[TUHS] Re: Weinberger stencil? (was: rtm)

Dennis Ritchie dmr at plan9.bell-labs.com
Thu Oct 17 12:59:37 AEST 2002

Lehey wondered:

>  ....  can
> you shed any light on the "Peter Weinberger stencil" incident?  ...

> Somebody came across the idea of
> making a large stencil of his face in death-star like technology,
>  and used it to paint an image of him on a nearby water tower.
>  Allegedly the costs were charged to Peter's department.

>  Some years later, this stencil arrived in Greg Rose's office in
>  Australia from an anonymous sender.  Greg has a suspicion who the
>  sender was, but no proof, so he doesn't want to comment.  He gave it
>  to our own Warren Toomey, who still has it in his garage.

>  At some point, Peter Salus suggested that the image was of Rob Pike...

I could recover some of the dates, but
not accurately from memory.  Weinberger was promoted,
first to department head, then to being director of a
newly-created but next-door center, then to our own
executive director.  This would have been mid-late 80s,
early 90s.  He was being groomed, it appears.
Shortly before trivestiture, 1994ish, he went to
the business part of AT&T, possibly in preparation
for coming back to a higher management position
at the Labs.  When the Lucent/AT&T split occurred
he was somewhat caught on the AT&T side.
He ended up leaving AT&T and going to a financial
quant company.

His image was particularly striking, and was used
to kid him in various ways, e,g, as a default image
in mail icons.  The image rendering his
face with the Deathstar styling was done by
Tom Duff, and it appeared, for example, on
T-shirts worn publically at venues like Usenix
and elsewhere.  Other versions of it
appear inscribed in concrete now buried
beneath floors at the Labs.  There is a
bitmap version (rendered in 1cm magnets) of the
full image, not death-starred, high on
a steel wall above a landing on a nearby

The large stencilled image of the Deathstar/PJW
rendition did indeed appear suddenly one day on
a water tower; it must have been about 10 feet
tall.  Kernighan had  a photo of it, and Gerard
Holzmann just scanned it:


It was painted over quite rapidly,
a couple of days at most.  (The tower itself
is now gone, though not because of this.)
The image was certainly not of Rob Pike.

After this happened, a voucher was pinned up
on a communal corkboard, claiming expenses
for several cans of blue spray paint.  The voucher
was signed by one G. R. Emlin, a fictitious personage
with his (later her) own history.  Attached to
it was a handwritten note from our then Executive
Director (Vic Vyssotsky) saying approximately
as follows:

	Unfortunately, this voucher cannot be
	approved by me; I am not empowered
	to approve Real Estate improvements.

	If Mr. Emlin would like to arrange a transfer
	to the Building and Grounds department,
	I would be happy to assist.

So: who did it?  If Greg Rose suspects certain
aviation-inclined buddies, I in turn think his
suspicions are likely to be well-founded.

I managed to retrieve the image used to create the stencil;
it's now linked-to near the bottom of



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