Information, Technology & Consulting

Warren Belding: An Essential, Supporting Role at Dartmouth for 43 Years

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Warren Belding, Manager of IT Desktop Client Services, retires in February 2016 after 43 years at Dartmouth.

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A 1984 Computing newsletter bears a photo of Warren Belding and Marie Stebbins. Warren sits in front of an Avatar (a terminal used to connect to Dartmouth's mainframe).

Warren Boxes

In 1987, Warren Belding and Dave Merrill load computer equipment for students into a truck as part of Dartmouth's fall distribution to first year students.

 

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In 2000. Front row, from left: Holly Waterman, Heather Varney, Ellen Young, Nicole Hamilton. Back row, from left: Peter Paplow, Tish Aldom, Randy Spydell, Warren Belding

Warren's Traveling Office

Warren’s traveling office.

By Elizabeth Kelsey

Warren Belding, Manager of IT Desktop Client Services, has worked at Dartmouth for so long, he outlasted his first job: the equipment he was hired to run is defunct, and the building in which he first worked no longer stands. But through the years, Warren’s skills evolved with changing technology, enabling him to support the computers of faculty, students, and staff with the software and hardware they need. For over 43 years at the institution, Warren has played a role in countless reports, projects, and designs.

Timesharing

Warren started at Dartmouth in July of 1972, where he worked in the machine room. In the ’60s and ’70s, the institution was a leader in timesharing: In those early days of computing, several users shared one large machine that filled half of Kiewit Computation center’s main floor and provided most of the campus’s computing resources at the time. The timesharing system enabled the BASIC programming language, developed at Dartmouth, to flourish.

Since timesharing split resources among all the giant computer’s users and gave each person a short processing period every few seconds, Warren took steps to make early-computing go smoothly: besides following normal procedures to keep the machine running, he also ran “batch jobs” from punch cards and tapes which contained computer programs; and supplied “greenbar” printer paper, as needed, for various print jobs.

Later, he became the Dartmouth Time Sharing System librarian, a role in which he maintained all the institution’s public programs. The Public Program Library was a collection of computer programs (games, utilities, statistical programs) available for general use by anyone connected to the Dartmouth Time Sharing System (DTSS), and served a purpose similar to the current ITS software download site.

Personal Computing

By the early ’80s, Warren’s position morphed into the user-support role he has maintained ever since. It was at that time he witnessed the biggest technology change of his career: the evolution from a timesharing system to personal computers.

Apple’s Macintosh arrived on campus in 1984, the same year Dartmouth recommended all students own a computer. It was also the first year that ITS (then, Kiewit Computing) distributed 800 computers to first-year students. This collaborative effort involved several IT departments, most notably The Computer Store as well as a consulting group, to which Warren belonged. He and his colleagues prepared and loaded software on computers before distribution—unboxing each device and setting it up so they could image it with Dartmouth software.

Warren was also in the project’s core planning group that distributed the computers. In those early years, this process involved trucking devices from a software installation location to the distribution point at central dormitories around campus and later at Tuck Drive, where students lined up to collect their new equipment. The actual equipment distribution to students was a day-long undertaking that involved everyone in Computing and was one of the most challenging projects of Warren’s career:

“Getting all of that equipment every fall, receiving it here at Dartmouth, preparing it for students and distributing it to them in mid-September. That was a project that involved many people over the years,” he says.

Since his arrival at Dartmouth, Warren saw changes in his own use of technology: “My first computer was not a personal computer because I’ve been here too long,” he says. The first device he used in his office was a model 33 teletype, an electromechanical typewriter that sent and received messages and was connected to Dartmouth’s DTSS mainframe computer. He later used other terminals that connected to Dartmouth’s mainframe, including Zenith Avatars and Decwriters—all machines meant to connect over phone lines or network wiring. In 1984, his office, like the rest of the institution, began to use personal computers, which until the early ’90s were exclusively Macs. By 1992, by popular demand from faculty and students, Dartmouth began selling and supporting more Windows machines.

 “Up until then I had done nothing with Windows machines because we hadn’t had a need to,” Warren says. “For 20-plus years, I’ve learned to become quite familiar with both platforms.”

A Changing Landscape

In addition to technology innovations, Warren witnessed changes in campus architecture, over time. Many buildings have transformed or disappeared during his tenure. Dartmouth demolished the Bradley-Gerry complex to accommodate other buildings, and tore down Kiewit Computational Center in 2000 to make room for Berry.

“Many people did not like the Kiewit building,” Warren says. “But I kind of liked the way it was laid out. There was no way it would suffice today and it outlived its usefulness when we no longer had a big mainframe computer we needed to support, but I enjoyed being in that building and working there.”

Warren moved offices seven times in Kiewit before moving on to Gerry Hall, Silsby Hall, and Berry Library. He has also maintained a traveling office, of sorts: a bag (on wheels at one time), filled with CDs of repair tools and software to install when visiting Dartmouth staff offices.

“I’ve worked with some people a long time in offices where I’ve had contact with them over the years,” he says.  “What I’ve enjoyed most is the relationships, the friendships I’ve built with people I’ve worked with. It has been a really good job.”

Now that he’s retiring, Warren says he and his wife plan to travel more often, and to spend more time with their baby granddaughter. Of his long career, he says:

“It’s unusual these days to have somebody to be in a position, or work in a company for that long a period of time. But in my particular situation, I’ve usually done things for a long period of time.  I was a call firefighter with the Hanover Fire Department for 29 years, I’ve been married over 42 years, and I’ve been at Dartmouth for 43 and a half years.”

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