Archive | December, 2011

1965 USSR Trip

4 Dec


1. Getting to Odessa


In the summer of 1965 I was invited to be part of a delegation of American Automatic Control Council members for a scientific exchange visit with automatic control systems associates in the Soviet Union and the East European bloc. The agenda for the visit included participation in their 3rd All-Union Conference on Automatic Control, starting in Odessa, followed by visits to various technical institutes and industrial plants in the USSR. The visit was sponsored by the USSR Academy of Sciences.

This was the first attempt at an exchange visit between scientists of the West and the Soviet bloc. The cold war politics of the time made it very difficult to get approval from the US and USSR government agencies for such visits. How the proposal managed to get past the bureaucratic roadblocks this time, I don’t know. I applied to my Bell Labs management for permission and financial support for the trip, and to my surprise, it was granted — even though I had been working on some secret research projects. I guess my technical managers at the Labs had faith in my ability to keep my mouth shut about any secret information. I did get a visit from a CIA agent before I left, but he did not suggest that I try to get secrets from the Russians I would meet; on the contrary, he advised me to avoid anything that might arouse suspicion. What he did want from me was a report on my observations and impressions when I returned  Probably the other delegates got similar requests from the CIA, but as it might embarrass them, I didn’t ask.

As soon as I got approval for the trip, Mary Jean and I discussed whether it was possible for her to come with me. She wanted to come, since we realized it was a unique opportunity to travel around the Soviet Union, but we could think of no one who could stay four weeks with Kristin and Scott; also, her piano students would miss four weeks of lessons. It was a practical decision for her not to come, but we both afterwards regretted that she missed the experience.

I went through all the necessary preparations: application for visa at the USSR legation in New York, getting the required shots and buying things for the trip. I purchased a large leather “Captain’s” bag that opened up like a garment bag, and had large pockets on both sides. (I managed to cram all my stuff into this one bag and a back-pack, but the bag was so wide, so heavy, and awkward to handle, that I regretted not having taken two smaller bags instead.)

The Intourist Agency, which handled all foreign tourist travel in the USSR, had designated the Cosmos Travel Agency in New York as their agent for this exchange visit, and we were required to pay in advance for transportation , lodging and meals, for the entire trip. They issued us a book of vouchers that were to be used to cover all these pre-paid expenses. We were told that we would have to declare all our cash and traveller’s checks on entering and leaving the USSR, and have receipts to account for the difference. Clearly, they didn’t want any of our US dollars to end up in the hands of the Russian people

At 8am on September 16, I took a commuter flight from Morristown airport to JFK. The plane was a high-wing twin-prop aircraft, and as I remember, I was the only passenger that morning. The pilot asked me if I would like to sit in the co-pilot seat, and I happily accepted. It was a clear morning, and the view flying over New Jersey and New York City was spectacular. I was hearing all the air traffic chatter going on, and it seemed very confusing, but the pilot brought our little plane in safely amidst all the heavy traffic of  big jets in and out of JFK. My flight to London was on a British Overseas Airways Company(now British Airways) VC-10, a four-engine English-made jet. It left JFK around 10am, and arrived 6 hours later at London’s Heathrow airport, about 9pm London time. I found out that my night flight to Moscow had been canceled, but that BOAC would pay for my overnight accommodations, and schedule me out on their morning flight.

I rode a small shuttle bus to the Richmond Hill Hotel in the southwest part of London. After getting settled in my room, I decided that although it was after 10pm here, I was still on New Jersey time, where it only a little after five, and that I should see some of London while I had the chance. So I hired a cab and asked the driver to show me the sights of London at night. He drove me along the Chelsea embankment on the north side of the Thames, where bright lights were set up for a movie being filmed, then down past the Parliament and Big Ben, where I walked across Westminster Bridge. After that he drove me to the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge, back across London Bridge, past St. Paul’s, Trafalgar Square, around Picadilly Circle and through the Soho district, then up the Mall to Buckingham Palace, on to Hyde Park, through South Kensington and back to my hotel around midnight. I felt I had gotten a good, first glimpse of London, and I resolved to come back with Mary Jean and spend more time there.

At 7:30am on Friday, Sept. 17,  the airport shuttle picked us up. We drove past many rows of cottages with tidy flower gardens in front, and when we arrived at Heathrow Airport, I met up with two other delegates, Prof. Eliahu Jury of UC Berkeley and Dr. Gary Chien of IBM in San Jose. Our British European Airways flight to Moscow left at 11:30am, over an hour late due to heavy airport traffic, for the 3 1/2 hour flight to Moscow. I had a window seat on the right side looking to the south, but clouds obscured the view of the ground until we were over Poland. As we crossed into Soviet territory, probably over Lithuania, two Soviet MIG fighter jets streaked across our path — I guess in order to get a visual verification that our plane was indeed the scheduled BEA flight to Moscow. I didn’t see any large cities on this flight, just villages and small lakes that became golden mirrors as the setting sun reflected off their surfaces.

Our plane landed at 5pm local time at the airport on the outskirts of Moscow. Russian soldiers with rifles came aboard the the plane, collected our passports and required us to sign a document listing the amount of money we brought into the USSR. I had $300 in travellers cheques and $224 in cash. We were then allowed to leave the plane and were put in a cold, bare, concrete room, waiting for our luggage and our passports. Among the passengers, I recognized the British actor, Albert Finney. I went to him and told him how much I was moved by his performance in “Luther”, that Mary Jean and I had seen in New York. He seemed pleased to talk about the difficulty of playing that role night after night, which included portraying Luther’s epileptic seizures. I asked him ‘How did you manage to go rigid and fall backward onto the stage floor?’ He said, “It took a lot of coaching and practice.”

After about an hour of waiting, we were given our luggage and passports. Prof. Jury had disappeared with some Russian friend, and Gary Chien and I were left waiting around for someone from Intourist to take us to our hotel. It was about 6:30 pm local time and already dark.

Finally, a small fellow who introduced himself as Michael Mishkin from Intourist found us and ushered us to a small van waiting outside. We rode along on one of the main radial avenues into the center of Moscow, and then out along another radial to the Hotel Tourist, where he left us, saying he would see us in the morning. Left by ourselves, we found that no one at this hotel spoke English, and that the pre-paid vouchers we had were not accepted there, nor were our dollars or travellers cheques. This was a hotel for Soviet tourists, not foreign visitors. After a lot of very frustrating attempts to communicate with the hotel matron, a man (who resembled the comedian, Louie Nye) introduced himself in halting English, asked if he could help, and after we explained our situation, got the matron to call the Intourist office. She told him we had to go to the Intourist service bureau at the Hotel Metropole to get proper vouchers to pay for lodging and meals. Our Russian Good Samaritan found us a cab, and back we went into the center of Moscow to the Metropole. We left the cabbie waiting for his fare, while we searched out the Intourist service bureau. There a woman who spoke good English took our vouchers, gave us some lodging and meal tickets for our hotel, but said we would have to come back in the morning to get new vouchers for our flight to Odessa, and to change some of our money to rubles at the exchange bank. When we told her we needed to pay for the taxi that brought us there and for the ride back to our hotel, she actually took pity on us and loaned us  each 4 rubles for the taxi fares, which we promised to repay in the morning.

She said that there would be no place to eat out near our hotel at that time of night, so we paid our cab driver, and had dinner in the Hotel Metropole restaurant. It was an elegant place, with white linen tablecloths and napkins and gleaming silverware on tables surrounding a dance floor, in the middle of which was a flowing fountain. A band was playing Glenn Miller-type music from the 40’s and many of the diners were dancing. Then the band swiched to a more lively beat, and the younger people there started doing the ‘Twist’. With our meal tickets, we were only able to get a meat and vegetable soup, some beer and bread. After our meal Gary and I walked up to Red Square, past the Kremlin walls and around the amazing St. Basil cathedral, illuminated by spotlights. In back of the cathedral a young man approached us, and in broken English, asked for chewing gum, and when we said we had none, pleaded with us to sell him any clothing we could spare. The whole experience so far had left us feeling abandoned in a strange and alien world.

It was difficult to get a taxi back to our hotel. When we showed the drivers its name and address, they would shake their heads and drive off, not wanting to go out to the edge of Moscow late at night, I guess. After many tries, we finally found a cabbie who agreed — perhaps he lived out that way. It was well after midnight when we got back to our Hotel Tourist, which after the elegant Metropole, looked like a run-down YMCA. Our new lodging vouchers were accepted, and we were led to a small room with a bunk-bed, a wardrobe, and a small table with a radio. The public washroom down the hall resembled those I had used in old Navy barracks. We were physically and emotionally exhausted, and fell asleep quickly, Gary in the top bunk, me in the bottom.

At about 5am, I was awakened by loud snoring coming from the bunk above. I managed to cover my ears and doze for a few more hours. When I got up and looked out the window, I saw an expanse of farm land with a few small houses and barns. We were at the edge of Moscow, and there was no transition to suburbs, just large buildings changing abruptly into farmland! When I got to the washroom, it was crowded with visitors busily getting ready for their day in the city, some speaking Russian, which I recognized by its sound, and some in other strange sounding languages. We got our passports back from the hotel Service Bureau. There were no cabs available outside the hotel, but fortunately, we saw our ‘Louie Nye’ man from the night before. He showed us a building nearby where he said we could get some breakfast, and showed us the stop for trolley #48 that would take us back to the Metropole hotel. When we got to the nearby restaurant, they would not seat us because we were not part of an organized tourist group with proper meal vouchers, so we left and caught trolley #48. The day was clear and crisp, and it was interesting to observe the other passengers, who probably caught this trolley to work every morning. They seemed to accept me as a normal trolley passenger, but directed hostile stares at Gary Chien, I guess because relations with China were very tense at that time. I noticed several locations along the route where long lines of people waited outside of building entrances. (It reminded me of my time on Navy bases, where the rule was “If you see a line, get in it. You’ll either get fed, see a movie, or, if you’re lucky, get a pass to go on leave.”) At one of these line-ups I saw people coming out carrying unpainted chairs — I presumed that was what all the people still in line were hoping to buy.

At the Metropole restaurant, Gary and I, not yet part of an organized tourist group, were fortunately allowed to order breakfast. We both felt so  isolated, and longed to have a competant and friendly Intourist guide taking care of us. The dining room was nearly deserted, but near us was a neatly dressed gentleman enjoying a breakfast of caviar, white bread, and a large glass of cognac. At least we seemed to be in a civilized place. After breakfast we found the exchange bank in the hotel, and I converted $22 dollars into 19.8 rubles (I learned later that on the black market, our $22 would get us 220 rubles!). Then we found the same Intourist service bureau woman and repaid her the 4 rubles she had loaned us. She said that Moscow was extremely crowded with thousands of visitors and exhibitors at a big Chemical Exhibition. This had apparently overtaxed the resources of Intourist. We asked her how we could get our travel vouchers converted to tickets for our flight to Odessa. She sent us to the main Intourist office in the National Hotel, across the square, past the Bolshoi Theater.

When we got there, we found a large group of foreign tourists waiting to be helped, most of them wearing the same tired, anxious look that must have been on Gary’s face and mine, since several of them greeted us and said, “And where are you trying to get to?”  We told them our plight, and they nodded sympathetically and showed us which line to get in. When we finally got to the window, we showed the woman our itinerary and our vouchers; and without comment she wrote our names in a book and gave us a slip with a number on it, and told us to take a seat and someone would call our number. We found a seat next to a young woman who smiled and said “I’m Shirley Deane, from the US. Where are you trying to get to?” We introduced ourselves and repeated our story. She wished us luck, and said she had been here two days now, trying to get a train to Poland before her Russian visa expired. After two hours of waiting, we got to see Michael Mishkin, the Intourist agent from the night before, who was supposed to be handling all the arrangements for our scientific exchange-visit delegation.  He said he would get us into a better hotel, and straighten out our travel arrangements to Odessa, and that we should check back with him in a few hours. We left him and went back to the Metropole where the woman corrected our hotel vouchers. Then we walked through Red Square and into the Kremlin, taking many pictures. There was a very long line of people waiting to file through Lenin’s Tomb by the Kremlin wall. We crossed the square to the huge GUM department store, which was very ornate, with long arcades on two levels, illuminated by domed, glass ceilings.

We got back to the Intourist office in the National Hotel several hours later, and again after a long wait talked to Mishkin, who said he was trying to get us on a train to Odessa, on Sunday, or possibly a plane on Monday. We urged plane over train, and went with Shirley Deane (whose travel problems were even worse than ours) for dinner in the National Hotel dining room, where she told us her amazing tale: she had hitch-hiked the entire length of Africa, from Capetown to Cairo, getting food and lodging in villages along the way by entertaining the people by singing and playing her accordion. From Cairo she went to London, where she bought a Land Rover and drove alone across Europe and Asia to India and then to Nepal, where she worked for 5 years in the Red Cross service for Tibetan refugees. She was clearly a very self-sufficient type! She then sold her Land Rover and travelled into the USSR by train, hoping to get back to the US via Warsaw and Rome. But in a week of trying to get a Polish visa to travel to Warsaw before her Russian visa expired, the USSR bureaucracy had ground this indomitable women down to a state of near helplessness. We advised her to go to the US Embassy and let them handle it.

After dinner we went back to the Intourist Headquarters, but no Mishkin there. I had a terrible time trying to call the service bureau at our Hotel Tourist to see if  Mishkin had left a message for us. Since no one spoke English there, this fruitless effort was leading us toward hysterics. Finally, Shirley took the phone and spoke German, and got through to a woman who said she would check and we should call her back in 15 minutes. Then I called the American Embassy and arranged to take Shirley there, and also to get advice on Gary’s and my troubles getting to Odessa.  I got a cab, and, speaking in my halting German, talked the driver to wait until Shirley got back from the Hotel Moskva with her bags. When she arrived, we asked her to make the call back to the service bureau at our Hotel Tourist. She came running out saying Mishkin was waiting at our hotel, and we had a plane to Odessa leaving in one hour!  With me shouting “Mach schnell!”  to the cabbie, we raced to our hotel. The cabbie spoke in German with Shirley, and told her that he had served five years in the Red Army in East Germany. We got to our hotel, met Mishkin, rushed in to pack our bags and check out, sent Shirley on to the American Embassy in the cab, and then left in a car with Mishkin. On the way we learned that we were going not to the airport, but to the Kiev station for the night train to Odessa, via Kiev. Our car drove into the station and right up on the platform beside our train. We rushed onto the train, were shown to our compartment by Mishkin who assured us that everything was prepared for us to have a pleasant 24-hour journey to Odessa. He left, and the train pulled out at 10:35 pm.

Gary and I were not alone in our compartment — with us was a stocky, middle-aged woman named Nadia, looking startled at the sudden occupation of her compartment by two male foreigners, one of whom looked Chinese, both of whom looked frazzled and exhausted, who were to be her sleeping companions for the night. I heaved a sigh of relief that our ordeal was apparently over, and we were on our way to Odessa. Then our door was opened by a husky woman in uniform, who said “Billeta pashalsta”. Nadia handed her ticket to the conductor, who then turned to Gary and me and repeated, “Billeta pashalsta”.Our assumption had been that Mishkin had already given her our tickets. I tried to convey this to her by saying “Americans”, “Intourist”, “Mishkin”, and “Billeta”, pointing to Gary and me, and then vaguely backward to the departed Mishkin. She did not understand my charade and sternly repeated her demand for tickets. Soon a crowd of interested passengers assembled outside our compartment, all voicing in Russian their interpretations of our predicament. Someone must have understood that we were hapless Americans, victims of an incompetant Intourist agent, and explained it to the conductor, who finally left us. Some minutes later, the train stopped at a small station. I saw the conductor get off and go into the station office. No one else got on or off the train. Gary and I were afraid she would appear with police and evict us from the train, but after what seemed like a long time, she got back aboard and the train continued on. A few minutes later, she appeared at our door with a tray with 3 cups of hot tea and some cookies. Then a man came in and lowered our sleeping berths, two on one side for Gary and me, and one on the other side for Nadia, who left with a small bag and soon reappeared dressed in nightgown and robe. We smiled and nodded to her and tried to convey that we were respectable and well-behaved fellow travelers. There was a curtain between the berths, which she drew for privacy.

Gary and I left her to get ourselves ready for bed in the lavatory at the end of our car. Remembering his snoring that woke me the night before, I tactfully suggested that if either of us should start snoring, the other would poke him, so as not to disturb Nadia. We returned to our compartment, and Nadia already seemed to be asleep. Gary climbed in the upper berth and I climbed in the lower. It was about midnight, and I felt a great relief that the long, long day and all its problems were finally over, and soon fell asleep. In the early morning hours I was again awakened by loud snoring. I poked Gary until he awoke and looked over his bunk at me. We both then realized that the snoring was continuing. All we could do was smile, pull our pillows around our ears, and try to get back to sleep.

When I again awoke, Nadia was up and gone. Gary and I got dressed and found our way to the dining car, where we saw Nadia already having her breakfast. She did not seem to welcome our presence, so we took a table by ourselves. The menu was in Russian, of course, and when we tried to ask the waiter for bacon and eggs in English, he left us, and some minutes later a young woman appeared from the kitchen, introduced herself in English as Olga, and told us that she was studying English, and would be happy to take care of us. She served us a very pleasant breakfast of hot oatmeal and then eggs and toast and coffee, and asked us where we were from in America, and why we were going to Odessa. When we told her it was a scientific conference to which the USSR had invited participants from the United States and Western Europe, she treated us like royalty. It was such a pleasure to be able to communicate with her, to enjoy the food, and to look out at at the Russian (by now maybe Ukrainian) landscape passing by. I felt myself relaxing for the first time since I arrived there, two long days ago.

There was a map of the train’s route in the corridor outside our compartment, and each time the train stopped or passed a station, I would spot the name, and locate it on the map. Our room-mate, Nadia, had enured herself to our presence, and began to show friendly gestures, like speaking the names of the towns, and pointing to them on the map. The vast steppes of the Ukraine were passing before us. Along the railroad right-of-way there were small orchards and vegetable gardens, and also a pathway that seemed to be the route people took to the nearest town. Beyond that were the large collective farms, with harvesters reaping the fields of wheat and other crops. Each time the train stopped at a small station, besides the omnipresent statues or posters of Lenin, there were many local people offering fruits and vegetables from their own private plots. The travellers got off the train and bargained for the produce — a little private enterprise midst the large collective farms.

Nadia bought some carrots, grapes, and apples, and in a gesture of friendship, offered some to Gary and me. I had picked up enough Russian to say ‘spaceba’ (thanks) and ‘ochen kharasho’ (very good), and she would nod and smile. I discovered she spoke a little German, so I learned that she was a teacher in Kiev, returning from visiting her family in Moscow. As the afternoon progressed, the scenery changed from rural farmland to industrial areas as we neared Kiev. After Kiev, Gary and I enjoyed a nice dinner in the diner car with our attentive Olga, who thanked us for giving her a chance to practice her English. We tried to tip her with the rubles we had left, but she emphatically refused.

It became dark as we travelled across the southern Ukraine, amd Gary and I busied ourselves packing our bags for our arrival in Odessa. It was about 10:30 when we arrived, just 24 hours after our hectic departure from Moscow. I had the name of our hotel on an itinerary Michael Miskin had given me, and I fervently hoped he had got it right this time. The cab driver took us to the hotel, and as soon as we got into the lobby, we spotted several members of our delegation, including Lotfi Zadeh, a professor at Berkeley, who had been my thesis advisor at Columbia. We were finally linked up with our group. We had made it to Odessa!

Before I went to bed, I walked outside the hotel to get the feel of this city — this much longed-for destination. The night air was warm, and there were palm trees along the street outside the hotel. I felt I was in a Mediterranean country, not in the USSR. All the people I passed seemed happy and were colorfully dressed, unlike the dour, drably dressed people I saw in Moscow. In bed that night, I drifted off to sleep hearing people singing to the accompaniment of an accordion.


2. Conference on the Black Sea

US Delegates:

Harold Chestnut, General Electric, and wife Irma Ruth

Gary Chien, IBM

Nathan Cohn, Leeds & Northrup

Charles Draper, MIT

Herbert Galernter, IBM

Eliahu (Eli) Jury, UC Berkeley

Joseph LaSalle, Brown Univ., and wife Eleanor

Sidney Lees, Dartmouth

John McCarthy, Stanford Univ.

William Miller, General Electric, and wife Freda

Fred Mobley, Johns Hopkins Univ., and wife Betty

Winston Nelson, Bell Labs

Lucien Neustadt, U. Southern Cal. and wife Helmi

James Reswick, Case Inst. of Tech.

Herbert Storm,  General Electric

Lotfi Zadeh,  UC Berkeley, and wife Faye


Russian Hosts:

Academician Vladimir A.Trapeznokoff, USSR Acad. of Science

Dr. Alexander Letov, Prof., Inst. of Automation & Telemechanics (IAT)

Dr. Eric Nappelbaum, IAT

Irina, Intourist agent


Monday, Sept. 20: I met the Chestnuts and Millers on my way down to breakfast, where our whole group soon arrived. Oleg Aven, Academician Trapeznokoff’s assistant, assured us that all will be properly taken care of from now on. At 10am we toured Odessa, saw our cruise ship in the harbor, the Potemkin steps, Opera House, University.  Gary Chien and I took pictures of each other standing in front of various statues, and on Potamkin steps, took pictures of girls and soldiers with harbor in background. Very beautiful and relaxed city. Had lunch at Hotel Odessa, then walked to Opera House (magnificent, in the class with those in La Scala and Vienna) for opening session of the conference. First many dignitaries gave greetings. Lady official from Odessa was very impressive, wearing a suit with many medals on the left side. Harold Chestnut spoke for IFAC (Int’l Federation of Automatic Control) and wished everyone well. Then the two opening talks were given: Trapeznikoff spoke on “Automatic Control and Economics” — automation and computer control has been uneconomical in many cases in the USSR. More consideration must be made of its economic effect. When payoff of one technique ceases to be good with increased information input, better to switch to a new approach. Then Prof. Tsipkin discussed the theory of self-adaptive systems in his talk, “Adaptation, Teaching, and Self-teaching Systems.”

After this (about 5pm) there was an hour of musical entertainment — vaudeville and comic opera type stuff. At 6pm we went back to hotels, packed our bags and got our passports. A bus picked us up and we went to our conference ship, the “Admiral Nakimov”. I shared a deluxe cabin with Prof. Eduardo Caianello from Italy. The cabin had two large portholes looking out the starboard side, twin beds, table and settee, small refrigerator and private bath. We had a late supper at assigned tables in the ship’s dining room, and seated at my table was Leonid Rozenoer

and his colleagues M. Aizerman and E. Braverman. Unfortunately, neither he nor his colleagues at our table spoke much English, yet I was able to convey to him, with help from Eli Jury, that his papers on Pontryagin’s maximum principle had been very useful to me in my doctoral thesis at Columbia. He and his colleagues seemed to understand, and nodded appreciatively. Back in our cabin, I talked until 1am with Eduardo about his recent visits to Red China and India.


Tuesday, Sept. 21: Up at 7am for breakfast. Beautiful weather, calm sea, warm sun. Attended some of the technical sessions. Russian scientist volunteers tried to translate to us the speaker’s words, but were not trained in simultaineous translation, so it was difficult to follow the talks. One of them, A. N. Petrovski, just sucked his finger. Ship is passing along the south coast of the Crimea — cliffs and mountains and some large villas. Arrived in Yalta about 4pm. At 5:00 we left by bus with pretty red-haired guide for a tour of greater Yalta area. Rode west along coast to Alupka and then back to Yalta. Stopped at the summer palace of Tsar Nicholas II where the Yalta Conference with Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin was held. All the old palaces and villas of imperial Russia are now either sanitoriums or vacation hotels for Russian workers. Also many new sanitoriums for tuberculosis patients have been built, according to our guide.

After we got back to shipside, the Chestnuts, Chien, Galernter, and I walked along the Yalta harbor prominade. It was very crowded with people strolling — very pleasant except for a few men with excess intake of vodka. I bought a bottle of a Yalta wine, ‘Masandra’, which is a sweet dessert wine. We got back on board at 9pm which was sailing time. Very gay time with people crowding the dock, waving; a man on board waving a bouquet he was given. Little band playing. After the ship got underway, we had a short party in our stateroom with my wine, some vodka, and many toasts; the group included Eric Nappelbaum, who spoke excellent English and served as interpreter for many of the meetings, two Intourist agents, Chien, Galernter, Caianello and me.


Wednesday, Sept. 22: In mid-morning, I attended a very crowded discussion session titled  “The Gap between Theory and Practice” on the aft pool deck, led by Prof. Letov & others. Eric was translating for the benefit of the English-speaking delegates. Some quotes from my notes:

Kogan: “Practice solves much more complex problems than theory can.”

Hoshhovitz(Prague): “There is not very good similarity between between mathematical models and real systems. Some religious remains have fostered the gap– since religious theories are far from practise but produce excellent results.”

[unknown]: “Engineers search for own optimum which differs from scientists. Engineers must be very risky to solve new problem, and payoff for risk is not good. We must give them a good prize.” (It was very sunny and hot on the open deck, and he spoke without a shirt — said ancient Greeks used to meet this way)

[A man from Far East Acad.of Science-Vladivostok]: “I do not think education is reason for the gap. Theoretical activities are not stimulated by practical use; we must make some economical stimulus to apply theory to practice”

The ship docked at Sochi about 5pm and we (the foreign delegates) went ashore for a tour of the area. Saw many more sanitoriums in yellow sandstone, neo-classic style; also fancy Parthenon-style Opera House. A boy wanted to buy clothes from me, which upset our Intourist guide when I mentioned it. It got quite dark while we rode in bus up narrow road to Mt. Akhun, 700 meters high, for view of Sochi harbor, Russian hosts sang songs, including “Moscow Nights” on the way. At the top we climbed a 30 meter tower in the dark and could see only a few stars above and some lights far below. Came back to gift shop on the shore about 8:30, where I bought an amber necklace for Mary Jean. Many natives were gaping in the shop windows at the sight of foreigners and their money. After supper an informal seminar on pattern recognition formed in our cabin . It was a very international group: Naguchi(Japan), Caianello(Italy), Braverman(Russia), myself(US), and Janos Barat(Hungary), who was our Russian-English translator. Very interesting exchange on mathematical-abstract vs. bio-physical points of view toward pattern recognition & artificial intelligence. It was about 1:30am when it finally broke up.


Thursday, Sept. 23: Woke up at 7am in time for breakfast. Then met Eric Nappelbaum who guided me to the ship’s laundry to leave some shirts and other washing. Paid 1.40 rubles and can get it tomorrow morning. Attended morning session on Application of Optimal Control to Resource Allocation, Prof. Lerner, Chairman. 1st paper by grad. Student was attempt to solve resource allocation…..Then Bill Miller described the G.E. computer automation of steel rolling mills. Russians very interested — he was describing real things and could give facts and numbers.

Ship docked in Batumi; nice and warm here in southern part of Soviet Union (about 10 miles from Turkey). We had lunch and then disembarked in small boats with Russian hosts for trip to Green Cape and Botanical Gardens. Cape beautiful point of rock cliffs with rock & black sand beach below(walked along beach with young Russian scientist, Vadim Utkin, who spoke English English, rather than American English — told me he learned it from clandestine listenings to BBC radio). We went swimming — water easy to go into and most refreshing. Then Eric Nappelbaum, Michael Bermont, myself, and others walked through the Botanical Gardens, which were alright, up to a lookout point where we could see the coastline to the north, grapevine-covered trees, and a tea plantation. After boat ride back to Batumi, a group of us — Prof. Aizerman, Eric, Michael, Tzipkin, Janos Barat, Jury, Fred & Betty Mobley, Carmer (Turkish mustache), Naguchi and I –went to Intourist Hotel and had a nice meal (except the shash-lik was bad) with excellent red dinner wine, delicious Georgian pan bread, cheese, and a demitasse of Turkish coffee. Prof. Tzipkin said he knew of my pulse-width control work, and was interested in my present work (which I had to be somewhat vague about). Then we walked along sea-side promenade. Eric and I talked of writing and music we liked. He likes Salinger, Bellow; in music, he loves Glenn Gould playing Bach; he heard him in Moscow on 1st night, before he was known. The next two concerts were completely sold out. Eric’s mother-in-law was Richter’s secretary. Eric: “Richter very hard to get along with, but fairy[sic] good pianist. His wife, a professional singer, is lesbian ; they get along well that way. He was trained in Odessa and Moscow, but lives in Leningrad.”  Eric also said that while we were in Moscow he could show me place to get fur hats and $1 Richter records. Back on ship, had supper, described Bell Labs computers to Naguchi, and strolled around the ship. Dance on one of the aft decks again tonight. Ship pulled out of Batumi about 11:30pm. I visited around ship with various colleagues, came back and washed out shirt and socks, took bath and then the impromptu bull-sessions continued in our stateroom, so I didn’t get to bed until about 1am.


Friday, Sept. 24: Seemed to be able to wake up right at 7am. Breakfast was cold cuts, cole slaw, something like buttermilk in a glass, some heavy fried cakes and tea. Rozonoer and his colleagues presented me with box containing a small wooden dish, carved with a bird’s head at one side, and a tail at the other, painted in red with gold and black trim. I thanked them as best I could –”ochen charosho, spaceba, spaceba”. Then Eric kindly went with me to reclaim my laundry — my shirts were nicely pressed, and the woman there had somehow kept track of all my socks and underclothes. Attended morning session on analysis of nonlinear variable systems. Then to multi-loop systems session, where a paper given by older engineer, I.I. Galperin, proposed a new mechanics for automatic control — he was not treated kindly. During noon hours the fantail is a popular place for sunning, swimming in the small pool, and impromptu technical discussions by small groups. One such group was around Neustadt and LaSalle. Afternoon session on nonlinear systems was a fiasco due to sound system failure & interference noise. Too bad, since papers by Vadim Utkin and Michael Bermont deserved a good hearing. Michael will describe it later tonight. Wrote cards to sisters Donna and Elaine. Ship docked at 5pm in Sochi. Janos Barak, Michael Bermont, Victor Varshavsky, the Mobleys, and I walked around the town. Intourist guide, Irena, joined us. Walked back along the sea wall. There were still some people swimming in the Black Sea, which after dark is truly black. Listened to Irena tell of trips as guide and of her family in Odessa. After supper (fish & potatoes) we had a “press conference” (more like an im-press conference) which was very long, with each foreign and Soviet bloc group making remarks.The conference started 9:30 and ended at midnight. After the conference, Eduardo and I visited with Michael and Victor in our room until about 1:30am, telling stories and some Russian, Italian and American jokes. Sample Russian joke: “What is the difference between capitalism and communism? Answer: With capitalism you have man exploiting man; with communism it is the other way around.”  Before bed I walked on the open deck looking at the bright, starry sky above and the dark sea below, and nodded a few other late strollers.


Saturday, Sept. 25: This morning I slept through breakfast. Sat in on Applications of Optimal and Self-Adaptive Systems session.– poor translation. — topics on power plant control. Left the session, had coffee with Eli Jury. Later heard some of special session “Learning Systems”. Talked with Prof. Letov, who asked me to present a talk on my work. We agreed on 3:30pm. Had lunch; then after lunch there was a picture-taking session of the American group. Then I heard Fred Mobley’s talk on passive attitude-control systems. Visited Fred & Betty’s cabin afterward for some brandy with Michael & Victor. Then Prof. Letov brought a group to hear my talk on the trade-off advantages of near-optimal control — including Eric as my translator, and Troitsky and a woman mathematician named Kirillova (who looks like my sister Donna, except blond) and several others. Talk went well; they admitted that no such research had been done in the USSR. Eric was the most interested of all because of its relation to his work on the performance of stochastic systems; we talked for several hours afterward. Then took in our last supper, which was good — caviar, beer, good meal. Great spirit at our table. Jury told me the closing party would be in my cabin, because his cabin-mate was Prof. Draper, who was in his late 70s, and went to bed early. I talked with Prof. Boris Kogan about my satellite attitude control work and his predictive control solution to 3-axis attitude control. Academician Trapeznikoff had his own party, which took some of our guests. Jonas and I talked long time after Eli and Herb Galernter left. He was in Moscow at time of Hungarian revolt, engaged to Russian girl, whom he later married. He got back to Budapest after Red Army took over. Had hard decision, but stayed. Later I went out and met Gamkrelidze and Irina. The farewell dance was still going on the stern deck; Trapeznikoff still dancing. I had two dances with Irina, then went with the Neustadts, Gamkrelidze and Irina to their cabin for brandy. Mrs. Neustadt (from Estonia) has pet alligator 5 feet long at home, which she raised from a baby and now sleeps with. (Where does Mr. Neustadt sleep??)  Gamkrelidze talked about Georgian customs and language. Didn’t get to bed until 3:30am. Went out on deck and saw Orion and Taurus overhead. Spirit at the conference was marvelous; the intellectual interchange was both stimulating and exhausting.


3. Tour of Technical Institutes and Plants


Sunday, Sept. 26: Slept till 8am, no breakfast. Ship docked in Odessa at 10am. We disembarked and were taken by bus to Hotel Odessa. The Intourist office was swamped. We paid for tickets to Kiev, and our hosts postponed the rest of trip details until Monday in Kiev. Had a good lunch in hotel. I felt so tired from accumulated lack of sleep. Said farewells to Michael Bermont and my cabin-mate Eduardo Caianello and others who were not part of the post-conference tour. Then managed a walk with the Millers, Mobleys, and Jonas Barak up the main street of Odessa to an old monastery (now an observatory) and then back on Pushkin Street (about 2 miles total). Many people out strolling and shopping on Sunday.

3.00pm: Rode to airport, and after 1 hour wait, got on plane (Tupelev-2 jet). Short flight to Kiev (50 min) Our taxi driver was a wild driver – 100 K/hr, passing everything. Many billboards and banners with slogans and idealistic worker pictures along the way to Hotel Dniepr, Kiev finest. Had a nice supper: chicken soup and chicken Kiev — a fried, breaded chicken breast stuffed with butter in the center, which squirted out when I cut into it. My room was modern – on seventh of twelve floors. At 11pm, I heard group in the street singing and shouting.


Monday, Sept. 27: Woke at 7am. Lovely view of a park down to Dniepr river from my picture windows. In the park was a large ampitheater, a Ferris wheel, and many trees. Across the river, a large industrial area. On the street below the hotel, people going to work were lined up at the bus stop. I joined our delegation for breakfast, and then at 10am we were taken by bus to the Kiev Institute of Automation. We were ushered into a large, high-ceilinged room with a long table. At each place at the table were a note pad and pencils, and a glass; along the center of the table were several vases of flowers, bottles of fruit-flavored soda water, and pitchers of water. The director of the Institute, B. B. Timofiev, was seated at the head of the table, a large portrait of Lenin on the wall behind him. He gave a welcoming speech and introduced the staff engineers present. Bill Miller made a short speech thanking them for having us. Then the staff engineers talked about their work on multi-level control of industrial processes and the computers they use: “Dniepr” for process control, “Rezden 3” for general research. Eric Nappelbaum was kept very busy translating Russian to English and English to Russian.

Then we visited Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Same ‘boardroom’ setup with introductions and welcomes by Academician Glushkoff and Prof. Ivanenko, and talks on various aspects of computer control. They develop basic computer software and hardware. Thery use analog computer for transport problems in linear programming. Also do PERT-type programming for industrial production scheduling, sometimes working closely with industry. Develop I/O devices such as print readers. Their practical work is preceded by theoretical work — optimization theory, hybrid system design. They developed the “Dniepr” computer for process control; it is also used in research with analog computer, MU-2. Research in economic and management control; bionics work is in medical diagnosis by computer. The mathematics and biological sections collaborate on problems in artificial intelligence. They simulate on computer the learning process for learning the meaning of a sentence. Can prove by finite automata theory that it is possible to translate from one language to another; have program for translation from Ukrainian to Russian. They are mostly interested in small-scale computers for process control. When Chien asked if he could visit plant where Dniepr computer in made, Acad. Glushkoff said it was not possible, since Russians visiting U.S. for IFIP meeting last year had not been allowed to visit an IBM plant. The session ended about 5:30. I spoke to Ivanenko about seeing him tomorrow at the Institute.

Had a hurried supper and walked from our hotel to the Kiev Palace of Culture for a concert of Ukrainian folk-singing and dance. The leader, Maria Ospenskaya, wore a man’s black suit adorned with many medals. It was a marvelous concert, so lively and colorful and beautiful. Afterward went to the top of Hotel Moskva for a panoramic view of the city, which has been rebuilt from the almost complete destruction in WW II. Then joined the Lees and Cohns and Galernter in Hotel Dniepr restaurant for a snack. Later had drinks(Scotch) in the bar with Eric and the Millers.


Tuesday, Sept. 28: Got up and packed. Breakfast 8 to 9.Took a short ride with Harold Chestnut and Chien in taxi to the old gate of Kiev and to St. Sofia church (they had no time to look and see, only time to shoot pictures).  Got back just in time for cars to take us to the Institute of Cybernetics. Academician Glushkov came to greet us. Institute is on the edge of town — again a fast, scary taxi ride. Talked with Ivanenko and his group and also with Bionics group. They invited us to submit papers to the journal “Automatika”.  We left about 1pm, and then spent 1:20 till 3pm waiting to get lunch. When it finally came it was chicken Kiev again. Wrote cards to Ira Jacobs, my Dept. Head at Bell Labs, Virginia Hansen in Cornish, Utah, and home. Rode to airport in bus, talked with Eric. The plane, a Tupelov jet, took off for Tbilisi at 5pm. Group of Georgians near us had brought cheese and fruit aboard. Hostess served a snack of an apple, tea, cheese, roll and a raisin cupcake. Eric taught Chestnuts and Chien to play Ga-rook (fools), a very popular card game in Russia. He told me of playing bridge with close friends since very young and being tennis champ in the youth league in Moscow, got married when he was 26, his wife 18. They still live with parents in Moscow apt., but are on three waiting lists for an apartment. He is now 29 and is finishing his candidate dissertation at the Institute.of Automatics & Telemechanics (IAT) in Moscow. He also translates literary works (most recently Salinger’s ‘Catcher in the Rye’) and wrote a book on architecture. His father was an architect of the Corbusier, van der Mies school, but gave it up and became a set designer for movies.

We arrived in Tbilisi after dark. Chichinadze met us; it rained as we rode into the city. We checked into the Hotel Tbilisi, and then had a late supper of shashli (skewered lamb and onions), bread and wine.  Then the Millers, Irina, Nat Cohn, Eric and myself walked the streets of the old town — very narrow with balconies above. Some men dancing in an upstairs room. The smell of fresh baked  bread coming from a basement window. Walked through a lovely park with a lighted statue above on the hill. Found our way back to our hotel at 1am Tbilisi time.


Wednesday, Sept. 29: Up at 7:30 local time (6:30 Moscow time). For breakfast had hashi-puri — egg and cheese buns. First visit was at Georgian Institute of Electronics, Radio Eng’g and Automatic Control, starting with the usual general conference. The director, Dr. Eliashvili, a short, dark man with a mustache, was a most charming host. He explained the work of the Institute and then we toured the various departments. The labs seemed ancient, even though the building is quite new, yet had cold, dark halls, drab rooms, but spirited, active people. Pattern recognition demo was most interesting: spoken Russian numbers were identified and displayed. There was also a small robot on the floor that moved around according to spoken commands. After tour we returned to the director’s office, which had a long table decked out with fruit bowls, more hashi-puri, excellent Georgian cognac, and pear-flavored mineral water. Dr. Eliashvili proposed many toasts, including one to all American and Soviet women and to all other woman of the world, who are also beautiful — all represented by his secretary who was present. This was our lunch, after which we travelled to TNIISA, an Institute for instrumentation and automation, where we had introductions, a short tour, and then sat down to a conference table for toasts and eating of delicious grapes, pears, peaches and apples. Again there were many toasts with Georgian cognac, between them and us, them and the IAT representatives, Dr. Letov and Eric Nappelbaum, many toasts to the fine conference on the ship, to our visit to Tbilisi, and to future meetings. They discussed the possibility of an International Conference at a ski resort in the Caucasus with more wives along. We finally left at 5:30 and returned to our hotel. Weather cloudy and drizzly all day, but the warmth of the Georgian hospitality has made it seem sunny here. On return to our hotel, I relaxed awhile and wrote cards to Anne and Mark. At 8:30 we met in the lobby with Eliashvili and Chichinadze for dinner. We had caviar, fried sturgeon, fried cheese, a baked bean dish, and shashli, a light wine and many toasts. I sat with Dr. Yasuo Nazaka, who works in automation of Japanese steel plants. After banquet we walked a bit, then I got to bed about 12:30 am.

Eliashvili has a brusque manner, but also has a real twinkle in his eye and a sharp wit — a Damon Runyan type character.



Thursday, Sept. 30: Wrote a quick letter to Mary Jean for Irma Ruth Chestnut to mail when she arrives tomorrow in NY (She may also call). Bus took us alongside the Kur river to Rustavi Steel plant, about 15 miles SE of Tbilisi. Our host at the plant was the Chief Engineer, who resembled the bear character in Pogo comic strip. Plant was built in 1945; its main product is steel tubes. He told us about about the town and the mill; Rustavi has a population of about 100,000, and has 18 colleges (!!–perhaps a problem in translation?). The mill runs 4 shifts, 7 hours per shift (with some overlap, obviously). Workers get one month paid vacation per year, and free college courses if they wish. There was quite a contrast between his glowing account and the look of the place — filthy cafeteria and locker rooms, dirty workers in dirty clothes. He then took us on a tour.We stopped at a blast furnace that was being tapped. A white-hot river of molten steel was pouring down into great vats with a shower of molten spray. We walked right up by a river of slag flowing from the tapping operation. Man with asbestos hat was pushing the slag along with a hoe-like tool. Heat was tremendous; the eerie glow in the vast darkness of the mill made it look like Hades. I was amazed they let us be so close to the action, and possible hazard. We then went to a rolling mill where hot ingots were lifted out of heating tanks. Then they were rolled into round bars and cut. At the tube-forming mill we saw the cold bars loaded into merry-go-round type re-heating furnace and taken out of other side red hot and shot down to the piercing press which pushed the hot bars over a guide rod, making the tubes, which were then rolled, stretched, and finished in successive milling machines. Finally the tubes were sent for cutting and storage.

Long ride back to, and then through Tbilisi — along river, cliffs, church on cliffs, an old castle.  After the messy, amazing inferno of the mill, our hosts announced we were going to a champagne factory located north of Tbilisi! The front of the champagne factory had a very elaborate design. Its director was a thin man with small mustache — another Runyan character. He led us through the bottling area and vast store-rooms with several million bottles on shelves being periodically turned to help the fermenting process. Then to a tasting room where we sampled the various kinds, from the cheaper fast-fermentation types to the premium slow-aged types. Since we had had no lunch, we were all a little fuzzy and giddy as we rode back to Tbilisi. Had dinner about 3pm (chicken tabac, not so good), then walked a bit with Eric — weather still drizzly, streets jammed. At 6pm we left hotel. Chichinadze came along with his wife, and presented us with a picture book of Tbilisi. They accompanied us to the airport for our flight to Baku on a 4-engine turbo-prop (IL-18). Were met at 10pm by a large delegation, and the women in our group were presented with bouquets. Hotel Intourist in Baku very nice. My suite had a sitting room, bedroom, bath, and a balcony looking out toward the Caspian Sea. Late supper at 11:30pm.


Friday, Oct. 1: Woke at 7:50. Beautiful clear day. Walked out to the harbor of Baku. Large park where there were children practising tennis. After breakfast we travelled by bus a short distance the Azerbaijan Academy of Sciences. We walked first around a few streets seeing some monuments. Then went into the Academy and were ushered into a very ornate room with a long table on which were several bowls of fresh fruit. During the Academy Vice-president’s very long speech (with Eric translating), I watched a small spider crawling on the grapes. We then had some fruit and fruit flavored soda water (very good, naturally sweet — why don’t we have this in the US?). The entrance hall of the Academy very ornate, big marble pillars, curved stairways to a landing with a huge relief map of Azerbaijan on the landing wall. We posed with our hosts on the front steps for a group picture. Then went by bus to high part of the city — had great view of Baku’s crescent harbor. Some very old clay apartment houses next to large newer apartment units. Every city I’ve seen so far has only apartments, even on the outskirts — I haven’t seen one private home, except for small farm houses in the countryside.

We visited the Inst. of Petro-chemical Processes, and sat in Director Nagiyev’s office for the usual greetings and intro. Nagiev wasn’t feeling too well at the start, but seemed to get better as he talked of their work on the automation of chemical processes. Then we were taken on a quick tour of the chemical labs — made lab girls nervous, one of them dropped a big flask. New buildings look old inside, like those in earlier cities, but in Baku there’s less overt Soviet symbols: no Lenin or Stalin statues, signs are in Azerbaijanian, not Russian.

We skipped lunch and went north along the Caspean to the city of Sumgait, which is only 15 years old, but has a population of 100,000 in planned units (micro-cities). Big steel-tube mills for oil wells and pipelines, also many other industries. Went into Sumgait city hall to a reception by the mayor, a young, handsome man who is a university graduate. He had a model of the city on wall, and told us about its growth and planning. He explained 3 meanings of name ‘Sumgait’: one which means “water come back”, for a river that once flowed, but disappeared, another that a boy “Sum” died, leaving his girl crying “Sum gait” — the third meaning I don’t remember. The mayor asked for questions. I asked about small blocks on the city map. He said they were cottages that workers can apply for — 40% paid by the state, the rest by the workers over 10 years. Prof. Letov told me he was glad I asked this. The idea of building private homes is very new, and hard to get into state planning. Apparently now there will be more such units built.

The mayor made a beautiful toast about friendship: “A host asked his guests: ‘what is happiness?’ One said it was money, but the host said that many men were rich but not happy. Another said it was power, but the host said that powerful men were often not happy. A third said it was having a beautiful wife, but the host said a beautiful wife can sometimes be a tragedy for a man. Finally the host said ‘Happiness is like the sun. You can feel its warmth, but you must not try to capture it. The only time you were sure to have it with you is when you sit with loved ones and good friends drinking a toast to happiness’.” Nat Cohn responded that we were not yet accustomed to so many receptions with drinking toasts, and after this one we may give a 4th meaning to “Sumgait”. Mayor responded that he was sorry, but for a while we would have to have champagne. Cohn then told of a picture in our hotel of Lenin and Gorky in a boat with fishermen, happy in the warmth of friendship, but in the back of the boat was a man with a bottle who was also very happy. The mayor did not like this and told Cohn that they were muslims and did not drink, that happiness was not in the bottle, and that they provided us champagne only to toast us. He said that in this country, every home has one room, the best room, which they do not live in; it is kept only for guests, and they drink only tea, and it was only as a special courtesy to us that he provided champagne for us. He also said he was a man of some influence, and he would see to it that from now on there would be only tea — at least for Mr. Cohn. We applauded him, and Nat looked properly subdued.

We left the mayor’s office at 4:15, way behind schedule. The town hall was fairly new, but already under repair — typical of poor construction we saw. We went to the Institute of Oil Technology Automation. It was after hours there, so we went very quickly through labs with the director. Saw briefly their Rasdun computer, which is used in their oil technology research. Then we went to a restaurant for dinner as guests of the Inst. director, Dr. Abdulaev. We started with excellent fresh Caspian caviar and buttered bread. The men at my table ordered more for me — it is common custom here for guests. Then some fried sturgeon and some roasted lamb and some meat rolls. Many, many toasts all around with excellant cognac brandy. I toasted 3 times, once to their coming to the U.S., since I could see their land, their work, their people, and their great hospitality, but they could only see me, so they should come to see our land, our work, our people, and our hospitality. Second toast was to propose that the next American Automatic Control Conf. be held here by the Caspian Sea. Third toast was in effect an apology to Dir. Abdulaev that we had not had time for more technical visits and talks, but that I felt this personal contact and feeling of friendship that we had was the most valuable thing we have had in our visit. Eric translated my toasts very warmly, and the men at our table gave me a private toast to my health. At 8:30 we left with many regrets at our leaving so soon. Long, bumpy bus ride back. We stopped somewhere in Baku to see a movie about the city, their culture, and the harvesting of the huge Caspian sturgeon, and the prized caviar, during which I dozed off. We got back to the hotel about 11:15 pm. Afterward, Eric & I walked down by the seashore — lovely park called “Little Venice” with willows & canals & bridges. Saw a dance in the Exhibition Hall, then some community singing. Strolled along the promenade; there were fires by the seaside, but we couldn’t figure out why. Back at hotel, Eric came to my room to make a call to his wife in Moscow. He didn’t get the call through until about 1:30; I had gone to sleep, after a long, long, but interesting, day.


Saturday, Oct 2: Up at7:30am, breakfast, then on bus to ship, “Volgagrad”, at 9:15. Ship left Baku at 9:30, and arrived at Neftyaniye Kamny (“Oil Rocks”) at 1:30pm. Stayed only 1/2 hour riding around on a small bus traversing some of the narrow, rickety causeways connecting the oil pumping platforms. Amazing complex with 160 Km of causeways in the middle of the Caspian Sea. The main platform where the ships dock at this complex has stores, and dormitories for the workers, who spend one week working on the oil platforms, and one week at home around Baku. We had lunch on ship on the way back. Got back around 6:30, walked along seaside prominade about 1 mile to hotel. Many strollers — swan statues in a pool in “Little Venice”, kabob cafes with tables out under the trees. A Swiss man, Federico Luchsinger gave me the name of a special oil that might help Mary Jean’s arthritis pain in her hands. (It turns out that he is not Swiss, but Spanish. He posed as Swiss to get visa into Russia.) Eric and I walked to drug store and got some of the oil(4 kopeks). Drugs very cheap. Had late supper, and then to bed.


Sunday, Oct. 3: Woke early (6am) feeling very lonely. Wrote letter to MJ and watched sun rise over Caspian Sea, then walked out in the streets of Baku for a while. Streets quite on this Sunday morning, except for the street sweepers with their dry-weed brooms. I wanted to take funicular to top of the hill behind hotel, but not enough time. After breakfast, we were taken to an oil refinery. Big, yelow, smoky flames from two gas vents. Usual intro in Chief Engineer’s office, then the tour. Even around the dull buildings there were gardens: tall cosmos flowers, and olive trees. The building housing their computer facility was new yet looked old. Outside it there was a three-story octagonal bird house made of sheet metal, with 24 little apartments, in an olive grove. We went next to the control room for the catalyst cracking towers — a long wall full of signal lights & recording meters. More cosmos blooming outside window — a contrast of shabby buildings and beautiful gardens. Back to an office where a large group of engineers asked us many questions about oil industry automation in the U.S — mostly directed at Gary Chien of IBM. Left about 1pm. Were driven to Historical Museum and had a quick tour through the history of Azerbaijan — early graves with remains in them, models of ancient walled town of Baku. Later, we saw displays glorifying deeds of the Soviet revolution, and the defeat of the British forces who tried to occupy the region because of its oil wealth.

Then most of our group went on yet another sightseeing bus tour, but Eric, Sid Lees and myself decided to just walk around. One of the Azerbaiji hosts went with us as a guide (or monitor?). We walked through shopping streets — very pretty streets –many trees., many milling people — Sunday is a shopping day. Then he took us into the old city, into narrow streets like the casbah of Algiers or old Jeruselem. — balconies with fancy shutters almost touching each other overhead. Came to ‘Virgin tower’ which is near the waterfront and was part of the old fort. Group of boys practising soccer, as American boys would toss basketball. Then we walked up narrow street with grape arbors covering street and inner courts. Came to cellar place which he took us in, a small cafe which has its own special kabob — definitely not a tourist restaurant. We sat in back room with arched stone roof, a part of ancient cellar rooms that people used for coolness. We had bread, greens (like watercress), a delicious sausage kabob, and wine. We then walked through even narrower streets, and came upon the scene of a movie shoot, with the street blocked off — three old men waiting for action to start. Two black-veiled women walked by as part of scene, then woman not belonging to scene, but just minding her own business, passed a guard into the scene. The director screamed and she fled back up the street. We walked on, following two small boys who our Baku host had paid to lead us out of the labyrinth of winding, narrow streets. As we were walking out by the ancient wall, we came upon a Muslem funeral prosession — men carrying a black draped open box in which the body lay, since they believe the body should not be enclosed in a coffin. A few veiled women followed at rear. Then we climbed up a hill to where an old mosque and the palace of the Shah still stood. Here we came upon a Muslim wedding!­The relatives wereloading  all their furniture into a truck — things saved for the bride and groom ever since they were born — very important day even for thr poorest families. There were many taxis filled with relatives lining the narrow streets. We could not wait to see the bride and groom, since we had to be back at the Academy of Science by 4pm.

We got there just in time…. it is amazing to step out of the past into the present like that! We met in a crowded room. Bill Miller gave his talk with slides showing steel strip-mill automation in the US. Then some questions­to him and Nat Cohn about power station automation, and to me about my philosophy about practical use of optimal control theory. Everyone seemed to like my statements, especially Miller and Cohn. We again posed on steps of the Academy for pictures. Then rode in a little bus, going briefly into the old city at Nat Cohn’s request, through a Young Pioneer park, and then along the sea boulevard to our hotel. We all rested a bitand packed our bags. I got dressed in my grey suit for the first time, and we went to the banquet room. The president of the Academy presided, with Miller, Cohn, Letov, Eric, and me at the head table. There were toasts to friendship, peace, and progress. I gave one to peace, saying we must spread to others the friendship we have started here between our two countries. Then I gave another toast to our two ‘shepherds’, Prof. Letov and Eric Nappelbaum, and our Intourist agent, Irina. Many other toasts were given. We had delicious caviar and smoked fish. Dinner ended about 10pm. I got right to bed for early rising. –Some day!


Monday, Oct. 4: Hotel phone rang at 5:15am, and a man came for my bag at 5:30, and we were off to airport at 6am. We drove passed many oil derricks on flat land like Texas. At airport at 6:30. Found out that Moscow airport was closed due to bad weather. We waited until 10am Moscow time, then finally took off in another turbo-prop IL-18 (looks like a Lockheed Electra, except it has a single, instead of a triple rudder tail). Much noise and vibration. Didn’t sleep much. Arrived in Moscow about 1:45pm. Eric’s wife, Natasha, met him. We rode in cab to Metropole Hotel, passing ancient village right next to big apartment units on outskirt of Moscow. On top of one of the drab, prefab buildings was a big sign proclaiming “Glory to the Communist Party of the USSR!”.  We had a beautiful view of the Kremlin across the Moscow river, with the afternoon sun lighting all the gold domes. A Ford Galaxy parked in front of the Metropole attracted much attention. I walked with Chien to SAS office at the National Hotel to get our flights out arranged. Mr. Nagornoff, the manager, was a shock to me after all these weeks dealing with Intourist — he immediately understood everything I wanted to arrange and said he would, and actually did, take care of it promptly. I left Chien to sight-see by myself around the Kremlin. Walked back to the Metropole through heavy crowds. I bought a sweet bun at a kiosk for 19 kopeks, and got back to the hotel at 3:20pm. Had tea in ‘Kafe’ in hotel. Nat Cohn came in after returning from US Embassy with mimeograph sheets giving some news from the US. Our group left for the airport (same one we arrived at from London, except we were on the domestic side this time). We had a quick dinner, then took off for Minsk in a 4-engine turboprop high-wing AN-10 (Antonov-10). Very spacious inside — must also be used as a military cargo plane. Arrived in Minsk airport about 7:30pm, and were driven in a bus to the Hotel Minsk. I got a room on the top floor (No. 691), that looks out on a broad square with a formal park in the center. We had dinner at the hotel with a dance band accompaniment until about 10pm. Band played a ‘My Fair Lady’ medley. We had been up for 18 hours and were plenty ready for bed.


Tuesday, Oct. 5: Went to Minsk computer factory; saw downtown Minsk on the way, typical of post-war rebuilt city — wide streets, many parks, mixed-up, drab architecture, the few remaining pre-war buildings much nicer. Computer factory — cold buildings, many workers, mostly girls, going out to lunch as we arrived. Dark grey halls. Assembly-line room had aisle lined with potted plants! Saw Minsk-22 computer in operation (primitive). At lunch, Prof. Letov had an elaborate creamed filet of sturgeon. The plate slipped off edge of table, covering him with the contents. He ran to the kitchen to clean his clothes. Then told us how he once managed to sit in a bowl of borscht:As he started to sit down, soup bowl slid on tablecloth down to his chair without spilling a drop, so he sat down on the full bowl — fortunately borscht is a cold soup!

In the afternoon, I walked a bit with Eric. Bought two Russian abaci, still used instead of cash registers in many stores, then went back to hotel. About 6:30pm got packed and left for airport to get the 7:20 plane to Leningrad. It was delayed until 9pm, since since Leningrad airport is fogged in — it had been all day (there was a brief episode with the Intourist people where we tried to talk them into getting us a plane to Moscow, then a night train to Leningrad, but they had no concept of such improvisations). We had supper at the airport, then learned that there would be no flight until 7am tomorrow. We wearily sang the Wiffenpoof song (“We are poor little sheep who have gone astray…) to Eric and Irina. After long wait for bus, we went back to Hotel Minsk to our same rooms. Met New York Jewish pair in the elevator, who were in Minsk to visit relatives — thick Bronx/Yiddish accents. Went to bed about 11pm, stomach slightly upset.


Wednesday, Oct. 6: Woke up at 5:30, got shaved, repacked, and dressed and then found out that plane would not leave until 9:00. Jury was up too, and we couldn’t go back to sleep, so we walked up the main street of Minsk (Lenin Ave.) looking for a place to eat — without luck. Early morning buses and sweeping women. My stomach still upset — pains and diarrhea. Got back in bed at 7:00 and rested untill 8:00. Went down to breakfast and then got word our plane was leaving about 10am. We all got back in the bus, singing the Wiffenpoof song again. Bus took us right out to the plane (AN-10 again). Had a good window seat. Left Minsk at 10:40am and arrived in Leningrad around noon. Approaching Leningrad, I saw a surface-to-air missile site — long , white missiles with fins fore and aft, sort of like our Nike-Hercules, arranged in a circular pattern in a clearing in the woods. Also saw a suburb with a few private homes! Leningrad airport very crowded because of being closed for more than a day. Weather cold — still have stomach cramps and a bit of a fever. Checked into Hotel Astoria, which is right across fron St. Isaac’s cathedral. — large gold dome. Large square around it with and equestrian statue, big government building on the other side. Below the building was a large pile of trash, on top of which was a  discarded portrait of Krushchev, who was recently replaced by Brezhnev and Kosygin — it appears that only portraits of Lenin have perminent status.

I felt feverish and ill during lunch and decided not to go on the group visit to the Institute of Metrology. I went up to my room, washed out a shirt and slept a bit until about 6pm. Felt somewhat better and had dinner with our group in the elegant dining room of the hotel. There was a wedding group near our table. Bill Miller created a sensation by taking pictures of the bride and groom with his Poleroid camera, giving the instant pictures to them. During the wedding party we heard many cries of “gorka”, which Eric explained meant “bitter”, so the bride and groon had to kiss to sweeten the wine. After dinner I walked with Eric, the Millers, Eli Jury, and Letov to the great square of the Winter Palace (now the Hermitage Museum). It was cold and raining so we hurried back.


Thursday, Oct. 7: Woke up with sore throat and start of a cold. At breakfast we resolved to get Irena to change our plane tickets tomorrow to train tickets tonight, so we would be sure to get to Moscow early on Friday. She refused, saying there had been too many changes of plans. Prof. Letov and Eric talked with her. We visited a steel-rolling mill on an island section of Leningrad formed by the Neva river. Saw wire being formed from heated slabs — followed the hot wire all the way to coilers (rather dangerous to workers). Coiled wire hung on conveyers, which zig-zagged outdoors for cooling. Much wire sitting outside rusting. Saw Sendzimer-type strip-rolling mill under automatic control. Miller said it was conventional — used elsewhere since 1960.

After lunch (at which we learned we were going to Moscow by the overnight train!!) we (Eli, Gary, and I) took a car and guide to sightsee instead of visiting the ‘Vibrator’ precision instrument plant. Our very nice woman guide showed us the Hermitage (which is closed on Thursdays!), the sights along the river Neva, with the many government and education buildings. We ended up at the Russian Museum of Art and saw a special exhibit of the Russian painter, Serov, who was almost an impressionist (died about 1920). My cold is getting worse. Our guide told us about the siege of Leningrad (900 days!), when over 100,000 people died. Hitler planned a great victory party at the Hotel Astoria. Captured German officers even had engraved invitations to the dinner. After a small dinner of just our party, we got packed and at 11pm were on our way to the train station. I shared a sleeping compartment with the Millers. We had a small party with Eli Jury’s liquor supply as train got underway. Then tea was served by our car attendant and we slept.


Friday, Oct. 8: On approach to Moscow about 7am, I looked out the window and saw a man doing push-ups by the shore of a lake. Arrived Moscow about 8am. We were driven to Metropole Hotel. After check-in and quick breakfast we were driven to the I.A.T.(Inst. of Automation and Telemechanics), the premier control systems institute in the USSR. On entry to the building, we saw a vertical ‘people mover’, which was a 3-foot wide belt moving slowly upward that had platforms at regular intervals with just enough room for one person. We watched as employees casually stepped into the opening as each moving platform appeared, and then disappeared through the ceiling as it moved upward. Most of our group declined to enter this vertical escalator, but I decided to try it. Eric Nappelbaum, who works at I.A.T., said, “When you come even with the 4th floor, step out again. I’ll be right behind you.” So I waited until the next platform appeared and quickly stepped in, turned around, and when the 4th floor came even with my platform, stepped out and waited for Eric to appear, feeling rather proud of my performance. On the opposite side of the building there were openings at each floor where the belt with its hinged platforms were moving downwards.

We spend the rest of the morning in a the usual conference room setting, in general discussions with the research staff, many of whom were at the Black Sea conference with us. Then at noon we had a delicious steak dinner at the Leningradskaya Hotel nearby. Then back to the Institute where we talked with Eric and Lionov about their work in the Dept. of Stochastic Systems, and then with Vadim Utkin about his group’s work on “variable structure” systems. At 3pm Eric and I walked back to the Metropole Hotel, with stop-offs in some of the stores along the way. We talked about his work in the stability of sliding regimes under random disturbance, and the criterion for choice among multiple inputs for control — not a clear criterion even for linear systems. It is cold and drizzly, and I am still cold and sniffly. I left Eric and went to nearby National Hotel SAS office, where I was assured that my tickets to Stockholm, Copenhagen, and New York will be ready tomorrow. Walked back to Metropole through dense crowds. Got dressed for the opera. Walked with Sid, Gary and Irina to the Bolshoi Theater, just across the square from our hotel. We were seated in the orchestra, and behind us were brilliant gold-gilt horseshoe-shaped tiers — five of them. In the center of the 1st tier was the royal box, into which Premier Kosygin and Pres. Kraage of Denmark entered to the accompaniment of both country’s national anthoms, while the audience all stood. The opera was Mozart’s ‘Marriage of Figaro’, which was rather strange to hear sung in Russian. Singers not so good, but it was enjoyable. A woman with southern US accent behind us kept taking pictures all the time and had crude manners. When we got back to hotel, Gary Chien had a call telling him to return home — a reorganization of his division at IBM. Had a late supper in the hotel coffee shop — could see people dancing up above on a mezzanine level.


Saturday, Oct. 9: Still cold and rainy. Eric and I rode in Michael Bermont‘s car to the Metro control center & then a depot to see automatic driver system for Metro trains.  After that they took me to a drug store to buy some nose powder for my cold, and then to the US Embassy. Michael parked more than a block from the embassy and he and Eric stayed in the car while I went there. In front of the embassy compound there were Russian soldiers, and just inside were the US marine guards. I found out that Shirley Deane had checked into the embassy after Gary and I left her on Sept. 18th, but she did not stay there. One week later she told them she was leaving for the US. I picked up news bulletins and copies of Amerika for Eric and Michael (which they promptly hid away in the car).   Got Michael to stop at the National Hotel where I picked up my SAS tickets — gat a nice SAS travel bag, too. Every time Michael left his car he took off the windshield wipers, padlocked the steering wheel to the gearshift and then locked the doors. We had a late lunch and then got off to the Institute of Complex Automation computation center. Saw their vacuum-tube computers and heard about electric steam-boiler automation (not yet in operation). Took Metro (very fast and clean and smooth) back to the hotel. Then got in cars to go shopping at the ‘dollar store’. Bought prime baluga caviar(six jars for $6!!), a bottle of good scotch for $1.95, and two bottles of the best Georgian cognac for $2.14 each. Got bottle of Beefeater gin for Eric and his wife Natasha for $2.10 — amazing what dollars­can buy!

Final banquet at beautiful new restuarant (Natasha arrived looking like a Paris model with clothes Eric had brought back from trip to France). I sat next to Prof. Lerner, who has visited the US recently. He spoke frankly of how high the US standard of living was compared to theirs. When I spoke of my hope for peace, he solemnly agreed. He told me he had lost 2 daughters and 2 grandparents in Kiev during WW-II (which they call the Great Patriotic War). After the banquet we returned to the Metropole and gathered with some of our Russian hosts in the Miller’s room, and gave Eric the liquor we bought(6 bottles), and some gifts for Irina. Then we went to the dollar bar in the hotel for a nightcap. When Eric left to go home in one of the cars we had asked to outside the hotel, he asked me if I would please go to the car with him, and give the presents to him in front of the driver. I realized that he feared the driver might report him for stealing the liquor if I had not been there, so I made a big show of presenting the gifts, and thanked him again for his friendship and help throughout the long visit. Got to bed at 2:30am.


Sunday, Oct. 10: Slept until 8am. Weather a little better, though still cloudy and cold. About noon, the Millers, Sid Lees, Gary, Eric & I took the cars provided us to a fur store. I got fur hats for Mary Jean and Kristin for $8 each. Then we had a sight-seeing tour around Moscow — Moscow University on Lenin heights with a view of the entire city and its six ugly Stalinesque skyscrapers. (Moscow U. has the 7th, and the biggest and tallest one.) We saw ski-jumpers practicing on artificial snow carpet, and a huge circular outdoor swimming pool that stays open all winter. The pool was crowded on this cold day. Then we had lunch at Arazney Restuarant, which Eric said was the best Georgian restuarant in Moscow or Georgia. Eric ordered with relish the best they had to offer — we had hot bread with soft cheese, luscious cold baked beans, and some other delicious hors d’oeuvres, with an excellent brandy, white wine and chicken tobak. We were all stuffed, and paid $10 each, including Eric and Irena’s bill, as they were our guests. Then we went to a record store and I got three Richter LPs.  A small boy followed me, asking for chewing gum.

Going back to the hotel, we passed through the old part of the city that was being torn down for new apartments. Eric remarked casually that we had just passed his house. I looked back — it was on the edge of the demolition area, a small yellow stucco building, housing several families, plus Eric & Natasha and his parents. When we got back to the center of town, it was drizzling with some sleet. I decided not to tour the Kremlin again and went back to the hotel about 5:30pm. I slept for about and hour, then Eric came to my room and presented me some colorful nested Russian dolls. I gave him a blue tie and a Telstar commerative tie-clip. At 8pm, my call home came through — their voices were clear, but chopped. I sat looking out in the Moscow night at the Bolshoi Theater all lit up, as I talked to Mary Jean, Kristin, and Scott far off in noontime NJ. Felt much better, but even more eager to get home. Had late supper with Millers and Lees. Bill Miller said that Prof. Letov called them and said he couldn’t come to our farewell banquet last night because his wife is ill. He also said he would not be included in the return visit to the US by theRussian delegation (apparently he is out of favor with the authorities for some reason). I  said goodbyes and got to bed about 11pm.


Monday, Oct. 11: Got up at 5:30am, got dressed, ate my Georgian bread and cheese sandwich and an orange. Left the Metropole for the airport with the Millers at 6am in a clunky Volga taxi. Snow falling in Moscow — outside the city more snow and fog as well. Russian winter has set in. Got through customs easily, except for wait to convert my remaining 4 rubles, 4 kopeks into 4 dollars. The snow was falling more heavily and the planes were all blanketed with snow. My heart sank with the thought of being trapped until the storm passed. I spotted the SAS pilot and asked him when our flight might be able to leave. He smiled and said “Right on time!”. The Millers and I had some coffee and shared another of our leftover Georgian bread sandwiches, then were happy to hear the call for the SAS flight to Stockholm. The SAS Caravelle jet was covered with snow, but husky Russian women were hauling big hoses and spraying it with de-icer, and we took off with a great feeling of relief. As we cleared the cloud cover into a clear, blue sky, everyone on board cheered. The subtle feeling of oppression that had building in me slowly over the past four weeks in the USSR fell away, and for the first time in my life, I had the tangible feeling of freedom — something I had always taken for granted. The weather was clear to the north. We had a delicious breakfast served, and then I saw the lovely islands of Stockholm bay, and then the city and the lovely Swedish countryside in fall colors — very different from any scene I had seen in Russia. After landing, I felt the very air was lighter; everywhere one looked, life was better — only two hours, and one world away from Moscow.

The Continental Hotel in Stockholm is lovely. It was refreshing to see good quality and good workmanship. From room 827, I had beautiful view of the town hall and thr harbor and the city. Took a hot bath and shampooed Russia out of my hair. I took a cab to the Grand Hotel and met Bill Miller. We walked past the Royal Palace and into the old town with narrow streets and many lovely shops. We walked back to the Grand, and I went to the SAS office and changed to an earlier flight to Copenhagen tomorrow, so I will have more hours there. Had lunch with Millers at the Opera House buffet. Very elegant — delicious fried herring in sour cream sauce and Swedish beer, real beer, not Russian ‘pivo’. Then we went to NK (Nordic Company) Dept. store. Freda Miller bought crystal and stainless flatware. I sent mother a lovely crystal vase as gift ($8 incl. shipping). The sweaters I looked at were not very good, mostly Italian. We walked in a new shopping center and an open market with many fruits and flowers, then back to our hotels. After brief rest, I had a lovely walk along the bay with a full moon overhead — flaming torches at the Opera House. Lovely city. Met Millers at 7pm at the Grand Hotel, had cocktails and then dinner in the hotel’s Royal Restaurant. Beautiful Italian courtyard setting. The head waiter remembered the Millers from an earlier visit with Prof. Luoto (a Finn who was at the Conference on the Admiral Nakimov). He enjoyed our telling him about the restuarants in the USSR. Then he brought us a superb onion soup, dry white burgandy, and stuffed filet of sole. The orchestra played beautiful songs — Valse Triste, Ase’s Farewell, then Come Back to Sorrento, and other Italian songs — I danced several with Freda. Ladies at next table were invited to dance by a short, proper-looking English gentleman. Left about 11pm (my share of dinner tab, $10) and walked along the waterfront to the Continental. Washed out a shirt and went to bed.


Tues.,Oct. 12: Up at 7am. Shaved, bathed, and had a quick breakfast. Paid hotel bill ($10) and took taxi to SAS Office, then their bus to Stockholm aitport. SAS flight to Copenhagen left on time. Saw lovely lakes of Sweden before going above clouds, flying at 28,000 feet, just  one hour to Copenhagen airport, which is quite close to the center of the city. I found the American Express office and got two letters from MJ., then sat at small table in sidewalk cafe across from City Hall and read her letters and enjoyed a beer and some herring. Walked down shopping street, bought a Danish sweater for Kristin, and a candlestick. Walked to end of street and got a cab to take me on quick tour, past Royal Palace and concert hall, where billboard listed a concert by Sviataslav Richter.  Then back to the airport for the SAS flight leaving at 3pm for New York.





Part 4

4 Dec


Chapter 4: 1977-1982: Acoustics & Speech Research


On April 1, 1977, I returned to the Bell Labs research area, joining the Acoustics and Speech Research Department in Murray Hill, NJ, headed by Osamu Fujimora. While Fujimora was a Professor at the University of Tokyo, he had developed an X-ray tracking system that recorded the movements of small lead pellets placed on the tongue, lips and jaw of subjects, as well as the the sounds, while speaking basic sounds, words, sentences and paragraphs of text. The movement of the pellets, the corresponding acoustic speech signals, and the phonetic transcriptions of the speech exercises were stored on multi-layer Winchester discs.

My initial project was to develop a computer program to align in time the phonetic transcriptions of the speech samples with the recorded sound signal and the pellet movement data. With these alignment time-marks, researchers could call up and analyze the articulation of  the various phonetic components of speech. I was not an expert on the phonetics of speech and had to quickly learn the symbols and the basics of this field.

My first need was to learn the how to use the computer system with which I could access the acoustic, articulatory, and phonetic data on the disks. The computer area housed a DDP-224, computer, an SEL computer, and a data room with several washing-machine sized disk readers. In today’s world of 200 giga-byte hard drives in small lap-top computers such as my Mac Powerbook on which I am writing this, it is hard to imagine these large disk-reader machines into which we loaded a 15-inch diameter multi-layer disk unit that contained only a few hundred kilo-bytes of data. The speech articulation database comprised a dozen of these large disks – large in size, but not large in storage capacity.

To access the data I had to sign up for time on the computer, and when I came into the computer room, I had to start-up the DDP-224 by manually keying in the octal code to boot-up the computer, and then load the selected Winchester data disk into the big disk-reader. I wrote programs in the Fortran language that provided access and analysis of the articulation, acoustic and phonetic-transcription data on the disc units. The demand for time on the computer was high and my hours of access were usually very early in the morning or very late at night. I also had a portable Texas Instruments modem unit that accessed the host computer from home by dialing up the server number, then putting the phone headset into the modem recepticles at the top of the TI unit. Everything I typed in and received back from the computer was printed on a thermal paper roll in the unit. On many a late night at home, I made a long roll of print-out while writing and de-bugging code.

The time alignment of the acoustic and articulation data with the phonetic transcription of each speech utterance was facilitated by a program written by Bishnu Atal and Larry Rabiner of our lab that accurately assigned time markers to the segments of the acoustic data corresponding to the voiced(V), unvoiced(U), and silence(S) segments of the speech utterance. Ideally, the elements in the V, U, S sequence could then be lined up with the elements of the phonetic transcription, but unfortunately the measured and predicted features did not form a clean one-to-one match.  After struggling with this matching problem for many days, I got the idea that instead of trying to match all the V, U, S time segments with the phonetic elements, I should just try to match the S-segments in the acoustic data with the pauses indicated in the phonetic transcriptions. If  I could find the optimum fit in this first stage, then the V, U, S segments between each of the matched pauses could be aligned in a second stage of the matching procedure. This was one of those “AHA!” moments that allowed the whole procedure to work. [See Note 1 at the end of this chapter].

Because my work in control theory, I was familiar with the dynamic programming process developed by Richard Bellman of CalTech for finding the optimum match of two feature sets, using an efficient search algorithm for the minimization of the error cost among the possible matching paths. I believe this was the first application of this “time-warping” matching algorithm in our research lab. Later it was successfully applied by others in our research on speech-recognition and signature-verification techniques.

I completed this first project about a year after I transferred to Fujimora’s department in the Acoustics and Speech Research Laboratory, where Max Matthews was the Director. Although I had not been previously told, I learned that my continued work there depended on the management’s evaluation of this initial work. My talk on the project was listed in the Labs-wide BTL Research Calendar for April. The talk went well, but I think Max was still not convinced I should get a permanent position, perhaps because he didn’t understand the significance of  the method I used to get a successful match, and partly because of his general disapproval of Fujimora’s projects. Shortly after that Research Calendar talk, he called me into his office. With him was John Pierce, a famous researcher and former Executive Director of Research at Bell Labs, who had retired and was then a professor at Cal.Tech. Max asked me to explain my matching procedure of the acoustic, articulatory and phonetic data, and when I described the optimal matching of the silences in the data rather than the speech portions and the application of dynamic programming to efficiently find the optimum match, Pierce appreciated the breakthrough that allowed the complete alignment to be achieved. Shortly after this meeting, I was told I could remain as a Member of Technical Staff (MTS) in his laboratory at Murray Hill. Subsequently, Max and his wife Marge, and me and my wife Mary Jean, became good friends. [see Note 2]

Given the sucessful alignment of the acoustic, articulatory, and phonetic databases,  the next problem was to develop the means to access, analyze, and display the data. For my part, I wrote a program that allowed one to search through the data for a given phonetic symbol and display the articulator pellet positions and the speech sounds for each occurance of that phoneme segment. My friend, Joe Perkell, who worked on speech dynamics at MIT, came to Murray Hill to do a study with me on the variability of vocal-tract positions of certain vowels in different speech contexts. When Joe came down to help in this project, he stayed on a bed in our music studio, and we would get up at 6 am to drive to the Labs for our computer time. The result of this work showed for these vowels that, while there was variability in the tongue position due to the tongue transitions before and after the particular vowel, the variation was least in the tongue position necessary for that vowel’s sound. [Perkell, J.S. and Nelson, W.L., “Articulatory targets and speech motor control: A study in vowel production”, in Speech Motor Control, Pergamon Press, Stockholm, Sweden (1982)].

My second research project involved the analysis of the physics of skilled movements. The hypothesis I put forth was that in skilled movements there was an efficient trade-off between the speed of such movements and the effort expended.


….More to follow.

Chapter 4 Notes


  1. In my years of research at Columbia  and Bell Labs there have been several such “Aha!” moments that led me to the solution of difficult problems. I’m sure that many researchers struggling for a solution on a problem have had such unexplaned brainstorms. Probably the most famous “Aha!” moment was that reportedly had by Archimedes while he was struggling to find a method for measuring the volume of various solid objects. Then, as he sat in his bathtub and observed the water rise, he realized the volume of  his submerged body equaled the volume of water it displaced, and he supposedly ran naked into the street shouting “Eureka! I have found it.”


  1. Max Mathews, myself, and many others in the lab, were interested in computer analysis and recording of music, and were also amateur musicians. Since I was studying the cello, I soon became involved in chamber music get-togethers with Max, David Slepian, Joan Miller, Steve Levenson, Aaron Rosenberg, and others at Murray Hill. For several years, Mary Jean tactfully, and patiently, agreed to play some of the easier Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven trios with Max and me at our studio in Morristown, even though it must have boring for such an accomplished musician as she was. The hardest part for her was abstaining from trying to correct all of our many errors. Sometimes she would explain the problem, and have us try it again, but if it didn’t work, she would let it go. For example, Max could just not manage the 3/2 tempo between the piano and violin parts in the Haydn #1 Trio. Finally, realizing he was my boss at the Labs, she let it go, bless her heart.





Part 3

4 Dec

Chapter 3: 1975-1977: The DRP years

In the period from 1973 to 1975, Bell Labs began to phase down its involvement in military contracts, including the SOSUS project. I participated in a few system studies on how to improve and automate the information processing operations in SOSUS, with many trips to Washington to present recommendations to the Admiral in charge. Unfortunately, they wanted us to propose grandiose plans that would enhance their status, rather than the more modest, technically feasible plans we offered. I could understand the decision byBell Labs to phase down our participation — after all, we got involved in the first place because the Navy needed us, not because we needed them.

This phase-down brought about a staff reduction program in the Whippany laboratory with the rather euphemistic title: Special Personnel Adjustment Program (SPAP). The members of technical management, which included me, were instructed to rank-order our people in terms of technical performance. Then the bottom 10% in each department were “SPAP-ed”, i.e., they were given three months to find a job within Bell Labs, or look for a job elsewhere. No one in my group was in that bottom 10% of our department, but it didn’t have a good effect on our morale in terms of job security there. In fact, shortly later, two departments were suddenly transferred out of Whippany to a Bell Labs location in Illinois that was developing electronic switching systems to replace the old relay and cross-bar switching systems in the Bell System. Since there didn’t appear to be any control systems work at other Bell Labs locations in New Jersey, I contacted a group at Western Electric’s Electronic Research Lab in Princeton that was investigating techniques for automating some of the assembly processes in their manufacturing plants, and after some meetings with them, I proposed a joint project between my group and theirs. They were very interested, and so I discussed this with my department head and director, who were also in favor. We prepared a proposal for the joint Bell Labs/Western Electric research project and presented it to our executive director. His name was Robert Fletcher, and we knew him outside ofLabs work because he was the bishop at the Mormon church in Short Hills that Mary Jean and I had attended back when were still active in the church, and also because  he was the son of Harvey Fletcher (with whom I worked as a Research Asst. at Columbia). After I discribed the factory automation work and the expertise my control systems group would bring to it, he simply dismissed us with the remark, “I want you to bring me solutions, not problems” We tried to explain that we were bringing him a solution, but he wouldn’t listen.

My director and department head were as puzzled as I was by his reaction, since the work would be partly funded by Western Electric, which was, after all, a co-owner of Bell Labs. As I thought more and more about it, I recalled another puzzling event that occurred about a month earlier. After the success of my group in the SOSUS project, I had received several hints that I would soon be promoted to Department Head in our division at Whippany, and yet it never happened. I finally came to the conclusion that Robert Fletcher held a personal grudge against me for leaving the Mormon church. It was hard to believe that he would let that affect his management decisions; nevertheless, I felt it was necessary for me to get out from under his authority. — In retrospect, I feel he unknowingly did me a favor, because if I had been promoted to Department Head in the Whippany Lab, I seriously doubt that I would have been able to make the progress back into research at Bell Labs that is described later.

After some searching and interviewing at other Bell Labs locations, I accepted an offer as supervisor of a group at the Business Information Systems (BIS) laboratory in Piscataway(PY), NJ, and started work there on April 1, 1975. Although it was part of Bell Labs, the BIS laboratory was quite another world from that I had known in my first 15 years there. That place was created to develop and install computer software systems that would help the Bell System companies modernize and standardize the procedures for the division of long-distance revenues.

Each month the billions of dollars in Bell System long-distance revenue was divided between AT&T’s Long Lines division and the local telephone companies. A long-distance telephone call involved transmission from the sender’s telephone to a nearby central telephone office, then through the long-distance network of AT&T Long Lines to the central office of the telephone company at the destination, and then over its local lines to the receiver’s telephone. Although almost all of  telephone companies handling the domestic calls were part of the Bell System, it also included the few small independent phone companies, and all needed to get their share. The complicated procedure by which this billion-dollar pie was sliced up each month was called the Division of Revenues Process, or DRP.

Interstate revenues are divided among the companies in proportion to their contribution — including plant facilities and personnel — to the interstate telephone service. Here I quote from an article about DRP that appeared in the Bell Labs News on the occasion of our first installion of the DRP software at the Mountain Bell Telephone Computer Center in Denver:  “ ‘The difficulty,’ according to Winston Nelson, supervisor, Division of  Revenues Project, PY, ‘lies in the separation of just what is – and what isn’t – interstate investment and expense. Each customer’s telephone is used for both interstate and intrastate service.’ ” (To paraphrase Yogi Berra, I’m not sure I actually said everything they said I said.)

Thr BIS Piscataway facility was about 20 miles south of my home in Morristown, NJ, and was normally a 40-minute drive on I-287, traffic conditions permitting. After a while I was able to put together a car-pool of four other employees from the Morristown area, so I normally had to be the driver only once a week.

Luckily for me, my small DRP group consisted of nine very qualified programmers and one experienced DRP man (Lee Bauer, on loan from the Southwestern Bell Telephone Audit group) and we accomplished what none of the other BIS groups with many more programmers were able to do —  to go from the start of a complex software project to a successful installation in about eighteen months. What makes it even more remarkable is that through the entire 18-month period the above-quoted supervisor actually understood neither the DRP process nor the installed software program! I had simply concentrated on all of the nitty-gritty management details and, with Lee Bauer’s help, getting the agreement of the AT&T Audit group in New York City on the DRP system requirements. I had delegated the management of the system design and programming to my two sub-group leaders, Renee Mashey and Lee Bauer. My only technical contribution was the design of  a statistical algorithm that was used for filling short gaps in the data from the minutes-of-use recorders on the interstate calls. I also took some pride in my clever design of the DRP icon, which shows a gold dollar-sign pie sliced into four parts, with the pieces of the sliced-up dollar-sign showing the lower-case letters “d”, “r”, and “p”, when viewed from above or below:




(From the cover of our final report on the Divisions of Revenues Project)

         Soon after the Mountain Bell installation Adrian Vendenberg, who was the department head in charge of my DRP group and three other software development groups, told me he was retiring, and had recommended me to be his replacement. I was flattered, but also alarmed. If I accepted, I was afraid I would be stuck in the BIS management ranks for the rest of my Bell Labs career. “Purgatory in Piscataway” came to mind. …I thought, has there been a day here that I have not thought ‘What am I doing here?’ And the answer was ‘No’. I realized that I really had to get back into research work, even if it meant leaving Bell Labs. When I told Adrian this, he was sympathetic – I think he was glad to be leaving and understood my reluctance to be taking on his job. He said I should talk to our executive director, Victor Vyssotsky. He said Vic was very pleased with my group’s success and wanted me to accept the promotion, but since he was originally from Research Area 11 at Murray Hill, he would probably understand why I didn’t want to accept.

My meeting with Vyssotsky went as Adrian had predicted. He did indeed understand and sympathise with my reasons for declining the promotion. He asked his secretary to get me a copy of the Area 11 ‘Blue Book’, a loose-leaf notebook that listed currently planned projects in each department of  the research area. He said I should read through it and select three or four projects I felt qualified and interested in pursuing. When I had decided, I could discuss them with him, and he would talk with the department heads involved to see if they were interested in interviewing me.

The three projects I chose were all in departments of Division 113, the Communication Sciences Research division at Murray Hill. Vyssotsky knew the three department heads well, and after talking with them, he set up dates for me to visit each of them. If it turned out they were not interested in taking me on, I agreed I would leave Bell Labs and look for a job elsewhere. He asked me if I could propose someone to replace me there, and without hesitation I recommended Renee Massey. She had done an excellent job in organizing the programming work on DRP and I had no doubt she would love to continue doing it for DRP and the other department projects as well.

And, so it came to pass that after interviews with the three department heads (James Flanagan, Peter Denes, and Osamu Fujimora) and their director, Max Mathews, they all agreed that I could come to work on one of their projects on a one-year internship basis, with a permanent appointment conditional on my performance.

I accepted, chose the project on the mechanics of speech production project proposed by

Osamu Fujimura, and on April 1, 1977, exactly two years after I entered the DRP project at Piscataway, I transferred to his department at Murray Hill. I later learned that as I transferred to Murray Hill, a person was transferred from Murray Hill to Piscataway. The picture it evoked was of a prisoner exchange across a bridge connecting two different countries, as Bell Labs Piscataway and Bell Labs Murray Hill indeed were!.



Part 2

4 Dec

       Chapter 2: My SOSUS Years: 1966-1975

            In 1952, the AT&T management was asked by the Navy Department to investigate the feasibility of installing an undersea sound surveillance system that could allow the Navy to detect and track potentially hostile submarines in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The motivation for this effort was the discovery in the late 1940’s by ocean scientists at the Woods Hole and Scripps Oceanographic Institutes of a sound-conducting channel in the oceans. They found that the changes in pressure and temperature as a function of depth created a sound-refracting effect that enabled ocean sounds to propagate within a deep ocean channel, which came to be called the SOFAR layer. While higher frequency sounds were attenuated over short distances within this layer, the low-frequency sounds, in the range of 10-200 hertz, could propagate for many hundreds of miles. This discovery led the US Navy strategists to the idea of creating an undersea listening system that would process sounds propagating in the SOFAR layer and hopefully enable them to detect the low-frequency sounds radiated from the propulsion and other rotating systems on submarines.

The Navy officials knew that AT&T’s subsidiary, Western Electric, had the experience in laying undersea telephone cables for AT&T’s long-distance service across the Atlantic ocean to Europe, and across the Pacific ocean to Asia, and Bell Labs had the expertise in processing and analyzing acoustic signals. So, in the cold war standoff  between the US and the USSR, both of which had nuclear-missile submarines patrolling the oceans within range of each other’s territory, the Navy persuaded AT&T to commit Bell Labs and Western Electric to develop and deploy a system of hydrophone (underwater microphone) arrays that could silently detect and identify the sounds radiated into the SOFAR layer by submarines. Over the next decade hydrophone arrays were manufactured and installed by Western Electric on the continental shelves of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of the United States at a depth that provided detection of low-frequency acoustic signals propagated in the SOFAR layer. The signals from the arrays were conducted by undersea cables to nearby onshore Navy stations, called NavFacs. This was a covert listening system, giving the Navy “ears” in the ocean, and even the system’s code name, SOSUS (sound surveillance system), was classified(!), and the cover name for the NavFacs was “Oceanographic Research Stations”.

A look at a world map shows that the US had a big advantage in undersea surveillance, since all Soviet submarines had to pass on either side of Iceland in order to get into the Atlantic, and near Japan or near the Aleutian island chain in order to get into the Pacific. Western Electric laid hydrophone arrays in the ocean off  both the east and west coasts of Iceland, connected to a NavFac in Keflavik, Iceland, and in the areas around Japan and the Bering Sea, connected to NavFacs in Guam and Adak islands in the Aleutians. These were the “trip-wire” sites, used to detect Soviet submarines deploying into, or returning from, patrol stations in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Additional hydrophone arrays were laid and connected to NavFacs on the eastern Canadian and US coastlines, and at Bermuda and several Caribbean islands; also to NavFacs along the US west coast and at Oahu and Midway islands for the Pacific area. As ‘holes’ in the coverage were discovered, other arrays and stations were added. The last installations I was aware of were two arrays in the eastern Atlantic, connected to a NavFac located in Brady, Wales. The ocean chart below shows the SOSUS deployment covering the North Atlantic region in 1974:




Locations of the Atlantic SOSUS NavFacs where the signals from their undersea hydrophone arrays were beam-formed and analyzed for acoustic ‘signatures’ of USSR submarines. Clockwise from the bottom are Barbados, Antigua, Puerto Rico, Grand Turk, San Salvador, Eleuthera, Bermuda, Cape Hatteras, NC, Lewes, DE, Nantucket, MA, Shelburne, Nova Scotia, Argentia, Newfoundland, Keflavik, Iceland, and Brawdy, Wales, UK. In 1957 the extension of SOSUS to the Eastern Pacific began, with the installation of NAVFACs and associated arrays at San Nicholas Is., Point Sur, and Centerville Beach, CA; Coos Bay, OR; and Pacific Beach, WA. Still later, additional arrays would be terminated at Guam, Midway, Adak (in the Aleutians), and Barber’s Point, Oahu, HI. (source:


The hydrophone arrays comprised a string of hydrophones, which converted underwater sounds into electrical signals that were conducted back to the NavFacs via the undersea cable. At the NavFacs, signal processing techniques called ‘beam forming’ were done by adding specific time delays to the hydrophone signals so that sounds arriving to the hydrophones from a particular direction were reinforced, while signals from other directions were attenuated. In this way, 15 to 20 separate directionally-sensitive beams were formed. The resultant signal for each beam was converted to its frequency spectrum, and recorded on a strip chart, using a sound frequency-time display, called a LOFARgram, similar to the sonagram display that was developed earlier at Bell Labs to analyze the harmonic components of speech [Note 2-1]. The display room in the NavFacs contained a battery of LOFARgram display consoles, one for each beam formed with the signals from the hydrophones in the arrays.

Natural sea noises have broad non-harmonic range of frequencies, so they appear as a random distribution of dots on the SOSUS  display. Any periodic signals, such as the rotation of a submarine screw, or the pulsation of pumps on a submarine, contain a specific set of frequency components (like the overtones of human speech, or musical instruments) so they appear on the display as a set of dark marks that occur at a fixed set of frequencies (hence the same point on the horizontal scale of the display for each pass of the marking pen. Over time, this created lines at particular frequencies on the upward moving chart.




A SOSUS display room in a multi-array NavFac with consoles continuously recording the LOFARgrams for each beam on each array. Navy sonar technicians on watch walked along the aisles scanning each display for a reportable contact.




A LOFARgram display, looking up (back in time), with the horizontal axis showing the frequency spectrum, from about 10-200Hz, of the ocean sounds detected on one of the beams of the hydrophone array terminating at a SOSUS NavFac. Note the steady dark line near the center that had recently shifted down in frequency, probably indicating a change in speed or rotation-rate of some equipment on the sound source; also, at that same time there is a disappearance of some higher frequency harmonics. The scattered speckling on the display represents non-harmonic ‘noise’ in the ocean. The strong harmonic signal can also be seen on the two adjacent beam displays. The time-integrated pattern of a harmonic pattern like this can represent the “signature” of a particular submarine class, or even a particular submarine.


Some of the naval personnel reading these charts eventually became very skilled in recognizing the spectral line patterns (‘signatures’) of the various Soviet submarines, and discriminating them from the signatures of US, Canadian, and British submarines (which had been engineered to radiate less sound). So for example, a pattern picked up near Iceland that matched the characteristic signature of a Soviet class of submarines, or that did not correlate with any of the NATO submarine signatures, would be presumed as an unfriendly Soviet submarine. The start time of contact, its estimated bearing, the spectral line pattern of its signature, and the times of any changes were transmitted over secure data lines to the Evaluation Center (EC) at the Norfolk Naval Base, and from there all Atlantic NavFacs were alerted to be on the lookout for this target with that particular acoustic ‘signature’. If one station got a same contact, they would report a bearing to the target and sometimes a rough range estimate. If two stations detected the target and reported bearings at close to the same time, then the EC could plot the two bearings and get a ‘cross-fix’ — an estimated position where the bearings from the two arrays crossed on the ocean charts. If a sequence of such cross-fixes were obtained, a predicted track of the target could be established. However, simultaneous detections from two of the widely separated listening stations were infrequent, so the tracks of the submarines were often difficult to establish.

To supplement the SOSUS information, the Navy would often send their Lockheed P3 anti-submarine patrol planes out to the estimated target area, where they would drop a pattern of sonobuoys. When each sonobuoy hit the water, it lowered a hydrophone and transmitted the hydrophone signal back to the plane by radio. On the P3s, if any of the sonobuoys detected the target, its location would help to narrow down the submarine’s position. Another means of fixing the target’s position occurred if several NavFacs recorded a sound-transient from the target, for example when pumps were started up or turned off, or when the submarines blew air from their ballasts. If three or more NavFacs reported the time of the transient sound, this could provide an accurate time-difference fix on the target[Note 2-3].

Because at least three stations had to detect a transient sound event, time-difference localizations were fairly rare in the tracking of Soviet submarines. However, I remember one significant case where it was used. In 1968, a Soviet nuclear-missile submarine had an accidental explosion that caused it to sink in the eastern North Atlantic, killing the entire crew. The sound from this explosion was so strong it was picked up by many of the NavFacs, and enabled the US Navy to accurately locate its position. Using this position estimate, a US patrol submarine was able to pinpoint the sunken submarine using its active sonar scanner. Amazingly, the CIA then mounted a deep-ocean salvage operation, code-name “Jennifer”, to retrieve it from the ocean floor. Had it succeeded, it probably would have set off a military confrontation, since Soviet Navy ships were also in the general area, searching for their missing submarine. (There is material for a Hollywood thriller here.)

When my group had become familiar with the SOSUS operations, the thing that struck us was how little of the target data reported by the NavFacs was being be used to establish an estimated position and heading of the target submarine. The reason for this was that simultaneous detections by two or more NavFacs were required for localization. When two or more NavFacs reported contacts on the same target, and if the target bearing data corresponded closely in time, the EC could establish a valid cross-fix. Unlike active sonar contacts, the passive SOSUS detections provided direction but no reliable range data. The complex path of sound propagating in the ocean made estimates of range highly unreliable, unless undersea topographic conditions provided a good range estimate. Likewise, the occasional time-difference data from transient sounds was usable only if three or more NavFacs reported the same event.

Because of this problem, I initiated a research project based on using a mathematical model of the dynamics of submarine motion and a technique called the Kalman filter algorithm to statistically combine every reported bearing and time-difference measurement with a model-predicted estimate of the target’s position at the time of each measurement. The program also computed the error covariance derived from each iteration to generate an elliptical region about the position coordinates that represents the two-sigma (86%) level of confidence in the maximum-likelihood position.

At the same time we were working on this new approach, a team of Bell Labs and Western Electric engineers in Greensboro, NC, were developing a computer system to replace the manual plotting procedures and print the localization results on computer-generated ocean charts at the ECs. This program was dubbed MSL, for multi-sensor localization. As an upgrade to this program, we proposed our Kalman filter tracking program (dubbed MST for multi-sensor tracking), and it was approved by the Bell Labs and Navy project managers.

Then began an intensive period of writing and testing the computer code for the MST program by my group at Whippany, and the compiling and testing of that code on the Navy computers by the software development group in Greensboro. To aid in the training of the Navy SOSUS personnel on this new approach, I wrote “Principles of Localization and Tracking”, a mostly non-technical primer on how to use the MST program. An important key to the proper operation of the this program was the reporting not only of the target bearing, but also the error estimate (standard deviation) on each reported bearing measurement. This depended mainly on the number and angular width of the directional beams detecting the target. To help the NavFac personnel properly to set a standard deviation value on each bearing report, I wrote a bearing estimation training manual, and our team spent quite a bit of time training the personnel at the Atlantic and Pacific NavFacs.

We also participated in training sessions on the operation of the MST program in the Evaluation Centers and at their Naval commands. This included a rather unusual session at the Pacific Fleet Command on the Pearl Harbor Naval Base where my talk was suddenly interrupted by a re-enactment of the attack on Pearl Harbor.4

When the MST program was finally in operation in the ECs at the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia, and the Pearl Harbor Naval Base in Hawaii, the full use of all target data began to produce target tracks on the computer-generated maps in a detail that was never before possible. Shown below is portion of the MST-generated track of a Soviet missile-launching submarine moving westward from its deployment in the Pacific. (This illustration is taken from the front and back covers of the final version of the MST manual.)


The triangle at the center of each 86% confidence ellipse on this plot indicates the estimated position and heading of the submarine. The size and orientation of each ellipse indicates the size and direction of the uncertainty associated with each track estimate. Note that where there were time gaps in contact reports, the uncertainty generally increased. When contact resumed the uncertainty is reduced. The actual track, if it were known, was probably a somewhat smoother path from the lower-right to the upper-left of this picture

Prior to the operation of this program, the manual plot on this target would have contained just a few scattered position estimates from the few two-bearing cross-fixes available. As a result of this program, the Navy analysts were able to establish a much clearer picture of Soviet nuclear-missile submarine deployments and on-station holding patterns off the east and west coasts of the US. This provided a strategic US advantage, since we knew where each of their deployed missile submarines were. The Navy issued an official commendation to the Bell Labs team that installed our MSL and MST localization and tracking program in their computers. We were all greatly satisfied that our research and development effort had made a major difference in the cold-war struggle, and I believe helped avert the horror of a nuclear holocaust during that critical period.

A side benefit of this hard-working period at Bell Labs was that it took me to some very interesting places ­to visit: Iceland (twice), Nova Scotia, Bermuda, Cape Hatteras, Pt. Sur, San Francisco and Centerville, CA, Hawaii (ten times!), and Midway Island; but also (and more times than I wish to remember), it took me to meetings with high-level Navy officials in Norfolk, VA and Washington, DC.

In spite of all the secrecy of the SOSUS operation, the Soviet naval intelligence knew of its existence. There was even some concern that their warships might attempt to cut the undersea cables that connected the hydrophone arrays to the NavFacs. Partly because of this concern, the movements of their surface ships were closely monitored, so any such attempt would have been challenged. The Russians did make an intensive effort  to acquire the technology to machine propulsion screws like those used on our quiet-running nuclear submarines. Through some subterfuge they were almost able to buy the computer-controlled machining equipment from a Norwegian company that would have enabled them to produce these screws, but the plot was discovered and blocked by the US State Department. However, the success of SOSUS did prompt an intense noise-reduction effort by the Soviet Navy, and by the mid-1980s their new classes of nuclear-powered submarines were quieter and somewhat more difficult for SOSUS to detect and track.

The first public disclosure of the SOSUS operation, to my knowledge, was in a chapter of Tom Clancy’s book “The Hunt for Red October”, published in 1984. In the book, the fictional new Soviet submarine Red October had a ‘hydrodynamic’ propulsion system that allowed it to run silent and avoid detection by SOSUS (no such silent propulsion system ever emerged.) A few years after his book came out, Tom Clancy was invited to give a talk at the Bell Labs Whippany, NJ location. He claimed that he had no access to classified documents and no secret informers regarding SOSUS. He said all his information came from public sources, such as Aviation Weekly magazine.

In April of 1975, I left the SOSUS project, and no longer had the security clearance to learn what was happening. But in the late 1980s, I visited Dan McMillin, whose group had programmed my group’s tracking algorithm, and I learned that they had continued to provide the Navy with improvements in the system. The advances in computers, communications and signal processing techniques allowed for a much more sophisticated analysis and display of the SOSUS tracking data. The old thermal-paper strip-chart recorder consoles shown above were replaced by more versatile computer work-stations and more centralized operations.

The breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, and the resulting end of the cold-war era, reduced the military need for SOSUS. I believe many of the NavFacs have been shut down, and unless the remaining ones can be transferred to oceanographic institutes for ocean research, they will probably also be shut down. To close this chapter on my SOSUS years, I quote the final paragraph of the Navy’s SOSUS report from their web-site:


“In reflecting on the early years of SOSUS, what is most striking is how much was accomplished in a remarkably short time. Certainly a major factor was the serendipitous confluence of events — the discovery that  low-frequency sounds could travel great distances in the ocean, the realization that submarines radiate identifiable low-frequency energy, and the pioneering work at Bell Laboratories on visual speech analysis. Ease of contracting was also an important element. The Navy’s resolve to conduct undersea surveillance was crucial. The commitment of Western Electric and Bell Laboratories and their decision to assign some of their best people to the project were of considerable consequence.”











2-1. Sound spectrum analysis consists of converting the electrical signals of sounds from microphones into their frequency components as a function of time. This is basically what our auditory system does when we hear sounds. For example, when someone speaks, we hear the basic pitch of the voice (the rate of vibration of the vocal chords) as it changes over time, plus the various harmonics (overtones) produced in the vocal tract which indicate vowels and voiced consonants, and the non-harmonic (noise-like) sounds which indicate the non-voiced consonants in speech, such as “sp” and “ch” in “speech”. Bell Labs developed the sound spectrogram (sonagram) that provided a time-frequency record of acoustic signals. In addition to providing information on the basic components of speech, it was also used to obtain “voice-prints” of individual speakers and, as described here, the acoustic “signatures” of submarines.


2-2. The large baleen whales, such as the grey whales, feed on the huge schools of krill that exist in the northern ocean waters; then each year the whales migrate southward to breed in temperate waters. The krill emit a noisy spectral ‘signature’ on the NavFac strip charts that became stronger and weaker as they moved deeper and shallower in the ocean. Sometimes a strange low frequency signal, around 10-15 Hz., appeared. When the NavFac personnel looked at this signal in detail, it appeared to be a series of regular pulses, sometimes slower, sometimes faster. They first thought this might be an acoustic signaling device used by Soviet submarines, and there was a flurry of effort by the Navy and Bell Labs scientists to find the source of this strange signal. One of my colleagues at the Labs, Dick Walker, was part of the group assigned to locate its source. They used Navy blimps to do visual surveys and drop sonobuoys in the areas off the coast of the US from where the mysterious signals were emanating. They discovered no submarines, but did often spot groups of whales in these search areas. Although to my knowledge it has not been proven, they believed that the mysterious fast and slow pulses picked up by SOSUS emanated from the whales as they rose up and dove down in the ocean after their food source. As baleen whales feed, they open their great jaws wide to ingest the kreel. The whale’s large heart is near the base of the open mouth, and its pulses propagate into the water with the open jaws acting like a giant underwater loudspeaker. When they dove deep, their heart rate slowed, and as they rose up it quickened — and hence the mysterious code-like pulses? Some investigators even speculated that the whales might have learned to use the SOFAR layer to communicate with other whales over long distances. Now that the cold war is over, most or all of the NavFacs are being closed. But recognizing the potential of SOSUS as a tool for the study of ocean life, some oceanographic institutes are attempting to maintain their operation. Perhaps the NavFacs will fulfill their cover name and actually become oceanographic research stations.


2-3. When a transient acoustic event in the ocean, such as a sudden change in a target submarine’s signature pattern, is reported from any two NavFacs, a curve can be plotted on an ocean chart that is the locus of points from which the source of the transient would produce the time difference between the times reported from the two NavFacs. If a third NavFac also reported the transient, then three time-difference curves could be plotted for each pair, and the region within the intersection of the three curves would provide a good estimate of the location of the source. To improve the accuracy of this method, Bell Labs had the Navy conduct experiments with a ship following prescribed paths in the ocean, dropping depth charges every hour, so we could determine the average velocity of the sound from the explosions to each of the SOSUS hydrophone arrays. I used the data from these tests to provide accurate sound velocity values to use in time-difference localization computations.


2-4. While I was conducting a training session at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station, I noticed out the window a large number of old propeller airplanes coming low over our building on Ford Island. As they passed over, I could see the red circle insignia of Japanese warplanes. They were dropping torpedoes in the water as they approached, and huge bursts of flame erupted from the ships docked alongside of Ford Island. Pearl Harbor was being attacked by Japanese planes! This was February 1969,  not December 1941, and the “attack” was part of the filming of the movie “Tora! Tora! Tora!”. Needless to say, our training session was abandoned as we all watched the spectacle. The filmmakers had built facades of the old battleships onto smaller ships, and gas jets that spewed flames in the air. An old B-17 bomber was coming into the small airstrip on Ford Island, and several Japanese Zeros were ‘attacking’ it and ‘strafing’ the airstrip, blowing up our fighter planes lined up there. Many of the parked planes were plywood cutouts, painted to look like real planes. The battleships and the planes looked fake to us, but when I saw the film, it all looked very real. We had witnessed some of the magic of Hollywood!




“The nation’s fixed undersea surveillance assets—A national resource for the future”, ASA 127th Meeting, MIT, 1994 June 6-10


Dziak, Robert P., Christopher G. Fox, Haruyoshi Matsumoto, and Anthony E. Schreiner, 1997, The April 1992 Cape Mendocino earthquake sequence: Seismo-acoustic analysis utilizing fixed hydrophone arrays, Marine Geophysical Researches, vol.19, p. 137-162.


Fox, Christopher G., W. Eddie Radford, Robert P. Dziak, Tai-Kwan Lau, Haruyoshi Matsumoto, and Anthony E. Schreiner, 1995, Acoustic detection of a seafloor spreading episode on the Juan de Fuca Ridge using military hydrophone arrays, Geophysical Research Letters, vol. 22, no. 2, p 131-134.


Fox, Christopher G.. Robert P. Dziak, Haruyoshi Marumoto, and Anthony E. Schreiner, 1994, Potential for monitoring low-level seismicity on the Juan de Fuca Ridge using military hydrophone arrays, Marine Technology Society Journal, vol. 27, no. 4, p 22-30.


Fox, Christopher G., and Stephen R. Hammond, 1994, The VENTS Program T-phase project and NOAA’s role in ocean environmental research, Marine Technology Society Journal, vol. 27, no. 4, p 70-74.


Fox, Christopher G., 1992, NOAA plans for monitoring the northeast Pacific using fixed hydrophone arrays, Proceedings: Characterization of Mid-Ocean Ridge Earthquake Activity Using Acoustic Data from U.S. Navy Permanent Hydrophone Arrays, Woods Hole, April 23-24, 1991.


Nishimura, Clyde E., and Dennis M. Conlon, 1994, IUSS Dual Use: Monitoring whales and earthquakes using SOSUS, Marine Technology Society Journal, vol. 27.

Part 1

4 Dec

          This is a memoir of my experiences at Bell Telephone Laboratories (aka Bell Laboratories or Bell Labs) during my 40 years there (37 as Member of Technical Staff, and three as Research Consultant.

         The basic research at Bell Labs was considered worthwhile for its scientific value — even if it had no immediate benefit to AT&T, its regional phone companies, or its manufacturing arm, Western Electric. The entire annual budget of Bell Labs was such a miniscule percentage of the Bell System revenue that just the public relations value to AT&T of this world-famous industrial research laboratory made good sense. Of course, many of the results did have a huge impact on telecommunion industry, but it was just the ‘Icing on the cake’ in the overall benefit of Bell Labs to AT&T.  In the research centers of Bell Labs, the policy was to hire the best people they could find in physics, chemistry, materials science, communication science, cognitive psychology, engineering, and mathematics and then let them pursue their particular field of interest. Such a favorable environment for basic research was rare indeed!

         I was fortunate to participate in a large variety of interesting projects at Bell Labs. This was not the case for many researchers there, particularly some I knew in research at Murray Hill, who had spent their entire Bell Labs careers in one particular area of expertise, and many became world-renowned in their specialties. One Vice President of Research told his technical staff, “I don’t care which field of research you work in, as long as you own the field!”  The atmosphere and excitement of the place was inspiring — researchers generally felt free to share ideas without fear that they would be claimed by others. In general, there was a great freedom of flow of information. A common wisdom was that you could get the answer, or at least the latest information, on any scientific question in only two phone calls within Bell Labs, and in my experience of making many such calls, it was true. The exception to this was in the military research and development work that Bell Labs was doing during World War II and the Cold War period afterward. In this work, the flow of information was restricted to those having the proper security clearance. All the military research projects I worked on have now been disclosed in the public domain, so I can openly talk about them.

         When I have felt the need for further comments, digressions, or explanations, I have attached them as notes at the end, rather than break up the narrative. Superscript numbers indicate references attached at the end. A short history and descriptions of the major innovations created at Bell Labs are also included in Appendix A. An account of my four-week visit to the Soviet Union in 1965 as part of a US delegation on a scientific exchange visit is attached as Appendix B.



Chapter 1: My Aerospace years: 1960-1966

         On July 1, 1960, I left my position as Assistant Professor at Columbia University to become a Member of Technical Staff (MTS) at Bell Laboratories. I started work in the Military Research Division at Whippany, NJ. My research specialties at Columbia were acoustics and control theory–a combination of physics and applied mathematics, analyzing the behavior of feedback systems that enables them to become ‘self-regulating’, i.e., able to keep a prescribed course and speed, as in an airplane auto-pilot, or simply maintain a desired condition, as in a home heating thermostat. Many of the pioneers in control theory (or feedback control systems, as it was originally called) did their research at Bell Labs. The negative-feedback amplifier, conceived in 1927 by Harold S. Black, provided reduced distortion in communication signals, and advanced the development of long-distance telephony. The amplifiers located in tandom along the long-distance lines each added successively more distortion to the original voice signals, and they eventually became unintelligible. Black’s amplifier sacrificed some amplification for greatly reduced distortion, so the distances possible for intelligible communication were greatly increased.

         Other Bell Labs researchers, notably Harry Nyquist and Hendrik Bode, developed the mathematical tools for insuring the stable behavior of feedback systems. Black’s amplifier had the problem of having unstable oscillations as its amplification was increased. Using Nyquist’s stability criterion, he was able to optimize design of his negative-feedback amplifier for maximally stable amplification. This research in feedback control also led to improvements at Bell Labs and Western Electric in radio receivers and recording sound systems.

         I was familiar with this pioneering work at Bell Labs because my college courses in feedback control theory used the Nyquist diagram in complex-variable space, and the Bode plots in amplitude/log-frequency space, to aid in the design of system parameters to ensure rapid, yet stable, control system response. Nyquist had retired before I arrived at Bell Labs, but at Whippany I sometimes sat in research seminars with Hendrik Bode, who was then the Vice-President of the Military Research Division. I often observed him at the end of the work day leaving with two bulging, battered briefcases, one in each hand. I later learned that one briefcase contained the administrative stuff  he had to do, and the other contained the technical stuff  he wanted to do. This was typical of the Bell Labs management — they were promoted because of their scientific and technical achievements, not their management skills. So they were always more interested in the technical merits of someone’s work than in its potential commercial value. While this method of selecting managers was generally beneficial to our research work, I did experience a couple of cases where better management skills would have been preferable.

         During my first six months, I was allowed to concentrate on writing two papers on my thesis work at Columbia, which was on the optimal design of sampled-data control systems through pulse-width modulation of the control signal6,7. I presented a talk on the first paper at the Joint Automatic Control Conference at MIT in September, 1960. At the same conference a paper was presented by Rudolf Kalman, a fellow graduate student of mine at Columbia, who by then was on the faculty of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. He and Richard Bucy had developed a recursive scheme for the optimal estimation of a physical system’s state (such as its position and velocity) by statistically combining a prediction from a mathematical model of the system, with successive measurements on the system. This method not only gave the maximum-likelihood estimate of the system state, but also the error covariance of that estimate, which allowed a confidence region to be established around each estimate. This technique had a profound influence on estimation and control methods, and it became known as the Kalman filter (why Bucy’s name was left off, I don’t know). I mention it here because it played a big role in much of the work I did later.

         During the winter of 1961-62, I was involved in Bell Labs Telstar project, which was the world’s first active communication satellite. There was concern that after the Telstar satellite was launched from Cape Canaveral, the large, narrow-beam, high-gain antenna [Note 1-1], located on the coast of  Brittany in France, might not be able to lock onto the satellite signal, because the small, wide-angle guidance antenna might not have sufficient gain (i.e. sensitivity) to pick up the satellite beacon signal.  If the small antenna didn’t detect the satellite beacon signal as it came over the horizon, it would not be able to direct the large, narrow-beam antenna to lock-on to the

satellite signal and establish two-way communication. (This is like being unable to find a small  bird with high-power binoculars until your eyes can spot the bird and aim the binoculars in the right direction.) Since the small antenna’s receiver used an FM with feedback circuit, I was asked to analyze the receiver and advise the project manager whether it could capture the beacon signal. I was able to show how to optimize the control parameters of the receiver so it would have enough gain to pick up the satellite signal as soon as it appeared over the horizon at the French tracking station8. When the launch date came, the small antenna’s receiver did detect the beacon signal from the Telstar satellite. It successfully aimed the big antenna to pick up the satellite and transmit to it the world’s first live trans-Atlantic television broadcast signal, and there was great relief and jubilation at the French station and at Bell Labs [Note 1-2].

         After that, I was promoted to supervisor of the control systems research group in the Military Research Division. My group eventually consisted of five PhDs and several technical assistants. We worked on the design of control systems for guided missiles, satellites, and anti-ballistic missile systems. As this work was classified secret by the government, most of it could not be published, but we still managed to do some publishable control theory research2-6. In one of the projects, Ron Sherman and I were able to apply the Kalman filter to the optimal tracking of radar targets, using a ballistic model of the target’s motion, and the range and bearing measurements from three ground radar sites2. Using the estimated statistical errors on the range and bearing data, the three-dimensional confidence region on the maximum-likelihood estimate is an ellipsoid, as indicated (not to scale) in the diagram below.



         During this period, I was active in the American Automatic Control Council, serving on several committees, and helping in reviewing papers submitted to their conferences. In the summer of 1965, I was invited to be part of a delegation of American and European scientists invited for a scientific exchange visit with control-scientists in the Soviet Union and their Eastern European bloc (Appendix B). There was supposed to be a second exchange visit in the US the following year but, probably due to cold-war tensions, it didn’t happen. Professor Alexander Letov, who was our USSR Academy of Sciences host during our Russian visit, did manage to get permission to visit some institutes and universities in the US. I met him when he arrived at Newark airport, and brought him home for dinner with my family. He seemed to enjoy it greatly, and favored us with a rendition of “Autumn Leaves” with my daughter Kristin accompaning on the guitar. The next day I took him to Bell Labs at Murray Hill, where we had prepared a tour of our research facilities.







1-1. A similar large high-gain antenna was first built at Bell Labs in Holmdel, NJ. Because of its narrow field of view and high gain which was very efficient in capturing very weak radio signals, it was used by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson to investigate the background radio interference that appeared to be coming from all directions in space. After eliminating all other possible sources, they along with colleagues at Princeton University, finally concluded the mysterious noise was the leftover radiation from the “Big Bang” at the creation of the universe. This research led to Nobel prizes in 1978 for Penzias and Wilson. (I think the colleagues at Princeton University should have also been included) 


1-2. The TELSTAR satellite was launched by NASA aboard a Delta rocket from Cape Canaveral on July 10, 1962, It was the first privately sponsored space launch into a low-orbit, which required receiving stations in Andover, Maine, Pleumeur-Bodou, France, and other locations in Asia and Austrailia to maintain continuous contact with the satellite. The 23,000 mile stationary orbits now used by all communication satellites were ruled out by Bell Labs scientists, notably John Pierce, because they felt that the few seconds of time delay, due to the long distance path, would be unacceptable for normal telephone conversations. They didn’t foresee the future of television and data transmissions, for which the slight delay would be insignifigent. In spite of this short-sightedness, the TELSTAR project did demonstrate the feasibility of communication satellites.




1. Bell Laboratories: Innovation in Telecommunications, 1925-1977 (7 vols.)

     Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., 1979

2. A History of Engineering and Science in the Bell System, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., 1975

3. Mabon, Prescott C, Mission Communications:The Story of Bell Labs, Bell Telephone Laboratories, Inc., 1975

4. Gregor, Arthur, Bell Labs:Inside the World’s Largest Communications Center, Scribner, 1972

5. Gahani, Narain. Bell Labs: Life in the Crown Jewel of AT&T, Silicon Press

6. Nelson, W.L.,“Pulse-width relay control in sampling systems”,Jour.of Basic Eng’g,Trans.ASME,Series D,

    83,  65-76 (1961).

7. Nelson, W.L., “Optimal control methods for on-off sampling systems”,Jour.of Basic Eng’g,Trans.ASME,Series

    D 84, 91-100 (1962).

8. Nelson, W.L., “Phase-lock loop design for coherent angle-error detection in the “Telstar” satellite tracking

     system”, Bell System Tech. Journal, 42, 1941-1976 (1963).



Hello world!

4 Dec

Welcome to After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

Here are some suggestions for your first post.

  1. You can find new ideas for what to blog about by reading the Daily Post.
  2. Add PressThis to your browser. It creates a new blog post for you about any interesting  page you read on the web.
  3. Make some changes to this page, and then hit preview on the right. You can always preview any post or edit it before you share it to the world.