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Robert Morris, Pioneer in Computer Security, Dies at 78 (nytimes.com)
588 points by yagibear on June 30, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 45 comments

What sad news.

When I was doing my doctorate in security I used to attend or give papers at the IEEE Computer Security Foundations Workshop (http://www.ieee-security.org/CSFWweb/) which was held in a lovely old hotel in Franconia, NH. This was a really small gathering of people deeply involved the theory of securing computers.

Bob Morris and his wife Anne used to attend each year. It was unusual for people to bring their loved ones to this gathering and having the two of them there gave a certain holiday like atmosphere to the whole affair.

He was a gentleman and very kind to me as a young graduate student and I remember well playing games in the hotel grounds with him and Anne. At the time he was Chief Scientist at the NSA and the Rainbow books had been produced under his gaze. But he was humble, approachable and helpful.

Condolences to rtm.

For those who don't know, this is rtm's (YC partner Robert T. Morris) father. My condolences to him.

Until I read the age at the end of the title I thought it was the younger RM that had died, esp. with the black band at the top of HN.

What a pity, that's sad news to wake up to.

Condolences to Robert.


It sucks to reach up and hit refresh on HN and see that black bar jump out at you and know we've lost someone great.

Never underestimate the attention, risk, money and time that an opponent will put into reading traffic.

Rule 1 of cryptanalysis: check for plaintext.

The three golden rules to ensure computer security are: do not own a computer; do not power it on; and do not use it.

--Robert Morris

I'm glad he powered on and used his.

I love those rules. RIP Robert Morris.

Unknowingly, all of us who use technology have been touched by your father's work. Thank you very much for his contributions to the world.

Cliff Stoll has a nice account of meeting Robert Morris at the NSA in chapter 45 of "The Cuckoo's Egg".

http://users.tmok.com/~pazzi/cuckoo_egg.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Cuckoo%27s_Egg_(book)

The first Java program I remember writing was something that generated the "Robert Morris Sequence" -- the number sequence that Robert Morris Sr. gave to Cliff Stoll, which Stoll referenced in chapter 48 of the Cuckoo's Egg:

1 11 21 1211 111221 312211

Thanks for posting that, this was the passage I thought of immediately upon seeing the announcement, and my introduction to who Morris was and why he was so important.

Condolences to rtm. A mighty oak has fallen.

Wanted to say the same thing, I just finished the book a week ago, never heard of him before and still I feel strangely affected by his death. Condolences to his family and firends.

My favorite part is how he starts off by critiquing Stoll's dissertation. "...although I thought that all atmostpheres were adiabatic so long as they convected."

It seems like the pioneers in new fields (computer security in this case) tend to know a lot about other ones, also.

I found that book on sale for 50c at a recycling shop. Best 50c I ever spent.

Today is truly a sad day.

Condolences to rtm and family.

It's a poignant reminder of just how young our field is that we are mourning the loss of some true early pioneers. Imagine if you were a physicist just learning of the passing of Newton? It's also a reminder to value the experience and wisdom of those who are still here with us...


I don't know what to say. I'm just one of many strangers who knew of your dad, and appreciated his work, but never had the pleasure of actually meeting him. I'm sure there are a lot of strangers like me who feel uncomfortable saying anything more than offering condolences but also feel offering condolences is not enough. We wish there was more we could do. I hope by stating this difficulty for strangers, you are reminded of how amazingly lucky and blessed you are to have known him. You will always remember your loss, but it equally important to also remember your luck. I hope the warm thought of counting your blessings will help you and your family through the troubled times.

Condolences to rtm and the rest of his family. Here is a link to one of the nicest stories about Robert Morris, written by Dennis Ritchie, his friend and former colleague:


thanks for this. My condolences to his family.

I was fortunate to meet rtm a couple months ago; a very nice (and smart, insightful, etc.) guy. My condolences on the loss of his father.

It's important to pause now and then to recall what a glorious time we live in, where we are alive at the same moment as so many other great human beings. Some in technology. Some in humanitarian works. Some in music. Even if they're near the end of their time here, that you and I existed on this ball of rock at the same time they walked it is pretty fantastic.

My best to Mr. Morris and his family and friends.

Over on Slashdot is "a story I've kept secret for 30 years" about Robert Morris harvesting logins at Bell Labs. http://it.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2285212&cid=36628...

A giant. Condolences.

From wikipedia: Robert Morris was the author of crypt the UNIX encryption tool. ViM uses (to the best of my knowledge) crypt when called with -x.

Condolences to rtm.

Anyone would be lucky to live as full, productive, and long a life. Condolences to Rtm and his family.

I knew someone had died before I even started scanning the stories, because of the black bar up top.

My condolences to his family. He was quite an accomplished computer scientist.

Condolences. The world is better for having had him, and worse for having lost him.

So that is what the black bar is about, I was afraid it was a childish pun on Google's redesign :-S and now I feel bad for thinking that.

Don't feel too bad, that's what I thought too.

RTM and his controversial (for that time) Internet worm were key influences during my early years with computers and computer networks. My condolences to him and the rest of the Morris family.

My condolences to the man and those he was close to. I hope he died comfortably and untroubled.

My condolences also to rtm. I assume this is why the top bar of HN has a black border-top?

Sad news, my sincere condolences to rtm and his family.

I feel terrible that I think of his son first every time I see something about him. May he rest in peace.

This must explain the Black added to the HN top banner (or someone is spoofing Google+). Condolences, rtm.

RIP. Condolences to family and friends.

I don't think anything I write can relieve rtm and his family's pain now. All I can hope is they take comfort in the thought that the pain will fade and what will remain are teh memories of an extraordinary man, and that nothing will take those away.

Side note, contrast: "Robert Morris, a cryptographer who helped develop the Unix computer operating system" with a 2001 picture of him with his hand on the mouse of a computer running Windows 3.1.

A great loss, he will be missed! Condolences to RTM and family.

Deeply saddened by the news. Condolences to RTM and family.

Very sad news. Condolences to family and friends.

So sorry to hear this. RIP, Mr. Morris.

Sorry to hear this sad news.

My condolences.

My condolences

RIP Robert Morris. Getting a question from you about my YCom application was one of the highlights of last year.

The guy who died is not the YC fellow, but the YC fellow's father.

Condolences to him, anyway.

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