Carl Helmers

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This is a transcript of a presentation at a conference. This transcript may contain errors - if you're using this material for research, etc. please verify with the original recorded interview.

Source: Vintage Computer Festival Southeast 1.0

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Carl Helmers is joined by Robert Tinney for some memories. BYTE magazine's first editor, Carl Helmers is joined by Robert Tinney, the artist who created the cover art for over 100 issues of BYTE Magazine.

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Announcer: Hi everyone. This is Carl Helmers, the first editor of Byte Magazine, so he's gonna speak to you now, and then he's going to be joined by Robert Tinney, the famous artist of the magazine. We just finally got the announcement system working out there. But anyway, take it away Carl.

Carl Helmers: Well, basically, the title of the talk is You-Know-Who, "...Reflects Back." Basically it's reflecting on the times and what happened with the start of Byte. Let's see, if I do this right, I'll get the next slide. Basically, Byte Magazine was my idea and I started it with some other people in Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 1975. And this talk will be about the starting of Byte in many ways. Next slide. And the slide did not go forward.

Woman: It's backwards.

Carl: It's backwards? There I am. OK, there it went. Anyway, I got into computers by the usual chance course of everything in life. You think things are the right circumstances, and then when the chance comes along you get it.

I was in a high school in Hanover Park, New Jersey -- Hanover Park High School, in 1966. It just so happened, in my senior year, the summer before, my Advanced Placement math teacher took an outreach course in Fortran at Bell Labs, Whippany, which is down the road further from the high school.

Another person at this talk was a fellow named Paul McGillicuddy, who was the manager of data processing at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals in East Hanover, New Jersey. They got to talking at lunch that summer while they were taking this Fortran course. Paul talks to Dick Huntz and says "We could give your Advanced Placement math kids a course in Fortran on our computers at Sandoz."

That's what happened. They got together and they organized a course and started in December of my senior year in '65 and lasted through May or so of senior year. That was my introduction to computers. That was every Wednesday evening, basically December through May, and that was Sandoz Pharmaceuticals use these, however, it was on IBM 1410 computer. I don't know how many K it had, but it wasn't very many.

As a result, the Fortran compiler was Fortran 2. It was a tape compiler. You had to put your punch cards into the card reader and then the tape compiler would do it's things and write things to another tape and munch for a while. Your 50 card program could be compiled in about 15 minutes. [laughs] Not much of a program.

It was basically 30 students in the class. Going to the head of the class, of course, I got the summer job. I was going to school next fall at the University of Rochester. That was my start of doing things professionally, shall we say. Actually, I was having a ball.

OK. There we go. From '66 to '67, I did part-time summers with Sandoz. In 1968, in the first issue of a rag called ComputerWorld, I found out about a stock offering that had just been done for a company in the Rochester New York area called Info Data Systems. So I said, "Gee, I should write a letter of introduction," and I did. Sent it to this company, said,"Gee, I'm going to be in school and have a lot of time on my hands because I'm a student of physics."

I worked part-time in summers for them for '68 through '71. I worked on COBOL programs initially at Sandoz. I did a couple of COBOL contracts for Xerox through Info Data, which is another big company in Rochester. I also did PL/1 programs and some Macro Assembly language. One of the neatest, in terms of problems for a student to do, was fitting a hospital billing program, for some hospital near Albany, into a 10k partition on a Model 30 computer.

I learned Macro Assembly in a hurry to make that thing work. That was my summer job that summer. Meanwhile, I earned my B.S. in physics with distinction, with some marking on the degree in 1970, but that was from 1966 to '70. I programmed many computers on the job and as a student. I did IMB-360s, IBM-370s and COBOL and PL/1 for those various jobs.

But I also programmed, in a physics student context, Wang LOCI-2. Does anybody know what a Wang LOCI-2 is? You probably don't. But Wang LOCI-2 is a box like this that stood on desk, and its only input was a bed of nails punchcard reader.

You've got these pre-punched cards, and you would poke out the holes for the bits that you needed to poke out. It had the right codes in each column, and then it would go through the punchcard and do your program. And it was just a calculator, basically, like an HP-65...later on, like HP-65.

And in the physics department, physics students could access, with the proper accounts, the IBM-1620, which was later replaced by an IBM-1130 on the campus of the U of R. And of course I used 360s on the campus of the U of R also in a student context.

OK, so I worked for them through 1970. I always wished I had my own computer, sans the need for these stupid accounts. I wanted to just turn on my computer and use it, which is what we do these days. In other words, we're living in Nirvana, guys. We're not living in destitute hard times like it was in the '60s as far as computers go.

Then I went to graduate school. By 1970, there was the first Selective Service draft lottery.


Carl: ...escaped the draft...


Carl: ...very high number...


Carl: ...I got like 330 or something like that. It's one of those things that gets etched into your life. A low number is like 1, and a high number is 330, and they were only drafting up to 150 that year...something like that. And the net result is, I went by the inertia matriculation in the fall of 1970. In other words, the easiest thing is to continue what you're doing in life, and inertia sent me to grad school after I graduated.

But I knew I didn't have to study too hard anymore, because I had escaped the draft. The rules had changed, so I didn't have to study. My motivations to study physics just evaporated, like that, because I had this high number. So I decided to leave physics in May of 1971. Then I looked around...yeah, left.

It's not a bad thing. Oh...there. OK. Had my hand over the LED, so that's why it didn't work. Anyway, I sought employment in the Boston area, because I some friends I could stay with in New Hampshire, and that's like a one-hour drive from where they were, in Wakefield down to 128.

The only help wanted ad I ever answered in life was Intermetrics. And I eventually took a job there in August of '71. And it was basically a company that was a spin-off of MIT's instrumentation lab by the guys who did all the flight programming for the Apollo program.

So my boss was the guy who wrote the Lander program. All the other guys who were the founders of Intermetrics were people who had done various things for Apollo at Draper Lab, basically. And these Draper Lab folks started Intermetrics. I was hired by them as employee number 29 or something like that.

I went to work for them in the summer of '71., worked for them in Cambridge, and I had an apartment in Nashua. That was maybe until November, and then in November I pulled my one-axle U-Haul trailer out of a farm's lot in New Hampshire in a snowstorm and drove down through Atlanta to Houston, Texas. I did definitely drive through the...


Carl: OK. We had a little incident of feedback. Anyway, I drove through Atlanta to Clear Lake City, Texas, which is where the NASA base is and NASA Road One is located. And that's where I had an apartment for a while. Well anyway, as soon as I'm in Texas I start looking around for things to do. After all, I'm single and I don't do anything much other than go to the...


Carl: ...not buggy. And trying...


Carl: ...we are. So I could feed that back to the guys in Cambridge, and teach courses in HAL/S which was the language we used at the time. Or that would work...


Carl: ...Oh there I am, Houston. I tried it first, whatever reason I had heard about...


Carl: ...a libertarian philosophy guy...


Carl: ...on economic...


Carl: ...sort of a contradiction, libertarian and NASA. But anyway [laughs]...


Carl: ...I think, on the phone. So you know, I'm hanging out down there. First artwork of Robert's that I ever posted was a black and white print that, put out in 1972, right after he got out of the Army. You were doing graphic jobs around Houston.

Basically he had them printed up however he did, and I bought one of them. OK, fine. That graphic is a graphic on an Atlas Shrugged theme of somebody holding up the world. You know, with the skyline of a city in the background. Anyway, that's how I met Robert Tinney.

While I was there, while I was working for Intermetrics in '71 through the start of Byte, I was writing and editing HAL/S support documents, testing and breaking compilers. It's always fun to try and break what the new compiler is supposed to do. You know, give it some impossible statement that it can't compile. Then you feed that back to the guys who are writing the code.

That was one of the things I did. I taught courses in other miscellaneous projects. I worked on a launch applications language, application called, I think it was called GOAL. I spent some time at Kennedy on a night project, and versions of HAL/S in XPL for the UNIVAC 110-


Carl: interesting project. I also designed, you know, here I am, the amateur engineer, working as an engineer designing a ultrasonic anemometer. What's that? You can buy these things if you look up ultrasonic anemometer on the web, you'll find them. That wasn't the project I was working on. Anyway, that was my IR&D project.

And then during that time, I also learned from a libertarian source about this idea of publishing as a business that you can do. You can just print up stuff and sell it. So that's what I did. This is one of the books. At that time, I was afraid of trademark suits from Gardner Denver, so I called it "Solderless IC Prototyping Techniques." It's really a book about wire wrap, which is Gardner Denver's invention.

OK. And then you can see a picture of a wire wrap connection on the cover that I drew up myself. I didn't know Robert in terms of detailed work yet. Anyway, writing and publishing, digital do-it-yourself projects, engineering new projects, marketing plans via classified ads in Popular Electronics and Radio Electronics which were worthy places that had advertisements at the time.

OK. So, where do I go next? OK, there we go. That was one of my catalogs, the cover of it. I had various projects inside of it. I did this artwork on a flowchart theme. The "GRESS" is what that bird is called. It's engineering humor at Intermetrics...


Carl: There's a three week period when everybody who is a software engineer at Intermetrics would draw a gress in various situations, so there was a "CON-GRESS" which is a picture of a felon, looking like the bird. There was another Congress which was a picture of Capitol Hill. [laughs] There was a whole bunch of obvious, very strange puns that were going around the engineering office. That's what engineers do sometimes. They also get jobs done.

One of the things I've learned by doing this part time publishing activity is that self publishing is self advertising. That's an economic truth that's very important. In this day and age, self publishing is done on the Internet, and it's very easy to do.

Low cost, low effort, relatively speaking. Well, not so low effort, you still have to do graphics and things like that to do a good web page, and you have to have the right tools and all that. Which is not that expensive in the open source world.

Anyway, that result of that self advertising, I made a connection with a woman named Virginia Londner in Peterborough, New Hampshire who was about five years older than I. She knew how to do magazines, I knew how to do computers, and we talked and we had some...


Carl: The first meeting I think I dragged up my roommate and a couple people from the Boston area. Second meeting I dragged up some names from the later Byte field, like Dan Fylstra who did VisiCalc with Bob Frankston and Dan Bricklin. I also dragged up Chris Ryland who is on one of the history sites on the web right now.

We decided to do an issue, but I was the only one who was really footloose and fancy-free enough, the other guys were all students, to put in full time on it. I'm the one who actually became the editor, so after the meetings we decided to do it. I'm very proud of the fact that with my associates in New Hampshire that 49 days after we decided to do it, the first issue of Byte magazine went to the printer. It was seven by seven, 49, perfect square.

And there it is, that's the first cover of Byte Magazine. Now that's the first cover. It's sort of a junky cover of some surplus keyboards and an article on that subject. There's the first editorial, and moving along...It's still the case, all the way through the end of Byte, Byte Magazine is about hardware, software, and applications. That's all that we could ever talk about. And so, a little Turing...

Soon after Byte happened we started looking around for ads and we got this one for MITS which had started the personal computer revolution at the box on the table level with the Altair One computer. Then we started getting advertisements because we didn't know how to get people to go out there and sell advertising.

We got a Godbout ad, he's a supplier of parts, he was somebody on the west coast, in Berkeley area. Then here's an ad, an early ad in the first issue, for the SCELBI-8B minicomputer, which is a very under-sung representative of the early era. A guy named Nat Wadsworth in Connecticut had this SCELBI series of computers.

I found out after the fact, because I didn't know it before Byte, he'd been doing that for a couple of years before I got around to doing magazine. He's definitely a very important guy in the early start of computers.

One of the first guys I had, another Intermetrics guy named Carl Mickelson, was an MIT guy. He was a part-time student working at Intermetrics. He wrote this article on how to recycle used ICs, get ICs for the cheap.

Another one of the people at one of the initial meetings, Chris Ryland, wrote this article on how to write for Byte. Dave Fylstra was one of the guys at the initial meeting, he wrote this article on how to assemble, write your assembler.

If you're cheap, if you're a hobbyist you don't have a lot of funds all the time. You want to write your own assembler. You don't want to buy somebody else's. You want to learn about computers and the way to do that is to write your own assembler. That's part of Byte's formula, is do it yourself.

Then we started picking up ads from people we'd never heard of. Like Processor Technology started and that was in the September issue. That was somebody that popped up in Berkley that basically did a board to plug into the Altair.

The MITS Altair defined a de facto bus standard for the early part of the personal computer revolution. Just like Apple II did later within, circa 1977, with that computer. Then the IBM PC later was another de facto standard.

Openness is what made the PC market. I'm really into open software because of the fact of that openness, in spite of the contradiction with patents and other proprietary things.

In order to do a company you have to have a special edge, but in economics there's something called Schumpeter's theory. You have to start your own competition then keep going. And we see examples of that all the time, of companies that don't work too well after a while.

October. We're still scratching around. There's the table of contents and that kind of page, cover was not too interesting. Probably one of the last big articles I did on my own about a project that I had done, and you don't want to talk about that mess there, that wire wrap.

It was an attempt at a computer that was driving a little tiny Kluge harp peripheral out of the bottom. I had an article on my Kluge harp. My electro-music thing. We start getting more advertisers for the Altair standard.

Then November '75. One of the things we're getting is that these covers are very, very, shall we say, boring. They were not particularly lively. They're just dumb pictures of artifacts.

So '75, this is one of the early computers, Southwest Technical Products was that company. It had existed in the older electronics magazines before the computer revolution.

This is an article by Nat Wadsworth. Important guy. He wrote a book for his computer, the 8H, the SCELBI 8B, or whatever it was I showed earlier. Since Virginia knew him we went down to his site in Connecticut to talk to him about getting permission to put in this segment from his book that he did his documentation for, the SCELBI product. He did a very good job of documentation of early computers.

[whispered] Yes. Good idea, thank you. Yes, stable. OK.

Nat Wadsworth wrote that article in one of the early issues, November of '75. Again, we weren't happy with the covers. The first editorial mention of the 6502 processor was in November '75 also. This is an article written by a friend, David Fylstra, who was an MIT student and only just started going to Harvard Business School after the MIT thing.

He wrote this article on the 6502 Processor, which is the heart of the Apple II. That was the first editorial mention of the 6502 which had happened that year. So we came out with new stuff at that time.

Always we have a file in the office full of freebie ads. The reason for that is ad salesmen are notorious for trying to raise ads and telling you they have ads and then the copy never comes in. So you have to go to your freebie file to find a Cancer Society ad or something like that to put in there. I'm a non-smoker, and very militantly so, so I was very happy to put that in.

We needed more attractive covers in Byte. This is close to the last of that kind of photographic myopic cover that we had done because we didn't have anything else. Then, ta-da!

Take a bow, Robert. I called Robert, I hadn't talked to him in years. I knew he did artwork. I asked if he would do a cover for Byte Magazine. I called him up and of course we're an entrepreneurial magazine. What does that mean? We don't have big bucks that we can provide for things, so we constrained him.

We couldn't afford a color separation at that time so the first few covers that Robert did were done three times. If you know the printing world, you have RGB color separations. Well, he did R, G, and B on separate tissue paper copies of the image. That's where the color comes in on these early Byte issues.

He did the color separation by hand, in Robert's head. Actually, by brain not hand. He would just use his hands to draw it. That was the first Robert cover. Come on guys, next one. This is an editorial about what we needed was a good high level language. I had come from this Intermetrics where all we did was high level languages for various NASAcrats. So that was an editorial I did at that time.

You'll notice that this had as publisher Wayne Green. He was one of the guys from Peterborough. He got divorced form Virginia Green, of the early issues, in '62. When I met them they had been divorced for a lot of years. OK. We move forward from there. That's the last time...


Carl: January cover comes out. The LSI-11 was announced. The thing that Robert did, again, was the tissue paper method in this second cover. Typical table of contents at the time. Things have changed on the masthead, that's when we moved to a different...


Carl: That was the LSI-11, and that was written by Robert Baker who was at DEC at that time in Littleton, Mass. That's where he lived. He arranged for me to have my first and only helicopter ride for a long time. I said I'll give a talk at DEC. We did that. It was down to Littleton from Peterborough, over from actually someplace in New Hampshire, and then back in a pick-up truck because of a snowstorm.

Then we started getting other things happening, like the IMSAI, which was a full clone of the Altair. February. We find an article in this issue about the eventual place we ended up, 70 Main Street. That's a picture on a table of contents page of 70 Main Street. A dumb editorial by me about...


Carl: ...anything about the offices, and a little Peyton Place story. The other thing that happened that month was an audio cassette...


Carl: ...that happened in Kansas City, which Virginia and Manfred went to. That was to pick up on a mistake that you never do in a magazine. You don't announce in a magazine that you're going to do the magazine. Standards for the industry.

The industry standards have to come from the industry. They don't come from magazines. That was a dumb move that we soon corrected by going to that forum and telling people that.

We did one more photographic cover of an audio cassette which was the key mass storage of the early computers. Using audio cassettes, we did imitations of deck link tapes on cassettes using...


Carl: ...really a pain in the neck. Robert's illustration in the table of contents that was done at that time. There we had this Robert Tinney illustration we had him do and that was probably for trademarking because that was about the time we were getting trademark lawyers for Byte. I think they directed us to do this painting, or illustration, that Robert did real quick. One of the few interior things he did for us.

There's the famous Jaws cover. The April issue came out, and the usual deadline is February for an April issue. Robert did that cover, again using the tissue paper color separation method. Jaws was the current topical movie at the time so we did taking a bite out of something. We like jokes. Crazy jokes.

Robert did another cover which was the shooting stars, it was the name of a fun game we had. I put this slide in the show. It's like the kind of early May '76 advertisements for things that were happening. People were advertising in Byte, a color terminal for $1,395.

Now, you can see how far we've come, in the sense that you can buy actual full computers that interface with ordinary monitors right now, which are a lot cheaper than that. The monitor itself, which is what this is, basically terminal and keyboard, are maybe a fifth of the price. These days you can get a full computer almost.

From that terminal we did this cover, which was some sort of Life game. One of the things that happened, the first and only Altair computer conference in '76. There's a picture with me in the background, on the left a chalice from Dry Lake field.

Underneath the hands, you see a face, that's a guy who is the ad placement guy for Altair, was a fellow named...oh, it doesn't matter. Then, there is the first real four color that Robert did for us. This is a wonderful oil painting.

Robert Tinney: An oil painting.

Carl: Tell us the reasons why we don't do oil anymore.

Robert: Well, there were some issues. The reason I did the oil painting was because the theme of that issue was historical. We were going to full color for the first time so I figured, "Well, an oil painting would really be appropriate for it."

Well, we had some issues with the oil paint drying, of course, that's one of the problems with oil paint. Working in oil. I don't know if there were any other...

Carl: I think it's the only...

Robert: may have been the only oil painting I did for the cover of Byte. After that, I went to designer wash and airbrush which worked out well.

Carl: The magazine artists that were inspirations for us...historical magazine artists, were Maxfield Parrish and Norman Rockwell, and they did not use oil for their covers, which were monthly magazines. They were basically done in water-based paint. All of the times when they did it...Maxwell Parrish was turn of the century and Norman Rockwell was mid-20th century.

There is a guy who did one of the first computer stores. A fellow named...Paul Terrell, did one of the first computer stores called The Byte Shop. Of course, we didn't do trademarks on computer stores, because they weren't the same area as magazines. He was putting our magazines in the store trying to sell them. There was no point of view in having a trademark fight so he did those.

I actually ran into him on April 2nd this year at a meeting in Seattle that I went to. That was sort of interesting. He's like me. Now, Robert did another of the picture covers in August.

Robert: Yeah, we went back and forth with those for a while. Eventually got to the point where all of the covers were full color.

Carl: We were still entrepreneurial at this phase and weren't sure we were going to last. We were trying to save pennies. This is the 0.001 centennial issue which is [laughs] a pun we couldn't resist. In September '76, the second year September issue.

That was great. We'd talk to each other over the phone and come up with these ideas for the cover and you'd send a draft and we'd say, "Go." And out would come the finished artwork for the cover.

Robert: The characters of Star Trek showed up in several of them. That was the first time we ever had Spock and Kirk on the cover.

Carl: Oh. I totally forgot that. I didn't even look at it closely. Star Trek was very big in the original series when Byte started. I was always running watching reruns of it. So were you. Then, we did another cover again with...Well we don't have to explain, we have a photograph, and you did the frame and that was the cover of the issue.

Event Staff: Carl. Sorry to interrupt. Excuse me everyone, I want to interrupt because we're having a bit of an audio problem. We're going to rectify it real quick. We're going to bring you this other microphone.

Event Staff 2: All these people can hear you much better in the front, they're having trouble hearing.

Event Staff 3: We're just going to keep going.

Carl: Yeah. That's a good idea. That's a great idea...because that speaker is...

Event Staff: Sorry guys. We want to make sure everyone can hear. Can I get everyone to come on up closer? Hopefully, you'll be able to hear better.

Event Staff 2: We have a potentially better mic.

Robert: Tell me where to go.

Event Staff 1: Should we try to move this out now?

Event Staff 3: Let's try to change the mics.

Event Staff 2: Point it out that way.

Event Staff 3: I'll hook you up with this mic. This one is a little bit better. I don't know how much room there is in the pocket.

Carl: OK. Testing 1...2...

Robert: How about me, is it picking me up? Testing 1...2...3.

[microphone feedback]

Carl: Put that that way. OK. I'm looking at the speaker is why.

Event Staff 1: Also, put your microphones in.

Carl: I guess it fell off. This one's in. This one? I can't, I don't have a mirror.

Event Staff 2: It's OK, it sounds good.

Carl: OK. Does it work? This is it. You said photographic covers. This is what we went with on the article. This is the first by Steve Ciarcia who was a major author during the whole time that I was there and after. He did a column eventually called "The Circuit Celler." This is the first "Byte" that I could find that he had an article. November '76.

That's a contest picture. Saving pennies because so we did an art contest. Then, we had another "Byte" cover by Robert. This is the theme of doing things better in the future because you had computers and the polluted world outside is still out there. People are still worried about the environment. Once in a while, we did have things that were from the contest that were just interesting works of art.

This was a computer graphic that just was done on a Calcomp plotter somewhere. The guy sent in and we used that for a cover. There's another art contest thing. Once in a while, we had things that hark back to the hacker era of actually hacking computers.

This is a computer called "The Spider" by Roger Amidon in New Jersey that I first saw at a Trenton computer festival. We eventually got someone with a good camera, Perhaps Saul Liebs, to take the picture and then send it in to use on the cover. That's just a good artifact of history of the most extreme form of a real messy hacker. That's in his basement. Another art contest. Here's another photograph cover, one of the rare ones.

Here is the first ever Apple ad. June '77. A two-page spread. They actually paid for it. That's important. If you're doing an entrepreneurial company, you'll want your customers to pay. That actually works and that got apple started. Then, Robert did this cover soon after of a model railroad. An article on modern railroading and personal computers. Of course, we used the theme of the circuit board and the path of electrons and the electrons became the trains and so on and so forth.

Robert: The article was about someone controlling...

Carl: Controlling it, yeah.

Robert: ...a model railroad with a computer.

Carl: I don't know if we were talking about the famous MIT models, but the point is it's not a good article on the subject of model railroads and computer control. This is one of our favorites. I had a language issue every year in August. In August '77 the theme I chose was APL which was a language for mainframes that was starting to come out on some small computers. We did a theme of Newton under the APL train with some APL symbols and the apples falling down.

Robert: Look at that, Carl, that's an oil too. That's an oil painting.

Carl: It is an oil?

Robert: Yeah.

Carl: Yeah, I guess it is. I guess we did more.

Robert: I remember doing more than one.

Carl: You must have conquered the time problem. No. You had a hair dryer. No?

Robert: I don't recall. [laughs]

Carl: Yeah, whatever. It doesn't matter, it's done. Here is one of the only product covers that Robert ever did. A bunch of products, at that time, in September '77. Now we're coming up...

Robert: That's definitely the airbrush illustration.

Carl: You got into the airbrush later.

Robert: The medium there is designer's wash and I used that because it worked very well with the airbrush.

Carl: We're starting to see airbrush effects. Look at those reflections on the glass. It's excellent. Still some art contest covers, maybe there was a graphic article for this cover. Is this the one? It's a non-Robert cover. Virginia is a paranoid publisher, was always looking for, "Where can we get the cover if Robert weren't around?"

She didn't want to have Robert on every cover so we wouldn't be doing painting. I think this might be an art contest one. Yeah. Then here comes the real Star Trek cover which is Willard Nico.

Robert: That's right.

Carl: Willard Nico was your model.

Robert: That was probably the second time that we used the Star Trek theme.

Carl: After the first one, yeah. Then, there is the one that my wife, the neuroscientist, likes and she occasionally puts on the wall of her office and she takes it back home. "The Brains of Men and Machine." This is one of the best articles I ever got because copy editors or myself didn't have to change a single thing from the original manuscript that came in from, what's his name? Ernie Camp. Do you remember Ernie?

"The Brains of Men and Machine" was an article on using your neuroscience models for some of your programming ideas and that's still being done. This is our anticipation of the World Wide Web. This Robert Tinney is one of my favorites. At that time, all we could do was modems and the phone network in order to get between one computer and another.

There was this idea of the personal computer bulletin board and different bulletin boards would be domains. The main idea, which is Internet all over is domains. It's the castle. One domain would talk to another through various links. That's part of the idea of the castle. You have various gates, you had to talk to various places.

That's the cover. Robert would get a writing from me, telling him what I wanted on the cover and that's what we did, based on the community bulletin board idea. That also was the time when I was going to the west coast computer club...or what do they call it? Homebrew Computer Club meetings.

On my April trip to California I saw the Apple being waved at the April Homebrew Computer Club meeting at that time. In that era. There was a music issue that we did and Robert did the cover.

Robert: Another oil painting. [laughs]

Carl: Another oil. Gee, a lot of oils in my closet. At that time, I was buying all the originals from Virginia, from Byte. I have a whole bunch of framed paintings that no one ever looks at because they're in my closet. The ones I like a lot are on the wall. They're keepers forever.

This must come in with an article. Nice graphics that somebody did on a plotter. This is the attempt to get another artist to do the covers. We really should call this the dental cover. I'll never mention his name because I can't remember and don't want to. We wanted to get another artist doing covers because Virginia wanted it, and we had to put a partially finished cover on the magazine because the deadline, that's where he got it to. I was talking to him for six months to get that cover.

Robert: I think he's sitting right back there.

Carl: Yeah, right there. OK.


Carl: I don't remember his name and I don't want to. The next one Robert did was soon after that. June '78. That was a Cyrano de Bergerac theme for some article. Then we had a cover with an antique computer of the 1800s era, it was a hand crank calculator style computer to celebrate the idea of that kind of article. The art department did the usual magic to turn a black and white photo into something nice on the cover.

Then, here's the famous one. This is the Byte '78 issue on the Pascal language. I wrote this elaborate fantasy about the cover for that issue about this painting, which is Pascal's triangle. Calm waters inside Pascal's area and, this was, of course, the Intermetrics line they sold to NASA, you need a high level language to get your software under control because they always have these problems of getting their software reliable. I wrote this long story...

Robert: An allegory.

Carl: An allegory. Then, you turned the allegory into...

Robert: You've got the BASIC Sea down there with a boat floundering in the BASIC

Sea. The Straights of COBOL.

Carl: Straights of COBOL or maybe it was the straights of PAL, but who cares?

Robert: BASIC Assembly language.

Carl: Then there's the isle of Smalltalk shrouded in clouds. I had known about Smalltalk through the entire Byte times, but I could never get it inside Smalltalk PARC. Xerox we drew that as an isle of clouds.

Robert: That was '78 Carl. I think that may be an actual product for Smalltalk, probably was around '80 so this was very early.

Carl: I've been trying to get this stuff out of PARC. At the time, PARC was a very closed shop and they weren't talking to the world.

Robert: All the fans of Smalltalk were really energetic and committed to their language.

Carl: They're still committed, and not in a mental institution. They're still into it. I know this from personal experience.

Robert: Your comment when you wrote the editorial was that Smalltalk was sort of consigned to the ivory tower. Aloof.

Carl: Aloof from the world. Later I told that basically to Alan Kay's face and Adele's face and people like that. That was at a much later time.

Robert: At that point, you started getting communications from a lot of disgruntled Smalltalk aficionados. That went on for several years.

Carl: That was '78. The first time we ever swung anything from Xerox PARC, is the next cover, which is my last slide. There. That's the last slide, the Smalltalk balloon.

Robert: After three years, Carl called me up and said, "Well, we need to do something on Smalltalk because I've been getting so many complaints about my comments in the previous issue."

Carl: I had left Byte, unfortunately.

Robert: You were the one that came up with that theme though, Carl. I think you wanted to take the ivory tower and you wanted to do something to liberate Smalltalk from the ivory tower so we came up with the idea of...

Carl: Doing it that way.

Robert: ..a balloon with the Smalltalk on it.

Carl: By that time, I had left Byte and so this happened in '81 and my contract with McGraw-Hill ended in December '80. It happened after I had officially gone, but it doesn't matter.

Robert: That was one of the most popular. I did limited edition prints of many of the most popular. This was one of the most popular covers.

Carl: I don't even have a copy of that issue so I had to get that from the web. That's where I got that picture from. There's an archive server that has all the back issues on it and you just search by the month and you'll get it.

Robert: I want to get that address from you because I'm not familiar with that.

Carl: You can. You'll get it. Are we close to the end?

Robert: Well, we are. There's only 10 minutes left and there may be questions. If not, you can back up and go to the...

Carl: Oh, the ones I missed. OK. Questions? What did I do after Byte? Well, you find a business that you've been putting in for five years and it works, you repeat it in a different way. I ended up founding first a magazine called Barcode News, which later changed its name to ID Systems, about barcodes which was one of the themes in Byte. I did a lot of trips to the west coast at various times.

One of the things I did was talk with HP engineers about using a barcode system for the HP 65 calculator. That's what came out of that, an article in Byte, in my time at Byte. Then after "Barcode News," you can't just do one magazine. One of my favorite models for magazines is "Scientific American." At that time, it was still an independent magazine.

In the April 1984 issue of "Scientific American," there was a painting of a pressure sensor made with LSI techniques, by making a diaphragm and putting resistive sensors on it. I saw that April 1983 issue of "Scientific American," and I said, "Oh! We've got to do a sensors magazine!" And I got to work and we put out the first issue of "Sensors Magazine," myself and my employees in January of '84.

And then, going on in this theme, we did trade shows and things like that for my company, Helmers Publishing, Inc. In '95, I started a magazine called "Desktop Engineering" which still exists in the world as a website. That's after the end of my company. We basically transferred rights to someone else.

Then the Web came along. It really came along. I had all these guys at a microprocessor workshop telling me, "Hey Carl, you've got to do a website." I did a website in, what was it, FrontPage? The thing that Microsoft did? That was a mess. I did that for a while.

After Helmers Publishing ended, I got the web domain. That's mine personally now. That's so I could have the email forever of At that time that was all the extensions you could get if you weren't .gov or .edu. I wasn't .gov and I wasn't .edu. I had too many libertarian streaks. [laughs] I wasn't a university.

Then Helmers Publishing ended in 2006. That's when I got the domain. One of my writers in Byte early on, around '80, Mark Dahmke gave me an email one day as I had been doing this FrontPage site. He said, "Hey Carl, I could do your website for you." He has an ISP in Lincoln, Nebraska now. His company, Information Analytics, is a major ISP in Lincoln, Nebraska. It does the site.

Of course, we had the GoDaddy switch to get there. GoDaddy is the source of every web domain. Once you get the pointers turned on then you have any ISP anywhere, then that's the way I do it. Then, I got into Joomla, which is an open source, web content management system which I've been using ever since. I got back into Linux in 2005 or so, when Linux starts getting to be a good...

Host: Software system. That's my hacking language, Sam.

Carl: I do a lot of bashing around, which is the shell in that version of Unix. That's what I do now. I fool around. Going to my workshop and basement, cut wood, and make things. I also make things in my computer. Robert, what do you do now?

Robert: Well, I do various types of artwork. I've just finished some portraits for a well known client. Lonnie Mimms over there.

Carl: [laughs] Robert is my contact for Lonnie.

Robert: So there's always the little things that artists can do.

Carl: Another thing that came out of the Smalltalk area is, when I closed down Helmers Publishing. When you go to Peterborough, New Hampshire, you start doing things locally then when you're there. Ever since the U of R I have been into listening to live chamber music. Well, in New Hampshire, southwest New Hampshire, it's the Apple Hill, nationally, chamber music that I was always going through the cultures of, and, what happened?

Around 2000 or 1999 I was moving pianos up to Apple Hill and was donating them. The director of the place, Eric Stumacher, who was the pianist to the place, or the founder, said, "Hey, you know, Carl, I could give you piano. So why don't you come up with some of your music and see what you can do now. And then in three years, if you give me three hours a day and one lesson a week, you'll practice a lot better."

I took piano lessons with Eric mostly one time a week, except while I was on trips. And practiced a lot. And I can play better now. I don't do much lately because I'm reopening slides and things. When I get time in the evening, I'll sit down and play "Make Believe Rag" from memory or I'll play a couple of Chopin sonatas, also from memory.

I won't work. I want to get more lines, I haven't done it yet. My favorite piece of music is Beethoven's "Opus 129 Rondo a Capriccio," otherwise known as "The Rage Over the Lost Penny." I can only do the first page or so from memory right now, but it's a real fun piece.

My wife just brought me back to reality. We'll tie into the Smalltalk balloon. My piano teacher was also Alan Ginsberg's teacher, so he kept trying to have me come to the Squeak Week at Apple Hill which I finally started doing around 2000.

Every year from 2000 to about 2006, when he left Apple Hill, I would go up there for a week in the summer and live in a yurt on Apple Hill at the farm and do a lot of talk with the speakers who come from around the country. They would descend on Boston and descend on Kendall square.

The same charter bus operator would drive him up to Apple Hill which is about an hour drive from MIT. I would be there at Apple Hill, it's 40 minutes from my house in Peterborough. Guess who was there for every Squeak Week? Alan Kay. That's how I finally met him through my piano teacher. I went to park once and all I met with was Adele who tried to arrange this.

Alan never showed for that lunch. I finally met him at the Squeak Weeks. Squeak is where Smalltalk is now. I was hoping there would be some University of Georgia people here because there was a quite active contingent.

Anybody here from the University of Georgia? A heavy Squeak contingent came from there. They also came from MIT, from various other places on the west coast and also Carnegie Mellon. Major squeak. Still a very live project. I get their emails whenever they come out on the Squeak email list.

Robert: Our time is up.

Carl: Our time is up.