I understand the classic UNIX Magic poster by Gary Overacre was distributed at past USENIX conferences, and I’ve known of it for years but now in confinement, I’ve decided I want one to hang in my office.

Unix Magic

The poster features a white bearded wizard with UNIX related objects around him, for example a spool of thread, a boot, a fork, pipes, and a bunch of containers labeled troff, awk, diff, uucp, make, null, and there’s even a C container and cracked B container. And some oregano:

The oregano is reputedly referring to an incident in which one of the original folks involved with BSD was hassled for coming across the Canadian/U.S. border with a bag of what was assumed to be an illegal substance, and turned out to be oregano.

How to get a poster which was drawn in 1986? There are lots of bad photos of the poster floating around, but certainly nothing good enough to turn into a poster of any size.

Via Twitter, Jaume points to a 32MB PNG (3675 x 5475) which I download and convert to TIFF. I then ask around a bit and find a shop willing to print that onto a material which looks exactly like what I want.

image detail

The material is called Aluminium Dibond which, and I quote, makes for a “matte, reflection-free print using a state-of-the-art, 7-color printing method. White and brighter parts of the image have a subtle sheen. With the aluminium Dibond backing, this print combines high picture quality and perfect durability”. Quite a mouthful, but the result, which I got in two days, is astonishing.

I love the material and how almost luxurious it looks and feels even though the colors are “matte” as described for this material. The result is not as vibrant or shiny as the image at the top of this page, but the advantage is no reflections when the light shines on it either.

the side

I was a bit skeptical and shy of spending EUR 80 on the picture, but I can say without reservation, that I’m very happy with what Whitewall has made for me, and thanks to Jaume for the file!


  • Discussion on Hacker News
  • So, thanks to Jaco I’ve been able to get in touch with Gary Overacre’s spouse. They are willing to sell original posters, signed by Gary. There are about 30 “Unix Feuds” and 65 “Unix Magic” posters left (“it’s hard to get an accurate count as they’re lying flat in a drawer and they don’t want to wrinkle them” :-) The cost of each poster is USD 250.00 (two-hundred and fifty USD) plus packing and shipping. I have told them I’d be willing to collect and forward email addresses to them. So, in order to simplify this for the Overacres, I propose you think about whether you want either or both of the posters, and … Specify “Feuds” and/or “Magic”, your full name and a short sentence that you commit to ordering. I will collect the first 30 addresses for “Feud” and the first 65 for “Magic” and send them off to the Overacres, and the rest is between you and them.
  • As Jason rightly points out, these points look ominous ;-)