Tim May's Passing Confirmed
grarpamp at gmail.com
Sat Dec 15 23:03:18 PST 2018
Tim May - Cypherpunks co-Founder, Discoverer of Radiation-Induced
Single Event Upsets in Integrated Circuits, Uncompromising Firearms
Word has reached me that my dear friend, co-conspirator in many things
and for many years, fellow Freedom Fighter Tim May passed away earlier
this week at his home in Corralitos, California.
Death appears to be from natural causes pending autopsy. I.e. Tim did
not die in a hail of bullets as so many who didn’t know Tim all that
well and largely from his public writings had predicted. 😊
Tim May co-founded the Cypherpunks, perhaps the single most effective
pro-cryptography grassroots organization in history, together with
Eric Hughes and John Gilmore in 1992 against the backdrop of draconian
anti-cryptography efforts promulgated by the Clinton I Administration.
Early credit also goes to Hugh Daniel (since passed) who administered
some of the initial Cypherpunks mailing list infrastructure and IMHO
should be considered the fourth Cypherpunks co-founder.
For a good and reasonably accurate explanation of the early
Cypherpunks days, see the article by Steven Levy in the February 1993
issue of Wired Magazine.
Having read about the Cypherpunks in that issue of Wired Magazine at
the local bookstore, I quickly joined and became very active in this
movement, which lead to deep long-term personal friendships with many
of us principals, in particular Tim May, who was a frequent and
welcome guest at my house.
The joint efforts of the growing Cypherpunks movement ultimately lead
to the abandonment of the draconian U.S. export regulations on strong
cryptographic products, including open source software, in 2000. Tim
May was instrumental in sowing the seeds and providing the teachings
to a new generation to help bring this about.
I can say without qualification that I would not be working in my
field today if it hadn’t been for my meeting and becoming friends with
Tim’s discovery of radiation-induced single event upsets in
semiconductors was groundbreaking and remains to this day. His design
studies to weaponize this discovery, including for ground-to-space
warfare, are both fascinating and cheap to implement; I will leave a
detailed explanation of this area of Tim’s physics research to others.
One of Tim's most precious possessions, perhaps his single most
precious possession, was a photograph hanging on his hallway wall of
himself as a young man together with Richard Feynman. I wished I had
taken a photograph of that photograph.
Tim’s realization that any Manifesto, Constitution, or Bill of Rights
wasn’t worth the paper it was written on absent a broadly armed (and
heavily armed) population left many of his critics and admirers alike
confused. As with so many of his assertions, Tim was correct in this
analysis, though his assertion that “private ownership of firearms is
a public good” will likely not be as soon widely accepted as his
assertion that “private ownership of strong crypto is a public good”
was. As such, Tim leaves behind a very large firearms collection.
Please raise a glass of Bourbon, can be any brand, doesn’t have to be
the expensive stuff, it didn’t have to be for Tim, to Tim May!
Ad Astra, Tim!
Allow me to close this post with an editorial note: if you want to
honor Tim and his work with Cypherpunks, do not read the Wikipedia
article on Cypherpunks. Just ignore it. That is what Tim did.
The Wikipedia article is a steaming piece of editorial dreck that
appears to have been largely authored by brand ruboff-seeking
sycophants and (at best) hanger-ons and more likely non-participants.
There is hardly any word of truth to the article, in particular when
it comes to the list of supposed Cypherpunks participants and their
Instead, do what Tim would have done: close that browser window and
pour yourself another Bourbon.
Those who were there, fighting at the front lines of the Cypherpunks
trenches, such as Tim, know the truth. The hell with those seeking
credit to whom little or no credit for those days and this massive
effort that Cypherpunks was is due.
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