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Penn History

This exhibit was researched and written by Nicholas G. Heavens, University Archives Summer Research Fellow, 2000-2002. He is an undergraduate at the University of Chicago and has been a University Archives Summer Research Fellow for the last three years. Much of this exhibit is based on his research of the history of computing at Penn in the summer of 2000.

In 1983, NASA bought “Bubbleman” from the University of Pennsylvania. “Bubbleman” was a software program that NASA wanted to use in order to test the responses of the human body to certain procedures and workstation arrangements on the Space Shuttle. “Bubbleman” was designed by Dr. Norman Badler, a CIS professor who has been designing software applications for human factors research for more than twenty years. Using what he had learned in the design of “Bubbleman”, Badler eventually created Jack™ a more advanced program written in a mix of C and C++ that was capable of responding more specifically and precisely to various stimuli. For example, Badler used Jack in 1991 to see how the human body responded to different car cockpit setups. By 1989, Badler’s research laboratory was a popular government contractor. The laboratory had a DEC VAX server linked by an Ethernet connection to workstations with SGI and HP display equipment, and an Apple LaserWriter printer.

"Bubbleman," software
“Bubbleman,” software