A view of Lake Pend Oreille from the mountainside northwest of Sandpoint, and just west of the Airport.  My home is just below this viewpoint.

Eric C. Anderson Autobiography 2

Higher Education

I attended the University of Rochester, majoring in Electrical Engineering.  In those days, that was tubes!  Transistors were just beginning to be taught!  In fact, I am the 'evil student' that caused the electronics course lab project to be switched from a tube-based oscilloscope to a solid-state design!  I did that (accidentally) by asking if I could do it.  The professor did not know that high voltage transistors were available at Radio Shack - but when I showed him my plans, he decided on the spot to have the whole class switch to solid state.

UR Library

IBM 7090, similar to a 7700 DAS, circa 1965

It was at UR that my social life exploded.  The unforgiving teenager years were past at last!  I joined the Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship, and had a great social life, including my first girlfriends.  I launched out and established my faith on my own, separate from my parents faith, and established an important foundation for the rest of my life.


I graduated from UR with High Honors with a BS/EE degree in 1968, and then moved to Boston to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, majoring in Computer Science - specifically, artificial intelligence.  In those days, people actually thought we were on the verge of creating intelligent machines, believe it or not!  Here we are 40 years later, dealing with Windows™ - probably not exactly what was anticipated as "intelligent"...


After 3 years, it became clear to me that I did not want a PhD degree, so I took a "bypass" to the MS degree and a special degree MIT awards to PhD candidates who don't write a thesis but do complete all course work - an EE degree.  Such a confusing name!  When I tell people I have an EE degree from MIT, they think "BSEE".  Sigh.

I got to write my first Operating System at UR - for the IBM 7700 DAS (Data Acquisition System) - a mainframe which filled a pretty large room.  The computer was donated by IBM when they decided not to produce it as a product.  It was the last of the 7000 series computers - quickly followed by the 360 series.  All software was written in 7700 assembler.  I wrote the symbolic assembler, the complier, linker/loader, and run-time system, over a 4 year period.


IBM's system software could not be used on the 7700, because it required two magnetic tape drives, which the University could not afford to rent.  So, we got to write our own!  My STANCOM compiler was a FORTRAN IV-like compiler, but included real-time extensions for the DAS, and controls for the external analog computer, an EAI 680.  You could actually program interrupt routines and real-time programming in FORTRAN!  The analog computer allowed us to integrate digital and analog computations.  In those days, the computers were not fast enough to do it all digitally.  My Apple II was faster and had more memory!  Graduate students used my compiler to translate programs to control experiments, such as eye responses to light pulses.

Park Street Church, on the Boston Commons

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Grad Group at Park Street Church 

In Boston, I joined the Park Street Grad Group, a large graduate-age group meeting Sunday nights at the historic Park Street Church, right on the Boston Common.  Firearms were stored in the catacombs under the church during the Revolutionary War.  I took a brief tour of this underground area.


This Grad Group also had a very high impact on my life.  I joined the Grad Group Band playing the accordion, and had a ball playing every Sunday evening.  My piano lessons finally paid off!  The Grad Group had a very high impact on many others, as well.  This can be verified by the fact that the group still exists and has yearly reunions to this day.  While at MIT and attending Grad Group, I became an avid dater.  I was known as "safe" by the girls of Grad Group, and often dated two to three times a week.  I met my wife Sandy through a Grad Group wedding.  She had been a roommate in college with the girl getting married, and was one of her bridesmaids.  In my usual photographer mode, I took her picture.  She asked for a copy, and that started a pen pal relationship that ended in marriage a few years later.  Sandy was living in Philadelphia at the time.

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