bernie) they put up a display at the Engineering School sometime last spring that that took credit for MTS.  I'm just hoping they don't do the same thing in the brochure that they seem to be working on now.

      Mike

Correction from Jeff Ogden

posted Oct 7, 2014, 5:50 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Oct 7, 2014, 9:08 AM ]

I sent the following correction to John Woodford, the Executive Editor of Michigan Today. Mr. Woodford's brief reply follows.

I was reading the article "Engineering's 150 Years" in the Summer
2004 issue of Michigan Today (Vol. 36, No. 2) and was disturbed to
read on page 8 "Armed with a new IBM 370 mainframe but no operating
system, College programmers began to develop the Michigan Terminal
System, ...".  This statement is not true.  MTS was developed by the
staff of the UofM Computing Center and the Computing Center was never
part of the College of Engineering. While the faculty, students, and
staff of the College of Engineering were active users of MTS, they
played little or no role in the system's early development. The
Computing Center was administratively under the Vice President for
Research and its first director, Robert C. F. Bartels, was a
Professor of Mathematics in the College of Literature, Science, and
the Arts.

In 1966 there were no IBM 370 computers. At that time the systems
from IBM were part of the 360 series and the University of Michigan
made arrangements with IBM to build an experimental system equipped
with hardware to support virtual memory.  This system was originally
designated the IBM 360/65M (M for Michigan), but was changed by IBM
to the 360/67 when other organizations wanted to purchase similar
systems. At the time IBM had no operating system that used the
virtual memory hardware, but was developing a system called Time
Sharing System (TSS) that would. Delivery of TSS was delayed and
eventually cancelled by IBM and the UofM made a decision to continue
development of MTS, a system that was originally developed to gain
some experience with the 360/67 hardware while waiting for TSS to
arrive.

There are several good articles giving the history of the Computing
Center and MTS available on the Web:

http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/79605

http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/5567-ahead-of-its-time-u-m-computing-center-celebrates-45-years

http://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015040313788?urlappend=%3Bseq=89

http://www.clock.org/~jss/work/mts/index.html

Two articles giving the history of the Merit Computer Network are
available on the Web as well. See:

http://www.merit.edu/about/history/

I encourage you to print a correction in a future issue of Michigan Today.

Sincerely,

Jeff Ogden
former Sr. Associate Director, Computing Center
former Associate Director, Merit Network
IT Manager, Michigan Center for Biological Information (MCBI)



John Woodford's reply:

Date: Tue, 05 Oct 2004 10:43:24 -0400
From: John Woodford
To: Jeff Ogden
Subject: Re: Engineering's 150 Years, MTS, and Merit

Will do. This is the second such correction.
Thanks.
JW

Correction from Bert Herzog

posted Oct 7, 2014, 5:43 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Oct 7, 2014, 6:35 AM ]

The following letter from Bert Herzog was printed in the Letters section of the Fall (October) 2004 issue of Michigan Today (Vol. 36, No. 3, page 10):

Mr. John Woodford, Executive Editor
Michigan Today,
The University of Michigan

Dear Mr. Woodford:

I just received the latest copy of Michigan Today, Vol. 36 No 2. In reading the article, "Engineering's 150 years" by James Tobin I encountered numerous errors of historical fact in the sub-section "An ancestor of the Internet was born right here." I wish to offer some corrections.

1. The Computing Center was never part of the College of Engineering.
2. The MERIT Computer Network (Project) was not part of the Computing Center.

I am a graduate of the College of Engineering, Ph D '61, once Associate Professor of Engineering Mechanics, subsequently Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering, also the first Director of the MERIT Computer Network Project from '68 and '74. Finally as a staff member of the then Information Technology Division in charge of the computing center. This only to certify my above corrections.

The Computing Center for many years reported to the Vice President of Research initially under the outstanding direction of Prof. Robert C. F. Bartels. My early association with the activities of the Center was as graduate student with the user number E13N, meaning I was from the Engineering College (E) the thirteenth non-funded-by-external-funds user (13N). Ultimately the Computing Center, then under the direction of Professor Aaron Finerman reported to the Vice Provost, Douglas van Houweling, heading the Information Technology Division.

It is correct that the Center was housed in Nubs and subsequently moved to its own new building on North Campus. I know it utilized various computers by IBM and by Amdahl over the years. To my view they all arrived with operating systems but not to the liking of the Center's technical administration. Because the Computing Center was interested in offering time-sharing services it developed MTS, the Michigan Terminal System. I was an extensive user of MTS.

The MERIT Computer Network Project was a cooperative project by UM, MSU and WSU and sponsored by them and the National Science Foundation. I was appointed Project Director. The Project spawned one of early regional networks contemporaneously with the Defense Department's national network, ASPANet. My successor as Director, Eric Aupperle, extended the scope and range of the MERIT Network. The Computing Centers at UM, MSU, and WSU cooperated and worked closely with the MERIT Network Project and subsequent incarnatioons including the NSFNET.

The College of Engineering did have a role in the life of computing at the University of Michigan. Professor Robert Howe and colleagues, of Aeronautical Engineering, were deeply involved in Analog Computer Developments. Professor Donald Katz, of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, headed a Ford Foundation Project to engage students and faculty in the use of computers.  During a period when I was not in Ann Arbor, The college got a significant "computing shot in the arm" during Dean Duderstadt's tenure. Of course, now what in earlier times were two different departments, one in LSA and another in the COE, are now combined in the College of Engineering. There must be other credits due the College.

Sincerely,

Bertram Herzog

Bertram Herzog
Professor (Adjunct)
EECS
University of Michigan
Phone land: 734-747-7445
Phone mobile: 734-417-4166
Email: bert@umich.edu
and
Fellow, INIGraphicsNet Foundation
Darmstadt, Germany

1-3 of 3