History of the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S.

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The R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. started in November 1966 when a group of students from the Hopewell Valley High School met in the Stone Cottage, then moved to meet in a barn owned by Claude Kagan, a research leader at nearby Western Electric Labs (now Lucent Technologies). The students were tired of the science courses in school and eager to learn real science on their own.

Chuck Ehrlich's recollections

We founded the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. as a scientific and social organization for the brainy social outcasts from high school. Protests and smoking pot were not on our original agenda.

One of the earliest group activities I recall was cleaning out an old building (smokehouse?) on the Grossman's property (Poor Farm Road) that we were going to fix up as our clubhouse. This would have been in early spring 67.

We connected with Claude a few weeks later (May 67?) when he met one of the fathers (Brigham?) and invited us to the barn. The decision to move to the barn was not popular with everyone and we lost a few members over the change.

The primary computer in the barn at that time was the Burroughs 205, a vacuum tube computer weighing about 9 tons. Power to run the computer cost about $1 an hour (a considerable sum for teenagers in those days). The computer used enough power to heat the barn during the winter and could not be used during warm weather.

Some of the other artifacts in the barn included an early typewriter with a piano keyboard, an early IBM paper tape punch that made square holes (not round), an official IBM song book, early prototypes of touch-tone phones, Teletypes, Flexowriters, an early IBM time clock, manual telephone switchboards, electro-mechanical telephone switches, and music boxes.

Upstairs in the Barn was the Anna Russell Memorial Theater.

At the time of the newspaper article below, Chris Brigham was president. My recollection is that I forced new elections later that summer and served as president until I left for college in August 68.

We staffed a museum exhibit in Princeton during the 67-68 school year with a Teletype (what else) dialing into the PDP-8 at the Western Electric Engineering Research Center (ERC). This exhibit was in a former grammar school on the east side of Nassau Street, just north of Washington Street [184 Nassau Street]. Several of us took evening programming classes at Princeton University (Engineering Quadrangle) in Fortran II and Algol 60. You could get a few seconds of free computer time on the 360/65 by submitting your cards at the window. PU was just starting to offer online access to TSS.

We had an exhibit at the Spring Joint Computer Conference (SJCC,a precursor to Comdex) in Atlantic City in April or May of 68 in an upstairs room away from the main exhibit floor. Our only online connection was through an acoustic coupler using a phone booth. AT&T managers came to visit our exhibit but we were warned not to put them at the keyboard because they couldn't type.

The RESISTORS were involved with 'Project Might' an outreach program to blacks in Trenton, and it was through this program that Joe Tulloch joined the group. The Theriault family was part of the group that organized this project, possibly through the Unitarian Church in Princeton.

The TRAC language was used for many programming projects and as the subject of a Primer. Calvin Mooers, the inventor of the TRAC language, was (initially) supportive of the group and visited several times. Later Mooers sued Western Electric, claiming copyright infringement.

TRAC was an interpreter language with a LISP-like syntax that embodied many features later made popular by such as FORTH and Smalltalk. L. Peter Deutsch worked on the development of TRAC with Mooers and went on to work on Smalltalk as chief scientist for ParcPlace Systems.

DEC donated a PDP-8 (original series with 4,096 12-bit words of core memory), and a model 33 ASR Teletype to the group. We went to Maynard, Mass. and picked these up from 'the mill' (the original headquarters building) and brought it back to the barn in someone's VW bus. The computer was mounted on a pallet with 4 handles so it could be carried like a sedan chair making it one of the first portable computers.

We may have made two trips to Boston, one to pick up the PDP-8 and one for a computer conference related to the TRAC language. During on one of these trips several of us stayed at the home of Alan Taylor, who at that time was the publisher of ComputerWorld. Alan and his wife were gracious hosts and even made traditional English steak and kidney pie for us.

During the computer conference we used an acoustic coupler to connect to the PDP-8 at Western Electric in Princeton. This was so novel at the time that we had to instruct the hotel operator not to monitor or disconnect the line even though it sounded faulty.

In 1968 or 69 we made a group trip to Washington DC during the summer. I drove in a rented station wagon with Claude, Joe Tulloch, Gail Warner, and several others crammed in. We visited Jake Rabinow's lab at CDC, Margaret Fox and Joe Hilsenrath at NBS (now NIST) in Gaithersburg, the Smithsonian, and saw the movie "2001 A Space Odyssey."

One of the computers we saw at NBS was Mobidic (Mobile Digital Computer), an early transportable computer (truck mounted) built for the US Army by Sylvania* at Needham, Mass.

At the time of the moonwalk in 1969, several of us were at the barn working on projects and watching the lunar landing on TV.

In spring of 1970, the group exhibited at the SJCC in Atlantic City during the time of the shootings at Kent State University.

Several people from the RESISTORS went to Woodstock. Skip King didn't come back as expected so I drove up the following weekend looking for him. Everyone but the Hog Farm commune had left by that time. Skip had gotten a ride to New York City and returned to the barn a few days later.

I received the following email concerning the MOBIDIC:

The reference to the MOBIDIC (MOBIle DIgital Computer) built for the
Army was built be Sylvania Electric, not Raytheon.

I was in the Army Security Agency (1953-1960) and stationed at Fort
Devens Massachusetts 1957-58. Along with 11 others I was placed on TDY
to the Sylvania plant where we were given instruction on actual machine
language programming for the MOBIDIC. The MOBIDIC Team was then
transfered to Arlington Hall Station, VA and put on TDY to the National
Security Agency at Fort Meade Maryland.

Thanks for listening.

Gary Foote

Andy Walker's recollections

I can clearly remember learning to program the Burroughs 205 during April, because the weather was still chilly enough to allow us to use that machine, and the heat from the machine made it bearable to work in the chilly Barn. By the end of May, this was no longer a workable arrangement and I had tackled the Packard-Bell 250, which used solid state circuitry and needed only a fan to keep it cool. My first experiences with the RESISTORS was several chilly April weekends in the Barn, and I would guess that their move to Claude's facility happened no later than March.

Dec. 2, 1999

Don Irwin's recollections

During one year of that period I was the treasurer, just preceding Don Schattsneider. I guess because I handled the money, I appreciated where it all came from. The credit really belonged to the malamutes for keeping the organization going and paying for the light and the heat. Every year they bred a litter of 8 to 10 puppies which sold for $125. each. This was quite a sum in those days. The dogs LOVED to run and were always escaping to pursue their addiction. When they ran off, animal control usually picked them up some distance away and they had to be bailed out. I recall appearing in court on their behalf (they WERE the organizations biggest asset). One of them hurtled through a doorway, while somebody was carrying a model 33 Teletype through. They Teletype was never the same, but the dog was OK. We also turned a profit selling light bulbs to the Metropolitan Opera in NYC.

The first I heard of the Barn was when the resident artist painted all the barnyard animals various psychedelic colors using dayglo paints. It was a real first - usually most owners of donkeys are busy farming and it would never occur to them to provide them with a racy paint job. The neighbors in the nearby suburbs took great exception to this and there was a major fuss. Eventually the paint wore off and life in the suburbs returned to the way it should be.

During the long winter evenings of 1968, when the barn grew too cold to compute, the Friden Flexowriter belts on the Packard Bell-250 would bind up and so we gathered in the house and discussed the future of computing. There was no doubt that people would want computing in their home, the issue was whether it would be in the form of a home computer, or whether it would be just a dumb terminal which hooked up over the phone lines to large central computers (like Applied Logic Corporation in Princeton) which would allow interaction with other computer users. I like to believe that time proved both groups to be right.

There was a great Halloween party/dance in the barn theater one year. The stereo system was near state of the art and the California sound in rock and roll made it very memorable. The 60's were special and it seemed that the Barn was always at the forefront of all those neat things. It's now history, and as history it is very vulnerable to people's unreliable memories. Dave Theriault was often strumming his guitar with various 60's tunes.

Nov. 1, 2000

Ted Nelson and Xanadu

Ted Nelson, the inventor of the idea of hypertext, became a friend and mentor of the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. He opened on the the earliest computer stores, published a manifesto called Computer Lib/Cream Machines, and created the Xanadu system.

The SAM76 Primer

Ask Joe Tulloch?

The Jewish Museum

Chuch Ehrlich recalls: In 1970 the RESISTORS developed some of the software for an exhibit of interactive computer art at the Jewish Museum in New York. It featured a computer-controlled machine known as the 'gerbil smasher' developed by Nick Negroponte of the Architecture Machines Group at MIT. Ted Nelson organized much of this exhibit.

John Levine adds: A small company in Mt. Kisco NY called Information Displays loaned the museum a computer called an IDIIOM, a Varian 620i mini with a large display, light pen, and pushbutton box. NYC artist Carl Fernbach-Flarsheim sketched out a clever Conceptual Typewriter which displayed an image each time the user pushed one of the buttons, with labels like the silent (a circle) and the providing (sheaves of wheat), with the images scrolling up on each button push. If the user selected an image with the light pen, it changed somehow, e.g., more or less sheaves of wheat, or a spinning image slowed down and spun the other way. Our job was to write the software, which was quite a challenge. The IDIIOM was only programmed in 620i assembler on punch cards, and there was no support for the display at all beyond minimal display list commands to draw points, lines, and circles. I was the de-facto project manager, working with Peter Eichenberger on the program code, and everyone I could find on the image code. Some of the images were easy, just a circle or a few lines. Some were drawn on graph paper and hand-coded to screen coordinates. For a particularly complex one with bubbles arcing out of a fountain I wrote a SNOBOL4 program that calculated the positions and punched out IDIIOM display list source, and ran it on Princeton's 360/91.

None of us were old enough to drive, so our development process involved punching and hand-checking source code at Princeton, then we'd take the train or bus from Princeton to NYC, then the subway across town, another train to Mt Kisco, then walk about a mile to Information Displays, debug for a few hours, then reverse the process to get home.

Surprisingly, that project was a success and the Conceptual Typewriter worked quite well. We were also supposed to progam another project for another artist, Agnes Denes, but she didn't understand how computers worked and designed what was basically just an animated movie, with little interaction, and too complex for us to program.

The exhibit was an anti-climax. The show opened in the summer, when it was rather hot, and the heat from all the computers made it even hotter. To keep the IDIIOM from overheating, they stuck a block of dry ice underneath which worked OK, but when the company saw what was happening to their computer, they took it home.

Lauren Sarno was involved in other parts of the show, including one by a conceptual artist who mounted an exhibit showing a lengthy multi-screen video of daily life in his apartment. It took a day or so for people to notice that part of that daily life included a sex scene, and Lauren had to take the tapes to a video lab to have them edited out.

Skip King brought original copies of the book about the exhibit with him to the reunion, so we'll be scanning in some pages to add to this site.

[review of the exhibit catalog]

The Move to Princeton

Bob Levine's Recollections

Claude, the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. and Me

The R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. were originally a group of high school kids in Pennington who were interested in computers, and had discovered Claude Kagan and his barn. The group had been in existence for some time before my son John Levine first went out to the barn at the invitation of Dave Theriault from the Princeton Unitarian Church, and then later found that Peter Eichenberger was a regular. It was run by Claude Kagan, a computer engineer who worked for Western Electric, which had a lab near Pennington. He had an old wooden barn next to his house which housed a lot computer equipment he got from his company.

John, Peter, Nat Kuhn, and Steve Emmerich started going regularly, driven there by me. I was initially urged to go to meet Claude by some of the parents. He lived alone but had had a companion who died under questionable circumstances. What the parents really wanted to know was if it was safe to have their teenage boys interacting with Claude? That was long before LGBT was generally accepted as it is now.

When Claude and I met, he invited me into his house, where we exchanged pleasantries and backgrounds. I discovered that he was a very smart engineer who enjoyed the company of the bright kids who were interested in learning about computers. For all of the time I knew Claude we had a normal friendly relationship in which I admired his considerable knowledge and his willingness to teach it to the kids, who were crazy to learn about it. There were a few girls who came from time to time, but I was never quite sure whether it was the computers or the boys who were the attraction. As for Claude's dealing with the boys, there was not even a hint of anything improper. I later discovered that there was at least one woman who lived in Claude's house probably for free housing in exchange for housekeeping, but I neither knew nor cared about their relationship.

The barn held an eclectic assortment of computer hardware that the kids could play with and try to make work. I found a lot of it interesting, since I then had no experience with digital electronics. There was never any smoking in or near the barn, since it was a firetrap. Fire was the constant fear we all had.

In time I learned a little of the technology but was mainly the parent who drove the the kids back and forth, initially to the barn, but later, to the Princeton University Computer Lab where the university allowed the kids to use their very large computers as long as they could learn how, and as long as they did not interfere with the students. To learn, the more svavy kids who figured it out started teaching one another and the rest of the group. Their slogan both at the barn and in the lab was, “Each one, teach one.” They started by using punch cards, which is how they learned how to be fast and accurate typists. Having to find the bad card, retype it, and then resubmit the stack to the computer took a long and frustrating time. Because the lab was very busy with students during the day this meant it was mainly available at night for the kids. I remember a few times going to the lab at about 3AM to drag John and some of his buddies home so they could get some sleep before class the next morning.

In time word got out to computer companies about the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. On a couple of occasions my wife Ginny and I drove them to the Digital Equipment Company (DEC) in Maynard, Mass. where they participated with Claude in fairly professional meetings. DEC ultimately gave them a PDP-8 minicomputer. It arrived with no instructions, and I have memories of John and Peter taking it on arrival one afternoon down to our basement where, using paper tape with punch holes as the input, they had it running it by late evening. It ultimately became the main attraction at the barn.

I also recall a computer conference in Atlantic City where they had obtained some space to demonstrate their PDP-8. As the conference started, the telephone workers went on strike so that all the exhibitors who depended on the phones to demonstrate their equipment were blocked – but not the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. They quickly ran a pair of wires from the PDP-8 and clipped them to a nearby pay phone so they could communicate with another computer back at the barn. They were the only exhibitor who had anything working, and were mobbed. I think it also made the local papers. Claude was very proud of them.

Toward the end, for some reason I never understood, Claude had a falling out with Princeton High School kids and I became their mentor. I persuaded the university to let them use an unused EE lab where they could meet, and did a few times. However it was time for them to go off to college so there were soon no more R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S., although the group has maintained contact.

Jonathan Eckstein's recollections

When I joined the club in 1971, it had already moved to Princeton. We had a room in the basement of the Princeton University "E-Quad" building where we could meet on weekends. The room was cluttered with old power equipment and computers that I don't recall anybody ever using. We had accounts on the Princeton University mainframe and access to several university computer labs. There was a lab upstairs in the E-quad that had a PDP-8 and later a PDP-11. We also had a key to a PDP-10 lab in the Chemistry building, which we could only use after hours. The machine had a Evans and Sutherland LDS-1 graphics co-processor system and a nice implementation of "space war" which we played late into the night. Several of us made a short animated movie on this system. The procedure was to use a stock 16mm movie camera pointed at the screen, with its shutter solenoid hooked into one of the PDP-10's front panel lights. You would blink the light to open the shutter, run the display through 500 cycles, and then blink the light again to close the shutter and advance the film. I'll try to put a digitized version of the film online soon. It took all night to shoot a 10-minute film. To celebrate completing the movie, I think we put dry ice in the urinals of the chemistry lab men's room.

The End