Ann Weiser Cornell:
When I first met Mark he was three days old
and I had just gotten back from staying with my grandmother while
he was being born. He looked small and red and very unpromising.
What can you say when your baby brother dies? I am incredibly
proud of him and his life. In my last conversation with him,
he told me that this was the "best time" in his life
"to get a diagnosis of dying," because he had so many
loving friends around him. Hearing that just made me sadder--it
was just like him to say that! He is (I don't like to say "was")
a profoundly brilliant man, sensitive and compassionate, playful
and thoughtful. May his work be carried forward and spread to
touch all our lives with his gentleness.
I have known Mark since he came to PARC, and
for the past two or three years I have been Mark's nearly-next-door
neighbor at PARC. I say nearly, because his administrative assistant,
Debbie Roose, occupies the "half office" between us.
I have occasionally kidded Debbie by informing her that the facilities
people would be moving our common wall to enlarge my office and
shrink hers. It never happened. I want to acknowledge the important
role that Debbie accepted during Mark's last days, particularly
her gracious endurance of the stress that her job suddenly thrust
on her as hundreds of people made demands for news and comfort.
I mostly knew Mark as a compassionate friend,
and not as the adventurer that some have described. We talked
mostly about the adventure of having family instead of about
computing, music, or cars. One day, nearly ten years ago, I went
outside on the PARC terrace while thinking about an important
family decision. Mark saw me out there- he may have thought it
was unusual, since I am sort of an indoor person. He came out,
and we talked. At the end of our talk, he asked if I would like
a hug. I said I would, and as we were hugging there on the PARC
terrace one of our younger colleagues came around the corner
and saw us. He gave us what, to this day, remains one of the
strangest looks I have ever witnessed. I have always remembered
Mark that way.
Mark was a true presence among us. I realized,
after he was gone, that each day as I trudged to my office I
would look and see if Mark was in. Even if we were not to have
a meeting or even a conversation, somehow it was a better day
if Mark was there. Today, particularly as I pass his empty office
with the obituaries and tributes hanging on the door, I truly
Mark was the drummer in our band Severe
Tire Damage, and he was truly devoted to the music and the
fun. Even on days when he was traveling all over the world, he
made sure that his flight arrived in time for band rehearsal.
He indulged in every musical toy imaginable, from cowbells to
full computer workstations, and the band was always amused by
his experiments. Mark encouraged all of us to reach for new heights
(depths?) of garage-band intensity, and we will miss him very
Mark was a friend since college. I never heard
him say anything remotely unkind. He was generous, modest and
caring, with this Zen-like calm. He taught me many things, but
most of all he showed me, by his way of being, how to be a better
person. It seems to me he did this to people and to ideas, finding
ways they could improve. He had a lasting influence on my life,
and I will always be grateful.
Mark and I were undergraduates in 1970 at
New College in Sarasota, where one day we saw two people playing
a board game we had never seen before. It was Go, and the large
board, black and white stones and intricate visual patterns fascinated
both of us. We had them teach us the rules and we started to
play each other. We played hundreds of games over a few months.
We compared the game, and the non-linear style of thinking it
required, to chess. I haven't seen Mark since 1973, but I have
never forgotten what a wonderful friend he was. He was cheerful,
gentle, kind and so inventive. Talking to him was always a delight.
I am very sad.
I, like Tom and Gordon, met Mark at New College
in Sarasota. I was sad when I heard of his passing. I was a little
surprised that the grief I felt was so palpable since our paths
crossed only a few times over the years. I also somehow felt
reassured in the midst of the sad news. The greater sadness would
be if we didn't meet, didn't have the chance to spend some time
together, and there was no feeling of sorrow. Martin Buber wrote,
"All real life is meeting."--Well he got half of it
right. So, what would Martin Heidegger have said, Mark?
Mark: I remember you, Donna, and I running
for the sheer delight of it, through deep, freshly fallen snow,
one cold, clear, sunny day in Ann Arbor. I enjoyed your curiosity,
your sense of humor, and your whimsical laugh. I enjoyed your
excitement and passion for Jimi Hendrix's music. I marveled at
your facility for taking obtuse, over-wrought, pretentious philosophical
writings, and rendering them with simplicity and elegance into
understandable English ("What this guy was trying to say
I'm glad we had a chance to see each other
again, if only briefly, at later points down the road. I'm glad
I had the chance to share a little time, a meal, and conversation
with you, Vicky, and your daughters.
I was unsure of which category to put these
comments into since Mark made an impression on me in several
different ways. That I think is a tribute to what a worthy person
I first met Mark when I was a summer intern
at PARC in 1992. His vision for ubiquitous computing was a theme
that took hold of many of the researchers and interns there at
the time. This vision greatly enhanced my outlook of the future
of computing and the importance of a radically different style
of human-computer interaction.
I had repeated encounters with Mark since
PARC at conferences, retreats, and social events. Mark was one
who enjoyed all aspects of life. For example, I remember a beautiful
hike on the trails above Tahoe one year at a research retreat
and stimulating conversations over dinner or a beer in San Francisco.
Mark was someone you would go out of your way to chat with.
I always felt that Mark was one of the few
computer scientists who simply seemed "to get it."
The big picture of computing, that is. He had the breadth necessary
to envision the underlying infrastructure that would be required
as well as how the resulting revolution in its use would change
the way we live, work, and play. On a personal level Mark was
always full of encouragement and advice on how to carry out a
research career. He was someone a young researcher could trust.
My last contact with Mark was in March when
he phoned me to ask if I could fill in for him on a panel at
a conference here at Berkeley. I said I would. He had just gotten
back some bad test results and I guess he already knew what lay
ahead of him. I wish I had known that would be the last time
I would speak to him. Mark Weiser was one of the most influential
people in my research career and his presence will be sorely
missed in the research community and among all the friends he
made along the way.
Mark and his family, particularly his father,
taught me, as Helen Keller perhaps best described it, that life
is a daring adventure or nothing. Mark's own twist on that was
that life is a game to be played--not to win--but simply to enjoy.
Mark and I played together from early childhood. He never brought
anybody down, and he helped everyone to have a good time. I last
saw him in Toronto ten years ago, and he was having more fun
than ever. At this time, I don't envision Mark regretting his
own death--as that too is part of the adventure. However, I do
miss him greatly. He slipped away so suddenly, I am not sure
that I yet believe he is no longer there in Palo Alto, continuing
the great adventure. As a child, I thought of him more as a brother
or cousin than as a friend. That feeling has never changed.
Ubiquity was Mark's romantic ideal, a goal
that would draw the world forward. His optimism and realistic
approach to prototype development provided the basis of hours
of lighthearted and nlightening conversation. I'll miss him.
Bettie A. Steiger:
Mark brought a vision and understanding of
the way computing and computers could and should impact individuals
at work and at home that created a positive path for invention.
He ceaselessly championed that vision and shared his understanding
with all who were privileged to know him. Mark was ever a support
to anyone who tried to bring technology to fruition in the market
and he added greatly to my own experience at PARC, both as a
colleague and a friend. "To live in hearts we leave behind
is not to die" He lives on in many hearts.
Mark was one of the most entertaining, affable
and good-humored gentleman we were fortunate to have known. The
Forum he gave was very exciting...his Severe Tire Damage Band
put him "one-up" in the rock annals. A life well-lived--
Mark will always be with us!
This is by way of afterthought to what my
wife e-mailed yesterday at the PARC Memorial service. While it
is not profound, I will always recall a chance encounter with
Mark about a month after Doug Hofstadter gave a presentation
on human and machine translation in 1997.
Mark was picking up some documents from one
of the community printers down the hall from his office when
I finally remembered to ask, in reference to Severe Tire Damage,
when he wrote a song did the words come first or the music? He
said that for him, personally, it depended. There was neither
clear rhyme nor reason to the process.
He then asked what I thought should be the
pattern. I told him of Cole Porter saying that his ran about
50/50 and Stephen Sondheim likening the process to completing
a crossword puzzle. Mark said he was most appreciative of my
putting him on to "Capriccio" the final opera of Richard
Strauss which dealt entirely with this question and, after ~2
hrs, leaves it with a shrug of the shoulders and three soft horn
Other comments can be found on pages devoted to Mark's ideas on ubiquitous computing, and
his career and professional life.