Computers in Art Wingfield's Memory and Cognition Lab in the 1980s - Cindy Lahar

It was the fall of 1985 when I arrived at Art’s Memory and Cognition lab in the basement of Brown.  In his lab there were fewer computers than you could count on one hand.   In fact, there was one shared computer that we used to access the mainframe system.  Usually we were typing in our Fortran statements to initiate BMDP analyses.  It was also where we typed our first email messages. 

I can actually remember my first email message.  I believe we were preparing to develop some experimental stimuli for a new project, and Art and Liz told me to contact Rose Zacks with a question of some sort.  They told me I should email her to get a quick answer to this question.  I had to learn how to use BITNET on that shared mainframe computer in our lab.  I recall carefully typing out my question, and then a complicated set of specific commands.  It involved some sort of cumbersome address that probably looked something like:  %sendmail%vax!BITNET%username@host.   I was so thrilled and surprised to receive a message back the very next day!  I guess that in those days I received 1 or 2 email messages a month --  starkly different than the rate of email messages today. 

 Macintosh Plush, taking 3.5 inch disks capable of holding up to 800 kb

Macintosh Plush, taking 3.5 inch disks capable of holding up to 800 kb

So, with one shared computer accessing the mainframe, it was also a time when my lab-mates and I invested everything we had to buy the latest in computer technology.  That meant we each purchased a new Macintosh Plus computer at about $1600 a piece (that price may have included a fancy Imagewriter dot-matrix printer and a small number of 400 kB diskettes that kept documents and important software programs such as “Write Now” and “Dark Castle”).  With the newest technology at hand, we were now able to type up documents and re-edit them without having to re-type them.  We could print multiple copies of a document without carbon paper!  This was leading-edge academia at its finest.  


 Art's beloved KAYPRO II that takes 5.25-inch floppy disks

Art's beloved KAYPRO II that takes 5.25-inch floppy disks

But Art wasn’t interested in our computers with the smiley face screens – Art loved his Kaypro II computer and was extremely devoted to it.  Where Liz, John, Sarah and I had all moved to the Macintosh for writing, Art remained steadfast in writing papers on his Kaypro - thus we had to find compromises for how to collaborate on writing projects.

But Art always did compromise, and indeed numerous papers were written on that Kaypro II computer as well as on those Macintosh Classics.  That integration of what is classic, useful and in good-working order with that which is new, innovative and cutting-edge – be it in theory or practice – has been a hallmark of the wonderful career we are celebrating at this Festschrift.  I am so very thankful to Art for all his innovations as well as his skill in honoring that which is utilitarian and of good use.