Dave's "this date in history stuff" has reminded me of a great Masscomp
story that really needs to be written down and not lost to Unix history.
I'm hoping Warren can forgive me a little as the Unix history is the
Masscomp part and people involved; but I think it is fun and should be more
Some of you may know who Jack Burness is (and even be part of his humor
mailing list - which is one of the most amazing who-is-who of the
industry). Jack is probably most infamous for his being the author of RT-11
Some of his stunts over his career are legends, as our old friend and
colleague Mike Leibensperger once said, I want to be like Jack, when he
grows up (at ~70, I can assure you that he still has not).
After Jack left DEC, he became the original one man Masscomp Graphics
group. While the year really does not matter, at some point, Jack had been
given a tear off desk calendar as a Christmas present from his girfriend
called the 'Sex Fact of the Day Calendar.' Like Dave's daily reminders
us on TUHS, every morning he typed in the one line factiod and passed it on
to the Masscomp Engineering Mailing List. This is important because the
VCs had just given us a straight laced ex-IBM guy as a president named Gus
Klein (aka Mr. Potatohead), who did not read email, and of course did not
read the engineering mailing list. He wants to workspace to be
'professional' and look like his idea of an 'office' and his
amazing as you can imagine.
The other important note to the story is that the late Roger Gourd, our
direct boss, had just created Masscomp's new Custom Product Engineering
(CPE) group; to be the analog to DEC's CSS. When Roger had left DEC for
Gould he had of course, moved to south Florida where they were based and
become quite a fisherman and protector of natural resources. When he was
recruited to come move back to New England to take on the reins in
development at Masscomp be brought some of south Florida back with him.
Well from Jack we had learn two important facts and from those facts
realized that mediterranean fisherman were liars: at some time in March it
was reported that fisherman in the med that caught a female manatee in
their nets and brought it into their boat considered it bad luck unless they
sodomized them because the manatee were thought to be mermaids; and some
time in May we learned that the Roman Catholic Church would excommunicate
any fisherman if it was discovered that said fisherman had caught a manatee
and that manatee had been used as a sex toy.
Upon learning this interesting catch-22, Gourd immediately sponsors the
"Save the Manatee Society in South Florida" and makes it the Group Mascot
for CPE. Well, manatees start popping up all over engineering. Mr.
Potatohead is clueless of the significance of course. At his memorial I
gave Roger's widow a stuffed manatee I still had from my desk from those
days, she knew and laughed and laughed knowing that Roger would have
BTW: I do however, still keep 'Darth Tater, on my desk at Intel'.
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