If you were a RESISTOR, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get a username and password to edit this wiki. Then add your reminiscences! We also need a logo for the upper left corner of the wiki pages. - Margy Levine Young and John Levine
What was the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S.?
The RESISTORS was one of the first computer clubs for young people. It was founded in 1967 in central New Jersey, and for most of its existence it was under the support and guidance of Claude Kagan, an engineer at the Western Electric Research Center (part of "Ma Bell"), whose barn ("The Barn") in Pennington, NJ was filled with technological treasures and trash that he collected over many years.
The name came from the electrical component, with a nod to the spirit of protest that was in the air at the time, and it was an example of what Ted Nelson calls a "back-ac," an acronym who abbreviation is chosen first, with acronymized phrase chosen later. In our case, the name "Radically Emphatic Students Interested in Science, Technology, and Other Research Studies" got the nod (although there was in fact an earlier version, "Radically Emphatic Students Interested in Science, Technology, Or Research Studies.")
For more, see the History of the R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. page.
Who were the RESISTORS?
The group was founded by students at the Hopewell Valley High School who were interested in science and technology but didn't fine school engaging. They met briefly at a house on Poor Farm Road until they and Claude discovered each other, at which point the group moved to Claude's barn and house. We met there every Saturday from roughly 11 am to 11 pm for a number of years. In the early 1970s there was a rift that no one can entirely remember the cause of, and the group moved to Princeton, where it met in space provided by Princeton University in the "E-Quad," Princeton's Engineering Quadrangle.
What did the RESISTORS do?
We met every Saturday at the Barn and in Claude's house, often from 11 am to 10 pm or so. The group was as much social as it was technically-oriented, there was a lot of folk music (Dave Theriault and later Lauren Sarno did a lot of folk music on guitar and vocals). We didn't, uh, exactly 'fit in' at school and for many of us this was the center of our social. A number of RESISTORS became close, life-long friends.
The two principles of the group, undoubtedly formulated by Claude, were "hands on" (as opposed to most museums' "hands off" policies) and "each one teach one" (once you learned something, you should be willing to pass it on, and teaching was generally one-on-one rather than in classes).
In the early days, computer use centered around the massive ASR-35 Teletype dial-up terminal in Claude's house. The teletype was upper case only and ran at 10 characters per second, so early programming had a premium on brevity! We dialed in to Claude's PDP-8 at Western Electric to program in the Trac language, and also into a PDP-6 (and later PDP-10) time-sharing system run by Applied Logic, Inc., a local company which donated time. After Digital Equipment Corp. donated a PDP-8, a lot of the computer use happened in the Barn, using Trac and other languages. The only way to load a program into the '8 was via the paper tape reader on its ASR-33 Teletype, also at 10 bytes per second. It took about 20 minutes to load the Trac processor, before you could start programming.
Princeton University also donated computer time on their IBM mainframes. We hated IBM, which dominated the computer industry at the time, but that didn't stop us from making up our decks of punched cards!
We exhibited at several computer shows. Claude engineered a major coup at the 1968 Spring Joint Computer Conference in Atlantic City (picture); the conference coincided with a telephone company strike, so none of the exhibitors could get phone lines installed, which meant that a high proportion of exhibits were completely dead. We set up a terminal by a phone book (picture) and dialed into Claude's PDP-8 at Western Electric.
The R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. Reunion 1998
We had a RESISTORS reunion over Memorial Day weekend, 1998, at the Barn in Pennington. 45 former R.E.S.I.S.T.O.R.S. and friends attended, along with 15 kids, two horses, and a large number of kittens. Here are some of Geoff Peck's pictures (added more 2012-08)!
Contribute your own stories here. (good taste is necessary, historical accuracy is less important)
- Where did the funding come from?
The dogs mostly. A breeding pair of malamutes. Every spring they produced a litter of 7 to 9 puppies. Each sold for $125. They did have to be bailed out occasionally after a night spent roaming. Because the fines were less than the puppy price, they kept us in the black. One of the malamutes destroyed a model 33 ASR Teletype as it flew through a doorway. No lives were lost, but the model 33 was never the same.
We also sold light bulbs and were not even above begging (picture).
- On a Saturday night, when the temperature dropped, the cold grease in the Friden Flexowriters caused them to jam up with every character printed. The best thing to do was go inside and discuss the future of computing. Many lively discussions revolved around the concept of a Home Reckoner (notes). This multi-tentacled creation served as a home controller, entertainment for the owners, and a tool for everything from baby sitting to stock market analysis. Did today's Personal Computer evolve from the Home Reckoner? Judge for yourself.
Many of us argued that the future lay with an in-home computer which would permit the user to write programs, play solitary games, and control the household. Others maintained that all an individual needed in the home was a simple dumb terminal with the capability of connecting to a large central computer which provided a powerful processing resource, large quantities of memory and the ability to interact with other users. Until the internet took off, it looked as if the proponents of the home computer had been right. Then both were proven right.
- Although computer time was offered free at the  SJCC, you did have to take a number (picture). When you got your turn, and your program didn't run immediately, then you had to think (picture).
- At a show where we exhibited the PDP-8, a well dressed man walked up and watched the RESISTORS program for a while. Then he asked what the "PDP" stood for in PDP-8. Bob explained that it stood for Programmed Data Processor. The man paused for a minute and then asked, "What does the Programmed Data Processor do in relation to the computer?" Bob said "That is the computer". Without a word the man walked off.
- We took a bus ride up to New York for the IEEE show one year. Although we did not mount a formal exhibit such as the hallway terminal shown at the SJCC, we nevertheless made our presence known. On the long bus ride up, JB had brought a can of peanut brittle. She offered some to fellow RESISTORS and then walked up the aisle of the bus holding out the can to the other passengers. One kindly looking gentleman saw the outstretched can, reached in his pocket and then dropped in a coin. I don't recall if the coin went into the RESISTORS treasury!