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

Norman Wilson norman at nose.cs.utoronto.ca
Thu Oct 17 13:45:59 AEST 2002

This is certainly non-technical UNIX history, which is not to
say it isn't interesting.

I can sharpen up a few details of Dennis's account.  Peter was
already a department head when I first visited the Labs in early
1984.  I believe his face was already a favourite test image for
various graphics experts, but the cult of the face didn't really
get started until the following year.

In particular I think it was in the summer of 1985 that Tom Duff
thought of the deathstar transform (turning a picture into variable-
width horizontal stripes, as the AT&T logo to a highlighted sphere).
Certainly it was later that year that the much-bigger-than-life
image appeared on the water tower: my calendar file still says

	sep 16	btl water tower 1985

Peter was still a department head at that time; he didn't climb
further into management until about 1990.

As I recall, the water tower remained painted for a couple of days.
A two-man team from the Physical Plant department finally covered it
over: one man in overalls wielding paint, another in suit and tie
watching to be sure no trace remained.

Lest people get the wrong idea, Peter took no offense at the
overuse of his face.  In fact a few years later he agreed to
have a plaster cast made.  Someone (Duff?) then made a latex
positive from the plaster negative, intending to digitize it
somehow into a three-dimensional model.  I don't know if that
ever happened, but I did borrow the latex one day, used it to
generate another negative in ice, and cast a large chocolate
truffle which I then set out in the UNIX Room (as the group's
common terminal room was called) for all to enjoy.

That may have been the only really interesting use of the 3d
face.  In any case the plaster cast was presented to me when
I left the Labs in 1990, and I still have it, though I haven't
done anything with it since.

There were also some smaller stencils made of the same deathstar-
Peter face.  (In fact I have it on good authority that the big
one was made by projecting one of the smaller ones on a wall.)
When Bell Labs bought a Cray X-MP in 1986 or 1987 (my records aren't
that complete), one of our group made several visits to Cray to
get a head start on a special network interface we would need.
He took along one of the small stencils and put a few Peter faces
on panels that were normally covered up when the machine was running.
(The Cray was to be shared by Research and the Comp Center, and the
Comp Center were a bit stuffier.)  To everyone's surprise, when the
machine arrived it bore no extra decorations.  Presumably Cray shipped
the painted system to another customer; we never found out who.

The Computing Science Research Center was a fun place to work.

Norman Wilson
Toronto ON

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