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Morris


My brother, Noel, died over twenty years ago at the age of forty. He was a computer scientist at MIT. He was the smart one in the family -- him and my mother. I was happy to find these references to him on the net.

From the Google Newsgroup: alt.os.multics

Date: 1993-07-07 13:40:34 PST
Noel Morris - an appreciation

I met Noel in the fall of 1964 when we were both hired by 
Prof. Ithiel de Sola Pool at MIT as part-time programmers 
to work on data processing for social scientists. We used 
CTSS on the Project MAC 7094 and ran a lot of FMS batch 
runs. (We shared an office with  Tom Lehrer, but never met 
him: the office was 14N-216(?), hidden away inside the MIT 
library; there was a door from the second floor of the 
stacks to a hallway of offices, and we shared a 1050 terminal 
there.  Lehrer had a joint MIT-Harvard appointment in 
statistics, but never showed up at his MIT office.)

Noel's programming skills were awesome. He had intense 
concentration and could get his head around large complex 
systems. In addition, he had the energy & doggedness to 
grind at a problem until he solved it. For the political
scientists Noel wrote a data cross-tabulation system that
was far better than anything then available.

We worked closely with the system programming group, and 
submitted some improvements to CTSS, including the mail 
command, FIB, and "dot," the command chaining and 
abbreviation program.  First Noel, then I left political 
science and joined the CTSS group and then the Multics team.  
We spent the fourth of July weekend in 1965 patching the CTSS 
disk back together after some asshole crashed the system by 
running it out of disk just to see what would happen.

Noel and I worked together on Multics bootstrap and 
initialization; he created the pre-linker and did major work 
on the FIM and the disk and printer DIMs. He and I made the 
bootload run that finally accomplished the Phase One milestone 
in December 1967. (We used to go to the MIT Faculty Club for 
dinner & then return to Project MAC and work far into the 
night, trying to get the system to boot.) Noel also made key 
contributions to the 6.36 system, the EPL runtime, and the file 
system.  We worked together on the 1401 program that printed 
Multics ASCII tapes from the 7094.

Noel's mother was a music teacher, and he could identify any 
piece of classical music after hearing a few bars. 
He was an avid hiker and climbed all the four-thousand-foot 
or higher peaks in New England.

Noel left the Multics team for Prime sometime around 1977, 
and later joined Apollo, where he was a significant 
contributor.

Noel died of a heart attack in October 1983 while hiking 
with his wife Debbie in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  
He was a fine colleague, a good friend, and an important 
contributor to Multics.

[email protected]


From: Arthur Evans (ae@sei.cmu.edu)
Date: 1993-07-08 07:12:14 PST

Thanks to Tom for the comments on Noel Morris.  He was a dear friend and
I still miss him

As Tom mentioned, Noel's mother was a music teacher.  When my wife was
small, she took music lessons from Mrs Morris.  I first met Noel,
accompanying my wife on a visit to Mrs Morris, while Noel was a high
school student with a room full of hi-fi audio equipment.  This was in
the late '50s and high school students weren't yet into computers.

When I joined the MIT faculty in 1965 I looked him up, and we gradually
became close friends.  Noel was then one of those folks who have trouble
completing an undergraduate program.  He needed only a few credits and
never quite got around to getting them.  I persuaded him to earn
academic credit by being a Teaching Assistant in the subject I was
teaching, and later I persuaded the Undergraduate Educational Policy
Committee (or whatever it was called) to award a few more credits for
Noel's by-then extensive professional experience.  I was pleased to have
taken a part in his receiving an MIT degree.  He was surely a credit to
the school.

I remember the episode that Tom describes as
    We spent the fourth of July weekend in 1965 patching the CTSS disk
    back together after some asshole crashed the system by running it
    out of disk just to see what would happen.
Noel described it as rebuilding the master file directory with a pair of
tweezers and a box of ones and zeros.

Noel, like his father, died at a distressingly young age.  As I
understand it, he had a condition that tends to be hereditary in which
the veins and arteries resemble those of an 80-year-old.  A tragedy.

      Requiescat in pace

Art Evans


From: John Gintell
Date: 1993-07-08 08:05:37 PST

In article <tom_van_vleck-070793115123@tom-vanvleck.taligent.com>,
tom_van_vleck@taligent.com (Tom Van Vleck) writes:
|> Noel Morris - an appreciation

Thanks, Tom for wrting this.

|> Noel's mother was a music teacher, and he could identify any 
|> piece of classical music after hearing a few bars. 

Actually, the opening chord of a symphony or similar "big" work was
all he needed to recognize the piece.

...And he frequently found bugs after seeing about the same amount 
of information in a dump.


  John


From: Michael Padlipsky
Date: 1993-07-08 18:26:05 PST

Being in a certain amount of physical pain from a shoulder that might
turn out to have a torn rotator cuff if the HMO ever decides to spring
for some contemporary 'imaging', I don't want to subject myself to the
psychic pain of attempting to delineate for those readers who didn't
know him just how highly esteemed NIM was on a personal basis as well
as on a professional one (where I for one always believed the possibly
apocryphal claim that he HAD read every line of the system source code).
Suffice it to say that during my years at MAC (late '65 - mid '74, as I
recall), there probably wasn't anyone better thought of professionally
than Noel, and almost certainly wasn't anyone better thought of personally,
since I do want very much to say something now that the topic has been
raised.

Well, maybe just one specific:  There were very few 'dummy' IDs and
passwords on the Develpopment System; they tended to be the initials
of a few of the best known members of the team, and the only one I
remember for sure, much less remember ever using, was his.

Readers would probably also like to know that his younger brother is Errol
Morris, the film documentarian whose highly regarded _The Thin Blue Line_ was
dedicated to Noel and whose latest effort was on Stephen Hawking and his
_A Brief History of Time_.




		
		
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