Friday, May 15, 2009

... and Ruby

Ruby Doug Eastwood Wedding

Forgive me, but I have been remiss. There is someone that deserves a very special mention here.

Ruby Doug Dan Flagstaff

That person is my mother (Ruby), of course. My parents were married in 1947.

She did so much these past few years to take care of dad, often wearing herself out.

Dementia is a cruel disease. It takes the memories of people and everything else a person loves. There were a few times when dad did not seem to recognize me, but he never forgot the wife he adored so much.

Doug Ruby Portrait

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Monty Python

In another forum I wrote ...

Among the many things I inherited from my father was his sense of humor, and when I was a teenager we delighted in watching Monty Python's Flying Circus together. He also shared with me his deep interest in science and learning. During science classes in school while I was growing up I always did very well, and didn't understand why some people found it difficult. Only much later did it occur to me that I did well because my dad had already taught me so much. It's handy when your dad is a professor of computer science and a PhD physicist, you learn a lot of cool stuff just being around that sort of thing.

... which is the intro to a post I wrote about my dad on another forum where I participate; a group dedicated to distributed computing and Monty Python-esque humor. Especially the humor. There is a different sort of memorial there you could visit. Fair warning, you might discover my alter-ego.

On second thought, don't follow that link, it is a silly place. ;-)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Robin Hill recalls

Robin writes:
Doug (Mr. Eastwood, Dr. Eastwood-- I vacillated) was well known to me as Susan's father during our college years, and after. Always the gentleman, and always the intelligent listener, he was the first person to take me seriously as a computer scientist. That sure meant a lot. I went off to graduate school before we could do much together professionally-- more than once-- but I always took pleasure in sharing the news, questions and gossip of our field with him. [image]

And the news, questions, and gossip of the world, as well! Doug was a good conversationalist who retained the air of courtly etiquette that must have come with his Kentucky upbringing, without retaining any narrowness of outlook.

This blog reflects a respectable legacy. His fine family would, and did, make him proud.
Robin Hill is another old friend of the family. Unless I miss my guess, the building behind Robin in the picture about is Coe Library at the University of Wyoming.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Old Photos

Vanda has created a picture gallery:

Vanda writes:
Here are some photos of a young Doug. I think they are joyful.

I think Vanda is right.

I have created another album with some more photos.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"John Henry" recalls "Dr. Eastwood"

John H Schmidt III, MD, writes ...
Dear Dan,

I was very sad to hear of your father's passing and hope that your mother is able to cope with such a loss. I have thought often of your father since I knew him in Laramie in the early '70s. He was such a good man and he had a great influence on me. I never told him that. . .that I learned from him more than anyone else what it means to be a man. More than any professor or hospital attending and probably more than from my own father. . . in his manner and in his actions. The other day in the grocery store I thought of your dad. .. .a can of vegetables had fallen from a man's cart in the checkout line. .. . I told my 12 year old son Tristan who was with me to pick it up immediately and put it back in the cart. I learned that from your father and I tell Tristan too because of it to try to help where you can instantly and without thinking about whether it's politically correct or cool or even whether you're needed or not. . .if you can help, do it. . . I learned that from your father's example. I'm also sorry I could never rise to a standard as father and husband as was his by example. Dr. Eastwood (I could never address him as "Doug" despite his repeated requests) had a quality that all physicians should have, but one that many lack. .. .."Aequanimitas" as William Osler called it . . .the evenness in one's approach to the practice of medicine (or life) that is neither boastful nor apologetic. Again, I'm sorry for your loss. My best to your family.

John Henry
John H. Schmidt, III, M.D.

I would like to add that Dr. Schmidt has been a good friend of the family for many years. We had a lot of people named John around the house in the early '70, so we always referred to him as "John Henry" to avoid confusion. I recall that John Henry taught me a few things and kindness and being a man himself.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Doug McIlroy recalls Bell Labs days

The following is a combined comment and email from Doug McIlroy, who worked with dad at Bell Labs. I am reposting it here so it will be easier to find, and also because computer science was such a big part of dad's life I think it deserves its own category. Thanks to Tony for finding and contacting Dr. McIroy.

Doug McIlroy Dartmouth[Doug McIlroy writes:] On joining the Bell Labs math department, I was given an office next to Doug Eastwood's. Soon after, George Mealy (of finite-state machine fame) suggested to a small group of us that a macro-instruction facility be added to our assembler (the program that converted human-readable machine language into machine-readable binary code.) This idea caught the fancy of us two Dougs, and set the course of our research for some time to come. We split the job in half: Eastwood took care of defining macros; McIlroy handled the expansion of macro calls.

A macro is simply a shorthand for a command. For example, you might declare that "cook rice 20", means get rice from storage, put it in a pot, cover it with water, set the pot on the stove, and turn it on for 20 minutes. Once you've told what "cook" means, you can use it over and over again in macro calls like "cook beans 4" or "cook potatoes 15".

The macro system we built enabled truly astonishing applications. Macros took hold in the Labs' most important project, electronic switching systems, in an elaborated form that served as their primary programming language for a couple of decades.

Once macros had been incorporated, the assembler was processing code written wholesale by machine (i.e. by the assembler itself) rather than retail by people. This stressed the assembler in ways that had never been seen before. The size of its vocabulary jumped from about 100 different instructions to that plus an unlimited number of newly defined ones. The real size of programs jumped because one human-written line of code was often shorthand for many, many machine-written lines. And the number of symbolic names in a program jumped, because macros could invent new names like crazy.

Foreseeing these stresses, Doug set out to improve the affected parts of the assemble. His most dramatic improvement was to cope with the proliferation of symbols, which was particularly pernicious because each factor of 10 in number of symbols incurred a factor of 100 in running time. The time to assemble code could now far exceed the time to run it.

By deploying a newly published sorting method, Doug squashed the cost of symbol lookup back to seconds. Another of his improvements gained only a bit of speed, but had the effect of letting one change the meaning of basic instructions! This enabled some quite powerful programming tricks.

I can still hear Doug's resonant voice, and see his friendly smile, just as in the photos on this blog. His office saw a steady stream of clients looking for advice. This he gave unstintingly, with the same sense of service that permeated his later life, too. Many people at the Labs were helped over hard places by him, but probably none had their future more notably shaped by collaboration with Doug than I. It was a lucky day when I drew the office next to him.


Doug McIlroy DartmouthThanks, Dan and Anthony [Sucheston], for the blog and for sniffing me out. I'd lost track of Doug after he moved to Wyoming. In fact I last tried Googling for him only about a month ago, but found only stale information. I'm delighted to be able to post some reminiscences of Doug, with whom I collaborated on my first professional work, which turned out to be a great success and a source of pride for both of us. I've passed the news to some other old Bell Labs hands, who met him considerably later and mainly in passing. But they all remember him nonetheless for his competence and gentlemanly ways.

Doug McIlroy
And thank you Dr. McIlroy for sharing that. I had heard some of that story, but you have helped put the parts I know together more sensibly. These past few years dad was not able to remember and talk about these things, and it is really great to be about to recover some of that personal history I thought was lost.

More information here.
[images Dartmouth College Department of Computer Science]

Phyllis writes ...

When I think of Doug, I think of a man beaming with pride. His happiness in his family's accomplishments was deep and palpable. I watched his face at his granddaughters' graduations, saw his face light up when he would see his son. Just looking at photographs of his children and grandchildren would bring the most wonderful expression to his charming face.
A kind and intelligent man, he is one of the most easy going, approachable people I have known. I respect his significant accomplishments but more importantly appreciate the kind of man he was: quick to smile, easy to hug, and taking deep pleasure in the life he created and the people around him. I will miss him dearly.

Phyllis DeGioia