This is about a work-related visit to NASA’s Ames Research Center I made in the early 1990’s. I have to imagine that things are rather different now!

I had to show ID and fill out a form to get a visitor’s pass: NASA Ames Research Center E 00877, name, representing, to see, bldg. no., citizenship, alien reg. no., for office use. Penny is Australian and had to fill in the alien reg. no. space and show her green card. Then for the next day and a half as I came and went nobody glanced at it again. Hal took me into a theoretically “restricted” area to show me the computer toys, the Cray 2 and the Connection Machine and the giant robot tape libraries. That was fun to see, and nobody looked twice.

I told him it’s the bureaucratic spirit—as long as the paperwork is right, who cares about the reality? There was plenty of bureaucratic spirit. Sluggish. I hooked up some video equipment for them that I guess would have sat in the corner unused for weeks otherwise. I mean, they would have had to find somebody who knew what to do, you know? So I plugged in three or four cables and that was that.

I still have that visitor pass. On the back it instructs you to return it to such-and-such address, with nine-digit zip code. “—WARNING— This credential is the property of the United States Government. Its counterfeiting, alteration, or misuse is a violation of Section 499, Title 18, U.S. Code.” Hey, I keep some government property in my drawer. Neat.

Hal also mentioned that if I was in the middle of a building and heard a tremendous roar, I should go outside and watch the U-2 take off. But I never heard it.

Original version, early 1990’s.
Updated and added here January 2012.