Work, Teaching, and Career

 

The Forum gives visitors the chance to express their thoughts and share memories about Mark Weiser's career, ideas, and life. By sharing your stories about him, you help us better remember Mark's place in the Silicon Valley community, and in the history of computers and information technology.

 

This page is devoted to remembering Mark's work and influence as a manager, teacher, advisor, and collaborator. Other pages are devoted his ideas on ubiquitous computing, and his life.

 

 See also the biography of Mark Weiser.

"Mark talks about his work with passion; rather than a mosaic of labs and at times conflicting personalities, he sees PARC as one--a living, breathing organism." --Giuliana Lavendel, Xerox PARC newsletter, 1989

 

"Mark has touched the lives of many "students" both directly and indirectly. His work was truly inspired and he inspired the same energy into those around him. He used to say that a true programmer was someone who would develop computer software no matter what the pay because they loved the sheer thrill of programming." --John R. "Jack" Callahan

 

"When Mark taught his computer science courses at College Park in the '80s, he would typically begin by asking the class "What's been good"? The responses from each student in turn were often funny, and so each session started with a sunny atmosphere. This was all a part of his great talent for encouraging optimism and creativity in those he worked with...." --Glenn Pearson

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John R. "Jack" Callahan:

I was one of Mark's orphaned Computer Science Ph.D. students at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMCP) when he left to join Xerox PARC permanently in 1987. I remember when Mark invited all of his graduate assistants to his house one night and asked us our opinion of his plans to leave UMCP. He cared deeply about our futures and factored us into his decision. Without exception, we all supported Mark's decision to move to PARC. We felt it was the best thing for him because it seemed to us that this was an important dream that he wanted to fulfill. We all wanted the best for our friend and mentor.

I actually met Mark Weiser at Xerox while working for the Office Systems Division/OSBU North in the summer of 1985 on Geng Road in Palo Alto. Mark would come over to play Go at OSD in the evenings. He was working summers at PARC at the time but was still a CS Professor at UMCP As an undergrad at UMCP, I did not know him, but when I returned in the Fall of 1985, I wanted to work for him as an Graduate Research Assistant. He liked my experience on the Xerox platform (Mesa, Tajo, ViewPoint, etc.) and he needed students with research skills on Xerox systems (UMCP was a Xerox University Affiliate). As a UNIX guru, Mark had a standard requirement of his RAs: you must be able to write a forking program under UNIX in C. I told him I didn't know UNIX that well, but I showed him an old program I wrote when working for the Defense Department doing PL/1 work under Multics as a coop student. He immediately said "You're hired!" I later understood the relationship between UNIX and Multics.

I finished my Ph.D. in 1993 under Jim Purtilo who joined UMCP after Mark left for Xerox (indeed, Jim Purtilo moved into Mark's old office at UMCP). After I joined West Virginia University, Raghu Karinthi (another Weiser orphan) and I learned that Mark was going to present a brand new talk on Ubiquitous Computing at Carnegie-Mellon University on a Friday morning (it was sometime in 1993). We found out that Mark was flying in to Pittsburgh on Thursday night and we wanted to meet him for dinner. After some exchange of email, he agreed to fly out earlier on Thursday so that he could come down to visit us at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV (90 minutes south of Pittsburgh). I drove up to Pittsburgh to meet his plane and bring him down to Morgantown. As soon as we were in my car, he pops open his laptop, wireless modem, and starts to send/receive email he had been writing his wife on the airplane. Mark was always a "first" when it came to using new technology and was always communicating with his family via email long before the Internet boom. (Anyone who worked in Mark's office at UMCP knew that he had a "talking clock" that would announce the time each minute. God, that clock was annoying).

So, Mark gave his first presentation of his new Ubicomp speech to a packed crowd at WVU in Morgantown, WV the day before he presented the same talk at CMU. Given his busy schedule, he could have easily declined to visit, but Mark was always a giving person. We took him out to dinner and Raghu drove him back to Pittsburgh late that evening. I guess we still owe CMU some $$$ for hosting his airfare and hotel :-).

The next time I saw Mark was at in his office PARC during a brief visit in the summer of 1993. He showed me the MBone work done by Steve Deering at Stanford and Ron Frederick's nv tool. I returned to West Virginia and immediately installed an mrouted on our server and we became part of the early MBone. I remember seeing Mark's name constantly appear amongst the many listeners in the vat audio tool. One of my students, Todd Montgomery, was inspired by Mark's previous visit to WVU and by the MBone work. He has since implemented the Reliable Multicast Protocol (RMP), worked in the area of multicast protocols, and is completing his Ph.D. in 2000.

Mark has touched the lives of many "students" both directly and indirectly. His work was truly inspired and he inspired the same energy into those around him. He used to say that a true programmer was someone who would develop computer software no matter what the pay because they loved the sheer thrill of programming. I feel extremely blessed to have known and worked with such a genuine soul. I will miss him.


John Gannon:

Mark Weiser played a pivotal role in the development of distributed computing here at the University of Maryland. While he was still an assistant professor, Mark directed our laboratory facilities during a period when we acquired our first workstations with grants from NSF and Xerox. Mark's own research interests also evolved from program slicing to heterogeneous distributed systems as he studied multiple-protocol hosts and network-independent user interfaces.

Mark was an inspirational advisor and colleague. He attracted many outstanding undergraduates (e.g., Chris Torek, Steve Miller, and James O'Toole) to work with him on projects in the lab, and collaborated with other faculty and graduate students on projects in visual programming, program testing, and user-interface design.


Glenn Pearson:

When Mark taught his computer science courses at College Park in the '80s, he would typically begin by asking the class "What's been good"? The responses from each student in turn were often funny, and so each session started with a sunny atmosphere. This was all a part of his great talent for encouraging optimism and creativity in those he worked with, including myself.


Charles K. Kao:

When I became one the Trustees of the Institute for the Future I had the fortune of getting to know Dr. Mark Weiser. I was looking forward to knowing Dr. Weiser more and working with him. It was most unfortunate that our interaction was cut short after just one Trustee meeting. IFTF, Xerox Park, and the world lost one of the best technology innovators. Through this website his legacy and vision will continue to provide us with inspirations.


Mihai Nadin:

After contacts going back to 1990, our first face-to-face meeting was supposed to happen this spring. We shared an interest in what he coined ubiquitous computing. In 1994, as I started my program in Computational Design at the University of Wuppertal, he was very enthusiastic about my intention to make ubiquitous computing the core of this new discipline. We stayed in touch and exchanged ideas. For the class that Terry Winograd invited me to give during my stay at Stanford University, I planned to have a session on ubiquitous computing-- and planned to have Mark Weiser present. As usual, he reacted promptly to my e-mail. He was interested but also not sure that he could make the date I mentioned to him. Not uncharacteristically, he barely mentioned treatment. And as I arrived mid-March, he was still considering being present, although he knew that it was more wishful thinking than a realistic chance. In this last episode, I read his commitment to his work and to students.

Instead of any eulogy, I prefer to limit my words to the description of these last contacts with him. We will continue our work in the direction I discussed with him. The best that will come of it will be, by virtue of our contact and his concern for others, dedicated to him. 


Steven Tolkin:

I met Mark in the mid 1970s when we were both working at the University of Michigan Computing Center (home of MTS -- the Michigan Terminal System operating system). We were both grad students, as were many of the workers there. I remember reading a draft of his dissertation on program slicing and thinking this is a really good idea.

Also, I think he was there when we had approximately one terminal for every two programmers. The programmers negotiated fluidly among ourselves for time at the terminal. But we also constantly lobbied the administration that it would be cheaper to put one on everyone's desk, due to the increased productivity. Eventually they saw the light, and we all agreed that in the future everyone would have access to a computer all the time. Perhaps this stimulated Mark's further insight, to the concept of ubiquitous computing.


Other comments can be found on pages devoted to Mark's ideas on ubiquitous computing, and his life.

 

Date: Created 29 April 1999;