In Memoriam Bob Rockwell
Oct 17, 1947 - April 8, 1998
Memories of Bob Rockwell, posted on blaxxun's site between April 14th 1998 and November 8th 1998.
Today a Unitarian Universalist minister reminded me of Bob: some of the energy, something about the body language, bending forward to catch something a parishioner was saying. It occurred to me that Bob would have been a very good U U minister. Some are pagans; some are atheists, after all. And Bob had a very good way of ministering to his friends.
Pour vous, mon cher Bob, que je n'ai pas connu, une pensée amicale à travers l'espace et le temps.
Que vous puissiez reposer en paix.
... Les êtres chers ne disparaissent pas; ils continuent à vivre dans le coeur de ceux qui restent... AR
Today is Bob's Birthday. As his Mother, it has been heart warming to read in the last six months the many expressions of appreciation of Bob's impact on various lives that he touched. Thank you Blaxxun for making it possible.
I had the chance and privilege to meet Mr. Rockwell during my diploma thesis project about internetbased VR at the university of Nuernberg. I contacted blaxxun hoping to have the opportunity for a very short 20 min interview with him, knowing how difficult it should be for a student to reach someone at his position. Mr. Rockwell accepted very kindly. He spent with me very generously not just 20 min but over 2 hours of his valuable time. He helped me in many ways, by giving me a lot of material, valuable information and advice and by explaining many points that i had overseen or could not understand. By sharing his visions with me, he helped me face my work with new motivation and a brighter point of view. I would like to express my sympathy and deep sadness for his loss.. I didn't have the chance to thank him for his helpfulness and encouragement so I'd like to so now. Although it may be something not so important comparing to his work, I would like to dedicate my project to him. Thank You very much... You'll always stay in our memories.
I met Bob two years ago at Virtual Reality World in Stuttgart and was impressed of his innovative spirit and human warmth. I am convinced that he contributed a lot to this world and expected to see even more. My main business is VRML and I always planned to do something into the multi-user direction. He helped me with very valuable advice and I am sad to to have no opportunity to see him again.
Thank You, Bob
Bremen, July 19, 1998
Es war erst letzten Herbst als ich Bob kennenlernte und wir lange an einem Abend ueber die Moeglichkeiten von Cybershopping sprachen. Bob hat mich so infiziert, dass ich mich seit dieser Zeit fast ausschliesslich mit VRML und den Moeglichkeiten befasste. Erst heute erfuhr ich von Bobs Tot, als ich ihm ein Mail schreiben wollte um mich einmal wieder mit Ihm auszutauschen.
Bob bleibt immer in unserer Erinnerung.
tuttgart/Wien , 26.07.1998 S
I meet Bob a couple of times and from the start I was always impressed by his enthusiasm. I wish I've had the time to know him better and talk to him much more. Judging for the questions he asked me when I was with him, he had an incredible understanding and love for what he was doing but most of all, I could see that it was genuinly interested in the viewpoints of others as well.
Today I went to his home in Colony City and felt his presence...so I wanted to thank him for being there and I know from time to time he will give us the advices we need!
blaxxun yesterday launched a new online community by the name Colony City. Members there can meet, chat, claim personal homes, and much more.
We have established a place for Bob which can be accessed directly at http://www.cybertown.com/home/Preacher
There you can get to the Memorrial pages here, and you can also chat in realtime and schedule meetings. You can also claim a property next to Bob's place or anywhere else.
As so many people posted here, we though that some of you might also enjoy the opportunity to chat in real-time with each other.
Unless you want to use the 3D features, you can visit the city with any hardware and operating system. You just need a browser that supports Java.
We moved the entry to this Memorial page from theblaxxun home page one level down to the Company information. There, Bob will continue to be a visible part of blaxxun. Please feel free to continue to post/read messages and let me know if you have any suggestions on how to make the pages better. firstname.lastname@example.org
I was privileged to know Bob since high school days and have been so profoundly saddened by his passing. It has been so helpful to commune with all the others who have posted on this Web Site--it is precisely what Bob envisioned computers would do--bring people together. Thank you Blaxxun for providing this and for keeping it this long. I don't know for how long you will be able to continue, so I check it almost daily to be sure I don't miss reading the tributes from all you wonderful folks out there who appreciate the very rare and excellent person we knew (and even one who did not even meet Bob!). THANK YOU!
Like Jean-Pierre, I knew Bob through ESF, where I worked in 1992/3. The immediate impression I gained of him was of immense, restless intellectual energy - he knew an enormous amount about a huge number of things, and he talked about them all in such an attractive and sparkling way. I realised how little I knew. Later I realised other things about him - his integrity, his kindness, and his cheerfulness in the face of difficulties.
When I last saw Bob it was at some international meeting, and I joked with him that he was to blame for the extra weight of my briefcase, since it contained a large hardback book that he'd recommended by his enthusiastic and searching criticism - what makes this a special Bob story is that the book wasn't a software engineering text but a translation of Dante.
Although I haven't been in touch with Bob for a few years now, I always imagined we would get back in touch. I miss him. It is tragically early for such an alive person to be gone from the world.
I had the privilege of meeting Bob only once in person a few years ago, and looked outside our office window yesterday and remembered him. When we met, he put me on to Kevin Kelly's book and the Hive Mind concept. This week our small company, OBS (Open Book Systems) has been preparing a launch meeting of a project with a Japanese company, and the arrival of 6 representatives of that company to our little office in Rockport, Mass. We prepared our thoughts, and our demos as a team, had a session on Japanese customs and manners. We assumed a temporary disguise in honor of our guests: People showed up for work wearing suits rather than shorts, T-shirts, weird hats and sandals. And a huge swarm of bees chose this time to visit us as well at this time, clustering outside the office window for two days, hugging the wall at night in a tight and buzzing knob of intent. And I thought of Bob, and wondered what it all meant.
Though I have this uncanny ability to forget faces, when I received this sad message from a fellow ESFer that Bob was gone, his ever cheerful expression came back to me. ESF was a difficult project, possibly technically too early, but Bob was always good at extracting a clear vision out of our mess of ideas. His support of open standards was the way of the future, and his ideas are going forth. We stay at the workbench ... Good trip Bob.
Having lived with this news for just a few minutes I find it difficult to believe that Bob is no more. The few lengthy discussions I had with hime during those EFS days were always so inspiring, so rewarding. Whether on my ideas of software evolution, whether on Judaism and religion he was always o understanding, so positive so insightful, so generous of spirit. It is hard to believe that we shall never be able to talk again.
How often over the last few years I had I intended to get in touch with him, eventried only to have my email messages returnd. He would have been so interested to hear of and contribute his thinking to my FEAST work.
My heart and warm feelings go out to Claudia (whom I don't think I ever met), to his family and to his many, inumerable, friends.
May his memory, the priviledge of having known and worked with him, inspire us all to ever greater achievement.
I never met Bob. I feel like I have in reading these postings. I just happened to pull up www.blacksun.com to see what the "leading" 3D company is doing these days. I clicked on Bob's picture and unexpectedly after reading these postings, I was crying my eyes out within 5 minutes.
He must have been a very special person. My condolenscenses to all who have to endure his untimely death - especially his family and close friends. Mike.
Being one of the great visionaries and outspoken pioneers of the information-age Bob left us all too soon. Stay wired, man. Ossi
C'est en cherchant son adresse sur le Web que je viens d'apprendre la disparition de mon ami Bob.
Pardonne-moi, Bob, de t'écrire en français. Tu le sais bien, les émotions sont trop difficiles à exprimer dans une langue étrangère.
Pendant deux ans, seuls l'un et l'autre à Berlin, que de soirées passées ensemble à essayer de comprendre le monde et à imaginer comment le rendre plus solidaire et plus humain!
Bob, je ne pourrai jamais oublier ta culture, ta brillante intelligence des choses et des gens, ton sens de l'humain et ta grande gentillesse. Nous partagions beaucoup d'idées; tu m'a fait adopter beaucoup des tiennes. C'est à toi que je dois d'avoir ouvert les yeux sur l'importance des différences culturelles, sur la primauté de la communication entre les hommes dans tous les domaines, sur la place de l'homme et de la technologie. Ton imagination fertile et ta rigueur scientifique mettaient au monde des modèles et des concepts à la fois rigoureux et didactiques. Ta vision élargissait la nôtre, ta conviction emportait la nôtre.
Je ne t'oublierai pas.
I had the privilige to work with Bob on the Living Worlds proposal, it was always good to work with him, he had a way - at times annoying - of picking holes in things, a way that almost always led to us re-examining assumptions and generating better results. But this is not what I'll miss most about Bob, he was one of the people in VRML who I valued most for their discussions of non-VRML topics, mostly we talked philosophy, or psychology, topics we shared an interest in, I particularly remember an evening at the Avatars '96 conference, it was just before Halloween, and I was dressed as a "Clint" (a character from Snow Crash), but most of the evening was spent with Bob talking about issues of human potential, meditation and similar things.
We'll miss you Bob.
I am shocked and extremely saddened to hear of the news about Bob. I met Bob and the rest of the wonderful Black Sun team while working for their PR agency at the time. A few Junes ago, Bob and I travelled together on a press tour throughout the northeast. What I remember most about that trip is that in the car, at dinner or wherever we were, 99% of the time we spoke not of the Internet, the presentation he was about to deliver or the state of VRML. We talked of art, music, literature and philosophy. He spoke excitedly of his daughter's upcoming marriage and didn't bat an eyelash when I, who was supposed to be leading him on this trek, wasn't yet old enough to rent a car in New York! I left that trip with about 15 books Bob recommended I read, 3 operas I had to go see and the impression that this was a man with intellect, generosity and humanity you encounter very rarely in the course of your lifetime. Thank you for letting me share my thoughts here, which are with Bob's family at this difficult time.
ich habe bob letztes jahr bei einem saga-seminar kennengelernt. Von der ersten Sekunde an hat mich durch seine visonäre kraft und durch sein warmherziges wesen begeistert. ich wünsche seiner familie und allen freunden viel kraft in dieser schweren zeit.
I met him while he was talking to webbum and cc in one of the vr worlds. and had a few occasions to chat with him after that. I am sorry and is a shock to me that "Preacher" has gone out of our lives. there was much I would have liked to learn from this man.
Bob, it was always a great pleasure to listen to you, to discuss with you and to see you talking with enthusiasm about so many topics, concerning business as well as personal things. You were full of visions and ideas - a really extraordinary man.
When I look at your picture, I get a positive feeling, you are looking so alive. I could not believe that you are gone now ... But I will remember you. Thanx
blaxxun, like all startups, is a very busy company. Maybe that's the reason why Bob's office is still like he left it. Or maybe nobody wants to change the place, because it still looks like Bob just went out. I guess, most of you can picture how an office of Bob looks like. Everywhere piles of documents, magazines, diskettes, and other stuff. Like many of us at blaxxun, Bob never took the time to hang up his pictures. They still stand on the floor. Bob has more (used) shelf space in his office than probably all other employees here together (except the admin documents, to be perfectly correct).
I remember when I joined Softlab in 1985. Both Bob and I worked there for more then 10 years. I was attracted by the people, the interesting work, and also by the comprehensive library. Later, I recognized, that the most interesting set of information was not in the library, but in Bob's office. I open his boards at blaxxun and see all the magazines that I already wanted to read at Softlab and never had time for. Several years of magazines related to human-computer interaction, groupware, collaborative work, hypertext, process management and much more. A lot of thick conference proceedings. Piles of research papers and various print-outs.
Bob loved information in all shapes and forms. I wonder when he managed to read all the publications and I wonder even more how he managed to memorize most of them. When I read, I try to identify some interesting highlights that have relevance for what I'm just concerned with. I noticed, that Bob read quite differently. He analyzed the words, he thought about why the authors picked the words they did, and really tried hard to understand what was between the lines. That was also reflected in his writing style. While I can write very quickly with average quality, Bob focused on every single word and exchanged many of them several times until they were right. I believe he hated the moment when he had to finish a document, because he still saw so many things to improve. One of his plans was to organize all of his publications in a personal web site and I joked with him that he would probably rewrite everything in the process of bringing it online.
Now in his office, there are all the wonderful publications and documents. But Bob was the one who understood how all relate to each other and he knew the history of the authors, their other pieces of work, and their motivations to write them. Maybe it was a good idea that the Egyptians buried the belongings with the people who passed away. Somehow, books belonged to Bob like songs to Frank Sinatra.
I'm so sorry about this
Thanks so much for all the shared memories of Bob. It has been so helpful to me and my family in America in our hours of grief to hear of the many wonderful relationships he developed in Europe and around the world. When he was a little boy in the third grade, I helped in the creation of a FLES program (Foreign Language in Elementary School),an after school program for the children. There also was a singing group patterned after the Little Singers of Paris, in which he learned over 20 songs in French taught by a wonderful gentleman, Marcel Vigneras. They went on to learn songs of other nations from teachers from the Embassies here in Washington. Bob loved the singing and went on to singing Bach and other composers in church. He loved the German language and studied it in high school and took courses at American University at night. It was then he decided he wanted to go to study in Germany for a year before he entered Princeton. He wanted to teach and taught in a New Jersey high school. After earning a PhD in Cultural Anthropology he moved to Germany. My reason for saying all this is that in my grieving process I am discovering that perhaps Bob's destiny was to help create an atmosphere for world communication and understanding. He wanted his daughter, Angi, to be bi-lingual. I wish that I were so that I could read all of the memories. Thanks again for all your shared memories.
Mit grosser Bestürzung habe die Nachricht erhalten. Bob, aus meiner Softlab Zeit habe ich Dich als bemerkenswerten Menschen und Kollegen in Erinnerung behalten. Deiner Seele wuensche ich Frieden; den Angehoerigen gehoert mein aufrichtiges Mitgefuehl.
He made me change my ways of perception and evaluation of the world sorrounding us and what it might become one day. I will always be grateful for this insight I gained during a dinner which I was lucky to be part of. He was a great man.
Bob approached me when I was exhibiting at the VR World'96 conference in Stuttgart (a very snowy February, I seem to remember). He wanted to know a bit about the technology we were using (immersive VR headsets, gloves etc.) and asked if we were making use of "vermal". At the time I thought I knew all there was about VR but I had to admit to him that I didn't know what "vermal" was. We chatted about all manner of 'hot' technology topics for a while and he left the stand urging me to take a look at "vermal" because it was going to become very important over the coming years. For some reason I kept playing over our conversation (out of many hundreds of others that day - I still remember it clearly) and it was only later that evening that I realised that he was talking about VRML (Vee aRe emM eLL as I was used to saying). I was immediately consumed by a strong sense of embarassment that I had managed to give the impression that I knew nothing about VRML to Bob Rockwell of Black Sun! My embarassment was so acute that the first email I sent on returning to England was to Bob to explain the mistake. You will not be surprised to hear that Bob replied with good humour and expertly defused the embarrassment that I was feeling. We then exchanged several emails in which I explained the technology we were developing and he, in which I now understand to be a key quality of Bob's, encouraged us to push the envelope further than we had dared to imagine. We have still not reached the level of technology that Bob envisaged for us - and even if we manage to complete the concrete challenges that he set us, I believe that we can then try to imagine how Bob would push us even further. He shined brightly.
Bob told me this joke about 1964. I was quite young then, impossibly so, and he was quite impressive even then. Bob: "Will you remember me an hour from now?" Me: "Sure" Bob: "Will you remember me tomorrow?" Me; "Of course" Bob: "Will your remember me a year from now?" Me: "Yes, I guess so." Bob:"Knock knock" Me: "Who's there?" Bob: "See! You forgot already!"
I know all your friends will remember you always.
Even though Bob lived a continent away for more than half his life, I always felt him in my thoughts, nearly every day. I still think about him every day, but instead of with hopes and plans of when I'll next see him, it is with pain and sadness at missed opportunities and a future that can't happen. I keep thinking this will get easier, and it doesn't. I can't imagine how much more difficult it must be for Claudi, who had him in her life every day. Love and strength to you, Claudi. If I could bring him back, even just for you, I would. I'm so sorry for your loss. For our loss.
I've met Bob on Siggraph'95. After just few minutes we found that we share a lot of common views on Engineering and spend more then hour talking. I really enjoyed this and followed conversations with Him. "Bright" is the right word I think would express Bob's personality. I wish He would be remembered by every person he was in touch ever.
I would have long ago been dead. for cybergate and its community kept me going. He let me use his advatars and be part of the world. I hope his true intentions will not be lost. Blaxon owners get your word out and control your system. There are still some good people out there. Don't let his love die! email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
I took the liberty to post some of the emails that were sent to blaxxun after Bob's death.
I apologize that I didn't check back with the persons sending them, but I thought that they would be OK with sharing them here.
Wir haben heute erfahren, daß Herr Dr. Rockwell letzte Woche verstorben ist und möchten Ihnen unser tief empfundenes Mitgefühl zu diesem großen Verlust für Sie und das Unternehmen ausdrücken. Herr Dr. Rockwell war, dessen sind wir uns alle sicher, eine Ausnahmeerscheinung als Mensch und in der IT-Branche.
Es ist für mich und alle Mitarbeiter von P-Age schwierig, die richtigen Worte zu finden. Denn für uns war Herr Dr. Rockwell nicht nur ein Kunde, sondern ein ganz besonderer Mensch und jeder von uns freute sich darauf, mit ihm zu Journalisten zu fahren oder von ihm etwas über blaxxun zu hören. Meine Mitarbeiter und ich werden die Gespräche mit ihm, die oft weit über das Fachliche hinausgingen und die für uns immer interessante, neue Horizonte erschlossen, sehr vermissen! Wir trauern aufrichtig mit Ihnen und seiner Familie um diesen Verlust!
I just returned from a few days vacation to hear the sad news about Bob Rockwell. I would like to take a minute to express deep sadness both personally and on behalf of the people at Intervista.
Bob was one of those people who made my job bearable. He was upbeat, brilliant and dedicated. Bob's commitment to community and open process were a reflection of the beautiful person he was on the inside. I am richer for having known him, and will miss him greatly.
Please pass our condolences on to the rest of the folks at Blaxxun, and to Bob's family. We grieve with you...
Whilst I have spent little time in Munich in recent years, I always took the opportunity to listen to a man with a vision of how things should really be, and never felt that the ears were in place to give an extremely talented individual the respect he truly deserved. I remember the delight he took in confidentially informing me on a certain Friday in Softlab 2, his intention to quit Softlab on the following Monday, of the risks that he was undoubtedly taking but also the great enthusiasm in his new venture, wherever it may lead him. I was really saddened to hear the news of Bob's passing. One of these days it would be great to share a beer and some great stories of a man who will be sorely missed. Best Regards, Simon Roberts
Please send my condolences to Bob's family. I have many fond memories of him and am very sad to hear this news ... he was truly a unique and exceptional man.
Bob is one of the first people I met in VRML. I remember when I first met him (at a conference) -- I had only read his occasional postings, and was familiar with Black Sun's work at that time. That first conversation was representative of many conversations we would have. We began talking about immediate technical issues, but quickly spilled over into larger scientific and philosophical matters. After an hour of conversation amidst the distraction of a conference floor, we finally decided we'd have to postpone our discussion and talk later.
We continued to talk from time to time but remained fairly distant acquaintances. I then had the incredibly good fortune to work with Bob again long term, on the Living Worlds project. I was working with Mitra and Paragraph at the time. I always felt like Bob & I thought very much alike and that Bob always had insights that I also had, or had missed but wished I had. During this period I became quite attached to Bob as a scholar, mentor, intellectual colleague, and friend. I greatly admired Bob's measured approach to debate, sometimes emotional but never unfair or petty. I also admired his pursuit of the "truth", or the intellectual uncovering, the desire for understanding above all else including his ego.
>From the Living Worlds project on, we wrote each other to discuss work, books, or life in general. We would frequently one-up each other with book readings and discuss a spectrum of ideas from science, history, sociology, and metaphysics. My last several very good books were recommendations of Bob's, including some of my now favorite books. Bob also nominated me to the VRML Review Board and in the recent months following, we often cross-posted with similar arguments on topics. This may sound trivial but it was quite meaningful to me to have such personal and intellectual simpatico with such a great person. It was wonderful to have such a compatriot such that, even if I disagreed with him, I could admire his point of view and the way he delivered it (even if I rarely disagreed with him). Bob felt like something of a mentor and role model to me and I looked up to him greatly. I imagine that many people felt that way because he had such a generosity of spirit and nurturing approach to learning.
Upon learning this news people have talked about his contribution and how much he will be missed in this community, both professionally and personally. Clearly if VRML had a visionary, Bob was it, and he will be dearly missed in our work.
I care a lot about VRML, but frankly when it comes to Bob I don't care a whit about VRML. My thoughts on hearing this news were much more selfish. I want Bob back because he was such an absolutely *good* person. I was so looking forward to knowing him over the years. I am sorry and we will miss him so much.
Sincerely, Jeff Close
I worked with Bob in my capacity as Executive Director of The VRML Consortium. The news was deeply affecting and saddening. It reminds us how fleeting life is and how often the best people are taken away from us, early---.
Franz, the VRML Consortium would like to send flowers for the funeral and quite a few people on the Board would like to write personal notes to his family. Could you let me have an address where the flowers could be sent, and the letters?
I greatly appreciate it, and on Wednesday we will be united over the ocean for a time in our remembrance and affection for Bob.
I was informed this morning about the sad news of Bob Rockwell. Please pass on my sincere condolences to all his family and friends. My thoughts are with them during this very sad time.
Dieser Nachruf wurde zusammen mit einem Interview mit Bob kuerzlich bei der NZZ und online publiziert. Wir werden in Kuerze einen Link zum Interveiw posten.
Nachruf für Dr. Robert Rockwell:
Der promovierte Amerikaner Robert Rockwell, Mitgründer und Vorstand von Blaxxun Interactive, verstarb 3 Tage nach dem obigen Interview. Rockwell gehörte zu den Pionieren der Visualisierung von virtuellen Welten. Rockwell, der Anthropologie studierte, hatte ein besonderes Interesse an zwischenmenschlichen Rollenspielen, an evolutionären Prozessen sowie an der Verhaltensgenetik. Die Erkenntnisse, die er in seinen Studien gewann, haben sein berufliches Schaffen und seine Visionen über die Entwicklung von graphischen Sprachen maßgeblich geprägt. Der Mann, der als Lieblingsmusiker Bach und Mozart, als Lieblingsautoren Amy Tan und Ursula LeGuin sowie als Lieblingsfilme Into the Woods, Terminator I und II nannte, sah sich vor allem als Designer von interaktiven Welten. Er sah den Beruf des Community Gestalters heute neben dem des Wissensarbeiters als Hauptbetätigungsfeld von Telearbeitern. Als ein Mensch, der eher auf die Koevolution als den Wettbewerb der Teilnehmer setzte, hat er maßgeblich mit dazu beigetragen, daß die Entwicklung der VRML-Sprache nicht in einem festgezurrten Korsett von Regeln erfolgte, sondern durch einen offenen Entwicklungsprozeß im Rahmen schrittweiser Verbesserungen getragen wurde.
Als leidenschaftlicher Freizeit-Theaterschauspieler und durch seine Lehrtätigkeiten war er ein exzellenter Kenner menschlicher Rollenspiele, was ihm sehr nützte, als er zwei Jahre lang in der Position des technischen Direktors das „Eureka Software Factory Project" leitete. Danach war er technischer Berater der Münchner Softwarefirma Softlab, bis er 1995 zusammen mit anderen Softlab-Mitarbeitern die Firma Blaxxun gründete. Rockwell ist ein Mann, der besonders davon fasziniert war, wenn verschiedene Welten aufeinanderprallen und dadurch Grenzüberschreitungen notwendig werden. Besonders inspiriert haben ihn dabei Sachbücher von Clifford Geertz, Kevin Kelly und Sherry Turkle, die sich mit der Wechselwirkung von Technologien mit dem Menschen auseinandersetzen. Für den Evangelisten Rockwell gab es im Umgang mit der Technik die Devise, daß jede Technik mißbraucht werden kann, wenn wir kein Bewußtsein für deren sinnvollen Einsatz entwickeln. Moralische Problemstellungen konnten für ihn nicht von der Technik, sondern nur vom Menschen selbst gelöst werden. Er glaubte deshalb daran, daß es falsch ist, Technik und Natur voneinander künstlich zu trennen, vielmehr bilden diese für ihn eine faszinierende Synthese, die dem Ziel dient, Menschen zusammenzubringen und die Welt mit verbesserten Linsen (Interfaces) zu betrachten. Mit Bob Rockwell verliert die Online-Gemeinde einen ihrer faszinierendsten Visionäre.
Today it's already four weeks since Bob's death. I'm amazed to read the many contributions. And Bob's family is really unusual. Everyone seems to actively use email and Internet, while my (large) family just got up to four computers (and I own two of them). I find it very interesting to also read the posts of people who knew Bob primarily from a family and personal perspective, opposed to a co-worker view.
In any case, Bob would be proud of all these posts and the expressed respect and love.
When I got the message of Bob's death I felt a strong inner resistance to believe it. I was lucky to work with him in the Maestro development team in the beginning of the Eighties and I was happy to meet him again lateron when I came back to Softlab.
I will never forget the numerous discussions we had on all sorts of subjects. To all aspects I already found by myself to any topic we discussed he was able to open still another interesting one. Every single talk with this creative and vivid man was joyful and I will keep Bob's enthusiastic and positive attitude in mind for the rest of my life. I very often felt richer after a talk with Bob. How many people are able to give you this?
My sadness is profound... the same deep sadness as when I learn that our planet has lost yet another precious species to extinction. My dear friend, my first mentor, my escort to our BCC High School Senion prom. Adieu. As you signed in my Yearbook:
I had a strange and haunting dream last night. I was visiting a beautiful country estate with my family and had been walking from room to room when I saw someone who looked like my brother Bob sitting on a couch talking to my parents. I immediately went up to them, and my parents and I talked about how remarkable it was that this fellow looked so much like Bob, and how hard it was to not believe this wasn't him, because he had died so recently and we all felt that somehow he could have shown up again at any moment. Eventually my wife Diana came in, and when she saw this person she jumped on him and started hitting him. She was apparently angry because she thought that he had only pretended to be dead, and had thus gotten us upset for no reason. We had to explain to her that this was not actually Bob and that therefore there was no reason to be angry at him. As we continued to talk to this warm and sympathetic stranger, who did far more listening than talking, I couldn't help notice that he sounded like Bob, moved liked Bob, and the few things he said about himself seemed to be the sort of things that could also have been true of Bob. The scene dissolved to the two of us walking down the street with an unknown third person, and I began to become more and more certain that Diana had been right, as she so frequently is when she says unbelievable things, and that this person really was Bob. At no point did he ever deny that he was Bob, or say who else he might have been. And now the dream started to become not only fantastic, but incoherent, as dreams frequently do. For I was now trying to tell Diana about the entire incident, as if she had not been there, and was telling her that it took place in a club in the city, rather than an estate in the country. Before I could actually tell her what had happened, I awoke. I know, from both experience and stories, that dreams sometimes incorporate an outside stimulus of some sort, like the sound of a siren or a dog bark, and give it a whole new meaning (the siren could become the cry of a giant bird, for example.) I can't help thinking that Bob must have been somehow responsible for that stimulus, that in some sense some part of him was trying to say good bye to me. Apparently, however, I had to interpret his presence in a less unbelievable way. If this is what I was doing, he seemed willing to accept that. He seemed to be himself at his very best, warm, friendly, cheerful, and at ease. He did not have any of the sense of having become some sort of Homogenized Hollywood Angel, he was more Bob than he had ever been. But I also felt that this would be my last contact with him, and so I felt more grief than I had felt in days. I greived for myself, though, not for him.
My deepest sympathies go forth across the miles at this time of deep loss. During this day of stunning sunlight and beauty, I can only believe that Bob is radiantly alive in a continuing existence equally if not more beautiful than our earthly kingdom. Bob held a very special place in my memory as an adulated actor, performer, and "Bon Vivant"; a memory I never really updated as he lived so far away. He also held a special mystique as one who had such a love of the old country that he'd actually found a way to live there, marrying into another culture... Bob, for me, will always be as he was in high school; Charming, talented passionate in his love of life, a bright keen mind and a charismatic socializer. He left his strong impression on all who had the pleasure to know him for even a short while, and he will be missed until we meet again on other shores or in other lifetimes.
To all who were touched by Bob's life, I was devastated to learn the terrible news of Bob's death. I am writing to express my deepest sympathy to his immediate family and many friends and to share some of my fond memories in the hope that they will give some hearts' ease. Please know that he will live forever in our hearts and minds, for his redoubtable influence was far-reaching. I am a friend of Bob's from Bethesda Chevy Chase High School. Although I only spent two years in high school with him, before we both went off to college, they were important ones for me. I had just moved to Maryland with my family, and I was thrust a stranger into a society where friendships were well developed. Bob welcomed me and introduced me to my new world. I remember meeting Bob at church when we first moved to Chevy Chase in 1963. We were both 15 years old. We shared chuch retreats and music. I have a very vivid image of him galumphing down a leaf-littered mountainside as fast as he could go at one of the retreats crying "Bunnnn-ny Rabbit!" He seemed to just fly over the ground rather than bound across it. It was the same way he embraced all of life - fully, pell-mell, letting no obstacles get in his way. I truly believed that he believed that he could do anything, that anything was possible. Perhaps it was, back then. We quickly learned our shared love of folk music. We knew many songs in common, and we shared others that only one of us knew. Bob always had a strong and clear voice. He would have made as wonderful a preacher (I just learned that his cyberspace "screen name" was Preacher!) as he was an actor and singer. He had that enthusiasm and courage of his convictions that could sweep others along into his causes. I was one of them. I was amused last Christmas when my sister Diana brought back a copy of an old demo tape that Bob and I made during our folk singing performance era. Bob's voice was rich and strong even as a teenager. We had a lot of fun singing at high school assemblies and the downtown Washington, DC, coffee houses. I always wondered what part music retained in Bob's life after he moved to Germany.... Bob brought me to St. Paul's Episcopalian Church, where we shared a love for the great sacred music and for the fine organ at the church. It was singing in this choir that brought us to sing in both the Messiah at Constitution Hall and at the Cathedral. It was Bob, too, who brought me to audition for Richard II, in which he played the title role. I still smile when I see him in my mind "casting down his gage" (glove) saying "Here I throw my gage! And here! And here!", making gentle fun of the famous Shakespeare scene. And I smile to remember his plays on words - "All my little ones in one swell foop..." from Richard II. Although I lost touch with Bob on a regular basis, I did see his family (without him) and home once when he was living in Princeton shortly after I got married. I saw him once again at the wedding of my sister Diana and his brother Teed, where I finally met Claudie. I even bumped into him once in San Francisco, when he was entertaining a business colleague. I didn't recognize him at first - the beard made him look so professorial! Diana and Teed kept me apprised of his comings and goings after 1985, and he became a member of my extended family. I will miss him deeply. I find it so hard to believe that I will never again see his delightful devilish grin or the twinkle in his eye. May you dwell in glory, Bob.
I met Bob Rockwell through my work at Black Sun. I knew there would be a chance for stimulating conversation and hopefully, above, all a challenge. While we are all challenged in life through our pursuits and relationships, we sometimes meet a person who can get you to see a challenge that you didn't know was there. Though I only knew him for a few months, I feel Bob was like that. He could help you to convince yourself to look at a problem from a different perspective, and thereby increase your understanding of it.
Bob's work in the emerging virtual world community is well known and highly regarded. I'm glad to have known him and to have had a chance to be challenged by him.
Thank you Bob.
Hard to describe the momentary bitter feeling when hearing Bob just passed away... easy to say, that he lives on in our heart and minds. The Net / VRML community lost a highly committed, visionary and very amiable friend. Just a short while before Bob left us, I coincidentally met him at CeBIT in Hanover - and, (reflecting it later) I was impressed how, amidst all the heavy hustle and bustle around us, he had the nerve and the concentration for a very focussed and warm conversation. Whenever I met him I had a similar experience of this remarkable combination of sharp intelligence, intensity and kindness. Bob stays, yet we miss him.
I ran into Bob a few months ago at the S.F. airport and recalled some great times working with him and the rest of the group at Black Sun. I was reminded why I liked him so much, he always had time to listen to you, was always genuinely interested in you and loved his work and family. "Dr. Bob" (as I always called him), I look forward to seeing you in the next world.
I didn't know him that well, I just remember holidays together. I remember him talking and being very enthusiastic. He was so sure of himself and had great confidence. Unlike me, he knew what he wanted to do. I remember trying to understand what his vision was. I wish I could have seen that vision become what he wanted it to be. I extend my love to Claudi and Angi because even though I don't particularly know how it feels, I can imagine it must be unbearably difficult.
It is very comforting and gratifying to realize there are so many people that knew and appreciated what a wonderful person Bob was. Of course being his mother was a special privilege, and I loved him unconditionally. But it is good to know there were many others he reached in his "Preacher" role. When he was in High School he gave a student sermon in our church. Many commented that he would make a good minister. I feel that choosing Cultural Anthropology, studying other cultures through music, theater, language, and preaching his vision for the internet and cyberspace was his way of having an impact on the world. Though his mission was cut short, perhaps those who were touched by him will carry on his vision of bringing the world closer together in understanding each other through this medium. God bless all those who make the effort.
Hello to you all. To add to my entry from last night, my family and Bob's have been close since I was a little girl. My sister Diana married Bob's brother Teed. Another sister was close to Bob during high school years in the mid-sixties. I found him to be great fun. Playing football and being "in the moment" are things I can remember about him vividly. In 1988 my husband and I visited Bob and his family in Munich and enjoyed their hospitality. I feel especially sympathetic toward Claudi and Angie. It's hard to fathom the loss of husband and father. It's such a terrible waste of what should have been a much much longer productive life.
Very sad news, a loss to a startup industry and his friends and family. My hopes that his contributions to this vrml experiment will be remembered and built upon.
My husband Teed (Bob's brother) and myself have been so grateful to all of you for your messages and support. We have grieved very deeply for the loss of this exceptional person. Last night, I had 2 dreams about Bob which I'd like to share--both dreams about his death. The first started early in the night and lasted until about midnight. Bob had been injured and his death was imminent. Teed and I and a group of close friends and colleagues took turns carrying him through many different scenes. At one point I remember carrying him through a kind of wetlands; though it wasn't a burden to carry him, I remember his body feeling lighter floating in my arms in the water. We carried him along a cliff's edge--looking down at the sea below; and we carried him through a big war taking pains not to be discovered with our precious burden. The dream had an epic quality, a feeling of Bob's almost Christ-like suffering; and I woke up it feeling very sad. Then I went back to sleep and had a dream of a completely different quality. In this one, Teed and I were alone with Bob in the deep of night. He was not wounded, but he was dying and in the process called the Bardo, in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. In this dream, Bob was not suffering--he was actively forging a path through high mountain country en route to the next phase of his "life". He traveled effortlessly through this high country. We followed--sometimes being with him physically, and other times, we were in a kind of psychic contact. Frequently, Bob would stop to listen, and then we would stop and listen to his listening. This dream also went on and on--through the high mountains for hours and hours, and had an epic quality. But, from this one, I woke up feeling awestruck and privileged to have been able to share with Bob one more experience of his great depths and remarkable journey. To my beautiful brother-in-law, I wish him More Light on his journey, and will sorely miss him.
I am so grateful for this page of memories of my dear brother. Each day, I read them again, see what new thoughts have risen up in memory of him, and can cry and connect again to the extraordinary web of people who touched Bob, and were touched by his extraordinary presence. I know now that Bob was right (as he so often was) about the connection that is possible through this strange medium of computers.
I thought it perfectly fitting that I met the love of my life in cyberspace (even though it took me 40 years!), and know that I have Bob to thank for that: he gave modems to the whole family, and hooked us up on e-mail many years before it was the standard means of communication it is today. I got to know my brother all over again as an adult, due to that connection, an opportunity many siblings never manage to create for themselves.
I still cannot imagine how life will continue to be, without that loving and infinitely supportive presence in my life.
Each day has a deep and unconsolable sorrow that lives where Bob used to be.
There are a million memories that I have of my father. One of those that portray the essence of his relationship to me is the „cheese story".
I was quite young, and my lunch for the day was to be a grilled cheese sandwich. Now, all of you who have lived in the USA will know that processed american cheese comes in two colors, white and orange. As kids just sometimes are, I refused to eat the white slices (not convinced that food coloring was the only difference…). Dad said it was impossible to tell between the two and that I could definitely eat the „yucky" white stuff without being concerned. I started a big discussion about how I could definitely recognize the cheese and that I would prove it to him. He always treated me as a person whose opinion counted and had a fair say in what was going on, so he suggested that we do a blindfold test. I was quite gung-ho to prove that he was wrong about the cheese, so we did the taste-test: Yum -orange, orange again, oooh gross - that was white, etc.
Thoroughly convinced that I had shown him well, I took off my blindfold and said „So, how did I do?" My Dad stood in front of me heartily grinning. His reply: „Think about it dummy, we only had white cheese!!!"
This attitude is what made him so special. Instead of demanding that I eat what comes on the table, or saying I was ridiculous about not eating the white cheese, he let me be me and find out for myself. It of course didn't dawn on me just how fortunate I was to have such an incredible father until I was much older. He supported and encouraged me unconditionally, and I know there were plenty of times in which it was really hard for him to let me do my own thing.
I had just begun to get to know my father from an adult-to-adult perspective, and I am very sad that this isn't possible anymore. In this respect I would like to thank all of you for sharing your thoughts and memories of my Dad, it creates a bigger and better picture for me and makes me really proud to be his daughter.
Coming back from vacation, I feel terribly shocked. It's hard to believe that someone who was always so active, who loved living and who had always plans and goals, can die. I had the chance to get to know Bob through work inthe eighties, I still remember how he explained to me his previous work analyzing the behaviour of rats. He was always curious and understanding, he always shared his insights and enthusiasm, he lived his high ethical standards, he was an unusual man. I will always remember him. I regret not having kept better in touch with him.
First we would like to give our condolences to the Rockwell Family and to anyone that knew him. My name is Chris Timms aka HUNTER and I'm trying really hard to type this. After reading this great page, a true Tribute to that man we knew as Preacher and I'm sure my wife agrees. We found Point World bye accident one day when the world was a month or 2 old. We remember Preacher as being kind and always good for a great conversation about anything. I personally remember him and chatted with him for only short time because he had family or work things to do and for hours sometimes about anything. I'm not very good at this cause tears are blurring my view. We are sure he is with our Lord and we know very close to him also. Think about his nickname and a true Preacher isn't really a Preacher but a buddy, pal, a good listener and someone with an open mind and a good sense of humor. I swore off chat rooms when I was a new Internet person but Preacher and people like the ones we met in Pointworld it's so strange but we were a family and still are family! People like Bob made us stay and contribute in our way to the family. We hope this makes sense Bob, you know me, I'm crying my eyes out typing this. We will miss you Preacher. To the Loved ones of Bob our hearts are with you. He was a great man and we are proud to have known him even through the keyboard. From Chris and Debbie Timms we will always remember you.
My memories are those of an adoring and adorable young man. I only knew Bob as a family friend, but I thought how wonderful to be even on the outskirts of such a genuinely high-sparked life. I could feel his fire for living, though only six or seven years old when I "knew" him. I imagine he kept some aspect of that in his personality right up to the end of this life. I am shocked and saddened at his sudden passing and I am inspired to keep a spark or flame for LIFE alive in his honor.
We were of an age, I a bit older; but both the first of four. Every Christmas, Thanksgiving, from childhood to adolescence, the families would convene and Bob and I would compare notes. Then we grew up and grew apart and only saw each other occasionally. But still, we would compare notes. We assumed, I assumed, this would go on forever. So, there you have it. I'm shocked it won't happen anymore. My precocious cousin Bobby.
John Donne said: Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. Well, Cousin Bobby, I am greatly diminished. Farewell.
Though Bob and I saw too little of one another over the past many years, I still think of him as my closest friend. Claudi asked me to speak at his funeral service, and I'd like to post what I said, so that his many friends who could not be there might know at least something of that terrible moment. Bob and I met when we were both thirteen years old, at a time when we were changing so fast that anything could happen overnight. We played guitars and sang together, performed and studied together, pushed so hard to become adults that we entirely missed the point of growing up, and we talked. Oh, how we talked, through endless days and nights, in person and on the phone, discussing the universe, the afterworld, human imagination, the limits of knowledge, and mostly, ourselves. We learned to love amid an extraordinary group of people who have remained friends. So I speak to you today not only as one who knew and loved Bob Rockwell for a very long time, but also as a representative of many people in the USA and Canada, every one of whom is grief-stricken with us today. All of us have lost something irreplaceable, something to which we have become accustomed and which we sometimes took for granted. From the 9th grade (and probably before that), Bob was the charismatic, emotional core of our group--the one to whom we turned for stimulation, the unpredictable one. He made all of us nervous sometimes, but we relied on his exuberant intelligence, his elaborate language, his insatiable curiosity. Despite this remarkable character, through 37 years I never knew him to be mean-spirited or judgmental. He knew, as the rest of us often do not, that everyone had something valuable to offer to his capacious understanding. We all knew Bob as a talker, but let us also remember him as a uniquely skillful listener, one who could turn a meeting around or give others the support they needed. He heard, digested, and acted upon what other people said to him. Unlike most folks, Bob let us know how much he cared about us by actually learning about us, about our choices and our days. To be personal about it, I am a scholar of Chinese history, a field about which few people know or care much. Even my academic colleagues rarely ask me what I am doing or (perhaps more important) why I do it. Bob ALWAYS asked, and he always connected my answers to what he knew about me as a person. I shall never forget the love that lay in his listening, the delight he took in my obscure researches, and the clarity of thought his questions revealed. One of our friends, Michael Rittmann, asked me to mention a German saying to you. He told me about the sentence, "Mach nicht so ein Theater!" Which means, don't make such a Big Deal about something. For Michael and all of us, Bob was the antithesis of that saying. Bob made a Big Deal out of many things, made a lot of Theater, because he thought so many things were important. He thrived on big ideas, on the big picture, on his own ability to see clearly. If he made "ein Theater," he did so not to call attention to himself but to demand that we notice what we were missing. As his sister Nita said, "Bob had the extraordinary ability to see and then to describe the true nature of a thing and its place among other things." His imagination was, in Essie Usherson's wonderful word, UNTETHERABLE. None of us saw enough of Bob in recent years, for oceans and complicated lives lay between us. But we all still knew that, when we heard that voice on the telephone, something new and odd and interesting was going to happen. We all knew he had a worthy partner in Claudi, whom he loved so deeply, a challenging daughter and friend in Angie, a productive and busy life here in Munich. He still talked with restless imagination, as if no world were enough to contain him, but we all knew he was happy here, in the life he had chosen. We have lost a man of special generosity, one who shared himself--his mind, his spirit, his passions--with everyone he met, a loyal and giving friend, a delightful companion. I will cherish the knowledge of his energy, enthusiasm and vitality; his beautiful voice, whether chatting on the phone or singing or asking a really difficult question; his incredible smile. Like all of the friends to whom I have talked in the past few days of incomprehension and grief, I feel profoundly privileged to have known him. I already miss him terribly, and I always will.
As a member of the Pointworld blaxxun community I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to the family of Bob Rockwell. I personally did not know 'Preacher', but understand the importance that he played in building this fine place on the net. It has brought me a 'world' of treasured friends, one's that I will cherish forever..thanks partly to the hard work and determination of Mr. Blackwell.. Thank you for sharing him with us.
When you get to my age, you go to a lot of funerals. I find that at some, people talk about what the deceased *did* and at others they talk about what he *was.* What awes me about the many messages here is that people seem to have found both in Bob. Of course Mary and I always felt that he was very special, but we also realized that most parents feel that way about their children. So it it is a matter of great satisfaction to read these memories and meet so many fine and bright people who went out of their way to tell us how much Bob meant to them. That was a wonderful thing to hear, and we appreciate it.
Once in a great while, people talk about someone having high ethical and moral standards. And it was particularly rewarding to us that people noticed that about Bob, too.
When he was growing up, there was a song in America exhorting us to "Teach your children well, raise them on your dreams..." Of course we tried to do that. But the second verse said "Teach your parents well..." Bob certainly took that instruction seriously. We learned a great deal more from him than he ever learned from us. I hope all of you can do as well as he did. You're all on an exciting and important adventure together. Bob would want you to succeed brilliantly at it. And so do we. Good luck.
I had the pleasure of knowing Bob while working at BlackSun. He was always so animated and enthusiastic about everything he worked on.
He was a typical professor-- always teaching others, wanting to pass on knowledge, improve processes and systems and educate. I loved this about him!
My condolences to his family and friends. He was truly a visionary and he will be greatly missed. Even though I haven't exchanged much with him in the last year, I miss him.
You were so encouraging - such a good friend in a world with too few friends. I wish I could have known you better.
I remember a long wonderful conversations at conferences. Encouragement when projects looked hopeless. A dinner at WorldMovers where the conversation made up for the food. You watched over our shoulders and offered advice when we started H-Anim. An imporant part of our lives has been taken away.
God bless you Bob. You will be missed
Bob's contribution to VRML is underestimated by all. He never wanted his name in lights, he just wanted things to work. He had the wisdom to push things quietly at the point of most leverage. In private he was totally honest about some of the warts in VRML and worked hard to fix them. In public he expressed confidence and spread a sustaining vision.
Through behind the scenes work with all of the browsers Bob Rockwell made the technology of VRML 1 & VRML 2 much better. He was key to the Living Worlds effort and the most powerful proponent in ALL multiuser discussions.
I believe the most profound impact was from Bob's spirit and its influence on the VRML community. Truly interested in and kind to all, yet optimisitic and expecting much.
I miss him and wish courage to those close to him.
Over the last couple of years, since we started with blaxxun, I had the chance to work with Bob. During this time he never let me go with the question I came to him, instead he gave me two more.
First, he always forced me to think about "How" to do something, the way you do it is the important thing he said. Second, he helped me to look accross boarders to see the "Big(ger) Picture" of it.
That is what I have learned from Bob, taking things out of the shell and de-encapsulate them. I will remember Bob, a wise and extraordinary man.
Thank you Bob.
Dear, dear Bob,
You always believed in the value of language, that it matters how we speak to one another, that our words are actions. But for now I can only tell you how much I love you and miss you, because my heart is too full of tears to find words. So I will try again soon...
I was sad to hear of Bob Rockwell's recent death.
I met Bob on several occasions, and he always struck me as a bright, friendly and creative individual. He also had that all too rare ability to inspire people with his vision of what was possible.
Though he himself has left us, his ideas and accomplishments will be with us for a long time to come.
[Re: the autobiography here on the Blaxxun site. Don Brutzman posted it to www-vrml]
What a wonderful web auto-biography. Thanks for sending that, Don.
Bob was an extremely interesting guy, and seemed to have this core of human kindness that translated into every sentence he spoke or wrote. I didn't know him well.... just chatted briefly a time or two. But it was enough to catch on to who he was and what he believed in.... he was very up front about it all and was a teacher at heart.
He will be greatly missed in this community.
While walking a minuscule show floor at WWW4 in Boston, I stumbled upon work from a new start-up, using the Web to create a Gibsonian - or perhaps I should say, Stephensonian - cyberspace. Their name? Black Sun Interactive. I met a bunch of excited, excitable happy folks, clearly in love with what they were doing; but the one fellow who stuck in my mind, who struck me as "there" - in his heart _and_ his head - was Bob Rockwell.
I got a chance to hear him lecture - at length - at a VR Conference in Germany. Such vision - and passion - are rare commodities among commercial professionals, mostly interested in peddling product. But Bob wanted only to improve the quality of human communication and interaction in cyberspace, looking into the dark void toward the human heart. He spoke that day in a fervent spill of words, a language effervescent and almost evangelical - and this is how I will always remember him.
My condolences go out to his family and colleagues; this is a sad day for us all.
I have taken the liberty of forwarding a recent message from Bob Rockwell to fellow VRMLC board members and the VRB.
Bob always had thought-provoking things to say that helped us build VRML to support shared multi-user worlds. His attached posting was typically insightful, clear and direct. It remains extremely pertinent to the technical and political priorities which VRML must pursue to succeed.
I first met Bob in early December 95 in San Diego, at the SDSC workshop on the day before the first VRML Syposium. We were sitting around this huge hollow square table with 40 other people, wrangling over what to do with VRML 1.0 and 2.0. A full morning of wildly divergent presentations pretty much proved that a VRML 2 was impossible. Bob helped bring the group back together to search for common ground. He had a real talent for listening and then describing the bigger picture in terms everyone could understand. He could ask the hard questions, but he never needed to criticize another person to do so.
We'll miss you Bob.
Bob, Du warst immer ein guter Kollege und Freund.
I only had the pleasure to talk to Bob two times. But from the first moment on I could sense his great aura and visionary personality. With his attidude he enriched our lives and inspired us to sometimes also try the impossible. Thanks Bob
One of my many regrets is that Bob is no longer here to proof read this. I wish it were possible to capture everything about Bob in a collection of sentences and algorithms that could be transferred from machine to machine for all eternity. As it is, I have to pick and choose what is essential, and he was always very good at that. Now that he isn't here anymore, I'll have to make the choices on my own while blinded by grief, so my apologies if I've left something out that you feel is important. This is one of the few times that I want to believe in a personal God. If I did, I could be sure that Bob would have gotten in to see him somehow, and after making a dazzling speech to the Heavenly Hosts, he would have been granted a five year extension to return to earth, subject to indefinite renewals. Unfortunately, in a world run by impersonal forces, Bob's persuasive powers could sometimes be brought up short, as they were that first week in April. It was so typical that he would die of a heart attack after having carefully gotten a physical and determining that he was in good health. Despite his careful attention to details and research, Bob was not always able to govern inanimate objects with the eloquent facility that made him so successful with people. But he always saw every unexpected result as an opportunity to learn, and was willing to share his mistakes with others without any self-consciousness. Bob had a subtle humility that made him distrust the admiration he so easily inspired, and so he valued those people who would pull him down to earth when his vision was running away with itself. He relied on the common sense of his wife Claudi for this, and accepted her loving sarcasm not as bitter medicine, but with a radiant gratitude unlike anything I have ever seen. I remember that he once wanted to call his first daughter Cordelia (a decision which Claudi vetoed), and I always believed that he liked that name because, unlike Lear, he wanted a daughter who would tell the truth to her father at all costs. But although Bob was always humble about what he had accomplished, he was always optimistic about the future. He was always excited about the newest approach to everything, and had a gift for interpreting the Weltgeist in new and revolutionary ways. When he first entered the computer world, he saw not only that computers would change our lives but that how they would change our lives was something that no one really understood. He was determined to leave his mark on the world by helping to unravel that mystery, knowing that it would require the discipline of a scholar and the imagination of an artist. He was one of the few people to realize that the real challenge with computers was not writing new software, but figuring out what kind of new software people needed. He provided arguments and statistics to show that even full time programmers spent most of their time trying to understand what their clients needed, and very little time actually writing code. Consequently, he claimed that every software engineer had to be an anthropologist as much as he was a mathematician, a human scientist as much as a physical scientist. His main message was that understanding people was every bit as important as understanding machines, and that each required a radically different set of concepts from the other. In a world which feared that computers would dehumanize us, he showed that it was possible for computers to make us more human, and that we had a responsibility to make sure that this happened. It was a message with profound ethical and metaphysical implications, and everything he did was motivated by a desire to make the world a better place by clarifying and spreading that message. Like anyone with talent and imagination, he enjoyed it when his vision had an effect on the people who encountered it. But he had no deep interest in money or fame as ends in themselves, because he believed those were only worth something because they frequently correlated with excellence, and with service to mankind. Because he saw so clearly that what he accomplished was only a small part of what needed to be done, he was often hard on himself. He felt an obligation to live up to the high expectations that everyone had always had for him, something that probably no one could ever have done. When he was with us, he would compare his future to his present, regretting that so many of his best laid plans had gone astray. But now that he has neither a future or a present, but only a past, it is so much easier to see him for what he was, and realize that he was more than most of us will ever be. He carried his future with him like an overwhelming aura, and that aura is what we will always remember. He never won a Noble prize, or appeared on Oprah Winfrey, but almost no one who met him will ever forget him, or think about the world in the same way again. If the Nobel prize committee hasn't figured out a way of acknowledging a contribution like his, so much the worse for them.
My relation with Bob is through the design of Living Worlds, a multiuser VRML specification. I learned a lot from his ideas, his way of thinking, and himself.
My deepest sympathy to his family...
The depth and range of personal qualities Bob Rockwell epitomized are rare to be found in a single individual: uncommon intelligence, natural logic, compelling insight, disarming humour, unassuming candour and an unwaveringly warm, open disposition.
These qualities, among many others, always manifested themselves in the roles Bob played: a leader, a teacher, a friend and mentor.
As a leader, he clearly articulated his vision and ideas, solicited our opinions, listened to our positions, arbitrated our differences, effectively uniting and empowering our efforts.
As a teacher, he easily transcended languages and cultures, contributing much through his work and publications to the Internet community and highly receptive international audiences, continually expanding our horizons and furthering our knowledge.
As a friend, he consistently stimulated our intellect, fueled our passions, sparked our curiousity and helped to solve our problems, simply enriching our experience.
I feel privileged to have known Bob and to have worked closely with him.
Vielen Dank, Bob. Wir werden Dich immer vermissen, niemals vergessen und deine großartige Visionen realisieren.
Though we didn't know Bob, we have to express our condolances to his family. And to thank him for the place on the net where we have met the most wonderful people. Again we are sorry for your loss!
I remember a weekend in late 1995. We had guests from the US and visited the Castles in Bavaria. We strolled around and came to a small building. In front of it was a board that described the story of the place. Bob was a bit ahead and when I arrived with our guests, they asked what the place was about. Bob started to explain and I happened to stand next to the board. Amazingly, Bob repeated the very long story basically word by word, with the only difference that he talked in English about what he just had read about in German. I was absolutely amazed by Bob's unbelievable good memory. It was like is was his own story. Today, I don't remember a single word of the text. Bob probably could recite it still completely. Maybe with a few enhancements...
I'll never forget my first meeting and conversation with PREACHER. We shared a common desire to see cyberspace populated and grow into virtual communities and cultures that would, somehow, transcend the mediocrities of the human condition. He provided me with a profound insight into the possibilities of virtual community and the evolution of cyberculture. He made an impression on me that will last the rest of my life. Thank you Bob. ~WEB~
I had the opportunity to work with Bob Rockwell through my work for Black Sun. Although these were brief opportunities, as I was at the San Francisco office and he was based out of Munich. Professionally, he was a true visionary with a passion for on-line community and the technical knowledge and insights to back that up. Personally, he had a passion for life, a great sense of humor, and was a genuinely nice man. And he brought that with him to his professional life. I will miss him and I know there is a big sense of loss at blaxxun.
Bob, es war gut mit Dir zu reden. Immer wieder. Wir vermissen Dich sehr.
Wanted to share my condolence of losing of one of our "god fathers", who's been making possible to give a birth for real, living internet community.
My deepest sympathy to Mr. Rockwells family and working colleagues.
Thank you , of giving us, a little bit better world to live......
Es ist schwer, sich damit abzufinden, einen so wertvollen Menschen verloren zu haben. Er war ein Vordenker, ein grosses Vorbild und einer der charaktervollsten und aufrichtigsten Menschen, die ich je getroffen habe. Bob, ich werde Dich nicht vergessen !
Everyone in the old days at softlab knew Bob somehow. You couldn't not know Bob. He was one of those rare vibrant, energetic, hyperproductive, motivating people who gave the most thought provoking talks. Always approachable, always interested, always full of life and bubbling with ideas.
Ein großartiger Mensch und Vordenker ist von uns gegangen. Ich wünsche der Familie, den Freunden und den Mitarbeitern die Kraft, diesen schweren Schicksalschlag zu meistern.
"Most people covet power. As soon as I have it, I give it away." One of Bob's memorable statements.
Es hat mich sehr getroffen. Mögen viele seiner noch nicht in Erfüllung gegangenen Visionen wahr werden!
I had the opportunity to work with Bob twice: first we introduced VRML in the context of a tutorial at a german VR conference in 1996; in 1997 we started to write a book about VRML97 together with two other colleagues, that was finished just a couple of months ago. It's hard to believe that he's gone now. I was always impressed about his vision and his way to see and talk about different things.
Ich bin noch wie erschlagen von der erschuetternden Mitteilung, die mich am Donnerstag frueh ueber den ploetzlichen Tod von Bob erreichte. Wir hatten uns am Mittwoch Nachmittag noch ueber gemeinsame Vorhaben unterhalten, die wir in den naechsten Tagen angehen und abschliessen wollten. Mit ihm zusammenzuarbeiten, hat mir immer viel Spass gemacht. Auch seine packende Art, Zuhoerer mit seinen Visionen ueber die Zukunft des Internets zu begeistern - darunter auch mich, war unbeschreiblich gut. Bob war ein Evangelist in Sachen Virtual Communities und seine Visionen beginnen Realitaet zu werden.
Bob Rockwell was a very exceptional and unique man. Bob was always prepared to put his own interests back when somebody needed help. I can't think of anybody who wouldn't respect and like Bob for his competence and outgoing personality. In all the years I knew Bob, I saw him mostly in positive and constructive mood. As everybody, he was sometimes frustrated. But he was never aggressive or unfair. He always tried to understand the point of view of others and did a wonderful job as mediator. His ethical standards were extremely high and that was the only area where he was not willing to make any compromises.
While Bob had many and unusual talents, he will always stay in our minds for his humanity and ethics. We lose a very good friend of the rare kind that is always available, always believable, always comforting, and always helpful. Bob's preferred virtual identity was "preacher". This was his mission in life: to spread knowledge and to mediate between different views. Bob had always an infinite desire to learn about facts and opinions. I very much hope he's now at a place where this desire can be fulfilled better than in this world.
Bob, we'll miss you a lot and will never forget you.