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Interview of Carl Rosenberg by Richard Peppin on May 14, 2019,Niels Bohr Library & Archives, American Institute of Physics,College Park, MD USA,www.aip.org/history-programs/niels-bohr-library/oral-histories/XXXX
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In this interview, on behalf of the Acoustical Society of America, Rich Peppin interviews Carl Rosenberg, Principal Consultant and Co-Founder of Acentech. Rosenberg discusses his upbringing in Poughkeepsie, New York, his educational experiences at Princeton and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his service in the U.S. Army. Rosenberg describes his involvement with early card-punch computing, his entrance into the world of architectural acoustics and the career developments leading to him becoming President of Acentech. The interview concludes with Rosenberg sharing details of his family life.
Hi. My name’s Rich Peppin. I’m the interviewer. Today is the 14th of May, 2019. We’re at the Galt [House] Hotel in Louisville. It’s about 2:30 p.m., and I’m going to interview Carl Rosenberg for the Acoustical Society of America.
Okay, now we sort of go over past history. When and where were you born?
I was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in July of 1943.
I’m older than you. [laughs]
[laughs] But not by much.
Not by much. I was born in February, in Brooklyn. Before entering colleges, where were some of the places you lived? Anywhere special?
No. I was raised in Poughkeepsie.
What were your parents’ occupations?
My father was a pediatrician. My mother was a homemaker.
There’s a question I am supposed to ask— I don’t know how — how would you describe yourself during those early years? I don’t know what that means.
[laughs] Same as I am now.
[laughs] Only older. As a youngster, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be an architect.
Really? Wow. That’s good. And how come you went into engineering instead of architecture?
I didn’t really go into engineering.
I went to architecture school.
Oh. I didn’t know that.
But I found it really didn’t suit my skills. I couldn’t design anything, but I was interested in the engineering aspects of buildings, and I took a course in architecture acoustics. Bob Newman was the lecturer, and it sounded great.
Where did you take that course?
I was in architecture school at MIT.
At MIT. So, you went from Poughkeepsie to MIT?
No. I first went to four years of college in Princeton, for a Bachelor of Arts degree, and then I went to MIT for architecture school. Also I worked for two years for the United States government in the Army.
I’ll get to that later.
Wow. Did you have any hobbies or special interests when you were a kid?
No, nothing special.
Okay. Very much like me, in a lot of ways. What did you enjoy most in high school? And that’s in Poughkeepsie.
Yes, it was in Poughkeepsie. I went to public high school there. What did I like? I liked being involved with different groups, but I never was a star performer of any kind. I did find that I had — what I felt comfortable doing was sort of seeing how organizations were organized and running behind the scenes. As an example, when there was a talent show, as there always is in high school, I think I wanted to be a stage manager, someone behind the scenes.
Setting up for other people. That was fun.
Wow, that’s pretty good. During high school, was there anybody that impressed you or you wanted to be like?
No, not really.
No. Okay. Now we get to college. So, where you first went to college and your major was —
I was at Princeton University for my four years of college, and my major was in art history.
Art history. Wow. Wow, that’s very untechnical, in a way.
Very untechnical — against my mother’s wishes. She wanted me to be a doctor.
Like your dad.
Like my dad, like any good Jewish boy.
But I didn’t want to be a doctor. I started off being in the architecture program, but found art history was a better program for me at that time.
What made you go to Princeton? I mean, that’s pretty — I mean, that’s a nice school, of course, but —
Well, I was very fortunate, and I had good grades in that regard. Also, my father had gone there; that helps. And my older brothers had gone there; that didn’t hurt either.
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
So, it was a comfortable and easy choice.
Right. And so, you lived away — of course, you lived away from home.
So, you had a dorm, or —
Yes, it was my first time away from home.
Wow. Was there anything special in your undergraduate college days that influenced you — a person, or event? So, this is in the — from about ’60 to —
1961 to 1965. I graduated in 1965. I was in the Glee Club. That was exciting. That was my extracurricular activity. And again, I enjoyed meeting the people. I enjoyed the singing, although I wasn’t very good as a singer, but I helped organize the group and had some administrative role.
All right. Good. Did you participate in any rallies or protests or causes around then?
Okay. Would you go to the same college again, if you could?
And then — I mean, the idea was — art history was what you were really interested in. And then after that, you decide to go into architecture.
In particular, in the art history program, I took all the courses and focused on the history of architecture.
Because I still liked learning about buildings, their design, and how they were built. And the cultural input to the design of buildings, and that aspect of it. So, it wasn’t a pure art history major, where you looked at the details of a painting, and it wasn’t architectural instruction, either.
Right. And this was probably the last two years of college?
And before that was liberal arts…
…history, and all that stuff. Alright. And then you went to —
I went to MIT.
Direct, for architecture. And did you get an architectural degree?
And how did you pick MIT?
[laughs] I applied to several architecture schools. I think MIT was the best school that accepted me — in fact, the only school that accepted me.
So, it made the decision very easy.
Right. Right. I had an interesting thing. I’ll put it on — when I got out of City College in New York, I didn’t know anything about graduate schools, or anything like that. So, I applied to names of schools with states: University of Mississippi. Arizona State. Akron. Just names. I got rejected from all of them except one: West Virginia University gave me a scholarship. [laughs] Alright. How did you support yourself in graduate school and in undergraduate school?
My parents provided support.
Did you have any part-time jobs at all, like summer or lifeguard?
Yes, always during the summer, I did pick up different things like that. I had one very interesting summer job. When I was in college, one of my classmates had signed up for a job and he couldn’t take it, so I took it over. And I was basically on board a training vessel for the New York State Maritime Academy.
Yeah, in the Bronx.
Right, just on the tip of Long Island.
Underneath the bridge.
And so, I got to travel with this ship to go to Europe, although I wasn’t a trainee for the Coast Guard, but it was fun.
Wow. My friend went there. Jose Femenia Maybe you knew him.
No? The same time as you.
Yes, but I didn’t associate with the cadets or the trainees.
Right. Okay. So, you got a master’s in architecture?
And then what?
Well, just to interject, the program when I started was a Bachelor of Architecture program, although it was a professional degree. In other words, with that degree, you could practice architecture, but technically, it was a Bachelor of Architecture.
And my draft board — not many people, but you’re one of them — can remember what the draft board was like.
They didn’t think it was appropriate as a deferment to take a second bachelor’s degree.
So, I got drafted after three years at MIT. I went in the Army, finished my enlistment, and then came back and finished the program at MIT. By the time I came back, the same degree had been changed to a Master of Architecture. So, so that’s the degree I got.
Now, during that time — it was during Vietnam.
Yes, it was.
Did you see military service, like —
I did military service, and I went to Vietnam. I didn’t see any action there.
You’re lucky. Yeah.
I’m very lucky.
Wow. So, okay. You’ve got a Master’s degree, and still, when you went back after military [service], your folks still supported you, too?
No. When I came back after the military, it was time to grow up and be on my own.
I worked part-time during that last year of school at Bolt Beranek and Newman. They were willing to take me on as a part-time employee while I was still a student at MIT.
How did you learn about them? Or, you knew about them from —
I knew about them from Bob Newman teaching architectural acoustics, and I had actually started working for them before I went in the Army. I thought that maybe that would give me a deferment.
How long were you in the Army? Two years?
Yes, a little less.
Yeah. So, you’re about 27, or something like that.
Yes, the draft — when you were 26, you were too old for the draft.
But I was 25 to the day when I was drafted.
Yeah. Was it scary to get drafted, or —
Oh, yes. It was not my first choice ____.
Wow. There’s a question — oh, and then what? You got your doctorate, right?
No doctorate. It was the Master of Architecture after this year of part-time work, when I finished my architecture degree. I worked at Bolt Beranek and Newman, and then I started full-time.
Right. Now, [Leo] Beranek was there at that time?
Well, if he was, he certainly wasn’t active in the architectural acoustics group. He’d pretty much changed his career into broadcasting.
But Bob Newman was there. Dick Bolt was in a different part of the company, and they certainly set a certain tone. They were still active in the company.
Wow. So, as a — you worked with other consultants? I mean, you knew the consultants, like _Mull Bell Associates and — you have heard of them?
Yeah, I’ve heard of them, but not much.
The world was — again, I’m just starting out at this point, so I knew all the people at BBN in the architectural acoustics group, and some others in the Noise and ControlEnvironmental Noise group, but I didn’t know much about other consultants, either.
Yeah. Okay. What were your duties in the military? Now, you were in the —
I was in the Army, in the Administrative Corps. My duties were to stay out of trouble, and to type. My military occupational specialty [MOS] was as a clerk typist.
And also, I was involved with computers, which meant at that time, in 1967-8, computer for me meant being a card punch operator
Card punch. Right. And the big tape drives. Yeah, that’s right.
Yes, but mainly it was key-punching, and then these huge machines would go, [makes noise of machine].
[laughs] Right. Right.
And sorts all the cards.
Right. And you’d put a stripe down the — did you have the deck of cards, you’d put a stripe, so in case you drop them —
That’s a good technique. I didn’t know that one.
[laughs] Oh, I did that. I was at — when you were there, I was probably at the Bendix Corporation doing heat transfer.
So, when you’re a card-punch operator, you’d have to check the cards. So, this one person punches the cards, and another person processes the same cards from the same data and makes sure that everything works right.
So, in theory, you’d punch it once, and someone else goes over and punches it again.
But there’s a way to program the machine so that it says, “This must be right,” so it just takes all of that processing —
I’ve got you. Right, right. And it puts it in a stack, right?
Yeah, in a stack.
I remember that. Right. Was there anything good or bad about your military service, that you know? Any bad —
I was very fortunate not to see any active combat.
What was your rank?
I made it up to Private 1st Class. In fact, I think I got to be a Specialist 4th Class, which was even one step higher; it was pretty boring, but it was a chance to serve, and it was an obligation.
Right. Right. And, I mean, you were in Vietnam when this was going on.
After 11 months at Fort Dix, I was transferred to Vietnam.
To Vietnam. And you stayed there for the rest —
For the duration.
A month and a year, or something like that.
Yes, I think it was probably another 10 months or so.
Wow, yeah. Wow. Okay. The questions ask: “Did you ever attend any technical, business, or trade school?” That doesn’t matter. “Any correspondence courses?” No.
Okay. So, okay. After college, you started — right away you started at Bolt Beranek and Newman.
On Moulton Street, wasn’t it?
[laughs] Yeah. (Looking at questionnaire) I mostly answered some of these things. Did anyone there really influence you?
Yes. My mentors were Bob Newman, Jack Curtis, and Parker Hirtle—all outstanding consultants and teachers. And I made some very nice friends. I enjoyed meeting with them, and we kept up a little bit afterwards, but these mentors made a strong, certainly professional, influence.
And so, you really — that was your one job from college on. You stayed there till now.
That’s correct. I’ve had only one job interview in my life.
Wow. That’s BBN.
Yeah, that’s BBN, and even that was a bit of a joke, but that’s been my one…
That’s pretty impressive.
…contact for employment.
Yeah. What was your — oh, so you were what, a senior scientist at BBN? What was your rolethere?
Well, I’ve worked my way up from being a consultant to a senior consultant to a manager at BBN. By 1989, BBN had established Acentech as a wholly-owned subsidiary company within BBN. But our group was eager to re-establish ourselves as an employee-owned entity. With BBN’s concurrence, nine of the senior consultants purchased Acentech from BBN, and soon after that I became President of Acentech.
And do you now own part of Acentech personally?
I’ve sold all my stock at this point and retired from Acentech, although I do occasional consulting work for the company.
Yeah. Okay. Did you ever write a book or anything like that?
No, I did not, although my partner Eric Wood wrote a very good book about Acentech called Sound Ideas.
Get any publication — how about papers?
Well, I’ve written papers for ASA and for other trade journals and for architects who might be interested in acoustics, and I’ve enjoyed that, but it hasn’t been a separate book.
Okay. So, somebody if they needed to, could look up those papers or at least the conference papers.
Some of them, yes. And I also had the chance to continue Bob Klewman’s legacy of teaching architectural acoustics as a visiting lecturer at Schools of Architecture—first at Princeton and then, after Bob died in 1983, at MIT—teaching the same course that first brought me in to acoustics.
Okay, good. So, what’s your present marital status.
I’m married to the wife I courted 47 years ago.
Holy crow. What’s her name?
What does she do?
She’s retired. She was a schoolteacher in French for 30 years.
And where’d you meet her?
Oh, through mutual friends.
But what area?
Oh, in Boston. Oh, okay.
After I moved back after the Army — actually, I had met her before. Then we were — I had to go into the Army, but I came back, and we reconnected.
Oh, wow. So, it was a separation there, like when you were —
Yes. [laughs] There wasn’t much of an initial connection.
Oh, I see.
It was unfortunate, because I had this inkling that this was something I wanted to pursue, and then the Army interrupted it.
Wow, that —
But fate let us get together again.
Wow, because that feeling that you lost it because you were away — yeah.
That was the unfortunate thing about the Army, because it just wrenches you — pulls you out of wherever you were.
Right. Right. I’ll tell you my story later on about that. So, where did you get married? In Boston?
Outside Boston, in Concord, Massachusetts.
Do you have any kids?
Our oldest child is named Samuel. That was my mother’s maiden name. And he’s, I guess, 39 now.
[laughs] Holy crow. It’s hard to believe.
He was born in 1980, so yes, he will be 39 in October. And our second-born, our daughter Alice, she’s 37.
Do you remember like, when we were 37, our parents were really old? [laughs] Wow.
[laughs] Well, my daughter told me of a fellow she met indirectly who is only 37, and he’s a grandfather.
Oh, geez. [laughs] Oh, geez.
But that’s a side-story, and I don’t know if —
Yeah, no. Right. Right. Alright. Moving on. We’re almost done. It’s hard to believe. But I want to talk about other things, too. So, what’s your favorite form of entertainment?
Well, I enjoy reading. I think that’s the best — most fun.
Do you have a favorite author or book?
But is it like, fiction? Non-fiction?
Well, I guess, when I think of it, the books I turn to are some mysteries, but more likely either sociological history or development. I like reading about science, whether it’s — and science far beyond my understanding. But modern trends in biology and science are fascinating to read about, and I enjoy those.
Do you get the books online, or at a library?
I used to buy the books. My wife decreed that we will not buy any more books, so now I get them from the library. It’s a good library system. They can pick up almost any book I want.
Right. It’s amazing. Do you go to movies at all?
Not much anymore.
Yeah, me either. How about music?
I love music, and we are engaged with supporting different music groups in and around Boston, and I get a lot of pleasure from that.
Do you play anything?
I took piano lessons, same as any Jewish boy would, but I don’t play now.
[laughs] Yeah. Any TV?
Okay. Any sports?
Like me. [laughs] Okay. So, what are your hobbies? No hobbies, huh?
Reading, and stuff like that. So now that you’re retired, what are your plans? I mean, it’s hard when we’re old. [laughs] There are no future plans, but what are plans?
Well, I’d like to try to just relax a little. You know, consulting is a frenetic pace.
So, I enjoy — I will look forward to more reading, visiting grandkids — we have four grandkids already, and a fifth one on the way.
Wow. So, you’re a grandfather.
I am a grandfather.
That’s old. [laughs]
[laughs] I just told you about a 37-year-old!
I know. I know, but I remember, when I was a kid, my grandfather —
He was an old man. [laughs] Well, I certainly feel that.
Yeah. So, where do they live? Where do your kids live?
Our son has two boys. He lives in New York City. Our daughter has two girls, and she’s expecting a third, and they live in Maine, outside Portland.
Nice. So, your plan is just to sort of like hang around, do stuff in the house?
Again, we keep active with social activities, with music groups in Boston, and get to see more friends on a relaxed basis.
Yeah, it’s nice. That’s what — kind of have lunch together, stuff like that.
Any travel plans?
We’ve enjoyed wonderful travels in our life, my wife and I, and I’ve enjoyed some very interesting trips through work. I’ve traveled to places around the world.
Yeah. Yeah. Did you take your wife with you sometimes?
Sometimes, but more often, those would be separate trips.
But it’s not as much fun anymore, and we’ve probably had enough of that kind of travel.
[laughs] Yeah, I know the feeling. I know.
It just doesn’t fit our — I know other people jump on these trips and get on a riverboat or something, but I just don’t see it.
I don’t see that either. Do you have any pets?
No. We used to have the best dog in the world, but she left us about 10 years ago.
Oh, man. That’s sad. Okay, that’s more or less it. Do you have anything that you want to add to the transcript?
No. Okay. Let’s see. I’m trying to think of other things. Well, okay. Okay. So, I’ll stop it now. I’ll confirm this is the end of the taped interview. Okay. Let me stop.