PJW's Face


The fifth example from the digital darkroom book (pages 42 and 43) uses the portrait of Peter J. Weinberger, then a department head in the Computer Science Research Center at Bell Labs (now at Google). There is a long story behind the use of pjw's face for these experiments, only some of which was told in the book. Here is what the book said:

Two different sets of T-shirts were made, shown above (thanks to Brian Redman, Pat Parseghian, and Jim McKie for unearthing the earlier shirts). Rob's original version was plain white (above left), with just the PJW face. Later Paul Glick had a second edition made in blue. This version of the shirt had the slogan Where the avant-garde meets the rear guard on the back. Another version of the shirt (above right), in both blue and white, showed a digitized rendering of pjw's face.

Brian Redman recovered the original of the Bell Labs Cabinet chart and provided a scan of this important document (see image on the right). For the sentimental at heart, beyond the pictures, we can see a few cherished names on the chart from the old days at Bell Labs, such as John Tukey, Arno Penzias, and Vic Vyssotsky.

There is only one known picture of the watertower with the logo. It is shown to the right. There was not much time to record the event: the image was painted over by plant management within one day after it appeared. Meanwhile, these two watertowers have also disappeared. Many years ago they were replaced with a single, much larger, structure that could in principle also accomodate a much larger version of the logo.

We do not know for certain who painted the picture on the watertower. Mechanically, it was done with a large template and spray paint. We do know that the paint itself was vouchered a few days later as a business expense by Fred Grampp, on behalf of a pseudo-employee G.R. (Grace) Emlin (login: gremlin), who had at that time already been entered successfully into most official databases at Bell Labs, and regularly received mail at her mailbox at 2C-501 (the Unix room).

There were many more uses of Peter's image than can be recorded here. We managed to get a transformation of the image on the cover of the AT&T Technical Journal in March 1987 (left). But we also made sure it appeared in lots of other, less conspicuous places. It appears, for instance, within the layout diagrams of some of the chips that our center produced at that time, and it appeared as a hidden tiny image somewhere on every CD cover image that we produced.

For instance, in the CD cover image on the right, PJW's face is visible in the dark area of the wrist. In the original Plan9 distribution CD, shown below, the PJW face is held by one of the characters from the movie (see arrows).

Insiders also know that hidden images of PJW can be found embedded in the cement under the machinery that was being installed around that time in our buildings. The picture on the left was taken a few days before something big and heavy was installed on the spot with the newly poured cement. Later, this slab of cement was hiding underneath new offices from the Bell Labs PR department. No doubt, the occupants of these offices didn't have a clue about it. Norman Wilson has confessed to making the imprint in the cement, using a stencil cut-out of the PJW logo.

Below is a list, in no particular order, of some the other uses of PJW's face over the years:


GJH Jan. 2003, last updated July 2010