Frederick Terman (1900-1982)

The Terman icon is the last known location of the Frederick Terman hitchhiker. White balloons are cell tower locations, red balloons are actual GPS locations. Travelogue at the bottom of this page, updated September 27.

Sculpture by Jim Pallas


Terman received his D.Sc. in Electrical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1924. After struggling with tuberculosis for nine months, he chose an instructorship position at Stanford University over MIT. Terman left the dour snowfalls of the east for sunny northern California.

Frederick was engineer, educator, savvy businessman and administrator. As Stanford's Vice President, he made the university's surrounding farmland available for lease. In doing this, Terman essentially invented Silicon Valley, the concept of a university surrounded by R & D (Research and Development) spinoffs, capitalizing on the good ideas and implementing them commercially. He ramped up Stanford's statistics, engineering and sciences to go for government grants. His Ph.D. advisor was undoubtedly an influence, for the gentleman was Vannevar "The Memex" Bush, the coordinator of technology efforts in World War Two and founder of the National Science Foundation.

One can't discount the role of a sharp and observant professor in stimulating industry, putting people together. With a comfortable tenured place to sit, and generally refinable routine requiring small improvements, the mind can turn to societal needs, and systems of their implementation.

The library of my late father, MIT '29, contained several of Terman's textbooks, like his 1938 Radio Engineering. Pop moved from New England to teach at a midwestern university, and never liked the midwest. Now I look at the programs of my own small midwestern university's and contemplate what influence I have to see them ramped up, raising all boats while feathering my own nest of research and art.

 Reference consulted:

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Travelogue by Julie Newdoll
July 13 2006: In the wilds of Michigan's thumb, Terman was packed into a plywood crate and loaded into the back of a Central Global Express truck for the bumpy ride from Jim Pallas' studio to MIT in Cambridge. Special thanks to John Maloney of the MIT Media Lab for receiving him! Maloney is helping Terman begin his hitchhiking journey right now. Here are photos taken by Pallas on a road near his art studio before his release.

Maloney will send pictures of Fred back at MIT. Terman will then be attending SIGGRAPH to look for a ride towards Silicon Valley. David Tonnesen will be taking him by public transportation to the conference.

July 30: John Maloney sends in pictures of Terman on the MIT campus. Click to see larger images.
Here he is in around the famous MIT Media Lab.

Local tourists were naturally attracted to Fred. He decided to call home and give us an update.

A couple more historic MIT sites, and Fred visits the local MIT art gallery.

Good Bye, Fred!

August 3 2006 We are getting a little help from our friends for the abandonment of Terman to the general public. Dave Tonnesen is going to take him to SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group in Computer Graphics of the ACM, Association for Computing Machinery) to show him around and then abandon him. Terman would not fit into a cab, so Dave had to take "The T", or subway, back to where he was staying. He took some nice pictures on the way. John said, "Terman did not fit into a cab, even with his head sticking out the window! I wonder if this will be a problem in getting rides??? (We didn't try all possible ways of fitting him because we didn't want to upset the cab driver too much. I ended up giving him $5 just for letting us try to squeeze Terman in.)
Some pictures from Dave in and around Boston and SIGGRAPH.
Fred taking "The T" into Boston from Cambridge with Dave. The woman in heels was too busy rushing to the train to return Fred's glance.

Dave and Fred stopped for a much needed coffee after the subway ride. Then they took a long walk to Dave's sublet for the conference.

The loft turned out to be a lot of fun for Fred. He had never played the drums before.

We had no idea that Fred can not resist babies.

Dave here posing with Fred. Jim Pallas notes, "Geek fasion through the ages."
It is a sweaty, gruelling endeavor to get Fred to the conference center in the 100 degree humid heat of Boston. Finally, they make it to SIGGRAPH. Dave abandons him there and watches a while. Fred looks around hopefully for a ride.

Dave Writes: "Yes, he has been indoors. Last night when I left the conference center he had moved about 10 feet closer to the escalators. Today when I arrived at the conference center he was another 20 feet closer to the escalators. He is currently in the same place as he was this morning. People are looking at him and some are looking at the web pages. We'll see what happens. If no one takes him by the time the conference is over, I'll abandon him in a new location, as I am not sure what the conference center management would do with him." Dave puts a sign around Fred's neck to make it more obvious that he needs a ride.

He gets a few curious looks. Someone takes him outside. Then, a mysterious woman looks interested. Will she take him?

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