Apollo Guidance Computer Activities

AGC: Conference 4 - Protests during the 1960s and 1970s.

Apollo Guidance Computer History Project

Fourth conference

September 6, 2002

Protests during the 1960s and 1970s

ALEXANDER BROWN: To pick up on a point that Fred made, people would come to you and populate the rest of the high tech industry in Massachusetts?

DAN LICKLY: Yeah. After they left.

JOHN MILLER You must remember that in 1969, when we left the laboratory itself was having a great deal of turmoil with respect to MIT. It was the era of the Vietnam War. There was a great deal of resentment by the students of, you know, MIT doing weapons developments. And the result of looking at the Instrumentation Lab and the Lincoln Laboratory by a number of committees and so on that ended up separating the Instrumentation Lab from MIT and forming a non profit operation over there. They were having their own difficulties about that separation and maintaining their own segment of business that was going on. They had their hands full over there, too.

FRED MARTIN I can remember right here across the street, at the Sloan School, there's kind of a patio there or a plaza, and that was filled with people with placards and very angry. And then there were people at our building that had ..., that had chains that went across the door in case they were stormed. This was true of a lot of buildings around MIT at that time.

ED COPPS: Our second set of offices were in Central Square. Actually behind the Police Station there in Central Square, on Green street. Relatively small office, we moved there a few months after we were founded, as soon as we needed more than two or three rooms. They had a riot, it was at Harvard and I remember I tried to go home on the subway. I would take the subway back down to North Station and then take the train. The subway was filled with tear gas. And the Weathermen had a little office around the corner.

Those days were those days, that was the way it was. And I often thought and I personally am in the middle of the road, I just don't move heavily to the right or heavily to the left, try to go down the middle politically. You don't need to define it, I don't want to make a big case of it, but when I went down into the subway and I was being tear gassed, not--I think the tear gas had just moved down the tube from Harvard Square but it was definitely there. I really felt like I was having trouble holding the middle. I either had to be for it or against it. Those were strong political days. I'm talking like you're two years old, I don't know how old you are, but I'm sixty-seven years old and those were really remarkable days, because I was just an innocent thirty-five year old, just trying to make a living.

FRED MARTIN And drop my napalm.

ED COPPS: You know we just tested that.

FRED MARTIN I remember these sort of philosophical discussions about making the ruler. And then that ruler was used as a standard to measure something that was on the road to a weapon. Now how far does that go up, that you should worry about making this ruler. We didn't think about that too much.

SLAVA GEROVITCH: Was the kind of contracts you got in Intermetrics were they mostly for the military or mostly for the civilians?

DAN LICKLY: We had them for everything.

FRED MARTIN We had a big NASA contract, that was always the floor under us so that was important. Then I guess there were Air Force contracts.

ED COPPS: I think that Intermetrics had a lot of intellectual difficulties in what it thought it was trying to do and what it was trying to become. I don't think there was ever any agreement inside the company. It was not a clearly articulated view that we had.

ALEX KOSMALA: In fact one of your earliest brochures, I think I still have some that follow that thinking. I mean it had aircraft and all sorts of other things. We build anything, any day. Of course we are the greatest.

ED COPPS: It was an asset and a terrible liability.

SG: Was there any difference in the way you dealt with the people who have your contracts, compare the military contractors compared to civilian contractors?

ED COPPS: Let me put it this way. On the board of directors, you'd have one guy who didn't want to do anything with the military. You'd have another guy who didn't want to anything with the government at all. You have another guy who didn't want to do this and another guy who didn't want to do that and by the time you went all around the circle, you couldn't figure out what anybody wanted to do. And I was on the board of directors for 30 years, it was the most incredible show I ever had the honor or the discipline to participate in. It was not clear we knew what we were doing. I mean I think each individual sort of thought they knew what they were doing, but nobody could really get together on how to put it all together.

DAN LICKLY: That's called democracy.

The Intermetrics name.

site last updated 02-01-2003 by Alexander Brown