Thesis: The University-Industry Nexus

This is one of several parts of my undergraduate thesis at Stanford entitled “Academic Revolution and Regional Innovation: The Case of Computer Science at Stanford 1957-1970”. It was submitted on May 17, 2011, and the text here remains unchanged and unedited since then.


Since the middle of the twentieth century, Stanford University has developed a reputation as an industry-facing university, and by the 1970s, it was serving as a model of the academic-industry complex desired by many higher education leaders. The school receives more royalties from technology licensing than almost any other university in the country, and it has proved to be a successful incubator of technology companies, including Hewlett-Packard, Varian Associates, SUN Microsystems (whose name is an acronym for Stanford University Network), Yahoo!, and Google.

This friendliness to industry was not initially the case for the Computer Science program at Stanford. The division grew out of a desire to expand the theory of computer science, and industry connections seemed largely irrelevant to that goal. That attitude would change as concerns about funding increased in the initial years of the Computer Science division before 1965. There was a constant perception during that period that Stanford’s computer science efforts lacked the kind of major funding received by its peer schools in the east.1 The Computer Science faculty, and particularly Forsythe, believed that MIT was receiving significantly more funding from the federal government and that philanthropic foundations were awarding universities like Cornell and the University of Michigan with significantly larger grants.

Furthermore, a large host of negative financial trends toward the end of the 1960s forced the faculty to engage with industry in pursuit of new revenue sources that could be used for the continued expansion of the Computer Science department. This created pressure on the Computer Science faculty to secure alternative sources of revenue to compete in the quickly expanding field of computer science, and the largest source of this funding would eventually come from industry.

The development of ties between the Computer Science department and the computation industry was the beginning of the network that has shaped the course of economic growth in Silicon Valley in recent decades. At the core of this network is the circulation of talent between Stanford and industry that allowed for a constant exchange of new ideas that mutually informed the work of both sides.

Within this partnership of academia and industry, though, lies a tension at the heart of the goals of both sides. Universities have traditionally defined themselves as facilitating the discovery of basic science, the first stage in the linear model explicated by Vannevar Bush.2 Faculty and scientists in such institutions are to focus exclusively on expanding the current range of human knowledge, without concern for the utility of such knowledge. On the other hand, the linear model designates industry as the translator of basic science research into applied science and product development. Industry sits between the repositories of knowledge discovered by universities and the desires of potential customers, and it attempts to use the former to satisfy the latter (while also generating economic profit).

The primary difficulty with the linear model is that research can rarely be divided into “basic science” and “applied science.” History is replete with examples of technological innovation and fundamental knowledge acquisition that occurred in both basic and applied laboratories. This overlap is particularly noticeable in computer science, where even highly theoretical algorithms can oftentimes find a practical use.3

Thus, to develop a more encompassing picture of the web of influences between the Computer Science program and industry, a more sophisticated model is needed. The contextual model shows that all three components of research — science, technology, and society — provide their own influence and together, mutually shaping the outcome. Thus, analysis needs to include the relations between all of them in order to provide a complete portrait of how the network affected the development of new scientific knowledge or technology.

This chapter investigates the role of industry in the Computer Science programs at Stanford, and how the Computer Science department adapted to engage industry. This chapter argues that the department created venues of engagement that allowed for the circulation of talent that spread crucial ideas between the university and industry. Along the way, these relations provided direct financial benefits to the department, either in the form of money or equipment. Thus, the growth of university-industry relations served several different purposes for each of the organizations in the network.

This chapter begins by looking at the first industrial grant to the Computer Science division, a grant of a few thousand dollars provided by the DuPont company. The themes seen in these first grants will become more concrete in the extensive grants received by the Computer Science department starting in 1965 as explained in the. Among the most important industrial relationships was with IBM, who provided millions of dollars to Stanford in grants, equipment and other benefits. While these one-to-one relationships certainly assisted the department, it was the creation of venues to engage industry that had the largest effect on creating networks and influencing the direction of the department. This chapter concludes by examining the development of the Honors Co-op program, which provided a means for industry engineers to take classes at Stanford conveniently, as well as the Computer Forum, which developed a conference for faculty and top industry engineers to meet and discuss research, as examples of these kinds of venues.

Industry Funding

The motivations behind industry donations to Stanford donations varied. A major theme of the era was the incredible manpower shortage of programmers,4 and some businesses felt the need to develop direct relationships with universities to guarantee the ability to recruit talent. Second, competition between companies was fierce, and each company offered computer products that were mostly incompatible with the systems of their competitors. Thus, encouraging the adoption of particular equipment at top computer science departments was seen as creating favorable conditions for the adoption of a particular computer architecture.

More generally though, companies believed that expanding the frontier of knowledge in computers would provide new theories for potential profit and product development. Thus, they occasionally wanted to directly fund innovation in the nascent field. Creating relationships with academic institutions could provide an early glimpse of developing theories, and thus provide a lead over competitors. Whatever the reasons of a particular company, industry as a whole played a crucial supporting and shaping role that directed the course for the developing Computer Science department at Stanford.

This section will first look at the relationships with Stanford of several different companies, most notably IBM, that played a critical role in the development of the Computer Science division and after 1965, the Computer Science department. These connections were variable depending on the goals of the company, and the ways they shaped the department often reached far beyond just monetary donations, including supplying computers and human talent that fundamentally altered the research program at the university. This section starts with Stanford’s first grant from DuPont, which demonstrates many of the benefits, but also the risks, that comes from industry funding.

DuPont and the Division

One of the greatest challenges faced by the Computer Science division in the early years was securing a stable teaching budget. In the 1963-1964 academic year, the division had a teaching budget of just $48,000.5 The first external industry grant received by the division came from the DuPont Corporation, a major chemical corporation with broad interests in engineering education and research in university settings. Beginning in 1963, DuPont donated $18,000 a year to Stanford, and required it to be split between chemistry, biochemistry and undergraduate teaching in engineering. The share received by the Computation Center began at $4,000 in 1963, and increased to $5,000 in 1964.6

The DuPont funds were directed toward teaching and represented almost 10% of the Computer Science budget in the early years. The funding was roughly equivalent to the budget for half of a professorship, but with the joint professorships often created, this funding essentially provided another faculty slot for the division. In a typical report on the grant to DuPont, Forsythe stressed both the critical nature of the grant and the importance the division placed on undergraduate teaching, writing that “we know that the future of computing depends on inspiring youngsters.”7 Given the ingratiating nature of such reports, DuPont seems heavily interested in using its funds to develop possible pools of scientific talent.

The DuPont grant also illustrates one of the major problems with relying on industry partners for revenue: it can often be capricious and disappear with little warning. Frederick Terman placed the grant in the base budget of the department, making it equivalent to H&S teaching funds and other sources of grants as a source of stable funding. Unlike those revenue sources however, the DuPont grant was not automatically renewed each year. The department’s dependence on the grant became clear in the 1966-67 and 1967-68 academic years when DuPont decided against renewing the grant, and did so without warning to the university. According to a member of the secretary’s office of Stanford, DuPont assessed its own interests in choosing where to give funding, and did not take requests from institutions. Unlike federal funding mechanisms, there was no established procedure for receiving the grant in the first place. To secure a grant, the secretary wrote that “If some institution in a given year is fortunate enough to fall within the orbit of [the company’s interests], then its chances for DuPont support are improved.”8 Computer Science thus had to make up for two years worth of lost revenues with little ability for recourse.

Corporations and the Department

Given the theoretical focus of the Computer Science division, the Computer Science faculty had not developed significant connections to industry. With the creation of the department in 1965 and the further expansion of computing as an industry, the possibility of connections increased tremendously.9 Within just five years, the department would receive more than a million dollars in direct funding from industry, in addition to creating several bureaucratic venues for engaging industry within Stanford. This section looks at the largest computing corporations of the time and their relationships with Stanford. Through funding, donated equipment, borrowed talent and other support, the Computer Science department would come to play a mutually advantageous role in the ecology of industrial innovation for these companies.

Corporate Direct Funding
No other corporation played as vital a role to the financial and intellectual development of the Computer Science department as IBM. IBM not only began to think about the possibility of grants early, but the company was also prepared to make very large donations to universities beginning research programs in the burgeoning field. One example comes from early 1962. Albert Bowker, the Dean of the Graduate Division at Stanford, applied for a $100,000 annual grant from IBM that would have been split three ways. Teaching would receive $30,000 a year — almost doubling the current teaching budget at that time. In addition, Bowker requested $30,000 to support research on systems for the the IBM 7090, directing the grant proposal right at the core of IBM’s corporate interest. Extending this, he also requested $40,000 for unrestricted research funds, and listed a litany of projects that the money might go to, emphasizing that funds would go to “imaginative and creative applications, not routine ones” and that the funds would be used particularly to start new projects.10 The grant was not received, but this example shows the level of funding possibly available to a research area that had yet to develop into an independent academic division of Stanford.

The university, though, would continue to pursue grant opportunities from IBM, and those efforts proved successful in 1967 when the company approved a $1 million grant to be paid out over four years. The size of this grant was extraordinary given the size of other revenue sources for the Computer Science department at the time, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the talks surrounding the grant were described as a “somewhat unusual negotiation.”11 Thomas J. Watson, Jr. the chairman of the company’s board, wrote Stanford’s president J.E. Wallace Sterling with the decision. IBM’s rationale for providing such a large amount of funding included the desire to support additional research in systems and advanced computing applications, and Watson added also that “our people in the IBM Scientific Center in Palo Alto look forward to continuing their close technical liaison with your people.”12 This desire to connect theoretical researchers in the academy to the technical personnel in nearby industrial labs was a constant feature of Stanford’s relationship with industry.

President Sterling emphasized in his acknowledgement of the grant that the funding would be used to connect the Computer Science department with other departments across the university, a goal of interdisciplinary research that was typical of IBM’s approach.13 This teaching grant was not the only major source of funding from the company with interdisciplinary research as its goal. IBM also influenced the department through funding new research programs. Stanford Law School developed a Law-Computer Fellows program that would explore how computers might affect the legal environment, and the costs of that program were underwritten by a $255,000 grant by the company.14

Evidence suggests that IBM hoped to enhance its own competitiveness by influencing Stanford’s research and services, and thus, the company’s intentions were not entirely pure. The desire to protect core corporate interests was a major motivation of the funding and relationship-building the company conducted. One example of this desire comes from the early history of the Computation Center. In late 1963, Forsythe received a letter from a manager at the Service Bureau Corp. a commercial computation center fully owned by IBM. The company was concerned that Stanford was potentially offering its computation resources to commercial clients, and the company felt that it could not compete with the low prices and excellent service offered by Stanford.15 Forsythe told the company that Stanford’s Computation Center was not engaged in commercial computation, and felt that the company’s request to desist was a little out-of-place.16

IBM’s enormous funding was a massive boon to Stanford, and indeed, it is unlikely that the department could have achieved its growth in student enrollment without this significant source of external revenue. As seen with the DuPont example though, creating a balanced array of revenue sources was crucial for income stability, and Stanford pursued funding from other corporations as well.

One source of revenue Stanford used was its extensive network of engineering alumni. The quintessential pair was William Hewlett and David Packard, who had long and deep relationships with Stanford beginning with their undergraduate education in the 1930s. Hewlett-Packard (HP) would take an early and enduring interest in computing, becoming one of the early industrial leaders of the field. The Computer Science faculty were well aware of the importance of the relationship between the department and the company, and established an HP liaison committee — the only company to have a standing committee of the department by 1975.17

While HP’s gifts were generally in the form of computers, David Packard also had an on-going personal relationship with the department as the board of trustees representative on the Computer Science Advisory Committee described in chapter three. Packard himself would donate a significant amount of funds to the department’s projects, including a $50,000 gift in 1969.18 A member of the committee felt that the donation to computer science education stemmed directly from the work that Packard did with the committee, giving the issues facing the department increased visibility (and simultaneously representing one of the larger successes of the main goal of the committee).19

Donated Equipment
Outside of the personal relationship between Packard and the department, HP itself provided significant resources into the department, following a similar corporate investment strategy to IBM. HP, like other computing companies, faced an incredible shortage of recruits for its business. The company donated an HP2116A computer for student use and helped to fund a departmental research assistantship that would focus on developing software for the new machine.20 HP was quite up-front with its intentions for the donation. Forsythe wrote that HP “may later try to market it, and would like some experience with its use,” and he does not believe that “they expect production programming, but really hope to get some experience, criticism, and some intangible award.”21 Computer Science faculty were also encouraged to make trips to HP to comment on the technology and research programs, creating a circulation of scholars.22

However, donations of equipment were sometimes controversial when attached to closely to corporate research agendas. This was particularly the case of joint research programs, where the worlds of basic and applied science appeared to most closely meet. One notable example of this type of controversy was in the summer of 1970, when the Standard Computer Corporation developed a potential joint research project with the university. As part of the agreement, the company would donate more than $1.1 million in equipment to the Computer Science department, with both sides offering personnel to explore research on the equipment.23 The goal for the company was to develop computer science as a field, and more importantly, to “promote the development of software and other computer science tools usable with Standard’s computer systems and taking particular advantage of the microprogramming capabilities as are now being manufactured by Standard.”24

At the heart of the faculty’s concern was whether Stanford should accept research proposals from industry. Complicating the issue were faculty who actively desired to work on the equipment, and thus the definition of faculty interest was blurry. Nonetheless, the university administration emphasized the need for university research to come “fundamentally from faculty interest — not in response to a [research project] quote.”25 In the end, despite strong support from some Computer Science faculty, the university rejected the entire offer and moved away from direct computation research on behalf of a corporation.26

Circulating Talent
IBM’s influence and shaping of the Computer Science department did not stop at just funding, but also took place through person-to-person interaction facilitated by the company. An early example of this kind of interaction was the development of a position for Arthur Samuel, described as one of the “vigorous leaders in research on artificial intelligence.”27 Samuel was retiring from IBM and interested in continuing his research on machine learning at a variety of institutions, including MIT and Stanford. Forsythe developed a unique arrangement to persuade him to join the department, including additional consulting days per week and a reduced course schedule.28 Unlike some of the university’s decisions, Stanford handled the negotiations rapidly, and Forsythe offered Samuel the position of senior research computer scientist just four days later with funding from three separate grants.29

Samuel would play an important role in the department’s artificial intelligence projects, but also helped to shape the department’s relationship to industry. He gave a presentation about the Computer Forum to the Computer Science Advisory Committee, the department’s visiting board of advisers, and he encouraged the Computer Science faculty to reach out to the research and operating departments and avoiding the corporate staff when finding contacts for the forum.30 The interaction between the department and IBM also included active staff. For example, Ted Rivlin, an active research scientist at IBM, was provided a visiting professorship paid jointly by Stanford and the company.31

Outside of IBM and HP’s donated equipment, Forsythe attempted to create an environment of cross-pollination between the Computer Science department and industry. The goal was both to increase the quality of the research program and to engage potential donors in the mission of the department. Bell Laboratories played a significant role in creating this sort of academic-industry circulation. The company helped to subsidize the costs of having its researchers join Stanford as visiting faculty, allowing the department to expand the number of faculty slots for minimal cost while providing some of the company’s top engineers with an intellectually stimulating environment.32

Other notable researchers like Richard Hamming, who helped to form the field of coding theory, requested sabbaticals from Bell Labs to go to Stanford. In fact, Forsythe was told by Bell’s leadership that the department needed to do more to attract its researchers, saying that the school’s peers were more aggressive in securing visiting professors.33 At least at Bell, the movement of researchers was generally initiated by the people themselves, and not by corporate leaders. Forsythe was told that Bell does not “ration” personnel to universities, but rather its researchers request leave from their superiors who will consider the request.34

Other Connections
These industry connections also facilitated the recruitment of students, as well as providing them with interesting opportunities. Texas Instruments gave a presentation of its company’s research in late 1969 and held a series of exchanges with faculty and researchers at the Computation Center, AI Lab and SLAC. In addition, the visiting representatives also interviewed students, providing a convenient means for securing employment.35 IBM also desired to create connections with students. In addition to developing relationships through the Computer Forum, IBM offered such gifts to students as tickets to the American Ballet Company.36

IBM was not just interested in recruitment, but also desired to develop the nascent field of computer science. An example of this kind of approach was the development of an “IBM Postdoctoral Fellowship” in 1971. William F. Miller, a professor in the department, received a note from the IBM San Jose Laboratory stating that the lab was trying to contribute to a “‘science’ of computers” and that the lab wanted to support the creation of a postdoctoral position that would help to develop this area.37 Supporting students through these postdoctoral grants thus provided access to up-and-coming researchers for recruitment while also expanding the “core” of computer science.38

Developing these connections with industry often required high-level support from the Stanford administration, and the department often received it. The president played an important role in developing these relationships. When Cuthbert Hurd wanted to discuss the far reaching implications of Computer Science, Heffner wrote to President Sterling’s aide that “Incidentally, Hurd is potentially a major donor to computer activities at Stanford.”39 Hurd would eventually get his meeting with the president, and later would chair the Computer Science Advisory Committee. In the other direction, Sterling reached out to industry. When the Burroughs Corporation, a major manufacturer of computers, began an expansion on the West Coast, Sterling introduced himself and almost immediately requested “the financial support” of the company to benefit the university.40

Throughout this discussion, we see the tremendous impact of a handful of companies on shaping the development of the Computer Science department. Whether in terms of academic programs, such as the Computer-Law Fellows program sponsored by IBM, or the circulation of experts between industry and academia such as from Bell Labs, the department’s direction was heavily shaped by the desire to engage industry and support work of mutual interest.

Developing Venues for Industry

While Stanford tended to have formal arrangements only with the largest corporations, the Computer Science department created two venues of engagement that provided alternative means for other companies to interact with the department. First, the Honors Co-Op program was a special master’s program that allowed employees of local companies to take computer classes in a convenient, ad-hoc fashion. Second, and most critically to the development of the department, the Computer Forum was created to provide a conference to showcase the latest work of the Computer Science faculty to top industry scientists. Both programs provided significant funding to the department and were crucial to the financial stability of the department.

The Honors Co-Op Program

The speedy development of computer science in the 1960s created an acute manpower shortage of academic computer scientists and programmers. For companies that required such talent, there are a couple of different approaches they can use to solve this problem. One approach was to create better relationships with computer science departments, whereby a company would get access to new graduates ahead of the competition. Another approach was upgrading the skills of existing company employees, some of whom may have an educational background close to computer science. While companies in the industry desired to increase the number of employees trained in the field, most could not afford to lose employees for one to two years to a master’s program, either in terms of tuition or the opportunity cost of lost productivity.

Stanford developed a program to address this issue known as the Honors Co-op program. Modeled after similar programs in Stanford engineering (particularly electrical engineering), the program allowed employees of industrial affiliates to take classes part-time, generally one or two at a time while paying a higher level of tuition than typical for the administrative convenience.41 The program first appeared in 1963, and in its first year it taught sixteen students from industry for a total of 185 units.42 Income that year totaled $3,258, or about $17.61 a unit.43The program expanded quickly, more than doubling revenue in the next academic year to $7,260, an amount that could pay for the department’s share of a joint faculty member.44

Conflicting priorities over the direction of education in the department, however, soon caused the program to stall. At the very first faculty meeting of the new Computer Science Department in January 1965, Forsythe asked whether students who were not making degree progress in the Honors Co-Op program should continue to be allowed to register for classes.45 Due to the lack of faculty, there was a desire by members of the department to focus more attention on doctoral candidates, which provided the visibility and prestige that the department desired. However, the university administration wanted the additional revenue that the Honors Co-op program provided, particularly because the Computer Science budget was so dependent on soft money provided by the university. The potential growth of the income was considered “spectacular” and the income was used to pay for a variety of expenses, such as the department’s secretary.46

With control of the admissions policies though, the department’s faculty won over the university administration, and the department soon throttled the number of graduates into the Honors Co-op program.47 However, the administration was not responsive to the changing admissions profile, and started to budget the Honors Co-op program’s income directly into the budget base of the department. This issue reached a climax in 1968 when the lack of income became apparent, and the department’s budget faced cuts. Forsythe was unhappy at the prospect of cuts, writing in his notes that “no one ever asked us to keep our HCP program going strong; there has never been the slightest intimation that our budget depended on it.”48 When Forsythe discussed the matter with the Computer Science Advisory Committee that year, he asked whether throttling admissions had been a “mistake.”49 Repeating earlier arguments, he was told by Albert Bowker, the dean of H&S, that the program should be kept for the revenue.50

The Computer Science faculty were more receptive to Bowker’s argument this time, as the need for revenue became particularly acute in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The department began actively building up the program once again. First, the department developed a closed-circuit television system that would allow for the taping of classes that could be watched by employees at their convenience, allowing the program to adapt to work schedules better.51

More importantly, the department began to develop an interdisciplinary master’s program in Computer Engineering. The program was designed for Honors Co-op students, and there was even discussion of limiting the program to only those students.52 Intellectually, the need grew out of the growing split between the fields of computer science and that of software engineering, “even though,” as Forsythe wrote, “an aspect of computer science is concerned with software.”53 The approach began to increase the co-op funds, which reached around $8,000 in 1970 and were expected to increase in the coming years.54

The Computer Forum

Perhaps no element of the Stanford Computer Science department more embodies the the development of networks between academia and industry than the Computer Forum, a membership-based conference that provided a common environment between industry scientists and the department’s faculty members. Through these conferences, industry provided insight to the members of the department on the issues facing their companies, and Computer Science faculty updated industry partners with new information on the forefront of their research. Along the way, faculty became more involved in the work of individual companies, in some cases forging consulting ties with them, and in other cases simply developing an open line of conversation.

The development of the program began in late 1968, mostly as a response to the difficult budget situation faced by the department as well as Stanford. The department needed to increase the amount of “hard money” it secured, and one avenue for doing so was increasing money from industry. The Honors Co-op program covered the educational needs of industry, but there was increasing desire to share the theoretical insights gained by the department’s faculty with industrial partners. The Computer Forum was variously described in brochures as a “Stanford-industry-business program” and was successful quite early in attracting industry members. Part of the support came from members of the Computer Science Advisory Committee, which created a subcommittee to follow the development of the forum chaired by David Packard, himself one of the most important industrialists of the era.55

The development of the Computer Forum was slow in the initial months, blamed on the lack of a strong leader to implement a vision for the program.56 Forsythe agreed to the program in early 1968, but feared that the program would fall into the trap faced by a similar program at MIT, by which “non-professional” faculty (by which he meant faculty without an understanding of industrial goals) headed it “from the start.”57 These fears seemed to have delayed implementation of the program, but by the the end of 1968, a handful of qualified people took the leadership. Among them was Ed McCluskey, who was jointly appointed between Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and helped to develop the program as a joint operation between those two departments. In addition, William F. Miller assisted in building organizational support. However, a large influence came from Arthur Samuel, the retired IBM researcher who had recently joined the department as a senior research computer scientist.58 Stanford’s earlier development of connections to industry thus proved to be a critical element in Computer Science’s further success in attracting partners to the department. One of the major successes in launching the program was building a faculty team with natural connections to industry, and all three individuals had them.

One of the major insights of the program was focusing on technical-level relationships. This emphasis was communicated strongly by the university, such as when President Kenneth Pitzer, a noted chemist, began outreach to Fairchild Semiconductor: “our Computer Forum is intended to encourage a working relationship between peers in the laboratories of the industrial participants and of Stanford participants; it is not intended to be a corporate-level relationship.”59 Stanford’s promotional brochure further explained the best kind of representative from corporate affiliates: “These people should have a broad view of the company’s interests, but should be close enough to the technical work to benefit and contribute to the technical meetings and informal discussions.”60 By limiting the scope of the type of person who should come to the forum, Stanford created a venue that focused on fundamental research issues, which was more valuable to the department than an executive meet-and-greet.

The first meeting of the Forum was held in May 1969, and it was attended by representatives from seven companies who together paid $16,000 in dues for a one-year membership.61 Forsythe noted that the amount of money was “already playing an indispensable role” in the department’s budget, and the desire was to increase the amount to $24,000 by 1971.62 Expenses for the meeting were remarkably small: the fourth annual meeting cost less than $1,000 to execute.63 The success of the first meeting encouraged other faculty members to begin recruiting industry partners, such as Gene Golub, the numerical analyst.64

From this beginning, the program grew rapidly with the strong involvement of the Computer Science faculty. Dozens of potential companies were contacted, and lists were maintained of other potential companies (with particular attention paid to companies that were corporate sponsors of the ACM).65 The department expected the forum to increase from the initial seven members to fifteen, and later, to twenty members in their promotional brochures.66 However, the quickly increasing number of companies that joined the forum did not mean that some members did not leave. Bank of America would leave after the fourth annual meeting since they felt that the lack of a joint program between the department and the business school was not serving their needs.67 Nonetheless, the program proved quite capable of attracting new members (perhaps assisted by the department’s policy of offering a “finding fee” to faculty who brought new members to the forum).68 By the end of the decade, there were 23 members, and the department agreed to increase annual membership fees to $9,000 — a total of about $207,000 of revenue from the program every academic year. In addition, the initial membership was extended to a minimum of five years —providing a rare source of stable income to the department.69

The success of the program cannot be judged just in terms of revenue, but must include the creation of new connections between the department and industry. At the heart of the program’s goals was to generate a conversation between industry and academia and provide a structured informal conversation for exchanging ideas. The department argued that the program would provide “relaxed contacts with faculty and graduate students” and “the opportunity to hold informal discussions with faculty members and to influence trends in computer education” for industrial members, and reciprocally, Stanford would receive insight into pressing business problems.70 This goal was translated into action: for example, the forum meeting in February 1971 included five panel discussions chaired by faculty, but also space for individual appointments and a beer party.71 Faculty were heavily encouraged to attend both technical and social events.72

These individual contacts with faculty and graduate students proved useful to companies. Faculty were encouraged to visit companies at their engineering laboratories, a part of the benefit of membership in the forum.73 One example comes from the fourth annual meeting in February 1972, where Robert Floyd was asked to begin a consulting relationship with Xerox after the company’s representative had a fruitful talk with him at the Forum.74 Companies also benefited from interacting with graduate students. February was an ideal time for the meeting, as graduate students were ready to begin finding employment in industry. Given the serious lack of candidates for positions, early access to graduates was likely a significant factor in the development of the Computer Forum.75

The Computer Forum brought industry into close and regular contact with the faculty of Stanford. The program provided significant and stable revenue to the department, allowing it to expand its teaching mission, while also providing important benefits to industry in the form of intellectual connections. The networks that developed between the two were strong, and helped to cement Stanford’s reputation in the computing world.


One of the core issues facing the Computer Science department was developing a significant source of stable income. Creating faculty positions required a multi-year commitment, and few sources of revenue to the department were stable. This need was one of the primary motivations of the department’s search for corporate sponsors and the development of institutions like the Honors Co-Op program and the Computer Forum. Their development provided significant sources of stable revenue, while also creating venues for industry scientists to engage and shape the direction of the department. Thus, the department’s research was improved in two ways, financially and intellectually.

Thus, necessity was critical for creating an environment conducive to attracting industry. The faculty’s hesitation with the Honors Co-Op program in the mid-1960s is just one example of this phenomenon. A better funded department would most likely have focused more heavily on the development of doctoral candidates, if these debates are any indication. However, the department had little choice, and it is to its credit that the faculty not only adapted to this reality but also built programs that were well in-line with its goals. It is this this strong entrepreneurial culture and the desire to pursue all possible avenues to success that ultimately created a strong Computer Science department.

Continue to Chapter 5, "Conclusion" or return to Chapter 3, "The Computer Science Department and Entrepreneurial Culture"

  1. The actual details of the finances matter less than the perception of the faculty in terms of its effect on academic culture.↩︎
  2. Vannevar Bush, “Science: The Endless Frontier,” United States Government Printing Office, 1945,↩︎
  3. One example is the theory of sparse matrices (matrices with a high proportion of 0s in them), which would later prove crucial in Google’s PageRank system↩︎
  4. See Louis Fein, “The Role of the University in Computers, Data Processing, and Related Fields,” Communications of the ACM, Vol. 2, No. 9 (Sept. 1959), pg. 7-14.↩︎
  5. For details, see chapter three↩︎
  6. It is not clear from the archives if the gift was to the Computer Science Division or to the Computation Center; Forsythe’s accounting practices likely plays a role in this confusion. Richard Bates to Raymond Bacchetti, “Report to DuPont,” 19 Jan. 1965, H&S Files, SC36/8/“CS: 64-65.”↩︎
  7. Forsythe to Julian W. Hill, 3 Feb. 1965, Terman Papers, SC160/3/12/2.↩︎
  8. Provost’s Office to Russell Worley, “Budget of the Computer Science Department,” 25 Sept. 1967, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/“CS: 68-69.”↩︎
  9. Although it is hard to judge, the increased stature of a department over a division likely played a role in this increase.↩︎
  10. Letter from Bowker to C. R. De Carlo, 2 Mar. 1962, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS: 62-63.”↩︎
  11. Frank Newman to John Herriot, “IBM Grant,” 18 May 1967, H&S Files, SC36/8/89-114/“CS: 66-67.”↩︎
  12. T. J. Watson, Jr. to J. E. Wallace Sterling, 9 May, 1967, H&S Files, SC36/8/89-114/“CS: 66-67.”↩︎
  13. J.E. Wallace Sterling to T. J. Watson, Jr., 23 May 1967, H&S Files, SC36/8/89-114/“CS: 66-67.”↩︎
  14. T. J. Watson, Jr. to J.E. Wallace Sterling, 3 Sept. 1968, Miller Papers, SC208/3/29.↩︎
  15. W. A. Wasson to Forsythe, 18 Oct. 1963, Sterling Papers, SC216/1/1/27.↩︎
  16. Forsythe to IBM File, “Visit from Warren Wasson,” 10 Oct. 1963, Sterling Papers, SC216/1/1/27.↩︎
  17. See “Computer Science Department Committee Memberships 1974-1975,” Lederberg Papers, SC186/5/2.↩︎
  18. Robert Langle to Robert Vandagriff, “Investment of Funds,” 21 Nov. 1969, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS: 69-70.”↩︎
  19. F. J. Weyl to Forsythe, 20 Mar. 1969, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/17.↩︎
  20. John Herriot to WF Cavier, 5 Oct. 1966, Miller Papers, SC208/2/14.↩︎
  21. Forsythe to HP File, 19 Apr. 1966, Miller Papers, SC208/2/14.↩︎
  22. Bernard M. Oliver to W.F. Miller, 12 Nov. 1968, Miller Papers, SC208/2/14.↩︎
  23. Sidney Drell to Howard Hooper, “Proposed Joint Study Agreement between Standard Computer Corporation and Stanford University,” 6 Aug. 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/1/31.↩︎
  24. “Agreement concerning joint research and study program,” 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/1/31.↩︎
  25. Niels J. Reimers to John F. Olson, 28 July 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/1/31.↩︎
  26. Perhaps no other event indicates that the department had reached financial security by 1970. Today, it seems unlikely that a university would turn down an equivalent $6.1 million gift. See Daniel S. Greenberg, Science for Sale: The Perils, Rewards, and Delusions of Campus Capitalism, University Of Chicago Press, 2007.↩︎
  27. Forsythe to Hubert Heffner, “Employment of Arthur Samuel,” 4 Feb. 1966, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS: 66-67.”↩︎
  28. Ibid.↩︎
  29. Forsythe to Arthur Samuel, 8 Feb. 1966, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS: 66-67.”↩︎
  30. Forsythe to File, “My notes on the Computer Science Advisory Committee meeting of 6-8 October 1968,” 25 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16↩︎
  31. Forsythe to CSD Faculty, “Visitors, faculty appointments, and new courses,” 18 July 1969, Miller Papers, SC208/3/17.↩︎
  32. Forsythe to Sears file, ‘Conference with Royden 4 June 1965,’’ 10 Jun. 1965, H&S Files, SC36/8/“CS: 65-66.”↩︎
  33. Forsythe to Tenure Faculty, “Bell Laboratories as a source of colleagues,” 7 Feb. 1969, Forsythe Papers, SC98/14/10.↩︎
  34. Ibid.↩︎
  35. “Texas Instruments Presentation,” 12 Dec. 1969, Miller Papers, SC208/1/6.↩︎
  36. Steven A. Baffrey to W.F. Miller, 19 Jun. 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/2/11.↩︎
  37. A. H. Eschenfelder to William F. Miller, 1 Mar. 1971, Miller Papers, SC208/2/11.↩︎
  38. Forsythe to Dantzig, Feigenbaum, Floyd, Knuth, McCluskey and McCarthy, “IBM Postdoctoral Fellowship,” 15 Mar. 1971, Miller Papers, SC208/2/11.↩︎
  39. Heffner to F. O. Glover, 13 Feb. 1967, Sterling Papers, SC216/C1/15.↩︎
  40. J.E. Wallace Sterling to Ray W. Macdonald, 8 Jan. 1968, Sterling Papers, SC216/C1/14.↩︎
  41. Forsythe, “State and Plans of the Computer Science Department: A report to the Computer Science Advisory Committee,” 7 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16.↩︎
  42. Royden to McGhie, “Honors Co-Op Funds for Computer Science,” 17 Oct. 1963, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS:63-64.”↩︎
  43. L.F. McGhie to Royden, “Honors Cooperative Funds for Computer Sciences,” 30 Oct. 1963, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS:63-64.”↩︎
  44. Robert Langle to Forsythe, “Status of CSD Honors Cooperative Fund,” 29 Oct. 1965, H&S Files, SC36/89-114/8/“CS:65-66.”↩︎
  45. Forsythe to File, “Meeting 5 January 1965,” 19 Jan. 1965, Forsythe Papers, SC98/15/1.↩︎
  46. Royden to Terman, “Missing salary for Diana Saunders,” 21 June 1965, Terman Papers, SC160/3/12/2.↩︎
  47. Forsythe, “State and Plans of the Computer Science Department: A report to the Computer Science Advisory Committee,” 7 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16.↩︎
  48. Forsythe to Royden file, “Meeting of 28 October 1968,” 28 Oct. 1968, H&S Files, SC36/8/89-114/“CS: 68-69.”↩︎
  49. Forsythe, “State and Plans of the Computer Science Department: A report to the Computer Science Advisory Committee,” 7 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16.↩︎
  50. Forsythe to File, “My notes on the Computer Science Advisory Committee meeting of 6-8 October 1968,” 25 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16.↩︎
  51. Forsythe to Computer Science Advisory Committee, “Report on Computer Science Department,” 19 Oct. 1970, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/19.↩︎
  52. G.H. Golub and E.J. McCluskey, “Degree of Master of Science in Computer Engineering: A Proposal,” 19 Jan. 1970, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/18.↩︎
  53. Forsythe to Software Engineering file, “Perlis’s Remarks in Boston,” 19 May 1969, Forsythe Papers, SC98/14/9.↩︎
  54. Forsythe to Computer Science Advisory Committee, “Report on Computer Science Department,” 19 Jan. 1970, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/18.↩︎
  55. Forsythe to File, “My notes on the Computer Science Advisory Committee meeting of 6-8 October 1968,” 25 Oct. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/16.↩︎
  56. Forsythe, “Notes on Lunch with Linvill,” 25 Feb. 1969, Forsythe Papers, SC98/2/38c.↩︎
  57. Forsythe to Affiliates File, “CSD-EE Affiliates Program,” 14 Mar. 1968, Forsythe Papers, SC98/14/15.↩︎
  58. Forsythe, “Notes on conversation,” 10 Jan. 1969, Forsythe Papers, SC98/2/38c.↩︎
  59. Pitzer to Kay Magleby, 25 Nov. 1969, Lyman Papers, SC215/1/“CS: 68-71.”↩︎
  60. Brochure: “The Stanford Computer Forum,” Undated, Feigenbaum Files, SC340/13/26.↩︎
  61. The companies were Bank of America, General Electric, General Motors, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, RCA and Xerox. There was a single flat fee for each organization. Forsythe to Computer Science Advisory Committee, “Report on Computer Science Department,” 19 Jan. 1970, Forsythe Papers, SC98/1/18.↩︎
  62. Ibid.↩︎
  63. Sally Burns to Computer Forum Committee, “Expenses Incurred for the Fourth Annual Meeting,” 9 Mar. 1972, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/15.↩︎
  64. Forsythe to Senior Faculty File, “Notes on meeting of 2 Feb. 1970,” 3 Feb. 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/2/13.↩︎
  65. Examples: Forsythe to Senior Faculty File, “Notes on meeting of 2 Feb. 1970,” 3 Feb. 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/2/13; Sally Burns to Computer Forum Committee, “Minutes of Meeting of 21 Oct. 1970,” 22 Oct. 1970, Miller Papers, SC208/2/12.↩︎
  66. Brochure: “The Stanford Computer Forum,” Feigenbaum Files, SC340/13/26; Brochure: “The Stanford Computer Forum,” Miller Papers, SC208/2/12.↩︎
  67. Sally Burns to Computer Forum Committee, “Minutes of meeting of Feb. 18, 1972,” 13 Mar. 1972, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/15.↩︎
  68. Floyd to Computer Forum File, 28 Oct. 1975, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/17.↩︎
  69. Betty Scott to Computer Forum Committee, “Meeting of Oct. 31, 1974,” 11 Nov. 1974, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/16.↩︎
  70. Brochure: “The Stanford Computer Forum,” Feigenbaum Files, SC340/13/26.↩︎
  71. Forsythe to Meetings file, “Meeting of 11 Jan. 1971,” 13 Jan. 1971, Miller Papers, SC208/2/11.↩︎
  72. John F. Wakerley to Computer Science Faculty, “Stanford Computer Forum Meeting,” 24 Jan. 1975, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/26.↩︎
  73. Ed McCluskey to CS/DSL Faculties, “Reimbursements for faculty visits to Forum companies,” 13 Jan. 1978, Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/15.↩︎
  74. Peter J. Warter to E. J. McCluskey. 15 Feb. 1972. Feigenbaum Papers, SC340/13/15↩︎
  75. Forsythe to W.F. Miller, 29 Oct. 1969, Miller Papers, SC208/2/13.↩︎

Continue to Chapter 5, "Conclusion" or return to Chapter 3, "The Computer Science Department and Entrepreneurial Culture"