Dear Dean Hazeltine,

I wanted to thank you for your contributions to my education at Brown. Going to Brown is one of the best things that has happened to me. And I can say that now with the perspective of more than 30 years since my graduation. I found opportunities at Brown I do not think I could have found anywhere else. I certainly enjoyed working with you.

If you will indulge me in a short trip down memory lane, it may add some perspective on your contributions to my education and to that of my fellow students at Brown. You did a lot to create the rich environment that did so much for me. I am sure I do not know all you did for me and for so many others.

I was a bit ahead of my time in my interest in computers. I started programming when I was 13. But that was back in 1966 in the era of punched paper tape, 20 years before the PC became a hot item, and it was really unusual for teenagers back then. My first paying job in high school was doing programming for a grad student at Rice University in the computer card era. I knew all about chad long before Al Gore did. So when I came to Brown, it was only natural that I would get involved in computers. I immediately took programming classes. They were in the Applied Math department because there was no Computer Science department at Brown, or at most other colleges, in the early 1970s.

I became a computer terminal center consultant helping others using Brown's IBM 360/67. I became manager of the largest terminal center, on the 14th floor of the Sciences Library. My junior year I was appointed the first student representative to the Computer Advisory Committee. That committee is where I first met you. It was novel to get student input on faculty committees at that time, and you were one of the most supportive folks there. You made a big impression on me as someone committed to getting the best for Brown students. We worked together to document the usage of the terminal centers to support budget requests for additional terminals. I also took your introductory Electronics course during my senior year and enjoyed your teaching style very much.

The committee work helped me to appreciate a lot of what went on behind the scenes to support teaching programs and research at Brown. I remember taking a research class in the Psychology department that built an operating system for real time control of a PDP 8, and an interpreted language for creating high-level designs for cognitive psychology experiments to run on the operating system. The interpreter ran on the IBM 360, and downloaded the assembly code to the PDP 8 over a 150 bps modem link that used an acoustic coupler. The design constraint for the operating system was that it had to run in 4K of memory. It was ground breaking work at the time.

One of my biology professors, Dr. Shipp, was also on the committee and was developing high-speed data collection methods. And during my senior year I did a research project in the Biology department, analyzing quantitative electron microscopic data from turtle cortex. There was so much data that I had to have a special disk pack mounted on the 360. It was certainly much smaller capacity than a flash memory stick you put in your shirt pocket today, but it was a big deal then and required a lot of interaction with the computer center staff to coordinate. The director of the Computer Center was another of the members of our committee.

I ended up earning my PhD doing brain research, using computers for quantitative microscopy and statistics. And during the course of that program, I decided that the basic questions I had about the brain were not likely to be answered in my lifetime with current methods. I returned to computers doing a post-doc in the Computer Science and Robotics departments at Carnegie-Mellon. I was a bit player in the birth of a new paradigm in artificial intelligence-neural networks. I went on to work at AT&T Bell Labs, several not-for-profit information technology think tanks in the DC area, and for the federal government as a senior research computer scientist. I still do a bit of consulting work in electronic commerce, but I am spending most of my time these days in R&D in applied artificial intelligence using neural networks as tools. Fun stuff that Brown helped prepare me for the real world.

After a challenging career, I appreciate more of what Brown did for me than I could when I was still there. The best experiences at Brown weren't specific courses, as much as the opportunities to learn about and master many new and unique environments. The faculty at Brown respected its students in a way that created more opportunities for independent research than almost anywhere else. And I saw you directly contributing to the richness of that environment in a very unique way through our interactions on the Computer Advisory Committee.

Thank you for the many fond memories of working with you, and for all your contributions to a generation of Brown students.

Have a very happy birthday!

Rich Goldschmidt
Class of 1975
Downers Grove, IL

Index Navigation:
[1]    [2]    [3]