This is a summary of some of the summer and part-time jobs I had before going to graduate school at the University of Texas.
Programmer. Summer, 1968 (age 21). I was a research assistant at the Institute for the Study of Cognitive Systems at Texas Christian University. The Institute, directed by Selby Evans, was interested in pattern recognition by computer. I wrote a program to produce systematic distortions in black and white images so that we could assess the effectiveness of different pattern detection algorithms (see “Production and control of visual pattern variability by computer”). For example, we could then say that algorithm X could detect a pattern which had been distorted 30% along a particular dimension, but not 40%. The distortions included various versions or rotating, stretching, flipping, or just adding random noise.
Experimental psychology research assistant. School year, 1966-67 and 1967-68. Psychology department research assistant at Rice University. I helped set up experiments on behavioral conditioning in rats and learned a little about electrical circuit design.
Earlier that summer I had a brief job working in an ice house, primarily carrying bags of ice from a conveyor belt to a truck, because there was no machine to do that.
School year, 1965-66. Mail room worker at Rice University. I briefly got to drive the little mail truck until one of the other workers got drunk and smashed it up.
Summer, 1965 and 1966 (ages 18 and 19). Orderly at All Saints Hospital in Fort Worth. I learned how to perform various kinds of enemas and catheterizations, work with patients in the psychiatric ward, apply orthopedic weights for patients whose limbs were lifted by ropes and pulleys, and do various other procedures that a teenager with no experience would not be allowed to do today. My co-workers came from all over Fort Worth, representing a variety of backgrounds. They helped open up my world.I read later that Nietzsche was a hospital orderly during the Franco-Prussian War, which influenced his views of life and death, including the development of the idea of Will to Power.
School year, 1964-65. Experimental subject for the NASA Apollo program. I was one of three “astronauts” in a simulated three-day mission to outer space. We ate dehydrated space food and carried out mostly boring and repetitive tasks. We each had 11 electrodes pasted on to our bodies to monitor EEG, ECG, and vital signs. One outcome of the study was to learn that paste-on electrodes don’t work after about 2 1/2 days, because the hair grows back.
Summer, 1964 (age 17). Concession stand worker at the Fort Worth Zoo. We sold soft drinks, fries, and BBQ sandwiches. Each morning we had to fill out a squirrel damage report detailing any destruction of supplies due to squirrels and other zoo residents. This started with things like “3 bags of corn chips had chew holes in them.” But we were called in when it began to say, “4 large drinks, 2 BBQ sandwiches, 1 without onions, 3 orders of fries.”My friends Leslie, Ben, John, Hull, and others worked there, too, so we had lots of time to talk about books, life, and our futures. We’d go bowling at lunchtime, sometimes managing to get to the bowling alley, bowl three games, and still get back before the half hour lunch break was over.
Summer, 1963 (age 16). Researcher for Colonial Cafeterias. My friend John Horan and I used contest entry forms to develop a primitive geographic information system (GIS) representing the source of patrons of the cafeteria. We also scouted out competing cafeterias to assess the level of current and potential business in different areas of town.
Also, that summer, a job cleaning public swimming pools using scuba equipment in order to stay under the water longer.