Discussions‎ > ‎CONFER‎ > ‎

5. Where was CONFER installed?

posted Nov 19, 2010, 9:31 PM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Mar 3, 2014, 8:28 PM ]
In addition to the information that follows, see the following discussion items elsewhere in the MTS Archive:

From: "Bob Parnes"
Date: November 17, 2010 1:59:31 PM EST
To: "'Jeff Ogden'"
Subject: RE: can you help me identify someone in a photo?

Hi Jeff,
     . . .
     As to locations of Confer-MTS, my recollection is that they had been installed at UM, UMB, WSU, Alberta, and HP. I submitted a proposal to have it installed at NASA (somewhere in California  but I can’t remember where now), but it didn’t get funded. A Unix version of Confer was created and installed at WMU, and that got back ported to Michigan at some point. The Unix version was also used by the Research Library Group for a while. I don’t have any recollection of MSU having licensed MTS or Confer. I suspect Rich could provide a definitive answer to that one.
Best regards,

From: Jeff Ogden
Sent: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 4:53 PM
To: bob
Subject: Re: can you help me identify someone in a photo?
 . . .
Rich remembers MTS being installed at MSU to run Confer at Paul Hunt's instigation), Paul was the MSU CIO at the time.  Two other MSU staff members don't remember MTS being installed, but they are bowing to Rich's memory as am I.
I'm pretty sure that MTS was installed at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.  I thought it was to run Confer.  But perhaps it was just a trial setup.  I'll dig around a bit more to see what is written down and what others remember.

On Jan 29, 2012, at 9:27 PM, Bob Parnes wrote:
Hi Zoe and Neda! There was definitely a version of Confer that was
created for the VAX environment at Western Michigan University. I
remember driving back and forth to Kalamazoo many times to discuss
and guide the creation of Confer V there. I am pretty sure Confer V
was created before Confer U. Ron Schubot did a lot of the prodding
and tech support to make it happen at WMU, and he did have the
support of his computer center director.
Norm Grant at WMU wrote all the Confer V code in an amazingly short
time, as I recall.

 . . .

On Jan 29, 2012, at 10:07 PM, Bob Parnes wrote:

  The "V" in Confer V was not a numeric indicator as was the II in
Confer II. Rather it was used to indicate the VAX [VMS] version, just like
the "U" was used to indicate the UNIX version. Had I known there
would be other Operating System versions back in 1975 when I started
work on Confer, I might have called the second version (it got named
just a few months after I created the original draft I called Confer)
Confer M rather than Confer II.

  But calling it II made sense at the time. The II designation happened
after I figured out how to add responses to items. I wanted to signal
to some faculty who had seen the original primitive "first draft"
that I now had something more substantial to look at.
Thanks for all your hard work in preserving our little corner of

  Oh, by the way, there never was a Confer III or Confer IV. I just
kept updating Confer II and providing a last change date for it
instead of releasing new roman numeral versions.


From: Jeff Ogden
Sent: Monday, January 30, 2012 3:51 PM
To: Bob Parnes
Cc: 'Zoe Gurevich'; 'Neda Gholizadeh'
Subject: Re: news from the MTS archiving / preservation / resurrection project
Thanks Bob.
. . .
And just let me verify a few things:
  • The work done at WMU resulted in Confer V for VMS?
  • The work on Confer U was done by ITD staff at UM?
  • You did all of the work on Confer II and provided general guidance on Confer U and Confer V?
  • Should we mention anyone in particular by name in the historical accounts? Right now we mention you, Karl, and Merrill Flood.

From: "Bob Parnes" <bob@bparnes.com>
Subject: RE: news from the MTS archiving / preservation / resurrection project
Date: January 30, 2012 4:44:48 PM EST
To: "'Jeff Ogden'" <jeff.ogden@umich.edu>
Cc: "'Zoe Gurevich'", "'Neda Gholizadeh'"

  . . .
     You are correct on the “few things” you asked me to verify. To amplify on the last thing, Merrill Flood is the one who got me started thinking about Computer Conferencing with lots of initial under-the-radar support from some faculty at the School of Education including Fred Goodman and Lee Collett (but many others including Carl Berger I suspect as well). Karl Zinn was quick to identify the potential significance of what I was undertaking and he then quickly managed to find a position and funding for me at CRLT where I could get a grad student salary from CRLT to support his efforts to disseminate what I was doing to the University and beyond. That is, CRLT did not pay me to develop Confer; that was all done on my own time. Karl’s great skill was recognizing good projects and helping to get them nourished and disseminated. Merrill was able to plant the seed in the first place that I then turned into a project. Fred Goodman and Lee Collett were my mentors inside the School of Education; without their mentoring it is unlikely that a school of education would have put up with what I was doing there as a PhD candidate. There were many others who joined in along the way. The folks at Merit, especially Chris Wendt, deserve special mention as well in convincing me that, early on, I was on to something  worthwhile with their adoption of Confer to support their efforts. And, of course, the Computing Center was generous with their support of Confer once it got going.

     This feels like I’m writing the acknowledgement that I should have written in my dissertation, but didn’t mostly because I did not yet then have the wisdom of hindsight.