James came to me with a mystery a computer mystery. His grandfather had served in a Canadian army unit responsible for operating a secret computer node in North Bay Ontario. It was underground and part of a massive for its day computer network called SAGE.
Based on my study and research into the history of SAGE he thought I might have an idea of what happened the night of January 15th 1966. He came with a large box of manuals, rolls of film, computer tape reels and punch tape rolls.
The south portal
SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) is a computer network that consisted of 56 IBM AN/FSQ-7/8 computers scattered across the United States and Canada. There were about 24 Direction Centers with two computers each. If one failed they would switch to the secondary computer. One of these centers was 600 feet underground in North Bay Ontario.
His story was pieced from multiple conversations with his grandpa as he drifted into alzheimer's.
"Damn it, Why is tape T in the system again? Get those girly pictures off the screens", he would yell in the middle of the night, James said. He always started out that way. "Put the P tape back in. Why is the A side and B side both active? The system is overloaded."
"James", I said, "Tape T was the test tape. It was used to run simulations of Russian bomber attacks, although there were test patterns on it also."
James finally told me of what he had pieced together. On January 15 1966 he thought his grandfather had said there was an was a major anomaly. He said there was random drawings on the command center screen. They kept changing becoming more advanced. And he said that he remembered because the night was cold at -35 c and he was able to park in the tunnel that night.
"Shut it down now, remember in `59 when static on the modem line almost launched a CIM-10. Route the modems to New York until this interference stops.", he said once.
"Sometimes he would say the anomaly was caused by a programmer who liked to draw pictures on the screens. He thought someone had loaded the computer with images drawn using the light guns. But there are reports in this box that say it was looked into and all they ever found was a single image of a pin-up girl.", James said.
Picture from The Atlantic
"What did he say happened on the screens?", I asked.
"All he ever said was that it began with random static and progressed to something like a language.", James said. "Could it be the computer learning on its own? Like artificial intelligence? But now that I think about it, he mentioned the possibility of Russians jamming the signals."
A Page from the SAGE Theory of Programming manual
"Let me look through this material James, I am not sure the Russians would jam radar signals in order to cause symbols on the screens.", I said. As he left James said, "O yes this is weird but once he said something about another purpose for the SAGE system. My grandfather said something about using the radar systems to watch outer space."
The film strips of images that were displayed on the large command center screen were deteriorated along with the magnetic and paper tape. But there were fragments that could be pieced together. Most of the film was the standard images of the coastline with aircraft markers moving in each advancing frame.
The projection system could take a picture of a CRT and process the image every 30 seconds and then display it on the command center screen.
Another source of film came from the Situation Display Camera Console. Which is a normal SAGE display console with a self advancing film camera strapped to it.
But there were a few interesting fragments in the film strips. Pictures of symbols that looked almost modern.
The images make me really question what they saw that night. The images allay an advanced intelligence that in 1966 would not be understood. There is a message here that could only be understood today. The symbols predict the future. The future that is now.
Later this week (I am projecting Nov 20, 2018) I will release the first of a series of art from SAGE I was able to generate with AI and Machine Learning at my profile on SuperRare.
SuperRare is a new art marketplace that sells digital art but electronically registers ownership to a set number of purchasers. A computer ledger is used called blockchain and is stored on thousands of computers all over the world. If you purchase my artwork anyone can view it but you are the owner and can resell it in the market as the value changes. Ethereum a crypto currency is used to purchase the art. The SuperRare site will walk you through signing up for an account and purchasing Ethereum. If you use Coinbase to purchase Ethereum you can use this referral link.
Theory of Operation of Display System for AN/FSQ-7 Combat Direction Central Volume II - 1 August 1958 Military Products Division International Business Machines Corporation Kingston, New York - http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/sage/3-62-0_Display_System_Vol2_Aug58.pdf
Archive.org On Guard the Story of Sage film - https://archive.org/details/0772_On_Guard_The_Story_of_SAGE_18_48_05_00
Archive.org SAGE Training System Program https://archive.org/details/78864SageSystemTrainingProgram
Comments on SAGE Jamming http://ed-thelen.org/comp-hist/SAGE-AF-Resp.html
My Adventures at SAGE, Robert Morrisette http://www.snarc.net/tr/sage.htm
Theory of Programming April 1959, IBM, http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/sage/3-112-0_Theory_Of_Programming_Apr59.pdf
SAGE Computer Programming System Development Corporations April 1961 http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/sage/SDC_SAGE_ADC_Computer_Programming_Apr61.pdf
SAGE Programming Agency http://bitsavers.trailing-edge.com/pdf/ibm/sage/SAGE_Programming_Agency_1971.pdf
The Largest Computer Ever Built Scott Locklin https://scottlocklin.wordpress.com/2013/03/28/the-largest-computer-ever-built/
Historical Footage of SAGE in operation https://archive.org/details/78864SageSystemTrainingProgram
Semi-Automatic Ground Environment Air Defense System https://www.ll.mit.edu/about/history/sage-semi-automatic-ground-environment-air-defense-system
A video from MIT on how it would operate. https://youtu.be/cGqlNUDGLXM