[TUHS] Re: rtm

Dennis Ritchie dmr at plan9.bell-labs.com
Tue Oct 15 13:40:56 AEST 2002

Garcia is correct to praise the Hafner/Markoff account
of the worm incident.  There were some details about
the kids' accounts and exploits that Markoff decided
to elide; by the time he wrote that chapter he had
become rather sympathetic with the Morris family.

In 1995 another big incident occurred: the exploitation
of the SYN TCP-connection takeover attack (Mitnick
etc.)  Markoff got another front-page NYT story out
of this (and a book with Shimomura).  I sent mail
to Markoff at the time of the newspaper coverage reminding
him that RTM had discovered the basic attack
in 1985 (see CSTR 117 at
 http://www.cs.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/cstr.html );
while here during a summer.  Markoff replied in part,

>Interesting how often RTM figures, one way or another, in your front-page
>stories, and of course the [Cyberpunk] book....
>        Dennis Ritchie

  yes, this is true. you know i sat there on sunday for about ten minutes and
   thought about whether i should include rtm in my story - it would obviously
  have spiced it up. i finally decided not to on the grounds that 1. i have
  done enough to mythologize him for one decade 2. he is probably entitled
  not to be dragged through all this again. i still wonder whether i did the
  readers a disservice...

Incidentally, "RTM Sr." was (while here) "rhm" by login name,
and always called Bob; I don't think he actually has a middle name (at least
I don't know it.)  I think it's like Harry S Truman.  RTM
is called Robert, and never used Jr.


 > [Bob] Morris, he said, was the kind of guy who always liked to tinker with
 > things, and if an object had buttons, Morris just had to push them.
 > In fact, sometimes Morris was just a little too quick with his fingers.
 > On one side of a machine room was the light switch, and on the other
 > side was the power to the machine.

 > On at least one occasion, you guessed it -- Morris hit the wrong switch.
 > Some people hung a disk pack that got ruined around his neck, and someone
 > put up a big sign as a reminder: "THIS IS THE WEST WALL!"

I suspect that we may be dealing with the "Schryer filter" regarding
some of the details.  Norm S. was right about Bob's being
an aggressive investigator and fiddler,  but I don't
connect the west-wall sign with Morris in particular, but my
memory could be failing too.  Norman Wilson
might have been around for advent of the sign.
In the event, it had more to do with circuit breakers
labelled in small print "east wall" and "west wall"
and someone choosing the wrong one.


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