It's just a pair of arrows. What could be more innocent than that?

Crossing the LogoWatch and Borkage streams: A Bork averted


12BoC Our journey across 12 festive fu-, um, screwups in our 12 Borks of Christmas (12BoC) series* nears its end as a Register reader regales us with an unfortunate choice of logo and a predictable Big Blue reaction.

Today's story comes from a reader Regomised as "Naim." No, we don't know either - we suspect the Regomiser might be in need of a few days holiday (your guess is as good as ours with regard to what it gets up to when it isn't anonymising readers.)

Naim was an employee of the 1989 start-up, Transarc. Based in Pittsburgh, Transarc commercialised the Andrew File System (AFS), a distributed storage technology. AFS, which lives on as OpenAFS, is a neat bit of file tech originally developed in the 1980s. Transarc ran with it and was eventually acquired by IBM in 1994.

After a few years under the Big Blue umbrella, Transarc became IBM Pittsburgh Labs. Its work on AFS was eventually spun out by IBM at the beginning of the 21st century into the still-active OpenAFS project.

However, it was an unfortunate incident involving the company's logo that Naim wanted to talk about rather than clever file systems.

"This was the age of the AT&T 'death star' logo and its ilk," he explained, getting his excuses in early.

Certainly, the telecom's giant Saul Bass-designed logo from the early 1980s until this century does indeed carry a slight whiff of George Lucas's Moon-sized space station about it.

Transarc liked it, as Naim recalled: "We had a proposed death star-like logo as well, which was two arrows within a circle."

He directed us to a black and white version here, and while it may not be destroying any planets any time soon, eagled-eye readers will doubtless have spotted the issue with it.

A pair of circling arrows and a bolt of lightning, indicating the company's smarts in the file data arena. What could be more innocent than that?

"It doesn't take a genius to recognize the double lightning bolt insignia of the Nazi SS in the middle of the circle," Naim explained.

"I warned our CEO, who pooh-poohed my concern, and then submitted it to IBM corporate, who had to vet anything that we did that was publicly visible."

IBM is a bit sensitive about the use of its equipment and the activities of some its subsidiaries during the second World War. As such, we imagine that someone suggesting a riff on SS imagery for a logo went down like a cup of warm vomit.

"Of course, they came back and told him that his logo contained the SS logo, and of course, we had to redo it."

"It was," he said, "a very satisfying moment for me, I have to admit."

We can't reveal Naim's subsequent career path, suffice to say that none of the companies with which he went on to work sported logos that caused quite the same consternation. ®

A little ditty we are calling: The 12 Borks of Christmas

* ♬ On the 11th day of Christmas, the bork gods sent to me:

Boss bork averted,

Time to modem down,

Fetch the cable guy,

A bork within a bork,

A boot-hurt ATM,

Fix the printer, nerds,

Scottish parking whi-i-i-i-nge♩------♩ ,

One dead DB,

Petty angry user,

Flightless Windows signage,

and a server they said had ceased to be


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