[TUHS] Peter Adams photos

Doug McIlroy doug at cs.dartmouth.edu
Fri Nov 9 22:52:34 AEST 2018

> My favorite anecdote that I've read regarding Belle was when Ken
> Thompson took it out of the country for a competition. Someone,
> I'm assuming with customs, asked him if Belle could be
> classified as munitions in any way. He replied, "Only if you
> drop it out the window."

That's not the half of it. Ken had been invited by Botvinnik,
a past world champion, to demonstrate Belle in Russia. Customs
spotted it in baggage and impounded it without Ken's knowledge.
When he arrived empty-handed in Moscow, his hosts abandoned
him to his own devices.

Late that fateful Friday afteroon, customs called Bell Labs
security, which in turn called Ken's department head--me. That
evening I called Bill Baker, the Labs' presi7, at home,
hoping he might use his high-level Washington connections
to spring Belle. No luck. Ken was in the dark about the whole
affair until Joe Condon managed to reach him at his hotel.
Customs kept the machine a month and released it only after the
Labs agreed to pay a modest fine. I believe Ken's remark about
the military potential of Belle was made in reply to a reporter.


More information about the TUHS mailing list