Correction from Bert Herzog

posted Oct 7, 2014, 5:43 AM by Jeff Ogden   [ updated Jun 27, 2020, 11:17 AM ]
The following letter from Bert Herzog was printed in the Letters section of the Fall (October) 2004 issue of Michigan Today (Vol. 36, No. 3, page 10):

Mr. John Woodford, Executive Editor
Michigan Today,
The University of Michigan

Dear Mr. Woodford:

I just received the latest copy of Michigan Today, Vol. 36 No 2. In reading the article, "Engineering's 150 years" by James Tobin I encountered numerous errors of historical fact in the sub-section "An ancestor of the Internet was born right here." I wish to offer some corrections.

1. The Computing Center was never part of the College of Engineering.
2. The MERIT Computer Network (Project) was not part of the Computing Center.

I am a graduate of the College of Engineering, Ph D '61, once Associate Professor of Engineering Mechanics, subsequently Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering, also the first Director of the MERIT Computer Network Project from '68 and '74. Finally as a staff member of the then Information Technology Division in charge of the computing center. This only to certify my above corrections.

The Computing Center for many years reported to the Vice President of Research initially under the outstanding direction of Prof. Robert C. F. Bartels. My early association with the activities of the Center was as graduate student with the user number E13N, meaning I was from the Engineering College (E) the thirteenth non-funded-by-external-funds user (13N). Ultimately the Computing Center, then under the direction of Professor Aaron Finerman reported to the Vice Provost, Douglas van Houweling, heading the Information Technology Division.

It is correct that the Center was housed in Nubs and subsequently moved to its own new building on North Campus. I know it utilized various computers by IBM and by Amdahl over the years. To my view they all arrived with operating systems but not to the liking of the Center's technical administration. Because the Computing Center was interested in offering time-sharing services it developed MTS, the Michigan Terminal System. I was an extensive user of MTS.

The MERIT Computer Network Project was a cooperative project by UM, MSU and WSU and sponsored by them and the National Science Foundation. I was appointed Project Director. The Project spawned one of early regional networks contemporaneously with the Defense Department's national network, ARPANet. My successor as Director, Eric Aupperle, extended the scope and range of the MERIT Network. The Computing Centers at UM, MSU, and WSU cooperated and worked closely with the MERIT Network Project and subsequent incarnatioons including the NSFNET.

The College of Engineering did have a role in the life of computing at the University of Michigan. Professor Robert Howe and colleagues, of Aeronautical Engineering, were deeply involved in Analog Computer Developments. Professor Donald Katz, of Chemical and Metallurgical Engineering, headed a Ford Foundation Project to engage students and faculty in the use of computers.  During a period when I was not in Ann Arbor, The college got a significant "computing shot in the arm" during Dean Duderstadt's tenure. Of course, now what in earlier times were two different departments, one in LSA and another in the COE, are now combined in the College of Engineering. There must be other credits due the College.


Bertram Herzog

Bertram Herzog
Professor (Adjunct)
University of Michigan
Phone land: 734-747-7445
Phone mobile: 734-417-4166
Fellow, INIGraphicsNet Foundation
Darmstadt, Germany