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Mark Weiser

July 23, 1952 - April 27, 1999

Mark and Ubiquitous Computing

Mark is generally regarded as the Father of Ubiquitous Computing. Here's an interview with Mark and others on ABC's "Nightline" 17 November 1997.
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"CD quality" MP3

Mark the jazz drummer

Mark was learning to play jazz. Here's a recording during a typical rehearsal. Mark started playing a pattern, the rest of the band decided it must be "The Girl From Ipanema." The band always had difficulty scheduling weekly rehearsals and eventually became the "Not This Tuesday Night" band. This recording features Ethan Robertson on saxophone, Robert Kennedy on keys, and STD's Russ Haines on bass. Mike Perkins, the usual bassist, missed this rehearsal.

Mark the rock drummer

For eight years Mark was the drummer for STD. During that time the band produced two CDs, opened for the Rolling Stones, and drank a lot of Guinness. He was so dedicated to the band, when he started 24-hour continuous drip chemotherapy he had the doctors install an aortal tap directly in his chest under general anesthesia rather than in his arm so he could continue playing drums. That's dedication. Here's the last song Mark recorded with STD: "Hospital Love".
"CD Quality" MP3

The Official History of STD

Mark our friend

Above all, however, Mark was a good friend. Below is a collection of words and pictures. As time goes on this section is likely to become irreverant, so watch your step.

Subject: Weiser history
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 20:22:07 -0700
From: Steven Rubin

Here's a bit of historical perspective, straight from the horse's mouth...

Date: Tue, 3 Dec 1996 11:43:57 PST
From: Mark Weiser
Subject: Re: Usenix script

Here is my memory, easily flawed, corrections welcome.

I first found out about the band by talking to Manasse at the October 1991
SOSP conference in Monterey. I started practicing, Russ yelled at me a lot, and two months
later, that December, I played in an STD gig for Xmas? New Years?
at Anita Borg's house in Menlo Park. Mark and I came back the next day to
help her sweep the floors. Then I was out for a time -- you all experimented with another
drummer, and then fall 1992 I was back in, and have been since.

(Dr.) Mark Weiser
Chief Technologist, Xerox PARC

email: weiser@xerox.com info: www.ubiq.com/weiser

"Mark having fun." photo by Steve Rubin

Subject: Mark and STD, the early years
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 1999 10:14:50 -0700
From: "Mark S. Manasse"

OK, so I'm rooting through my mail files from Mark, dating back to November '91. Our web site
captures lots of things starting with the Stone's gig, so I'll limit myself to things that
predate that, at least in this digest.

Our first real exchange of messages, after the proposal that he audition for STD, was about his
work on automatic Tetris playing (and his derogation of my idea that it ought to be done a la
rogomatic). Here's the text from his title slide:


Research Background:

Tetris as a model for life as a manager
. arbitrary things drop from the sky and must be handled immediately
. no known algorithm
. much folklore
. does no real work


Recall that we pressed Mark into service for a New Year's gig at Anita's six weeks later, after
a very limited number of rehearsals with us.

The following summer, I sent Mark notice of a party at Anna's, prompting the first of many
replies I received from Mark in this vein:


Oh, sigh, I am in japan.

But let's have a practice sometime!



I'll close off this walk through the distant past with the full message Mark forwarded that
yielded our favorite comment on Mark


Richard Wolkomir. "The chips are coming, the chips are coming..."
Smithsonian. September 1994, pp. 82-93. (Illustrations by John Huehnergarth).

first few sentences of paragraph beginning bottom of page 84, continuing top of
page 86: "PARC employs anthropologists to study the workplace, making the think
tank something of a high-tech oddball. So is Mark Weiser. Besides his day job
as a Silicon Valley savant, he moonlights drumming for a rock band called
Severe Tire Damage. Probably he is rock's smartest drummer. He is ebullient
about Severe Tire Damage. He is ebullient about computers. In fact, he is
generally ebullient. And so when PARC anthropologists told him that a major
flaw of current computers is that they are divorced from their surroundings, he
caught the idea's rhythm..." [end of drumming metaphor and mentions of STD.
The rest is just technology stuff, comparing me to a teddy bear, and other



"One is fuzzier. One is Weiser." photo from the S.F. Chronicle

Date: Sun, 20 Nov 1994 15:22:16 PST
From: weiser.parc@xerox.com
Subject: new york times report

I just spent an hour on the phone with the rock editor of the New York Times.
I asked about the mbone, did we resent other bands claiming to be first when we
were first, etc. He asked what kind of music we played: I called us "dancable
punk rock".

He is only on AOL, not the real internet, but I gave him our home page address
anyway and he will try to put it into the article.

I told him we got lots of positive responses from around the net, and no

He was at the Thinking Pictures facilities in New Jersey watching. ("Thinking
Pictures" is the company that organized the Stone on the mbone). So I asked him
if the folks there minded our pirating. He said, no, they thought it was
great! He said they enjoyed us more than the Stones!

(He saw us on the mbone (both before and after), and set out trying to find us.
He finally searched the giant online news database "Nexus" for all articles
containting "severe", "tire", "damage", and "computer", and found only one
match: the Smithsonian article about me. Then he started calling mark weiser's
in the 415 and 408 area codes, and voila. He let out a shriek of happiness
when I answered the phone and said yes, I do work at Xerox PARC.).

His article will appear tuesday.


"Mark gets in some reading during a rehearsal." photo by Berry Kercheval

Mark started purposely doing silly things just because they're fun. Russ and Mike, guitar and bass for NTTN, took Mark skydiving. He had so much fun he went back with his daughter Corinne. Mark's sister, who was fighting a long battle with cancer went with skydiving with Mark, Russ, and Mike. Most of her family jumped out of an airplane that day, too.

Subject: RE: skydiving
Date: Sat, 27 Feb 1999 20:45:04 PST
From: "Weiser, Mark "
To: Mike Perkins, Russ Haines

Well, it was a wonderful day for jumping. Corinne and I got there about
11am, the first plane had just returned. We jumped around 1:30pm. She really
loved it! Almost was begging me to do it again that day! It was #3 for me,
pretty uneventful except for leaving the plane doing a flip (Josh on my
back), which was uneventful as it was more like things whooshing by, no
sense of control or what the hell was happening. Pete somebody, with
preplanning, flew over and held my hands, that was cool. Shouldn't I have
had a helmet for that? Anyway, clear day, high light clouds, warm, light

Didn't see you guys.


"Still not enough fog yet, Lance. And since when does Mark play guitar?" photo by Peter Menzel

Subject: [Fwd: my Z3]
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 17:03:03 -0700
From: russ
To: band@std.org, and other close friends

Almost exactly one year before
he was diagnosed with cancer,
Mark got to play with a toy he
later decided was worth blowing
a lot of money on just because.
In his own words, here's Mark.


Mark Weiser wrote:
> My Z3
> Last September BMW invited me to participate in a engineering offsite
> about the car of the future. Germanically, they divided us into
> competing teams, with the winning team getting BMW cars of their choice
> . . . for a week. The chairman of the board was the judge. Not knowing
> anything about cars, I was having a lark at the whole offsite, so my
> team selected me to present for us because of my irreverent style. I had
> the chairman in stitches with my team's suggestions that they fire half
> their mechanical engineers and replace them with software engineers . .
> . from France. We also suggested they close their giant R&D facility in
> Munich, stop all new design for 3 months and send the engineers into the
> field, give stock options to all their key suppliers, and a few other
> things I don't remember now. Anyway, my team won, and this week I had
> my car.
> I selected a Z3 with the 2.8 (larger) engine. (Some people know this as
> the "James Bond car"). The one they gave me is deep wine purple, with a
> convertible top, a little two-seater toy. And what a toy! I am not a car
> person-I drive a Mazda van most of the time (good for hauling drums
> around). I had not a expected that a car could just be plain fun. Now I
> know it can.
> It is just plain fun to turn corners, to pass people, to drive on the
> expressway. When it is time to lane change, with a press of the
> accelerator, I can make it appear that everyone else has come to a
> halt. Everything seems safer, solider, in my control. I have not been
> able to get enough time in the car this week, in spite of taking a
> couple of afternoons off to drive in the hills.
> So, Thursday night I headed for Nevada. After spending the night at a
> Days Inn in Reno, at 7am Friday morning I started across the state on
> Route 50, called (by perverse pride of Nevada PR) "the loneliest road in
> America". It has been a dream of mind to drive this road. The desert
> seems to call to me at times. Its apparent simplicity, its starkness,
> its unhumanness. Its empty spaces suck me in like the Titanic sucked in
> the ocean. There are only two towns in 350 miles, and otherwise just
> lots of desert. So why was this nice? Well...
> I've been skydiving, once. I had a 100 MPH wind in my face for 1 minute,
> until the chute opened. It was incredible. But yesterday with the top
> down I had a 110 MPH wind in my face for an hour. My hair stuck straight
> out in all directions. And I could play Jimi Hendrix at top volume
> (although I couldn't hear anything, it was the principle that mattered.
> I filled in the actual sounds from memory).
> Most of the time I had the top up, however. For one thing, it is cold in
> the desert this time of year. For another, at 120 MPH the wind was too
> much! At 120 MPH, this car feels like my van at 60. I spent about an
> hour total, in different stretches, at 120. On this road I can see ten
> miles ahead, it is only a two lane road but there is relatively little
> traffic on a weekday (which is why I did not wait until the weekend).
> It was really fun and exciting. Whenever I stopped (for gas, or the
> view, or to read a historical marker) I was breathing hard. From the
> rush.
> The last number on the speedometer is 140. (Interpolating it goes to
> 150). I decided to try to reach 140, if only for a moment. The owner's
> manual says top speed is electronically limited to 128MPH. That must
> have been turned off on my car since I easily crossed that number.
> However, at 135 it began to feel a little unstable. There may have been
> a slight cross-wind. I decided to not go further, and settled back to
> 120.
> I reached Ely, near Utah, in about 3 hours, had lunch and turned back.
> Halfway back I stopped at the top of a small mountain to call into a
> PARC meeting on my cellphone. After an hour I continued on, now into
> scattered thundershowers. I don't know if you have seen storms in the
> desert, but they are incredibly beautiful. You can see the rain falling
> like gray veils from high individual clouds. Many of the veils don't
> touch the earth because the air is so dry, and when you drive under them
> you just get a mist. Others do touch, and then the rain is very hard,
> for a moment, and then it is gone. I decided that 90MPH was my hard rain
> speed, and 105 my mist speed.
> The car told me what speeds to go. I mean it communicated to my body, my
> hands, my feet, my stomach. We were a unity, the car and I. I knew 105
> in the mist was right, because the car felt right. I knew 120MPH was ok,
> because the car felt ok. But that puts it wrong. WE felt ok. Not the
> car, but the unity that was it and me.
> On the way home in the dark through the Sierra's there was a gradual
> re-entering of the normal universe. First the long lines of cars going
> the other way, up to their skiing weekends, kept shining their lights in
> my eyes. It was hard to see my way back unless I slowed down. Then,
> just outside Sacramento on a ten-lane expressway surrounded by
> Jack-in-the-Boxes, I got a speeding ticket for going 75mph in a 65mph
> zone. I was almost grateful; like an experienced pilot landing an
> airplane after a long flight, the ticket was the gentle bump of the
> universe snapping back in place. Within ten minutes (including the cop
> admiring my car, asking about the engine and so on), I was on my way
> again. Minutes later a friend in tears called on the cellphone, needing
> to talk. Someone she loved was dying. I pulled off the road and talked
> with her for an hour. I felt good. I had entered another universe for
> awhile, and connected.
> When I got off the phone, I looked up. Where was I? Where had I been? I
> was in front of a Jack-in-the-Box. It was 9pm. The world of person-car
> communion was gone. Wherever I had been, I was now back. I had a
> sourdough jack, curly fries, and a large diet coke. Then back on the
> road. The car was again just a means to an end, I the inattentive
> master, mind on other things. I cruised at 69MPH, driving with one hand,
> the hour-and-a-half back to Palo Alto.
> 14 Mar 1998
> Mark Weiser

"And just what are you looking at that's so funny?" photo by Brad Horak

Subject: RE: NTTN: yes, er, probaby not an 'ummer
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 17:11:20 PST
From: "Weiser, Mark"
To: NTTN bandmembers

I am sitting in my living room looking at a very juicy picture of something labeled, in a Dr's
scrawl (not mine) "ulcerous mass on lower esophagus". The picture was taken earlier today by a
camera in my stomach.

My throat hurts and so does my side, and front.

While I could bring the picture to dinner, or even bring the ulcerous mass (I hear they are
good with a little butter, on the half shell), actually I am doubtful for dinner and playing.
Well, I might make it for a little while, but don't wait.


[Mark Weiser passed away on Tuesday, 27 April 1999]

Subject: Re: Mark
Date: Wed, 28 Apr 1999 11:51:00 -0700
From: an NTTN bandmember
To: another NTTN bandmember

[Someone] wrote:
> Sad, but just as well it's over it seems.
> To add some inappropriate but needed levity, it's one
> of his better excuses for missing rehearsal last
> night.
I don't know about that. He didn't die until 8:31pm.
He could've made the first half of rehearsal.

More memories of Mark to come...

Back to the STD website. After ten seconds, you'll be in the usual place.


STD supports the EFF STD lyrics may be explicit. This is Russ. This is the dead Mark. This is not-dead Mark. This is Steve.