When J. C. R. Licklider came from Cambridge to take over ARPA's newly formed Information Processing Techniques Office in late 1962, I was figuratively standing at the door with the Conceptual Framework report and a proposal. There the unlucky fellow was, having advertised that "man computer symbiosis," computer time-sharing, man-computer interface etc. were the new directions -- how could he in reasonable consistency turn this down, even if it was way out there in Menlo Park. Lick moved very swiftly; by early '63 we had a project. But whereas I had proposed using a local computer and building an interactive workstation, Lick asked us instead to connect a display to the System Development Corporation's (SDC's) AN/FSQ32 computer, on site in Santa Monica, to do our experimenting under the Q32's projected new time-sharing system. (Converting the Q32 to be a time-shared machine was SDC's IPTO project.) Later that year, our project was modified to include an online data link from Menlo Park to Santa Monica, with a CDC 160A mini-computer at our end for a communication manager, supporting our small-display workstation. For various reasons, not uncommon in pioneering ventures, that first year was very unproductive relative to the purposes and plan of our project. Lick was willing to put some more support into the direct goal (more or less as originally proposed), but the support level he could offer wasn't enough to pay for both a small research staff and some interactive computer support. Mind you, the CDC 160A, which was the only commercially suitable mini-computer that we knew of, even though having only 8K of 12-bit words, and running at about 6 microseconds per instruction, cost well over $100K (1963 dollars). Paper tape in and out; if the system crashed, you had to load the application program from paper tape, and the most recent dump of your working file (paper tape), before you could continue. A crude, industry-standard Flexowriter (online typewriter) could be driven; otherwise it was paper-tape in and out.
Doug discovered Licks paper Man-Computer Symbiosis from 1960. It was thrilling. On the surface there was so much parallel to his. Doug learnt that Lick had been lured into the Department of Defenses Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) to start up and head a new division IPTO- The Information Processing Techniques Office.
Doug sent him a proposal to his ARPA office. He got pretty quick success. Doug didn't know it then but Licks colleagues thought it was a big risk project. A year earlier the National Institute of Health had turned them down. They interviewed them but sent them a letter saying interesting, but you are way out there in Palo Alto where there are no computer programmers!
The first 2 years were flops.
The 1st year SRI managers were really concerned about the publication about the 62 report: "AUGMENTING HUMAN INTELLECT : A Conceptual Framework.. It seemed arty fartsy blue sky stuff with no reality.
Still, money from ARPA came for this and they put a 'more experienced guy' in charge. Doug got a promotion to be Senior Research Engineer. But the job would be done by the project leader. Doug was out of the loop. The other guy was in control. Doug protested. Helplessly and frustrated. Doug says: I wasn't cogent enough to call Lick but he came out for a project review. He asked me what it was all about. He said 'god damn it, this stuff is so bad if my boss found out he'd fire me!' So I explained and he called them, he said more money would be sent, but don't do that again.
2nd year Lick wanted Doug to go ahead with an idea of an augmentation system at SRI where he wanted Doug to program a client program on a small computer and a little CRT display. The display could show letters etc. but it was supposed to work through a modem with a time sharing computer at LA who he was already supporting to be time shared.Doug's group was amongst the first groups to be time shared. But it only lasted for about 3-5 minutes before crashing. So the second year didn't mature much either
But Lick kept going
In the third year Doug said we'd like to have our our own computer which would be big enough to run our own real time system. A CDC 3100 arrived. We set it up in a room and it had about six platters (1 1/2' dia). It was a real boon to have a machine.
They needed a display for that so they built their own. It cost $80-90,000. In those days there was no way you could have enough high speed memory to store the bit map of the display. You couldn't store it and have it operate fast enough, so they had to build the electronics for it as well.
It would have to move the beam into position and turn it on and move it around to display the characters. It could only do upper case characters. They used this for 4 years or so. BTW, upper case was indicated by a bar over the character.
As Doug says: This was the best we could do for a ton of money, you can then see how people said it would be crazy to spend this on individuals, but we said it wouldn't stay that way for long...
Then Bill English came to work with Doug at the beginning of 1964. He had gotten his M.S. at Stanford in 62, in engineering. A very energetic and competent engineer. Very bright, very active. He complemented Doug and provided things Doug wasn't good at. Doug had his right hand man, his doer.