CS Royalty?
May 4, 2007 11:15 AM   Subscribe

CS-Royalty? So I was eating lunch in Williamsburg and struck up a conversation with a guy who was about 65 or so, and he claimed the following. - He was one of 7 developers to port DARPAnet to commercial architectures - He had worked with almost every president since starting up work - He has been in a Fortune 500 company as an IT higher-up and had met with Bill Gates (and told him "his product sucked") - He went to University of Colorado and taught at MIT His name came out something like Larry Sand-berg, but very uncertain about the last name. I'm interested in seeing if this is complete BS, or some element of truth.
posted by tmcw to Computers & Internet (23 answers total)
The more I read this question ("one of 7 developers to port DARPAnet commercial architectures"?) and the less I find via google, the more I lean towards BS.
posted by DU at 11:34 AM on May 4, 2007

Usually people who have acheived that level of success do not strike up conversations with people in a deli and tell them of all the awesome things they've seen/done. I should know. I'm a world-famous rapper, Chile's second most famous architect, and once dated a young Julia Roberts (we broke up after I called her acting "stupid"). But it's not like I just go around telling random people stuff like that.
posted by billysumday at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

It wasn't Larry Landweber, by any chance, was it?
posted by cerebus19 at 11:39 AM on May 4, 2007

Um, that was supposed to be a link: Larry Landweber.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:40 AM on May 4, 2007

Oh, whoops, missed the parts about U. Colorado and MIT. Sorry. I don't know who he could be, then, other than a BSer.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:42 AM on May 4, 2007

OK, one more Larry, though this would be a bit unlikely: Larry Roberts?
posted by cerebus19 at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2007

This from Wikipedia:

The small team at BBN (initially only seven people), helped considerably by the detail they had gone into to produce their response to the RFQ, quickly produced the first working units. The entire system, including both hardware and the world's first packet switching software, was designed and installed in nine months.

So the 7 fits somewhere relevant. But I can't find anything that says anything about a name like "Larry Sandberg".

(After skimming a lot of these articles, I'd like to give a shout out to my coworker homies at LL. The TX0 is less than 100 ft from where I sit.)
posted by DU at 11:49 AM on May 4, 2007

DU: Here are details about that team (though I only count six people). Not a Larry among them.
posted by cerebus19 at 12:03 PM on May 4, 2007

It seems like an odd thing to bullshit about. And depending on your definition of things like "work with almost every president" ("I worked for a government agency"), "in a Fortune 500 company as an IT higher-up" ("I was head of IT for one division"), and "taught at MIT" ("I'm a lecturer"), it's not really unbelievable at all.
posted by mkultra at 12:05 PM on May 4, 2007

He sounds like the "crazy" that wants you to ask him questions. He wants to draw you in. Once he's got you intrigued that's when he drops the line about "the Jews" somewhere seemingly out of context. At first you won't think anything about it, then he'll do it again. "... and then the Jews took over Lockheed..." That's about the time you'll realize what you've gotten into but no matter how much you'll want to start backing slowly towards the door, your polite nature will be completely railroaded by Mr. Conspiracy. At least that's my gut reaction after having sat through many a conversation with such characters in many a coffee shop.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:23 PM on May 4, 2007

Knowing several other champion exaggerators-of-their-own-legend, I'm betting that he was tangentially involved in the above but not in a position to get his ideas incorporated (e.g. lower-level, not part of the team, or possessed of many ideas, some of them too wacky.)

An armchair analysis. Possible clarifications in ital.
* He was one (knew one of) of 7 developers to port DARPAnet to commercial architectures
* He had worked with (in the field during the administrations of...and was invited to a DC event once) almost every president since starting up work
* He has been in a Fortune 500 company as an IT higher-up (higher-up is a very ambiguous term)
* had met with Bill Gates (in the mens room at a conference)
* (and told him "his product sucked" (had some aspects that could be improved here take my card and call me I have a brilliant idea! would love to work on it with you)
* He went to University of Colorado and taught at MIT (as a teaching assistant or junior lecturer during graduate school)

In case this sounds too mean, I'll add that the chronic exaggerators I know are all incredibly intelligent people who probably should've gotten more recognition for some of their accomplishments. Through a mixture of paranoia and pride, their could-a beens were incorporated into their actual memories and cross-referenced with history.
posted by desuetude at 12:31 PM on May 4, 2007

> ...that's when he drops the line about "the Jews" somewhere seemingly out of context.

Unlikely to come out of the mouth of somebody named 'Sandberg'.

The rest of Pollomacho's description is pretty spot-on. I worked (for a year as a low-rung wage-earner) at (the library of) MIT and got to meet (the research assistants checking out books for) famous scientists there. And apparently this was near enough proximal greatness to still be a magnet to unified-field-theoretical-anti-gravity-perpetual-motion crazies at public receptions (where I was vacuuming up the hors d'ouvres to stretch my food budget).
posted by ardgedee at 12:57 PM on May 4, 2007

I'd say BS. It's a weird story to invent, sure, but that's what makes it great - very few people out there would be knowledgable enough to immediately call horseshit on it, but nearly everyone will have heard of the Internet, Bill Gates, and MIT.

And an "IT higher up" at a Fortune 500 company isn't really much to brag about.
posted by cmonkey at 1:42 PM on May 4, 2007

*Reference to "the Jews" was simply used as an example. You could substitute something like "the Masons" or other mysterious illuminati type if you'd like.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:46 PM on May 4, 2007

He has been in a Fortune 500 company as an IT higher-up and had met with Bill Gates (and told him "his product sucked")

I agree with the BS or rather exaagerating his role. Regarding the above, one of the functions of the CEO at large software companies is to meet briefly with a delegation of reps from some company that just made a large purchase. In Bill Gates' tenure he probably had zillions of these. It only requires a few minutes of his time and makes the customer feel important, helping to secure future deals and revenue.

It usually takes place not one-to-one though but with a team from the Company having a chat in some MS conf room with some MS VPs. Gates will walk in sometime during the meeting, utter some pleasantries and then run off (tight schedule, you knw) During that time, our man may have piped up and said "Well, Bill, you know we're an ex-UNIX shop and so in terms of scalability, your software still has to prove itself"

I see how that could be spun into "I met with Bill Gates and told him his software sucked."
posted by vacapinta at 2:00 PM on May 4, 2007

Was he really old? Those days were over 40 years ago. It's probably BS though. I've met many accomplished folks in this business and they generally won't go out of their way to tell you what amazing thing they invented or who they know for no reason.
posted by chairface at 2:06 PM on May 4, 2007

It was this guy.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 6:22 PM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

tmcw ... no idea about the veracity of the claims, but I did want to say, good on you for chatting up the locals. That is all.
posted by Alt F4 at 7:25 PM on May 4, 2007

Question: Are you a lady? If you are, the skeptic-o-meter on that guy just hit the red zone so hard it broke.

I live in Baltimore, home of Johns Hopkins. I am female. You would not believe the number of sketchy dudes on the bus or street who are actually world-class doctors/surgeons/pioneers in their field/inventors of some technique that is really important but nobody remembers them.
posted by schroedinger at 10:25 PM on May 4, 2007

Wow, haven't checked this thread in a while:

@schroedinger: I'm a dude, and was with two other dude-friends, and the guy was with his wife (who verified his accounts, at least his past employment and that the two had lived in Silicon Valley.)

Nope, not Larry Roberts or Larry Landweber: He was overweight and had suffered a stroke.
posted by tmcw at 11:43 PM on May 4, 2007

Oh, and before he did all of this, he worked as a chemistry teacher. And he blew up his lab. (haha?)
posted by tmcw at 11:45 PM on May 4, 2007

Thank you for that link, Mr. Gunn. That was freakin' awesome.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:49 AM on May 5, 2007

Did he say whether he had worked at BBN Technologies? (I don't know who this person might be, but I know someone who has been at BBN forever, who I could ask.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:33 PM on May 5, 2007

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