I² – The Original Cambridge Start Up

I² – The Original Cambridge Start Up

Before Lotus there was Intermetrics Inc.  Or for those close to it, I². Intermetrics was founded around the time Neil was taking one small step for mankind by John Miller, Jim Miller, Ed Copps, Jim Flanders and Dan Lickly.  They believed the projects for Draper from NASA would slow down so they decided to try and commercialize what they had developed at Draper and perhaps find the next Apollo.

I am not trying to attempt a perfect history lesson but to relive some great memories and share what I know about a unique place.  If you want a more detailed insider perspective read Tony’s history here.

Intermetrics first location for few months was on Main St.for 2 months

but soon relocated to offices on Green street in Cambridge right next to the police station.  I can even remember that if you looked out the right window you could look down into cells in the police station. Pretty cool stuff when you are a kid.

Intermetrics landed contracts with NASA for developing software particularly the compiler HAL for the space shuttle.

Eventually they moved to fresh pond, long before Whole Foods but certainly in the era of Ma McGoo’s (awesome meatball subs) and the Hideaway (cheap pool tables).

Over time they refurbished an old warehouse at 733 Concord Ave into what is considered now a classic startup environment, wood beams, sky lights, & cool interior.  Way ahead of their time.

One of the interesting aspects for them was recruiting.  Computer Science wasn’t really something that was taught back then so how do you recruit programmers?  Well, I wasn’t there but I’d like to think that my father developed a unique style of recruiting due to these circumstances (though I am not positive).  He was known to interview people and speak very little about the actual job and had been known to take people out to his car to diagnose engine issues (Howie Marshall). In fact, legend has it that if he talked about computers with you then you weren’t going to get hired.

I remember fondly spending time at 745 Concord Ave, drinking sprite out of the bottle and playing one of the first puzzle computer games Adventure.  “It was a dark and stormy night”…  to this day if I drink a Sprite out of a bottle I am taken right back there.

In fact, I believe it was in this building that John Miller made one of his infrequent visits and to his chagrin found hand prints high on the walls of the corridors and couldn’t understand how they got there….  they were learning how to ride unicycles!  Duh!10926383_10152650491117634_6212177840682158842_n

They hired really smart people as they had a pipeline to M.I.T and also one to Cal Tech. Besides being very very bright they also attracted people with, um, er character!


In a previous post I talked about Intermetrics softball which given the environment seemed a highly unlikely place to foster a championship softball team, a competitive “Go” team sure, softball??

Juggling, backgammon, GO were all common place.

For the entire Apollo team, I can only imagine trying to find the next Apollo, there really wasn’t going to be that opportunity.  The shuttle might have seemed like that next great thing but nothing was going to compare to the race to put a man on the moon.







I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

We all know HAL 9000 from a 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL stood for HAL – Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

That’s not the HAL I am talking about.  I am talking about HAL\S or Higher Ordedr_halcombe_laningr Algorithmic Language Shuttle. Supposedly this name was given by Ed Copps in honor of Hal Laning of the Instrumentation Lab, who developed the first language compiler anywhere, a system of guidance algorithms, was basically brilliant and was a geeks geek. Seriously, this guy is fascinating, check out  J. Halcombe Laning.

HAL was developed at Intermetrics and NASA adopted that language in 1975 for the shuttle. It was used for almost 30 years and it was used to program all the on-board stuff.

The language is designed to allow aerospace-related tasks (such as vector/matrix arithmetic) to be accomplished in a way that is easily understandable by people who have spaceflight knowledge, but may not necessarily have proficiency with computer programming. (Source Wikipedia)

Note:  Dan is losing his voice, I’d like to say it’s because of my relentless questioning but actually, it’s a cold.  Posts might be short for awhile


“We Got Shut Out By Abe Lincoln!”

“We Got Shut Out By Abe Lincoln!”

Intermetrics was a Draper Lab spin off, founded to commercialize technology developed during the Apollo program. To say it was an interesting place is an enormous understatement.  More on I² soon.

Intermetrics had a softball team thanks to Bob Milosavljevic. What started as a beer game, morphed over time to a competitive fast pitch softball team and ultimately a championship team in Cambridge. Bob being a Cantabridgian was weaned on Cambridge fast pitch softball. Maybe Bob knows the exact time and place that he put two and two together.  You see, besides being a rocket scientist, a competitive contract bridge player, a nationally ranked (hard ball) squash player, my father is also a pretty damn good fastpitch softball pitcher.

Back in the day, he actually won some city championships in Cambridge and I remember him playing on a team called “The Hobos.”

So, Intermetrics softball was born.  I was privileged to play on this team for many years and to have so many memories and experiences.  Here are a few of the more interesting highlights.

The Infamous Tux Game:

As legend has it, Bob found a bunch of baby blue tuxedos at building 19 1/2 and bought them.  We proceeded to play a game on the Cambridge common dressed in baby  blue tuxes.  Here’s proof.


We followed that up a year later with another tux game and to this day, Intermetrics remains 2-0 all time in Tux games. (note, photo is from second year).

2-4-6-8 who do you appreciate?

To say we were a bit different doesn’t really do US justice. A radical high tech company in a tough gritty city league…. yeah, it’s sort like kids from Minnesota and Boston getting along on the 1980 Olympic hockey team. And we didn’t exactly help matters. Most baseball signals are hand signals, touch your belt – it’s a bunt, touch your cap – a steal, etc…

Not us.  Nope, uh, uh….   Bob decided to use math.  (How appropriate for geeks).  He would shout out numbers as signals. for example, 7,4,3,1.  The exact algorithm remains a team secret, but let’s just say it drove the other team nuts!  Bob’s mad scientist genius was probably worth a few games (and fights) every year!

Hoyt Field

Hoyt Field was in Cambridgeport with a youth center connected.  On one shining night, a group of youths decided to strut straight through our game in the middle of an inning.  Having a few champion trash talkers (Derek) there was some yapping back and forth. Next thing we know a large metal trash barrel is being hurled onto the field…  Fortunately calmer heads prevailed.

Abe Lincoln

My father was the Intermetrics pitcher for years.  He was our only pitcher and was in my humble opinion pretty damn good considering he was facing young bucks.  As years passed, he passed the torch to younger pitchers.  As it always happens there are games when it’s hard get a full team.  My father, in his 70’s, and having not pitched, was rushed back into duty for one game.  All we cared about was at least we didn’t have to forfeit!!  Strange things happen sometimes… he wasn’t exactly lights our or overpowering, in fact, he struck out no one. But he threw strikes and when they hit it, it was right at people.  Next thing you know, we win, 7-0.  Yup a shutout.  As we are leaving the field after the final out, clear as day we hear the now infamous quote; “We were shut out by fucking Abe Lincoln!”

So many more good tales, but as Gettyburg addresses go, this was a good one!

Abe Lincoln