Around 1977 I was working/volunteering/studying at the Dynamic Graphics Lab at the University of Toronto, where Unix ran on an 11/45 and we had a bunch of graphics hardware. Doing graphics on a PDP-11 was a challenge, but we managed. (For reference: later Dave Tennenhouse made a 256x256x8bit frame buffer, and that was the size of entire PDP-11 data address space.)

Everyone was jealous of the C/A/T phototypesetter that Bell Labs Research used to print their documentation. One Friday evening I had the idea to use our stinky but effective Versatec plotter as an output device for nroff. In just a few hours - our libraries were already pretty good - I had something tolerable running. Tom Duff dropped by and helped make it faster by coding what we would now call the character blitter in assembler. Then Bill Reeves joined in, and Mike Tilson, and by the end of the weekend we had pretty good efficient output. (Still nroff; troff came later, mostly due to Bill I think, who did a lot of work on the character set.) It was grey and blotchy and smelly, but after a Xerox copy it looked pretty good for the time.

Ron Baecker, who ran the lab and was the graduate advisor for everyone else - I was just an undergraduate physics student having fun - stopped by on Monday morning and was furious to see us all hammering on the code. Everyone was supposed to be working on their thesis and we had spent the weekend hacking. I was about to be in serious trouble for distracting the graduate students. But then he saw the output and completely changed his tune: "Can I use this to print out my new grant proposal?"

For context, consider this: I used the system for my 4th year optics project report. The professor was furious with me for copying someone's work. He did not believe it possible to create output like that (and to be fair, it wasn't possible almost anywhere else). I had to take him to the lab and show him how I did it before he would let me pass the course. Until then, no one had seen a student capable of making text look good.

The software went on the Toronto tape, with a top-of-file comment crediting me, Bill, Tom, and Mike. It emerged again from Berkeley with that comment replaced by the Regents' rankling rewrite.

When I interviewed at Bell Labs, Dennis Ritchie saw on my resume that I claimed to have worked on the Versatec text output system. He asked why I had bothered, when Berkeley had already done it. "Because we wrote it first, and Berkeley took the credit," I said. Berkeley did tweak it, but honestly it was mostly our work.

I didn't care so much about losing credit for the code, but the idea was 100% mine, and for a young punk the loss of credit was upsetting. Later Henry Spencer, another Toronto graduate, explained the story on Usenet. I don't know if he was believed, and through the 1980s it remained the "Berkeley typesetting software."

It was all long ago, but seeing that "Regents" comment is, as we say today, triggering.

But to be fair to Dennis, he believed me, and maybe that helped me get hired.