The Hugh Folk ILLIAC IV Debate Tapes (February-March 1970) contain interviews with students and staff relating to the debates surrounding the involvement of the United States Department of Defense (DOD) in the funding of the ILLIAC IV project. Hugh Folk, a professor of Economics and Labor and Industrial Relations, created and mediated these interviews. Interviewees include Carl Schwartz and John Huntley of the Daily Illini; Saul Wax, freshman in Liberal Arts and Sciences; Elizabeth Waldron and Mike Real of the Educational Policy Committee; and research programmers David Groethe and Gary Grossman.
In January of 1970, the Daily Illini revealed that the ILLIAC IV project—which involved the creation of the Center of Advanced Computation—was receiving funding from the Advanced Research Project Agency (ARPA). In return for funding the project, ARPA (an agency of the DoD) would have two-thirds of the time allotted for use of the supercomputer for projects of their choosing. The university would have the remaining one-third time for its own projects. The Daily Illini saw the DOD’s use of ILLIAC IV and university resources as a moral issue and claimed that Daniel Slotnick, project director, and Daniel Alpert, dean of the Graduate College, intentionally wrote the project proposal in a way to confuse the Senate Committee on Educational Policy and hide the DOD’s involvement with the project.
Tape 1 – February 5, 1970
NOTE: The audio quality of this interview is poor, and occasionally difficult to make out.
The beginning of this tape contains an interview with Daily Illini editors Carl Schwartz and John Huntley. The interview discusses Daily Illini articles published in January 1970 that raised concerns over the ILLIAC project’s funding from the DOD. Schwartz and Huntley talk about how they first learned of the ILLIAC IV project and their investigation of the story. Schwartz and Huntley note that their opinions have already been shared in their Daily Illini editorials but reiterate that though they appreciate the proposed work of computer for the university, they believe that the use of ILLIAC for military research is morally wrong. Other topics include whether they believe the computer will still come to campus, how they believe their articles have affected campus views on the ILLIAC IV, problems with transparency and closed meetings, and their opinions on project director Daniel Slotnick.
Tape 1 continues with an interview of LAS freshman Saul Wax. Wax was one of the original people to “blow the whistle” on the DOD’s involvement in the ILLIAC IV project. Wax describes how he initially heard about the project and learned that there was more to the story. He relates that a friend of his working on the project overheard conversations that raised questions, and Wax decided that due to his pre-existing criticisms with the campus and that he should try to make this public. Wax talks about the difficulties in viewing the original project contract, his conversation with Carl Schwartz of the Daily Illini, and his concerns that no one knew what the DOD would be using the computer for.
Tape 2 – February 18, 1970
NOTE: Though the metadata on the box states that this tape contains Saul Wax part 2, it only contains an interview with Elizabeth Waldron.
This tape contains an interview with Elizabeth Waldron of the Educational Policy Committee. Waldron is opposed to the use of military funding and allotment of computer time for military research. Waldron relates that the original proposal presented to the committee did not mention DOD funding, and this issue was brought to her attention by the Daily Illini, whose articles came out before they received a second proposal. Waldron discusses the proposal meeting, and how only “qualified persons” were allowed to attend. She relates that though Daniel Slotnick had a list of projects that the computer would be used for, he did not want to release them. She expresses her concerns on how this would affect university research and whether it was academically fair and that the research would be classified. Waldron also discusses the general attitude of the committee, her personal opinions on Daniel Slotnick, her criticisms of the Department of Computer Science and the Graduate College, the effect of internal department politics, and previous ARPA projects. The interview ends with her opinions on whether the computer would still be established at the university and if students would protest.
Tape 3 – February 25, 1970
This tape contains an interview of ILLIAC IV research programmers Dave Groethe and Gary Grossman, who are not in total opposition to the project. Groethe and Grossman share information about the computer and its potential, how the computer works mechanically, and the types of problems that the computer could work on. They share their opinions on the arguments against ILLIAC IV and how the situation is being oversimplified and is not a black and white matter. They take issue with opposing the project in its entirety due to DOD involvement, rather than looking for alternate funding. Groethe and Grossman discuss how the ILLIAC IV time will be used, their criticisms of the Department of Computer Science, the computer’s remote installation terminals, security concerns, their personal opinions on Daniel Slotnick, and whether purposeful deception was involved.
Tape 4 – March 18, 1970
NOTE: This interview contains a brief missing moment at 32:05 and ends abruptly.
This tape contains an interview with Mike Real, a graduate student representative of the Educational Policy Committee. Real talks about how he first heard about the ILLIAC IV project and his involvement. He relates that Daniel Slotnick came to a subcommittee meeting to explain the Center for Advanced Computation, but Real did not know that the project had DOD involvement until after that meeting when he was approached by Carl Schwartz of the Daily Illini. Real felt that the process of bringing this project before the committee was questionable and that very little information was given. He shares his personal opinions on Daniel Slotnick and discusses the extent to which Slotnick had control over projects that get approved for computer use. He also talks about why the United States military is using University of Illinois campus and staff, whether protests will affect whether the computer comes to campus, what “unclassified” means in regard to the computer’s projects, and problems of morality.