[TUHS] Fred Grampp

Brantley Coile brantley at coraid.com
Fri Mar 12 07:48:18 AEST 2021

In the "15 minutes" that I worked in Center 1127, I reported
to Fred. When he interviewed me for the job in his office
the conversation wandered around to the German Enigma machine.

"What a great thing to actually see one some day." I said.

"Oh?" asked Fred, reaching down pulling open the bottom drawer of
his metal desk. 

A tug at a fabric covered wooden box, making a sliding, banging noise
on the metal draw as he withdrew it, and plopped it on the disk in
front of me.  Popping open the catches he lifted the lid and there was
the enigmatic enigma in front of me, open for me to touch.

We spent the rest of the interview with him explaining the 
the workings of the device. What a pleasure it was.


> On Mar 11, 2021, at 10:06 AM, M Douglas McIlroy <m.douglas.mcilroy at dartmouth.edu> wrote:
> In all that's been written about the Research Unix players,
> Fred Grampp has gotten far less coverage than he deserves.
> I hope to rectify that with this post, most of which was
> written soon after his death.
> Doug
> During Fred's long career at Bell Laboratories, his coworkers
> were delighted to work with him, primarily because of his
> innovative and often surprising ways of attacking problems.
> Fred's unique approach was by no means limited to work-related
> matters. Fred arranged an annual canoe-camping trip on the
> Delaware River replete with nearly professional grade fireworks.
> He also arranged a number of trips to New York City (referred
> to as culture nights) which included, among other things,
> trips to the planetarium and visits to various tea rooms.
> To his friends at Bell Labs, Fred Grampp was a true original. He
> knew the urban community of small, scrabbling business
> as well as the pampered life of industrial research in the
> country's greatest industrial research lab. And he brought
> the best of each to his approach to work.
> In his father's hardware store, Fred learned on the front line
> what "customer-oriented" meant--a far cry from the hypothetical
> nonsense on the subject put forth by flacks in a modern PR
> department, or by CEO Bob Allen thinking big thoughts on the
> golf course.
> Fred ran the computing facilities for the Computer Science
> Research Center. He had his finger on the pulse of the machinery
> at all hours of day and night. He and his colleague Ed Sitar
> rose early to pat the hardware and assure that everything was
> in order just as had been done at the hardware store. The rest
> of us, who kept more nerdish hours, could count on everything
> running.
> Packed with equipment, the machine room depended on
> air conditioning. Fred saw this as a threat to dependable
> service. As a backup, he had big galvanized barn fans installed
> in several windows--incongruous, but utterly practical. And
> they saw actual use on at least one occasion.
> Fred cooked up ingenious software to sniff the computers'
> health and sound alarms in his office and even by his bed when
> something was amiss. When a user found something wrong and
> popped into Fred's office to report the trouble, more often
> than not he'd find Fred already working on it.
> With his street smarts, Fred was ahead of the game when
> computer intrusion began to become a problem in the 1970s.
> He was a real white-hat marshall, who could read the the bad
> guys' minds and head them off at the pass. With Bob Morris,
> Fred wrote a paper to alert system administrators to the kinds
> of lapse of vigilance that leave them open to attack; the paper
> is still read as a classic. Other sage advice was put forth
> by Fred in collaboration with G. R. Emlin, who would become an
> important adjunct member of the lab, as several TUHS posts attest.
> Quietly he developed a suite of programs that probed a
> computer's defenses--fortunately before the bad guys really
> got geared up to do the same. That work led to the creation
> of a whole department that used Fred's methods to assess and
> repair the security of thousands of computers around Bell Labs.
> Fred's avocations of flying and lock-picking lent spice to
> life in the Labs. He was a central figure of the "computer
> science airforce" that organized forays to see fall colors,
> or to witness an eclipse. He joined Ken Thompson, who also
> flew in the department air force, on a trip to Russia to fly
> a MIG-29.  Ken tells the story at cs.bell-labs.com/ken/mig.html.
> Fred's passion for opera was communicated to many. It was
> he who put the Met schedule on line for us colleagues long
> before the Met discovered the World Wide Web. He'd press new
> recordings on us to whet our appetites. He'd recount, or take
> us to, rehearsals and backstage visits, and furnish us with
> librettos. When CDs appeared on the scene, Fred undertook to
> build a systematic collection of opera recordings, which grew
> to over two hundred works. They regularly played quietly in the
> background of his office. To Fred the opera was an essential
> part of life, not just an expensive night on the town.
> Fred's down-to-earth approach lightened life at Bell Labs. When
> workmen were boarding up windows to protect them from some major
> construction--and incidentally to prevent us from enjoying the
> spectacle of ironworkers outside. Fred posted a little sign
> in his window to the effect that if the plywood happened to
> get left off, a case of Bud might appear on the sill. For the
> next year, we had a close-up view of the action.
> Fred, a graduate of Stevens Institute, began his career in
> the computer center, under the leadership of George Baldwin,
> perhaps the most affable and civic-minded mathematician I have
> ever met. At the end of one trying day, George wandered into
> Fred's office, leaned back in the visitor chair, and said,
> "I sure could use a cold one about now." Fred opened his window
> and retrieved a Bud that was cooling on the sill.
> Fred lived his whole life in Elizabeth, New Jersey. At one
> point he decided that for exercise he could get to the Labs by
> train to Scotch Plains and bike from there up to Bell Labs--no
> mean feat, for the labs sat atop the second range of the
> Watchung Mountains, two steep climbs away from Scotch Plains.
> He invested in a folding bike for the purpose. Some days
> into the new routine a conductor called him out for bringing
> a bicycle onto the train. Fred had looked forward to this
> moment. He reached into his pocket, pulled out a timetable
> and pointed to the fine print: bicycles were prohibited with
> the exception of folding bikes.
> Originally dated October 25, 2000.  Lightly edited and three
> paragraphs added February 22, 2021.

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