[TUHS] Bearded Fellow, Ken Thompson

John Cowan cowan at ccil.org
Tue Jan 19 05:58:36 AEST 2021

On Sun, Jan 17, 2021 at 5:35 PM Norman Wilson <norman at oclsc.org> wrote:

> Not really.  I've seen bare faces and beards and operating systems
> over the decades that would scare the bugs out of any of the above
> beards and operating systems.  There really isn't a lot of consistency.
> I've known plenty of bare-faced UNIX hacks, and plenty of RSX and
> VMS and Windows and IBM programmers who hide their embarrassment
> behind beards.

I don't think it's so much a matter of wearing a beard, but being allowed
to wear one.  For seven grim decades no American man could get away with a
beard, after the end of the post-Civil War era, in which a beard was the
sign of a veteran (try shaving in the field!)  Mustaches (often handlebars
or toothbrushes until WWII) were the limit of tolerable facial hair among
respectable company employees.

That began to change in the 1960s, when many things did.  Still, hippies
and musicians and poets wore beards but few others did; facial hair didn't
really take off among the gen. pop. until the 70s.

But somehow, programmer beards were tolerated, first at universities, then
at research labs, and then throughout the industry, then throughout every
industry, though I myself was one of only two beards at the Wall Street
brokerage I worked for in the early 80s, the other being my boss.  Even
today, $EMPLOYER, which is an ex-startup, has a mixture of beards and
no-beards among the male engineers, but all the sales and marketing males
are clean-shaven.

(When I met my future wife I was 21, and she wanted me to grow a beard, so
I did.  Since then I have occasionally asked cow orkers who have complained
about shaving why *they* don't grow beards: the most common answer is "My
wife doesn't want me to."  *My* wife doesn't believe this story.)

John Cowan          http://vrici.lojban.org/~cowan        cowan at ccil.org
And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled,
maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous
flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the
detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and
absurdly the gigantic tenebrous ultimate gods --the blind, voiceless,
mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep. (Lovecraft)
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