# Oral-History:James L. Massey

(Difference between revisions)
 Revision as of 13:36, 16 May 2012 (view source)m (Text replace - "[[Category:General topics for engineers" to "[[Category:Scientific tools and discoveries")← Older edit Latest revision as of 13:52, 13 November 2013 (view source)m (Text replace - "[[Category:Power, energy & industry application|" to "[[Category:Power, energy & industry applications|") (One intermediate revision by one user not shown) Line 389: Line 389: '''Massey:''' '''Massey:''' − That's right. There was pass, fail bye-bye, and fail and you can try again. I thought, "Well, I hope I can get that 'try again'." I took the examinations, and I remember particularly the electromagnetic fields question. All of my friends taking the exam had been studying the four-dimensional formulation of electrodynamics and so on. I'd look at the problem and saw, "Hey, this can be solved with just Gauss' theorem. I don't need more than that," so I solved that. That stood me in good stead because Professor Lan-Jen Chu, who had written this question, never forgot that I was the guy that solved that. + That's right. There was pass, fail bye-bye, and fail and you can try again. I thought, "Well, I hope I can get that 'try again'." I took the examinations, and I remember particularly the electromagnetic fields question. All of my friends taking the exam had been studying the four-dimensional formulation of electrodynamics and so on. I'd look at the problem and saw, "Hey, this can be solved with just [[Carl Friedrich Gauss|Gauss']] theorem. I don't need more than that," so I solved that. That stood me in good stead because Professor Lan-Jen Chu, who had written this question, never forgot that I was the guy that solved that. '''Nebeker:''' '''Nebeker:''' Line 1,693: Line 1,693: That's interesting. Thank you very much.  That's interesting. Thank you very much.  − [[Category:People and organizations|Massey]] [[Category:Universities|Massey]] [[Category:Computers and information processing|Massey]] [[Category:Information theory|Massey]] [[Category:Communications|Massey]] [[Category:Engineering profession|Massey]] [[Category:IEEE|Massey]] [[Category:Transportation|Massey]] [[Category:Aerospace and electronic systems|Massey]] [[Category:Satellites|Massey]] [[Category:Computer classes|Massey]] [[Category:Analog computers|Massey]] [[Category:Codes|Massey]] [[Category:Power, energy & industry application|Massey]] [[Category:Inspection, safety & security|Massey]] [[Category:Cryptography|Massey]] [[Category:Scientific tools and discoveries|Massey]] [[Category:Mathematics|Massey]] [[Category:Probability|Massey]] [[Category:Signals|Massey]] [[Category:Effects|Massey]] [[Category:Convolution|Massey]] [[Category:News|Massey]] + [[Category:People and organizations|Massey]] [[Category:Universities|Massey]] [[Category:Computers and information processing|Massey]] [[Category:Information theory|Massey]] [[Category:Communications|Massey]] [[Category:Engineering profession|Massey]] [[Category:IEEE|Massey]] [[Category:Transportation|Massey]] [[Category:Aerospace and electronic systems|Massey]] [[Category:Satellites|Massey]] [[Category:Computer classes|Massey]] [[Category:Analog computers|Massey]] [[Category:Codes|Massey]] [[Category:Power, energy & industry applications|Massey]] [[Category:Inspection, safety & security|Massey]] [[Category:Cryptography|Massey]] [[Category:Scientific tools and discoveries|Massey]] [[Category:Mathematics|Massey]] [[Category:Probability|Massey]] [[Category:Signals|Massey]] [[Category:Effects|Massey]] [[Category:Convolution|Massey]] [[Category:News|Massey]]

## About James L. Massey

James L. Massey

James L. Massey was born February 11, 1934 in Wauseon, Ohio. After his father’s death when he was six, Massey and his family moved to Mendotta, Illinois and later Ottawa, Illinois. He went on to attend Notre Dame University and receive his degree in electrical engineering in 1956, after which he joined the Marines to fulfill his Naval ROTC requirements. Leaving the Marines in 1959, Massey attended MIT, receiving his masters in 1960 and his doctorate in 1962. Much more interested in the mathematical rather than experimental aspect of science, Massey gravitated towards communications engineering and information theory, inspired by courses and lectures from Irwin Jacobs, Bob Fano and Claude Shannon. After earning his doctorate, Massey went back to Notre Dame as a teacher from 1962 to 1977, moving on to MIT, UCLA and ETH in Zurich before retiring in 1998. Codes were an important focus in Massey’s work, with an interest in convolutional codes, and then cryptography and secrecy coding after his move to Zurich.

Massey discusses his role in the creation of important security ciphers such as SAFER and IDEA, as well as winning the IEEE’s Baker Prize on a paper he co-wrote with UCLA student Peter Mathys on the collision channel without feedback. He also shares his memories of campus unrest at Notre Dame during the 1960s and 70s, and his wide involvement with professional societies over the years. Threaded throughout, Massey talks about his personal approach to work and how he was more likely to solve a problem as it cropped up rather than dream one up, as well as a certain unorthodox style of teaching.

## About the Interview

JAMES L. MASSEY: An Interview Conducted by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, 10 July 2004

Interview #447 for the IEEE History Center, The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.

This manuscript is being made available for research purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to the IEEE History Center. No part of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written permission of the Director of IEEE History Center.

Request for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to the IEEE History Center Oral History Program, 39 Union Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8538 USA. It should include identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated use of the passages, and identification of the user.

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:

James L. Massey, an oral history conducted in 2004 by Frederik Nebeker, IEEE History Center, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

## Interview

Interview: James L. (Jim) Massey

Interviewer: Frederik Nebeker

Date: 10 July 2004

Place: Copenhagen, Denmark

### Childhood, family background, education

Nebeker:

I see that you were born on February 11, 1934 in Wauseon, Ohio.

Massey:

That's right.

Nebeker:

Would you tell me a little about the family from which you came?

Massey:

First I'll tell you about Wauseon. My father said that the name came from the fact that when the first white men came to that area the Indians said to them, "Walk ye on" and they misunderstood. It came out as Wauseon. Apparently there was an Indian Chief Wauseon from an Indian tribe there. My father's family was very much involved in construction of things, so they were always going from one place to another. There was very little permanency in where they lived. When the Great Depression came along they essentially lost everything. My great uncle had actually been quite a rich man. When I knew him and was three or five years old, they were down to one Caterpillar tractor that they still owned. They leased that to the WPA, the Work Project Administration, to do things. My father would drive that tractor. The result was that when I was six years old my father was killed the day after Christmas. He had to drive back with a friend of his to the construction site where he was working. They were driving late at night and there was a truck that had broken down that was sitting on the road. Its lights had gone out and the truck driver was up at the farmhouse trying to get a lantern and before he got back they had plowed into the truck. My mother was widowed when I was not quite seven years old. She had three children. I have a twin brother and a sister three years older. It was pretty tough in those days. There was no money of any sort to rely on, so she just had to do the best she could.

Nebeker:

Did she have a job?

Massey:

Rather quickly she got a job working in Mendota, Illinois. She went back to Mendota because that was where her parents, one sister and a brother were living. Another brother was living fairly close to there. She had to really help herself, but at least she had the support of the family back there.

Nebeker:

You grew up in Mendota?

Massey:

Yes. My brother and I started the second grade there. Shortly after we moved there my mother got a job working in the John Deere implement store. She kept that job for about seven years until we were in the eighth grade. She was the secretary for the man who ran the John Deere implement store who was also the Mayor of Mendota. He was a well-known guy and a nice man. Then there was another man, a kind of an inventor, named Hume who had a business there. He developed an improved rake wheel for picking up hay. She went to work for him as his private secretary the last year we were there. Then my mother remarried when I was fourteen, in the summer between grade school and high school.

Nebeker:

Were you always interested in science and technical things?

Massey:

No, not especially. I was interested, but I was interested in a lot of other things too.

Nebeker:

Did you go to high school in Mendota?

Massey:

No. When my mother remarried we moved to Ottawa where my stepfather had a small business called the Ottawa Battery Supply with wholesale battery and automotive parts.

Nebeker:

Massey:

It was Ottawa, Illinois. It's near Mendota. It's about halfway between Chicago and Peoria if you drew a line between the two. Ottawa is about 80 miles from Chicago. Interstate 80 goes by Ottawa. My brother and I did not go to high school in Ottawa. Mendota belonged to the Catholic diocese of Peoria. We went to the parochial school. It was an interesting school. There were two classes in every room. The first and second grades were in one room, and the teacher would divide her time in teaching the first grade and then the second grade, then the third through eighth. We had gone there for the last seven years of grade school. The first year we had been in Ohio. In that diocese there was a scholarship to St. Bede Academy, a boy's Benedictine school. In the parochial schools this was very prestigious. The nuns were very proud if someone would win that scholarship. It was a tossup whether they would send my brother or me to take the exam. They could only send one, so they sent me and I won the scholarship. Therefore we both went to St. Bede.

Nebeker:

Oh, I see.

Massey:

It was a Benedictine high school and was a boarding school.

Nebeker:

Where was that?

Massey:

That was in Peru, Illinois, also quite close to Mendota and Ottawa. They are all in the same area.

Nebeker:

You must have done well in high school because I know you got into Notre Dame.

Massey:

Yes. The Benedictines are very good teachers. It was a very good high school. When we got to Notre Dame I felt we were well ahead of the students due to the background that we had at St. Bede.

### Undergraduate education at Notre Dame

Nebeker:

Were you already moving in the science direction at that point?

Massey:

No. I'm sorry.

Nebeker:

You liked everything.

Massey:

Yes. Mainly I was good mathematically. I never was very much interested in scientific experiments. Marconi would not be proud.

Nebeker:

You are not the tinkerer sort of scientist.

Massey:

No, not all.

Nebeker:

The mathematician sort.

Massey:

Yes. It would have been quite expensive to send two sons at the same time to Notre Dame, but we both competed for the Naval ROTC scholarships, my brother and I. We both won them and that paid our tuition and gave us fifty dollars a month, which was quite a lot in those days, enough to get by.

Nebeker:

How did you like your Notre Dome years and education?

Massey:

I enjoyed it, and I think Jerry did too. It was a very strict regime, but I was used to an even stricter one, so in that respect it didn't bother me. I think maybe it would have been a good thing in my life if I had been around girls more, both in high school and at the university.

Nebeker:

The high school was a boys' school?

Massey:

Yes, and both of them -- by the way -- have gone coeducational. Of course Notre Dame did around 1972 and St. Bede did somewhat later, which I think is a good thing. However at that time Notre Dame was all male so we looked for the women over at St. Mary's College across the highway.

Nebeker:

You got a degree in electrical engineering.

Massey:

Yes.

Nebeker:

How did that come to choose that?

Massey:

It was mainly from the advice of some of the priests at St. Bede. They said, "Oh, you like math, you're good at that. You should go into engineering." I didn't really know one way or the other. My brother did the same. After one year he said, "That's enough of this engineering" and switched to mathematics. After one more semester he said, "That's enough of that" and switched to philosophy. Today he is a professor of philosophy at the University of Pittsburgh. I stayed in electrical engineering, and academically we both did very well there. I was the Valedictorian of the class and he was Salutatorian, which was kind of an unusual situation for twins.

Nebeker:

Was that 1956 that you got your degree?

### Marine service

#### Selecting the Marines after Naval ROTC

Massey:

Yes. Then I went into the Marines.

Nebeker:

Because you were in the Naval ROTC.

Massey:

Yes. In the Naval ROTC one had a choice after two years between taking the Marine option and going in active duty as a second lieutenant in the Marines or staying in the Navy and becoming an ensign.

Nebeker:

You actually chose the Marines.

Massey:

I chose the Marines. Actually it was for a funny reason. I felt the Navy was too undemocratic. I really didn't like the kind of chasm between the sailors and the officers in the Navy.

Nebeker:

That's pretty much the case in all branches of the service, isn't it?

Massey:

Less so in the Marines. When out in the field for example, in the Marines the enlisted men eat first and then the officers. If there is any food left over for seconds the officers get first choice. That's a good system. In the Navy the officers are eating in the wardrobe and the sailors are eating in the mess and sometimes food was robbed from the enlisted men's mess and given to the officers. I just didn't like the culture of the Navy. I liked it better in the Marines.

#### Training and communications officer service

Nebeker:

What was your Marine service like?

Massey:

That was interesting. At that time – I don't know if they still do, but perhaps they do – they sent you to what was called an Officers Basic School for nine months at Quantico. It's kind of like a boot camp for officers. It was pretty tough training. Even though we were second lieutenants we were treated like dirt by the captains who were training us. We were living poorly in a quonset hut. It was very primitive and pretty hard physical training and so on.

Nebeker:

What was your area? Were you in technical services of some sort?

Massey:

No. Everyone took the same training at that point.

Nebeker:

Just general training. Okay.

Massey:

It was nine months. One is born as a Marine officer at the end of that. At the end of this they sent me to a one-month communication officers school in Quantico, then I became a communications officer. I still remember I had a 2502-MOS military occupation number. Then I was sent to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina with the 8th Communication Battalion – the radio relay platoon. Force troops. It was not part of the second Marine division that is at Camp Lejeune. They also have a group called the force troops, and if the Marines should ever operate in more than one division, then this would supply the structure for the command and control of the larger organization.

Nebeker:

Massey:

Yes. Radio relay. It was the most boring job in the world. This platoon had about eighty men in it and two officers. I was the junior officer. There was a first lieutenant there who was the senior officer. On a good day we could muster maybe ten people from the eighty. The others were all on mess duty, guard duty, in the brig, or doing something or other. Every day we would go out, the two officers, and the first lieutenant would say, "Your order for the day is clean the equipment." Every day we had to do it. It was really boring. Then one day there was a party for the whole force troops in the 8th Communication Battalion. I was enjoying myself that night. I was a bachelor and having fun and so on. Apparently the colonel who was the chief of staff thought, "Here is a guy who would make a good aide for the new general that's coming in," because as an aide one has to do a lot of social things and planning and so on. I think it was the next day they asked me whether I would be interested in being the aide for the General. I said, "Sure." Anything to get out of this radio relay. I became the General's aide. It was a new General, Sidney S. Wade, who was a very nice, very solid and intelligent man. For roughly a year I served as his aide and really enjoyed it. It was fun.

Nebeker:

Where was that service?

Massey:

It was also at Camp Lejeune. I really enjoyed it because I'd go everywhere with the General. He did not use me the way most Generals would use an aide. I was kind of his assistant and jack-of-all-trades. It was interesting as well as a lot more fun than saying, "Clean the equipment" every day at the radio relay pen.

#### Impact of Sputnik, end of active duty

Massey:

This was all going along fine until the Russians came along and shot up Sputnik.

Nebeker:

October 4th, 1957.

Massey:

Yes. This suddenly created a kind of panic that the United States was falling behind the Soviet Union in science and technology. One morning I was sitting in my office and reading as I always did the dispatches coming in to the General off the teletype. One of them was from the Commandant of the Marine Corps. We very seldom got a message directly from the Commandant in the Marine Corps since my General was only a Brigadier General. This one said, "Please confirm the following story which appeared today in the Chicago Tribune" – essentially the fact that the United States Marine Corps was misusing this electronic genius as an aide to a General, planning parties and this sort of thing when our country needed all its scientific intelligence.

Nebeker:

There was such an article?

Massey:

Yes.

Nebeker:

How did that come about?

Massey:

Well that's another good one. Anyway, that afternoon I was back at the radio relay platoon. They had told me that I would be sent to the guided missile unit out in California but that never happened. Instead they sent me to the six-month communication officers' school back in Quantico. I had eight months left of active duty.

Nebeker:

And they sent you to a six-month school.

Massey:

When I finished that school I had only two months, so they let me stay in Quantico at the equipment board. That is where they write the specifications and test new equipment for the marines. That was pretty interesting. I actually did a little something technically there. You asked the question how this article got in the Chicago Tribune. I blame my brother. At that time my brother was doing graduate studies at Notre Dame to get a master's degree in philosophy. One day when he walking across campus he ran into an old priest, Father John O'Brien, who wrote for many, many newspapers and pamphlets. He was well connected in the journalistic world. He said, "Hi Jerry, how is Jim doing?" and so on, and Jerry said, "He is in the Marines serving as an aide to a General." My guess is that Jerry embellished this quite a bit, but he claims he didn't. I think he did. Anyway, the result was John O'Brien wrote that article.

Nebeker:

Had you made known to your brother that you didn't really like this?

Massey:

No, quite the contrary.

Nebeker:

I see. He thought it was inappropriate with your background that you were doing that job.

Massey:

He might have thought that. That is very likely. You ought to interview him and find out.

### National Science Foundation fellowship and matriculation at MIT

Nebeker:

What was your total military service of active duty?

Massey:

Three years active duty. That's a story too, because when I finished at Notre Dame I received a National Science Foundation Fellowship that allowed me to choose the university I would like to attend. I had put down the University of Illinois. In the course of those three years I said, "No, I want to go to MIT." I don't really know why. I can't remember the reasoning that went into it, but I changed it to MIT. That was the greatest thing that ever could have happened to me because Claude Shannon was at MIT. Of course I didn't know that at the time. When I got out of the Marines I was three years away from studies. The Notre Dame curriculum was not very good in electrical engineering at that time and I jumped into a pretty competitive and tough environment.

Nebeker:

Did you have any trouble getting admitted to MIT?

Massey:

I think it was really sort of automatic.

Nebeker:

If you had the NSF Fellowship.

Massey:

Yes. As it worked out, it went fine. I did well in the studies there. In fact I got a master's degree after the first year.

Nebeker:

I saw the master's was 1960. You entered in 1959?

Massey:

Right. After three years of military service. I worked in the summers. When I got out of the Marines it was June of 1959. My first son was born in July of 1959, which was kind of tough economically. If he had been born while I was in the Marines the obstetrics would have been done by the Naval hospital. I think at that time one got a stipend of two hundred dollars a month plus twenty-five or fifty dollars for each dependent with the NSF Fellowship at that time.

Nebeker:

You had to be very careful spending.

Massey:

Yes, I had to be very careful. In the summertime I worked. The first summer, before I had even started at MIT, I worked at RCA. They had a missile controls and electronic division just outside of Boston in Burlington. That turned out to be interesting, and I still have good friends I made from those days.

### Doctoral studies at MIT

#### Examinations

Nebeker:

You got a master's degree very quickly.

Massey:

Very quickly. Nine months. I was three years to the Ph.D. I received a Ph.D. in 1962. I remember Peter Avias Elias, a professor at MIT, talking about how long it took me. He asked, "How long has it been?" I said, "Three years." He said, "That's impossible. It can't be done." Well, if the wolf is at the door you can do an awful lot, and that was really the situation. Another funny thing. After receiving the master's degree I went back to RCA again for the summer. Maybe about the end of July I called up the department at MIT to ask about something. The secretary said, "Well you know you've got to take doctoral qualifying exam three weeks from now" or something. I said, "What?" She said, "Yes. The rule is that if you want to get into the doctoral program you must take it the first time it is offered after you receive the master's degree."

Nebeker:

You thought you had some time.

Massey:

Yes. I thought I could take it a year later, because this was a killer exam at that time. They don't do it anymore, but we had to be tested on eight different areas of electrical engineering over a period of two days. The mortality rate was something like fifty percent in that exam. Guys used to really study hard to prepare for that.

Nebeker:

That was a shock for you to get that information.

Massey:

I had three weeks. I was working, I had a son and I thought, "It's ridiculous to try to prepare for this. The only thing I can do is try to be relaxed and hope I'll do well enough that I'll get permission to take it again."

Nebeker:

There were two ways of failing?

Massey:

That's right. There was pass, fail bye-bye, and fail and you can try again. I thought, "Well, I hope I can get that 'try again'." I took the examinations, and I remember particularly the electromagnetic fields question. All of my friends taking the exam had been studying the four-dimensional formulation of electrodynamics and so on. I'd look at the problem and saw, "Hey, this can be solved with just Gauss' theorem. I don't need more than that," so I solved that. That stood me in good stead because Professor Lan-Jen Chu, who had written this question, never forgot that I was the guy that solved that.

Nebeker:

Saw what could be done easily.

Massey:

Yes. Things did not go quite as well in other areas, but much better than I could have expected – until I got to the microwave examination. The problem showed a transmission line in the time domain and with a pulse somewhere on this transmission line. I had no idea where to begin, so I tried to sit down and see if I could figure it out. At the end I just handed in a blank piece of paper. I couldn't get started. The way the system worked at that time was that first you took the written exam, and then after about a month you had the oral examinations. I thought, "Well, I'd better prepare on microwaves." In that interim the only thing I studied was microwaves. When I came into my examination the committee bombarded me with questions about microwaves. They couldn't understand that I could have done so badly on that examination as I seemed to know so much about microwaves. Then just at the end Jack Wozencraft, who was the chairman of the committee and who later became my doctoral supervisor, threw me an easy question on electrical networks. I drew a complete blank. They couldn't quite understand that.

Nebeker:

You had done so well on all the other.

Massey:

Right. The end result was that they passed me but with the condition that I had to be a teaching assistant in the course of electrical networks.

Nebeker:

That was quite an achievement to get through that.

Massey:

It was just luck. I always said that at MIT if you took the half that failed the doctoral exam and passed them and threw out the half that passed nobody would know the difference.

Nebeker:

They were all so good.

Massey:

They were all so good.

#### Graduate research on pulse analog computer

Nebeker:

How did the studies go as far as leading you to the areas in which you ended up working?

Massey:

My preference was always for the mathematical side of things. I got attracted because of the probability theory and things of that sort and not anything that would really have to do with physics and laboratory work – although in my master's thesis I did do some hardware work for the first time in my life.

Nebeker:

What was your master's thesis?

Massey:

The group in the electronic systems laboratory were building what they called a pulse analog computer. At that time digital computers were still very slow. It was all vacuum tube stuff. The analog computers were fast but not very flexible. They wanted to make a computer that was basically analog but which operated on pulses instead of on continuous time so that it could be programmed and different aircraft could be simulated with the same computer. That was going to be the problem. A number was to be represented by the amplitude of a pulse and the amplitudes of two pulses together were to be multiplied using some kind of analog circuitry that would do it. By the time this project got finished – it didn't get finished in one year, it was a long going project – digital computers were already fast enough that they could solve the problem in a much cleaner way.

Nebeker:

Through the fifties and into the sixties there was a lot of interest in analog computers.

Massey:

Yes. It taught me a valuable lesson: bet on digital. Don't go with analog.

Nebeker:

You got a master's thesis out of that.

Massey:

Yes. I mostly had a theoretical part, and then a little experimental part. Just by luck my thing worked. It really was luck.

#### Transition to communications engineering, information theory

Massey:

In my second year of graduate studies I decided I'd like to go into the communications area because there was more probability theory. In the second semester of my first year as a graduate student I took a course that was taught by Irwin Jacobs. Do you know Irwin?

Nebeker:

I know the name.

Massey:

He is the president of Qualcomm. Irwin was an exceptionally good teacher. He wrote a book with Jack Wozencraft, which is a masterpiece of communications engineering. That of course got me more interested in communications engineering. The first semester of my second year I took Bob Fano's lectures on Information Theory. Then I knew that was it for me. Fano was an excellent lecturer and a good motivator. He really made it interesting, but I just loved the theory. It's a beautiful theory. Then in the following semester I took Claude Shannon's lecture. He was giving the lecture called Advanced Topics and Information Theory. It was absolutely wonderful.

Nebeker:

How was Shannon as a teacher?

Massey:

Good. Unorthodox. His ways were not the ways of most teachers. I think it's a technique that one would do well to imitate. He used lots of examples. If Shannon was going to talk about say many user channels or something he would say, "Now consider this example and what we can do within it." He would have a sequence of examples and by the time he finished his sequence of examples that were very carefully chosen then he'd write out the theorem. He'd say, "Now here is what governs this sort of a situation." We could prove that ourselves. We didn't need someone to go through and dot the i's and cross the t's for us.

Nebeker:

Instead of being a teacher who states a theorem and proves it rigorously he sort of motivated the whole thing.

Massey:

That's right. He helped us understand it and see what were the real things on which the theorem depended. I'm sure he violated every principle the pedagogues had, but I learned a lot from it. Shannon also had each of us give one of the lectures. He would give the lectures about the first half of the semester and then he would assign various topics and say, "You give a lecture on this." Then he would sit in the front row of the class smoking his cigarette while we were giving our lectures. I have a picture in my office of Shannon smoking a cigarette while I was up at the board giving a lecture that one of my friends sent me.

Nebeker:

Did he help the students prepare these lectures?

Massey:

No. He didn't

Nebeker:

You did it on your own.

Massey:

Yes.

Nebeker:

Do you think he was a good teacher for most people?

Massey:

Well, most people would not be taking that lecture.

Nebeker:

Massey:

Right. You had to already have gone through a graduate level course in information theory.

Nebeker:

By that time you had already decided that was what you wanted to do?

Massey:

Right.

Nebeker:

Did you take courses your third year as well?

Massey:

No.

Nebeker:

After two years you had taken the courses you needed.

Massey:

Right.

#### Foreign language requirement

Nebeker:

How did you go about satisfying the language requirement?

Massey:

I never took courses in language. We had to pass two reading exams in foreign languages.

Nebeker:

Was that a problem or work for you?

Massey:

Yes and no. A good friend of mine, Herschel Loomis, and I prepared the German together. He had taken German at the college level and he helped me with that. I thought I could do the French well enough on my own, although I never had any course on it. As it turned out I passed the German exam and failed the French exam. I had to take the French exam a second time. They were not very difficult.

Nebeker:

Was this all technical French and German?

Massey:

Yes, but they really fouled me up in the French because they took the preface of some book.

Nebeker:

Oh yes. A much larger vocabulary there.

Massey:

I could not interpolate what things meant from the technical content.

#### Dissertation, convolutional codes

Nebeker:

How did you go about choosing a dissertation topic and advisor?

Massey:

Jack Wozencraft had been my committee chairman and we got along well.

Nebeker:

How was it determined that he was your committee chairman?

Massey:

I don't know. He had many graduate students and, in fact, most of the people there -- I think -- at the time were working on sequential decoding, which was his baby that he had developed. However, I did not want to work in sequential decoding. I wanted to work in the more mathematical side, the more algebraic side of coding. I liked the idea of convolutional codes, so I decided that I would see what I could do with that. I was already beginning this even in the second year while I was still mainly taking courses. I was already beginning to think about some of these things.

Nebeker:

Is there an explanation of why you took an interest in convolutional codes? You said you were attracted to more mathematical topics.

Massey:

Right. Many people would consider the block codes more mathematical. The structure for block codes was much better understood than was the structure for convolutional codes. I just found it very interesting. In fact if I have made a contribution, it would be pointing out the systems theory basis of convolutional codes. A convolutional code is nothing more than a linear system operating over a finite field. That wasn't realized in those days. Once you take that viewpoint then a lot of things start becoming clearer.

Nebeker:

Was this because you had some background in algebra or other branches of math?

Massey:

Not a great deal. It was just noticing the similarities. Julian Bussgang whom I had worked for out at RCA Burlington had written a paper on convolutional codes in which, say, in a rate one-half code, he looked at it in terms of two generators for the code. That was a new way of looking at things. When I looked at it I thought, "Gee, those are just like the impulse responses of two linear systems," so that gave me the idea then of saying, "These are just linear systems, but they are not operating over the field of real numbers or the field of complex numbers like we normally do."

#### Threshold decoders and low density parity check decoders; creation of Codex Corporation

Nebeker:

How did you find an actual topic?

Massey:

I just started playing around. I was trying to think of some easy ways not only to make a code but also to decode. I came on this notion of what I call threshold decoding, and that turned out to be pretty fruitful. It's a very trivial notion. It's nothing sophisticated, but it was very simple and also very simple to realize in hardware. When I was working full-time on research in that third year Bob Gallager was just at that time a new assistant professor. He had just finished up his own doctoral thesis a short time before. Bob was consulting for Melpar, a company that had their research branch in Watertown, Massachusetts. The main part of the company was in Falls Church, Virginia I think. They are well known for the Bobby Baker scandal if you ever heard about that – vending machines and all that. That took place at Melpar. Melpar was interested in the low-density parity check codes that Bob had developed in his doctoral thesis and he introduced me to some of the people there, in particular Arthur Kohlenberg, the scientific head, and Jim Cryer, who was the manager of this. They were very interested in these threshold decoders because they saw that these things could actually be implemented with logic that was doable at the time. Shortly thereafter Melpar decided to close the research office in Watertown and told the people there to move to Falls Church, Virginia. Well, most of them quit. There were a lot of unemployed people looking for something to do, so they said, "Well, let's start a company and build threshold decoders and low density parity check decoders."

Nebeker:

Were you part of this group? You weren't working for Melpar were you?

Massey:

No. I was at that point at arm's length. I had no [unintelligible word] with them at that point.

Nebeker:

Massey:

Right. And we were friends. In exchange for a certain amount of stock in the company they got the patent rights.

Nebeker:

Had you patented it as a graduate student?

Massey:

Yes, but only when it became clear that there was commercial interest in this.

Nebeker:

Was that very unusual at the time, to get a patent on the coding?

Massey:

I think it was, yes. From that was the birth of Codex Corporation. Bob's scheme of course is very hot now. The communications world is buzzing with these low-density parity check codes that he developed forty years ago. However at that time they could not be implemented. They were just too complicated. They are very powerful. The actual channel capacity can be approached with those, whereas with threshold decoding one can never get close to channel capacity. In fact I've proven that. However something could be achieved, and it was simple. The company was founded in the late summer or fall of 1962.

Nebeker:

That was about the time you completed your degree. Did you go to work for them?

Massey:

No, I went to the University of Notre Dame. When I got into MIT I had realized that Notre Dame had a pretty backward electrical engineering program. I said, "Well, even I can do some good." I'm serious. I decided, "I'm going to go back to my Alma Mater and see what I can do on the electrical engineering faculty," and I went back there.

Nebeker:

What was your involvement with Codex?

Massey:

I consulted for them. In the summertime I would spend a month or two. I would occasionally make a trip out there, but not very often. Mostly it was the summer. My involvement was not too crucial. Every once in a while we would correspond. We didn't have email in those days, but sometimes the telephone.

### Teaching career at Notre Dame; Student Life Council position during period of student activism, 1960s-1970s

Nebeker:

I see. You wanted to be a teacher?

Massey:

Yes, just naturally. I don't know if I really wanted to be a teacher, but I felt I could do some missionary work there. Now Notre Dame has a very strong electrical engineering program – not because of me, but if it had been strong then I would not have had that motivation.

Nebeker:

You received the Thomas Madden Award for distinguished teaching at Notre Dame.

Massey:

Distinguished teaching of freshmen. Yes. At Notre Dame I did about everything really. My brother and I of course were very well known because when you have twins both at the top of their class and in different colleges, everybody who knew Jerry thought they knew me too. We looked a lot more alike then than we do now. I don't know if you are familiar with Father Theodore Hesburgh, who was the president. He was quite a guy. Here's a picture of Hesburgh with Martin Luther King, Jr. I suppose it was roughly 1960 when that was taken. I'm not exactly sure of that. Hesburgh became president of Notre Dame the year we began as freshmen in 1956. He was thirty-five years old.

Nebeker:

My goodness.

Massey:

Now he is eighty seven years old. It's easy to keep track because he's seventeen years older than I. He has been immensely influential and really did a tremendous job at building up the university. He was one of the charter members of the Civil Rights Commission. One of the things of which he is most proud is that Nixon fired him for being too aggressive on the Civil Rights Commission.

Nebeker:

When you got back to Notre Dame you wanted to improve the EE program there?

Massey:

Yes. I didn't feel like I was going to restructure it myself, but I felt they needed me. I remember a conversation I had with an old professor at MIT, Karl Wildes. He told me he felt that, to be a great university, institutional commitment from the faculty is needed. He felt Notre Dame had that. MIT has that. It is sometimes very surprising, but people are really committed to MIT as an institution. He felt Notre Dame had that, and I think that's really true. Naturally we all have our own personal egos and selfishness, egoistic interests, but there is a certain sense of commitment to the institution.

Nebeker:

How long were you at Notre Dame?

Massey:

Fifteen years, from 1962 to 1977.

Nebeker:

Can you tell me in general terms how those years went?

Massey:

As I say, I was involved in everything. In the late 1960s for example in the time of the student unrest and so on I was the head of a committee called the Student Life Council composed of one-third students, one-third faculty and one-third administrators and had the responsibility of keeping peace on the campus. That took a lot of time. One of the craziest things was the time the Student Academic Council sponsored a conference on pornography and censorship. It was 1969 or 1970. As someone put it, "It was long on pornography and short on censorship." It happened to be done at the same time there was some jubilee at the law school, which had invited Justice Brennan who had written many of the opinions involving pornography for that. It could have been a catastrophe, but it ended up that the South Bend Police seized a film. There was just about a riot, with the students throwing snowballs at them. Someone could easily have been killed, because the police were very, very nervous.

The Student Union Academic Conference on Pornography and Censorship is a story all in itself. If you're interested I'll show you the report that we wrote on that. That took a lot of time, because the university officials were very concerned that this would be bad for the reputation of the university, so they got us a court reporter to record testimony from all the witnesses. The dean of the law school, who happened to be a man named Lawless, because of the jubilee was showing a young prospective faculty member around in the Continuing Education Center, which was where the film was being shown. The problem with this film was that it had been decided by the courts that it was hardcore pornography. Therefore, there would be no legal defense that they didn't know it was hardcore pornography. When he found out that the students were showing this one particular film in spite of having agreed not to do that, he really went wild. He got hold of the student that was running that thing and had him in the director's office in that center and was reading the riot act to him. It was so bad that this prospective faculty member stepped in and warned the student that he need not reply to the questions. It was funny. The other story was there was old priest named Father Thornton who was really a right-winger. He used to run the placement office. This was 1969 or 1970 at the height of all the protests and so on. He had the Dow Chemical Company, the makers of napalm, and the CIA come for interviews on the campus on the same day.

Nebeker:

I graduated in 1970 so I remember all the controversy about who was allowed to recruit on the campus.

Massey:

CIA and Dow on the same day. I was still the head of that committee, so I thought, "Well, I had better go over to the placement office in the main building and see what's going on." I went over there and there were students all over lying on the floor. They said, "Anybody who wants can interview, but they've got to walk on us to get in there to do it." Then I went out behind the main building and there was a squad of about fifty South Bend policemen. I happened to know one of them, so I talked to him. These guys were really nervous because they thought they were going to be grappling with students. I tried to quiet them down and said, "Look. The students are just lying on the floor in there. They're not going to do anything." Then I went up to the vice president for student affairs, another old priest, and he was barricaded in his office. He was afraid to come out. There was really no reason to be afraid. If they had just communicated a little bit with one another there would have been no problem.

In fact, that now reminds me – back to the pornography conference – at the end the students were chasing some people from the prosecutor's office and some police. They were chasing across the campus throwing snowballs at them. It was starting to get a little bit ugly, so the police took refuge in the Faculty Club, which is on the edge of the campus. The students were milling around outside not knowing whether they should break in or not. A professor from chemical engineering, Jim Carberry, a good scholar but a real character – always in there drinking – found out what the prosecutor and police were doing and said, "I'll go out and talk to the students." He went out and asked the students, "What's the problem?" and they talked to him and he said, "Well now, this is a Faculty Club. Only guests can come in here, so I'll invite two of you as my guests. You elect them and they can come in and have a discussion with the police." It diffused the situation completely.

Nebeker:

Those were exciting years at Notre Dame.

Massey:

Those were exciting years, but it wasn't helping my technical work. There were all kinds of things like that happening.

### Research during Notre Dame career

#### Coding and communications achievements

Nebeker:

How was your research going?

Massey:

Actually it was going fairly well.

Nebeker:

On what areas did you work?

Massey:

It was still mostly coding – coding and communications. I have never been a really goal-oriented man like Gottfried Ungerboeck who knows where he's going. If I get an idea and a little inspiration comes into me then I'll work on it and then forget it. That's my tendency. I happened to have a couple good ideas during that period.

Nebeker:

What were the research achievements of those years?

Massey:

One of them was again related to a system series point of view. Elwyn Berlekamp had developed a decoding algorithm for what we called BCH codes, the Bose-Chaudhari-Hocquenghem codes. Elwyn's typical way of describing the algorithm was just in terms of the instructions but without giving any motivation as to what this would accomplish. However it was a revolutionary algorithm for that problem. It really made things much, much easier. I was looking at that and remembered that there was a picture in the textbook by Peterson at that time, the first textbook on algebraic coding theory, “Error-Correcting Coding.” I remarked at the time that this relationship between the syndrome digits and what they called the symmetric functions or error locators were just the equation of a shift register.

Therefore I knew there was a strong connection between shift registers and decoding these codes. When Elwyn came up with that algorithm I said, "He must have a way of finding the shortest shift register that can generate a sequence." Proving that turned out to be a pretty difficult thing. My original submission of the paper proved extremely complicated. Probably I never would have published the paper with that proof because it was kind of ugly. Time went by, I needed a paper, and after the reviews maybe it had been sitting there a year or so. Then out walking the dog one evening it suddenly popped into my head how to prove it in a trivial way. Then I could show that Elwyn's algorithm actually solved a much more general problem. His algorithm could be simplified slightly once one looked at it this way, but not very much. Just walking the dog. Sometimes the mind seems to work on things even when we're doing other things.

#### Advising doctoral students

Nebeker:

Yes. Do you remember other things you worked on in those years?

Massey:

I was doing a lot of directing of doctoral students.

Nebeker:

I know that gets one into all kinds of questions.

Massey:

Right, and they educate you. One was Dan Costello who is now at Notre Dame as a professor. Dan was a very good doctoral student. He put together, I thought, the first cohesive theory of convolutional codes in his work. I was advising him, but he was doing most of the work. Dan and I together developed some codes that I think are still being used in the deep space missions.

Nebeker:

Was that your motivation for developing those codes?

Massey:

For those particular codes, yes it was. I had research grants with Goddard. They asked if it would be possible to develop some codes. They are long convolutional codes and can only be decoded with sequential decoding, which is quite time consuming. However they had the need to get certain data very quickly from the received signal. They asked if it would be possible to make a code so some of the data could be gotten out quickly even if not so reliably. We called them the quick look-in codes.

#### Application-driven coding; mathematics and coding

Nebeker:

I see. How often has that been the case in the overall history of coding of various sorts, that it's been kind of driven by the application?

Massey:

I think quite often in my case. As I told you earlier, I'm lazy. It's really true. I don't go around sort of just dreaming up problems, but sometimes one has to do the research grant or maybe someone from the industry will come with a problem and ask for help. I always find those very interesting. I think, "Well, if they have a problem and aren't able to solve it, there must be something interesting in that."

Nebeker:

One could also imagine that the kind of mathematical structure of these things could give one new ideas for codes.

Massey:

Yes.

Nebeker:

That may or may not meet some need that is out there. In your case very often it was some need for a particular code that got you working on something?

Massey:

At least in some cases that's true.

#### Sabbaticals spent at MIT and Danish Technical University

Massey:

I took two leaves of absence from Notre Dame. They weren't really sabbaticals because the university didn't pay for sabbaticals in those days. That was before sabbaticals were offered. I spent one year at MIT. That was 1966 to 1967.

Nebeker:

Did you have a particular project on which you were working there?

Massey:

Not really. I taught the course in algebraic coding for the graduate students at MIT and worked with Bob Gallager quite a bit. Bob was finishing his book on information theory, so I helped him out with some problems.

Nebeker:

Did you want to work at MIT for a year because it was so interesting to you?

Massey:

Yes. Bob was a good friend, and it was good to get away for a little bit. Then 1971 and 1972 I spent in Denmark.

Nebeker:

How did that come about?

Massey:

It came about through a friend, Erik Mortensen whom I met at MIT during the year I was on a leave of absence. He also was on a leave of absence. He kept asking me to come to Denmark. I had always thought it would be fun to go to Europe sometime but had never gotten around to it. Then in – maybe it was in '69 – we had an Information Theory Symposium in The Netherlands. He asked me again if I could come and I realized, "If I don't say yes now, I'll never do it," so I said, "Yes, I'll come."

Nebeker:

That was at the Danish Technical University as it is called?

Massey:

Yes. That's when I met Lis. Lis was the secretary-administrative assistant or whatever in the communications laboratory, but there was no romance at that time.

Nebeker:

I see. Did you have teaching responsibilities at DTU?

Massey:

Yes. I taught a course that covered both semesters. I am still in touch with some of the people who were students in that. I taught communications in a sort of an unorthodox manner there. I had done that at Notre Dame also.

Nebeker:

What was unorthodox about it?

Massey:

Here is the way I like to put it. If you think of the communications, there is a channel somewhere and a modulator and demodulator, and there is coding and decoding. This is just a one-way channel. What is the purpose of the modulator and demodulator? There's only one answer. It's to make a good channel for the coding system. People still often don't do that. They don't realize that the job of the modulation is to create a good channel for coding. The modulation engineers, guys like Gottfried, have got the advantage because they're the first ones to build the system. If they screw it up, it cannot be rescued with coding on the outside.

### Endowed professorship, departure from Notre Dame

Nebeker:

What caused you to leave Notre Dame? Was that in 1977?

Massey:

I should tell you that when I came back in 1972 I was then made the Freimann Professor, which is the first endowed professorship in the history of Notre Dame.

Nebeker:

Is that right?

Massey:

That's right. Now there's a lot of them.

Nebeker:

Were you the first chair, first holder of that?

Massey:

Yes, I was the first chair.

Nebeker:

Did that have anything to do with you personally that that was endowed?

Massey:

No, I don't think so. Frank Freimann was one of the founders of Motorola.

Nebeker:

He gave the money to Notre Dame and you were given the chair.

Massey:

Right. The reason I left Notre Dame actually was because my marriage fell apart. When I divorced I didn't want to stay in a Catholic university. People wanted me to stay. I could have stayed.

Nebeker:

Did you feel the social setting would have been awkward?

Massey:

Yes, and I also have certain strong feelings about the permanence of marriage. I really think that it should be in general a permanent relationship between a man and a woman.

Nebeker:

Was it because it was a Catholic university where divorce was particularly looked down upon that made it difficult to stay there?

Massey:

I also did not want to remain in the same town where my ex-wife lived. South Bend was not such a big town.

Nebeker:

I see. And where did you then go?

Massey:

I had made an agreement with Bob Gallager to spend another year at MIT. He wanted to go on a sabbatical to Paris, so I said, "Okay, you do that and I'll warm your chair while you're in Paris and that will give me time to look around for a job." However people heard I was leaving and before I left I got a call one day from Balakrishnan at UCLA and he said, "We'd like to get you to come here." I thought that might be a good idea. Lis and I were planning to get together and that would be kind of a new start for both of us – a new country for both of us, California. However Lis did not like it there.

### Position at UCLA

Nebeker:

Did you go to UCLA?

Massey:

Yes. I was there officially three years. That year I was at MIT they counted me as on the UCLA faculty, but on leave to MIT.

Nebeker:

How did it go at UCLA?

Massey:

It went fine. I didn't care much for being there for a number of reasons, but one reason was that most of the graduate students were part time. They were working in industry because it was so expensive to live in Los Angeles. I was used to a different situation.

Nebeker:

Where they were working full time on their projects.

Massey:

Yes, right, and I think that's a much healthier kind of thing. Also the UCLA faculty spent a lot of time consulting.

Nebeker:

This may be an example of where there was not the institutional commitment to which you had become accustomed.

### Professorship at ETH Zurich

Massey:

Maybe. Of course UCLA seems to be doing very well. I don't want to knock it. It just didn't fit me. One day in 1978 I got a telephone call from George Moschytz, who was later to be my colleague at ETH in Zurich. George said, "I see you're coming to the Information Theory Symposium in Grignano, Italy. He said, "We've got a position opening in your area and would like to talk to you about it." I said, "Fine." We were flying Iceland Air I think and I said, "When I get to Luxemburg, I'll give you a call, and if we can arrange an appointment with the president, then I'll come." The guy who was president insisted on personally interviewing every prospective new faculty member. I went off to UCLA, and a short time George called again. Lis answered the phone. George said, "I think we ought to make more definite arrangements," and Lis said, "So do I." She set up an appointment for a date that the president and I would both be there.

Nebeker:

Was she interested in going to Switzerland?

Massey:

Of course, yes. She loved it.

Nebeker:

When did that happen?

Massey:

I went in 1980.

Nebeker:

Did you get a professor's position at ETH?

Massey:

I was a professor for “Digitaltechnik.”

Nebeker:

What was the language of instruction?

Massey:

That's an interesting question. When I had interviewed with the president he said, "For one year you can teach in English and then after that you're expected to teach in German." Every year I would tell George, "I am going to start teaching in German this year," and George would say, "You're not ready yet." This went on for quite a few years. I wasn't teaching a required course. The course I was teaching was in the last year or even higher-level courses. We didn't really have graduate courses at that time. I think they do now. We had something called “nachdiplom” courses. Then after the sixth or seventh year I started to teach a course in mathematical foundations of communications, and I started teaching that in German.

Nebeker:

How was ETH as a setting for your work?

Massey:

Wonderful. I can't imagine better circumstances than to be a professor there. You're completely on your own, nobody is telling you to do anything and it's easy to get support for your research.

Nebeker:

Is that true?

Massey:

Yes. Well, the Swiss have the quaint idea that if you hire a professor it doesn't make sense unless you give him the means to do his job. That is understood. I also had really great doctorate students.

Nebeker:

In what area were you working there?

Massey:

I started moving more into the security area with cryptography and secrecy coding.

### Random access communications research

Nebeker:

I forgot to ask what you did in your three years at UCLA.

Massey:

I worked mostly on random access communications then.

Nebeker:

Would you say a little about how you got into that?

Massey:

I got into that through that year I spent at MIT. One of Bob Gallager's doctoral students who had just finished was John Capatanakis who did a very nice thesis on what we now call collision resolution algorithms. I got interested in that and things connected with that, so then at UCLA I continued along that line.

Nebeker:

How did that area of work go for you? Did you get some good results?

Massey:

It went all right. It eventually led to a paper I wrote with one of my doctoral students, Peter Mathys. We got the Baker Prize from the IEEE. I don't know if you know of that award.

Nebeker:

Yes, I know of the Baker Award.

Massey:

The W. R. G. Baker Award.

Nebeker:

Yes.

Massey:

We called it the collision channel without feedback. It picked up a lot of notice because people had thought it was impossible to communicate without feedback with that kind of channel.

Nebeker:

I see.

Massey:

That idea popped into my head one afternoon as I was taking a nap on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. "Hey! You could do it that way." That's the way I do my research.

### Cryptography research, patents

Nebeker:

Did the move to Switzerland cause you to change your work?

Massey:

Only in that I became more focused on security.

Nebeker:

How did that come about?

Massey:

It was partly because the Swiss are very active in that area. They had companies there such as Crypto AG and Gretag. At that time both of these companies were very active in cryptography. Of course with the Swiss banks there was great interest.

Nebeker:

I see. What was your work in that in particular?

Massey:

Actually I had been getting into it while I was still at UCLA. One of my best friends is Jim Omura. I don't know if you know that name.

Nebeker:

I just saw it in your CV.

Massey:

Jim Omura was a professor at UCLA and we offered a short course together that we called "principles of secure communications." To us secure communications meant not only secrecy, but it also meant things like security against noise. Jim did the spread spectrum parts I did the cryptographic part. We always listened to each other's viewpoint, and Jim started getting very interested in cryptography. As a result we made a couple inventions and filed patent applications on them.

Nebeker:

What were these?

Massey:

One was a method of doing finite field multiplication using what we called a normal basis. This is something that occurred to me because of a doctoral thesis from Stanford I had read about twenty years before. I had always been very interested in that. This guy had used the normal basis to study cycles from shift registers. Finally it struck me that hey, the normal basis would be a good thing to use to implement a multiplier instead of using the kind of bases that people were then using. By using the normal basis one could use the same function to compute every bit of the product. It would just shift and each time exactly the same function would output a new bit of the product. It didn't have to change its function to do it. The other thing we invented was a way to implement what we called the Shamir’s three-pass algorithm. Essentially it is how to send secretly without keys. You have your own lock and key, I have my own lock and key and I take a box and put my lock on it and send it to you. You can't open it, but you can put your lock on it and send it back to me. Now I've got my key and take it off my lock and send it back to you and you've got your key and take off your own lock and read the message.

Nebeker:

I see.

Massey:

This is the three-pass protocol of Shamir. We patented a particular method for implementing locks for that thing. Jim was very excited about this. I was living in Zurich by then. In fact we developed the invention after I had moved to Zurich. We were working on the table and Jim and I were doing all these things. It's a funny thing. When the patents were actually issued the one on the normal basis became the Omura-Massey patent. The lawyer screwed up and put him first on that one, and the one on the lock – which was all Jim’s idea – they put me first, the Massey-Omura patent.

Nebeker:

Were these inventions motivated by particular needs at the time?

Massey:

They were motivated by perceived needs. Perhaps not real needs. They were needs we anticipated.

Nebeker:

Was there interest in this type of secure communications?

Massey:

It turned out that the normal basis multiplier got used a lot – particularly by a Canadian company.

Nebeker:

Did they license it from you?

Massey:

No, they never paid us a cent. That's a long story. Jim was very interested in getting this going so he started a company and got some investors. I came in a little bit the same way that I got into Codex in that I'm a founder but I didn't do any work. I just got some stock in the company.

Nebeker:

What was that company?

### Omnet (Omura-Massey Network)

Massey:

In the beginning the company was called Omnet. That stood for Omura-Massey Network. However, not long after they changed the name to Cylink. Cylink was purchased about a year ago as it was just on the verge of bankruptcy. It was bought by a company called Safenet.

Nebeker:

Evidently it was in business for a while.

Massey:

Oh yes.

Nebeker:

It did okay.

Massey:

The problems that came up were due to bad management. They had a president who really screwed things up.

Nebeker:

Did you consult for them?

Massey:

A little, but not very much. Sometimes they would ask me to do particular things. For instance I was asked to make a cipher. They wanted to have a cipher they could release to the public that would be strong, fast and easy to implement. I made one called SAFER. That stood for Secure And Fast Encryption Routine.

Nebeker:

Yes, that was a good acronym.

Massey:

That went through two later versions, SAFER+ and SAFER++. A year or two ago I was surprised to learn that they had adopted SAFER+ in Bluetooth.

Nebeker:

Is that right?

Massey:

Yes. In Bluetooth they are using it for the authentication, challenge response kind of authentication. The cipher used in Bluetooth to secure the transmissions to provide secrecy is one that another one of my doctoral students, Rainer Ruepper, and I had designed. We called it the Summation cipher. We had designed that for the European Space Administration. It had to be very simple. The European Space Administration came to me and asked if I could help them on that. I did not go to them. It is kind of nice if people come to you.

Nebeker:

Yes. Absolutely.

Massey:

On the other hand I'm not sure that's the best way to go about doing research, but it worked out.

Nebeker:

It seemed to have worked.

Massey:

Yes, it has worked out really nicely sometimes.

### Consulting work; collaboration with graduate students

Nebeker:

How much have you done that kind of consulting work? You have mentioned a number along the way. Have you done a lot of that?

Massey:

Not so often. I'm doing one now for the European Space Administration again on something completely different. It is what they call ranging – how to compute the range to deep space probe. They need to know this very, very accurately. Therefore a long sequence must be used. The one I am now proposing is about a million chips, a million bits in the sequence. You transmit and then when the signal comes back, determine how many chips has it been delayed? Well it's actually modulo a million.

Nebeker:

Right. Your other ranging techniques will get it within the million.

Massey:

Right. It has to be done quickly. That's the crucial thing. There is not enough time to correlate with all possible positions in the sequence.

Nebeker:

I find that very interesting that these practical needs have led to important discoveries or inventions.

Massey:

I don't know if it's important.

Nebeker:

I don't know about this one, but certainly some of the things you have done have been.

Massey:

I don't think I ever did anything that was important, but it's fun. I've had a lot of working on them. The cipher that has probably gotten the most mileage was one that I worked on with a Chinese doctoral student of mine named Lai Xuejia. I got him as a result of a trip to China made in about 1982. They had asked me to give lectures at what is now called Xidian University. At that time it had a different name. It was Northwest Telecommunications Research Institute or something. They told me they just wanted fundamental lectures in cryptography. When I got there they said, "We know all the fundamental stuff. We want the new and advanced stuff." Every night I sat and worked out the next lecture. Lai was my interpreter. I would say a sentence in English and then he would interpret it for the audience. That worked out very well actually. It didn't really slow me down because I thought more carefully about what I was going to say. That filtered out a lot of junk that I would have said otherwise. The students said they liked it because most of them knew some English and so they heard it twice – once in English and once in Chinese. Every once in a while I would say something and Xuejia would say, "Is that what you mean?"

Nebeker:

He was interpreter who understood.

Massey:

Lai was a good guy. I would go bicycling and Xuejia and another graduate student of mine, Wang Muzhong, would come with me, and we got to be good friends. One day he told me about what he did during the Cultural Revolution.

Nebeker:

Massey:

I think it was 1982. He had to work in the city bus terminal repairing buses. After they finished repairing them they would take them out and drive them.

Nebeker:

Was he already a well-educated person at that point?

Massey:

No. In 1982 yes, but not during the Cultural Revolution. I asked him, "How did you like that job?" He said, "Oh, it was a lot of fun. I used to enjoy testing those buses." I thought, "There is a guy I want." If he had said, "Oh, it was a waste of time and stood in the way of my academic career" or something I would not have been nearly so interested in him. He became a professor in Shanghai recently.

Nebeker:

You have kept in touch with him over the years?

Massey:

Yes. The project with Lai was to develop a new cipher too, but it was a very original structure and Lai Xuejia is mostly responsible for this. He is also responsible for the acronym we used. At first we called it PES, the Proposed Encryption Stamp, and then we changed that to IPES, the Improved Proposed Encryption Stamp. The company that was supporting the research in Zurich said, "We don't like that name with 'proposed' in there," so Xuejia came back with the IDEA, the International Data Encryption Algorithm, and that is what it became. It is still regarded as one of the best ciphers around. No one has made any inroads in attacking it. It was in '91 that the paper on this was published, so it has been around for a while and people have had a lot of opportunity to attack it and have not made any progress.

Nebeker:

Massey:

Yes, but we don't have any financial interest. It was one of these funny things in Switzerland. It was actually paid for by the Hasler Foundation but the patent was given to what became Swisscom. They never did much with it. They did sell licenses to it, but I don't know how many they sold. I was not involved in that. Not too long ago Xuejia did some work for this company that was selling the licenses. If they were smart they would pushed it. They would have gotten him to join the company. He's a really first-rate cryptographer.

Nebeker:

Has this been widely adopted?

Massey:

I don't know how widely because they kept it proprietary. Very often in the cryptographic world the customers don't want it to be known that they are using a particular cipher.

Nebeker:

Sure. I understand.

Massey:

It's not one of the open ciphers like that.

Nebeker:

Okay. Evidently there is still a business in this.

Massey:

Yes, but it's probably shrinking because the block size is 64 bits and now the new standards are all at 128-bit block size. However we were one of the first with a key of 128 bits. That was a quantum jump in the length of the key. In the United States the data encryption standard was only 56 bits at that time, and the U.S. was fighting to keep anyone anywhere in the world from using more bits than there are in the key of the DES. "Trust us."

### Multiple accessing schemes research

Nebeker:

What else did you work on in the Zurich years? You were there quite a few years. I read you did not retire until 1998.

Massey:

Yes, eighteen years. I worked on a lot of different things. I worked on multiple accessing schemes. That turned out to be kind of interesting work.

Nebeker:

Please tell me a little about that.

Massey:

What we were proposing there was a scheme that would be appropriate for example within a building. Nowadays people will use either time division multiple access where the time access is divided up into slots for each and users rotate around in some way. Or in code division multiple access everyone is using the same bandwidth but the signals are roughly orthogonal; they don't interfere too much with one another. This is what Qualcomm for example pushes CDMA code. I came up with the idea of using a kind of a combination, but it's only appropriate where the delay spreads are relatively small.

Nebeker:

Like in a single building?

Massey:

Right. Everyone has the same sequence but the time one starts the transmissions is staggered. It turns out the best way to detect these signals is just to use the inverse filter. If this receive signal is run to an inverse filter it looks like people are using TDMA, but there are the advantages of the broadband transmission.

Nebeker:

They're actually overlapping.

Massey:

Yes. There is also a patent on that.

Nebeker:

Has anyone picked up on that?

Massey:

No, because the company that was doing it never pushed this thing. The PTT actually supported the research but they passed it on to Swisscom and Swisscom let it die. I've heard that there are some American companies that are going to build systems of this kind, but I don't know.

### Consulting work, teaching, and collaboration during ETH career

Nebeker:

Have you been tempted at times to go into the business world yourself with some of these ideas?

Massey:

No. I'm lazy.

Nebeker:

One could also argue that you find it more fulfilling to come up with the codes than to be out there selling them.

Massey:

There is a little bit to that, but I think the greater part is that I'm lazy. It's tough in the business world.

Nebeker:

Sure. Did you do consulting in those years? You mentioned a couple.

Massey:

A little bit, but not a great deal.

Nebeker:

Was the teaching a large part of your job in Zurich and did you have many graduate students?

Massey:

Yes, I had really, really good students. The Swiss are very innovative. It's a shame that the industry is so conservative and backward looking there, but I hope that is going to change. They now have, in my opinion, probably the best group of information theorists in the world in Switzerland. When I came there was nobody. I was the first information theorist there.

Nebeker:

I was going to ask how important it was to you having others there working in the same field.

Massey:

To me that has never been important. A lot of people think they can't work if there aren't colleagues around to help with it. In all the fifteen years I was at Notre Dame there was never anyone else working in information theory and the things that I did there.

Nebeker:

You have managed to collaborate in Zurich with people elsewhere.

Massey:

Yes, and also at Notre Dame. I collaborated with people in the controls area and communications and automata theory for instance. I think it is good not to get so buried in a specialty that one misses things. A lot of things I've done I think have been due to the fact that I maybe have a little broader experience in research than most theoretical researchers.

Nebeker:

Did you retire in 1998 because that was the appropriate time to do so there?

Massey:

No, I took an early retirement. I was tired.

Nebeker:

You mentioned some consulting work. Have you continued to do much?

Massey:

Not a lot, but enough to keep me content.

### IEEE, Information Theory Society

Nebeker:

I know you have been very active at times with IEEE activities.

Massey:

Yes.

Nebeker:

Have you continued with professional society involvements?

Massey:

Yes. Most recently I was co-chairman of the 2002 Information Theory Symposium, but I let Bixio Rimoldi do all the work. When I agreed to do this I said, "Okay, but you're going to do 100 percent of the work." He said, "That's okay. I just need your advice." I did very little.

Nebeker:

You were president of the Information Theory Society.

Massey:

Yes. However it wasn't called president at that time. It was called chairman. And it wasn't called the board of governors; it was called the administrative committee. There has been an inflation of titles.

Nebeker:

That's right.

Massey:

It was also not called a Society. It was the Group on Information Theorists. This is a plague from a week or so ago.

Nebeker:

The Annual Awards Luncheon. They gave you a Distinguished Service Award. That really means something.

Massey:

No. It's the go-for award.

Nebeker:

Yes, well it is for people who have put in time in these Societies. You were editor.

Massey:

That took a lot of time.

Nebeker:

I'm sure.

Massey:

I think I was editor from 1975-1977.

Nebeker:

I know that is a very demanding job.

Massey:

I was also the associate editor for algebraic coding from 1972 to 1974, which was at that time the busiest co-editorship. I think they now have three or four co-editors or associate editors in that field now.

Nebeker:

You served seventeen years on the board of governors there as well.

Massey:

Yes. I paid my dues.

Nebeker:

You put in your service, that's for sure. One thing we try to do at the IEEE History Center is learn more about the history of the IEEE and the Societies along the way. It is always very nice when we encounter someone like you who has been very much involved in the Society.

### Assessment of research contributions, career highlights

Nebeker:

Maybe this is a good time to see if we have covered those four questions the Marconi Foundation wants to be sure we ask people. In regard to your most important achievements, are there any that we have not mentioned?

Massey:

I think they are all in there.

Nebeker:

Is there anything more to say about how they fit into the broader picture? Has your work been the work of a loner at times?

Massey:

I would say it has been the work of a loner, but I always say I am more of a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. I made contributions here, here and here, but most people in the field tend to go deeper in one thing.

Nebeker:

Right. Many stay with one particular thing.

Massey:

I tend to be very broad and not go so deep. I tire too quickly.

Nebeker:

Has work you have done on different codes surprised you in how they have been used?

Massey:

Yes, very often.

Nebeker:

Would you give some specific examples?

Massey:

I found out from Russian friends that threshold decoders were being used up in Siberian oilfields for communications. That surprised me to learn that. Many times I have found that something I did was used in a way that I had not anticipated.

Nebeker:

That must be gratifying to know that your work has been useful.

Massey:

It is gratifying. I am not good at following that kind of thing because I lose interest. It is always gratifying to hear, but I don't pursue such information.

Nebeker:

You also mentioned that businesses often have not made these things public for security reasons.

Massey:

They would not keep error-correcting codes secret, but in the cryptographic area, yes.

Nebeker:

It may take some years before it becomes known what was adopted and by whom.

Massey:

In certain circles that is true, such as within the banking communities. They are very jealous of their privacy.

Nebeker:

I am sure it would be a great advantage to someone trying to crack into some system to know what type of coding is being used.

Massey:

Another area in which they are very careful is in media transmission. For instance the movies sent by satellite to a paying audience is all encrypted. As you may know, very often there are hackers breaking it before the system really gets going. Huge sums of money are at stake there.

Nebeker:

Has any of your work found application with that kind of thing?

Massey:

Not that I am aware. It is possible. I was really surprised to find it was Bluetooth.

Nebeker:

That's amazing. That's a really important system.

Massey:

Yes. I had no idea it was in there.

Nebeker:

How has your work made a difference to the general wellbeing?

Massey:

It probably has not made much difference.

Nebeker:

All these communications are so important.

Massey:

Well, maybe at Cylink and Codex we created jobs for some people for some period of time.

Nebeker:

Any improvement of communication capacity and communication security is immensely important.

Massey:

Yes. Of course these things get passed up as time goes along.

Nebeker:

Right. There is a certain period when it's the best technique and then something else comes along. I know it is hard to be specific about a question like that.

Massey:

I hope my eternal salvation does not depend on what I have done for humanity. I don't know how to put that. I just don't really feel that I have done much. Maybe the best thing I have done is the human interactions with my students.

Nebeker:

Do you have any idea of the number of students you have had over the years?

Massey:

I have not really counted, but I would guess probably on the order of thirty-five to forty doctoral students.

Nebeker:

That is certainly important.

Massey:

I always tried to be serious about my responsibilities of directing students. With all my doctoral students the door was always open for anything, so we tended to remain close.

Nebeker:

I can see that from what little I have learned about you that you have many contacts.

Massey:

Also friends in the profession. Yes.

Nebeker:

Is there anything we have not talked about on which you would like to comment? There will be an opportunity later to add things as well.

Massey:

When my brother switched out of engineering I almost did too.

Nebeker:

Is that right?

Massey:

As a matter of fact I went over to the placement office to pursue that. They gave me some tests, and at the end of it they showed your interest in going into certain professions. One thing they said was that I would have done well with a career in law. However with the engineering I had almost zero interest. Then I realized that really was not fair. I was just down on engineering because my freshman year had been so boring.

Nebeker:

It was probably demanding too.

Massey:

No, it was not demanding. It was just boring and uninspiring. That is what turned me off.

Nebeker:

Coming out of the Depression years and a family that was not very well off that it was important to be in a field where jobs were more certain than say philosophy?

Massey:

No, that was not a consideration.

Nebeker:

That's interesting. Thank you very much.