--- Organizational changes in Scientific Computing Division

--- Labwide celebration Oct. 8

--- ReadyTalk phone and web collaboration account requests now being processed through the Fermilab Service Desk. You can get more information about ReadyTalk at Fermilab in the ReadyTalk FAQ.

--- CryptoCards to be discontinued Oct. 11

What is your fondest memory of working in Computing?

Luann O'Boyle: "[I recall] working with the first Division Head, Thomas Nash, who created the new departments and then letters that went out to each person in the new division, welcoming them and telling them which new department they would be assigned. Nash had hand-signed them all."

Rick Van Conant calibrates a digital multimeter for precise measurements in 2003.
Rick Van Conant calibrating a digital multimeter for precise measurements in 2003.

Rick Van Conant: "My fondest memory was being able to use the Mosaic web browser for the first time at Fermilab and seeing what it could do and how it could be used to contact other institutions. It was really special at the time."

Eileen Berman: "I have fond memories of going out to fixed target experiments and working with them on their DAQ systems in their trailers (along with the mice). It was great to be working in the thick of things next to the electronics. I also fondly remember watching Ron Rechenmacher work from the Barcalounger in the middle of the eighth floor and seeing the Northern Lights light up the sky over the village."

What is/has been the most exciting part about working in Computing at Fermilab?

Liz Sexton-Kennedy: "Two very exciting things happened to me since I joined Fermilab in 1988. One was being a part of the top quark discovery at CDF and then being a part of the Higgs discovery in 2012 on CMS. I was in PPD in 1994-1995, so being a part of the Higgs discovery was the most exciting thing since I joined SCD."

Sheila Cisko in 1996
Sheila Colson (now Cisko) in 1996.

Sheila Cisko: "For me, there are two. First, I feel fortunate to have had many opportunities to help coordinate meetings and events with people all over the world using various services and technologies. While arranging special events and important meetings can be stressful, it is always exciting when “The Plan” works. Secondly, since I began working in Computing in late 1995, there have been many changes to IT applications and collaboration technologies. Learning about and using these tools continues to be an exciting and enjoyable aspect of my job."

Edith Brown: "For me, the most exciting part about working in Computing at Fermilab has been implementing business systems on the bleeding edge of new technologies that enabled Fermilab to meet its mandated business requirements efficiently, accurately, and on time".

What, in your opinion, is the most impressive innovation that has come out of Computing at Fermilab so far?

Frank Nagy: "Farms" which lead to "Grid Computing" which lead to "Cloud Computing" all of which allow large computing resources to be harnessed to handle large problems such as the reduction and analysis of huge collections of data (events in the case of high-energy physics)."

Art Kreymer: "Fermilab played a leading role in the coordinated worldwide effort that resulted in the creation of the Grid, being the first to deploy in production the sort of general purpose parallel computing that now makes up the Grid."

Keith Coiley changes tape in an Advanced Computer Program (ACP) system. The Advanced Computer Program was established to coordinate experimental data with analysis.

Keith Coiley: "When I started as a computer operator running a job meant going through its processes one step at a time until complete. With the advent of parallel processing, it would look for an open processor node where the job could run at different increments without waiting for the first step to complete.  This increased the speed of calculations and decreased the cost by removing the need for mainframes."


Greg Deuerling: "We designed our own supercomputers! The most innovative project I have worked on was the ACPMAPS parallel processing supercomputer that we designed with the Theory department; they used it for quantum chromodynamics theory calculations from November 1989 to May 2002."

September Anniversaries
(5, 10, 15, and 20+ years)

Greg Cisko - 35 years
Luann O'Boyle - 34 years
Greg Deuerling - 32 years
David Fagan - 26 years
Norman Ho - 26 years
Rob Harris - 25 years
Al Lilianstrom - 24 years
Patty Cameron - 23 years
Steve Kent - 23 years
Jim Annis - 21 years
Gustavo Cancelo - 21 years
Jim Simone - 21 years
Jon Bakken - 20 years

Welcome, new employees!

Rich Eckert (CCD/Desktop Engineering)

From the CIO: Happy Anniversary!

It’s hard to believe that 25 years ago today the Computing Department, the Advanced Computer Program (ACP) and personnel from the research department merged to create the Computing Division.  This year has special significance for me.  A few months prior to the creation of Computing Division, I came to Fermilab as young graduate student on the E706 fixed-target experiment.  I immediately engaged with the computing. 

My first job was to build a data acquisition system using FASTBUS hardware integrated with a Fermilab written VAXONLINE data-acquisition software framework.   In no time, I was working with Vicky White, Ruth Pordes, Terry Dorries, Carmenita Moore, Eileen Berman and a few others.  They taught me how to do this, and with their help, I was able to get the system up and running in time for the 1990 fixed-target run. 

There was one problem, though – I could not get the data off the memory modules (1892’s) and onto Exabyte tape fast enough.   A young engineer by the name of Ron Rechenmacher and his logic analyzer spent a week of late nights with me diagnosing the problem.  Ron saved me and figured out how to optimize the tape “bursting” to meet my needs.  And so started my long relationship with Computing.

It is fun to think about how much has changed in the past quarter century.  From the ACP and Amdahl mainframe, to VAX clusters and Silicon Graphics boxes, to the modern high-throughput computing facilities, the technology has continued to evolve.  

Twenty-five years ago, experimenters brought boxes of tapes to FCC, where they were catalogued and then mounted so that the experimenters could analyze their data; whereas today, with fiber optic cables and tape robot rooms, there is a generation of students who have never touched a tape.  

A quarter century ago, our scientific simulations were very crude – we treated all quarks with the same mass and ignored their different lifetimes to simplify calculations. Now, the state-of-the-art simulations model the data with amazing precision.  

It is remarkable how far we have come as a field of scientific computing and how much of that innovation started at Fermilab.  More than ever before, HEP relies on computation for scientific success.  Physicists have grown more and more dependent on computing.  We as an organization are more vital to the laboratory’s mission today than ever before.

In recent years, Computing has changed in character from mostly a scientific enterprise to “all things computing.”  Housed within computing now are all of the IT efforts as well.  This merger has made us stronger as we learn from each other and share knowledge.

What struck me as I prepared to write this column is not what has changed, but rather, what has not changed.  I think we expect technology to evolve.  (Do you remember your bag cell phone back then?)  What has not changed is that Computing still contains a remarkable group of close-knit people with a tremendous amount of pride and commitment to the laboratory.  We continue to innovate, push the envelope of what is possible and make difficult challenges look routine.  I feel lucky to be part of this amazing organization and look forward to the future success of this division and the talented people that make it up.

~Rob Roser

Blasts from the past
Irwin Gaines, Tom Nash and others who developed the first ACPMAPS lattice guage supercomputer.
Irwin Gaines (front left) 2nd row: Bob Atac. 3rd row: Don Husby, Tom Nash and Estia Eichten. 4th row: George Hockney and others including first Computing Division Head Tom Nash developed what was the first generation of ACPMAPS, a special-purpose lattice guage supercomputer. It was developed in collaboration between the Theory group and the Advanced Computing Program (ACP) group, which was one of the groups that merged with the Computing Department to form the Division. Computing has continued for all 25 years to support lattice guage computing.

Many of you will remember the 13-foot-tall spiral, which was created for the Supercomputing 2007 conference and contained a timeline of Computing at Fermilab. We have listed items from the timeline here and expanded it to include recent events.

While many items are listed, it is likely we have missed important events and milestones. Please tell us what we've missed. We would like to continue to document these events.

Oct. 1989 - The Computing Department, the Advanced Computer Program and personel from the research department merge to create the Computing Division headed by Thomas Nash

Sept. 1993DART version 1.0 is released

1994 - Joel Butler becomes head of the Computing Division

1994 - First Digital linear (DLT) Tape used (10 GB of storage)

April 1994 - Fermilab's first official website goes live. 12 thousand hits on the first day

Rick Kwarciany, David Berg, Margaret Votava and Bob Forster with a DART project circuit board in November 1993.
Rick Kwarciany, David Berg, Margaret Votava and Bob Forster with a DART project circuit board in November 1993. The DART project designed and built common data-acquisition systems for fixed-target experiments.

Dec. 1994 - LHC approved by CERN

1995 – Amdahl decommissioned

1997 – Sequential Access via Metadata (SAM) project begins

1997 - PC Farms pilot project to show that commodity hardware with a free OS could be used for Farms computing

1997 - US CMS computing project was established

June 1997 -First external review (known as the von Ruden review) of the CDF, D0 CD Joint Run II Offline Computing Project project to design and build computing systems for Run II

See entire timeline