Dr. Thomas A. Nartker, founder of NMT's Computer Science Department and
NMT's first Computer Center director, is remembered by his many friends and
colleagues in numerous ways. This page is an informal curated collection
for stories about Tom, including any quotes or sage advice he has imparted.
In His Own Words
The first and best story about Tom would be in his own words, and indeed
UNLV has Tom's own detailed account of his computing career in their
digital collections, by way of
this interview of Dr. Nartker by Dr. David Emerson (thanks, David!).
A Lifelong Love of New Mexican Green Chile
His obituary may suggest that Tom suffered or sweated his way through many
an evening meal of green chile in Socorro. But multiple colleagues
independently reported that Tom's sentimental attachment to NMT included
raving about green chile...and for many years driving over (perhaps 20
hours round trip) every chile season to load up his trunk with chestfulls
of chiles on ice, so that he could have them all year.
Civic Test Drive
Despite the author's protest, I would expect that this story is true,
or almost true. I would appreciate corroboration from a firsthand witness,
or alternative versions of this story. -ed
A funny (and probably untrue) story about Tom was about a Honda Civic, which
in those days (mid 1970s) was a REALLY small car - smaller than a current
Fiat 500, about the size of a Smart car. Tom was 6'8" or so. One of his
friends bought a Civic, and Tom wanted to test drive it. So being Tom, he
opened the sunroof, put his head out the sunroof, wrapped his right leg
around the far side of the stickshift into the passenger seat, and drove it.
Traditional Faculty Meetings
Multiple reports indicate that the preferred venue for NMT CS faculty
meetings for some time was the Capitol Bar. So, the (alleged) oldest
computer science department in New Mexico ran faculty meetings in the
(alleged) oldest saloon in New Mexico. They don't call it the Wild West
Passion for Software Engineering
For Tom, teaching software engineering was all about
Fred Brooks' classic The Mythical Man-Month; he
would quote you all the chapter titles.
It was also about the "Shock Book" (Schach's SE text).
Come to think of it, Tom was extremely enthusiastic
about all things software engineering, and it showed.
No compendium of stories will be complete without some
sort of description of what a "cat cracker" is and his
time at shell oil research in houston.
I am looking forward to someone stepping up on this. -ed
A Link in the Long NM-Nevada Human Chain
Besides Area 51's obvious connection to Roswell and Socorro's own UFO
incident, Tom was just one of many New Mexicans lured to Nevada. He
was recruited to UNLV by former New Mexican John Werth, and of course,
New Mexico Tech's subsequent CS Chair Kazem Taghva followed Tom to UNLV
and worked with him for many years there, founding the ISRI with him.
A (Temporary) Tattoo
Perhaps frustrated by Tom's loyalty to Big Blue at the time, the Albuquerque
branch manager for Burroughs (one of the seven dwarves) is alleged to have
said: "Nartker has IBM tattooed on his forehead". The tattoo must have been
temporary as Tom later bought NMT a DECSystem 20, introducing timesharing to
the NMT campus.
As a high school senior, Dr. Nartker sent me a Hollerith card with the
ribbon ink turned off. Once decoded, it exposed an address of an upper
classwoman whom I could ask questions about the CS program. That much
impressed me that he chose that fun technique to snag a potential new
Ping Pong Instruction
Tom was a great teacher and a good department head. Very supportive of
students learning on their own. He was at least 6'8" and had been a world
class ping pong player. He once told me that no matter what kind of English
your opponent puts on a ball, if you hit it hard enough, it will go where
you want it to.