1974 - 2005
make -C /path/to/Makefile clean
That wiped everything out on that directory. In a panic I called Neil and he said to turn the machine off immediately. He came over as soon as he could and we decided to try and restore the files. /var was a separate filesystem, so we dumped var to a file on another machine. He wrote a program to go through and pull out file chunks by inode. We then had several thousand chunks. We each took a segment of the files and started recovering the mail spools. We got back almost everything. He saved me big time.
I remember going with Neil to the Philadelphia Art museum. He knew far more about the artwork than our guide and corrected her on occasion. He had a theory on modern art that I won't do justice. He thought that Modern art existed throughout all of history, but that every 100 years or so the curators throw out all the rubbish and only the really great works remain.
I took a position working at SFU and was asked to write up some documents in TeX. I had never even heard of the thing, but decided to say yes to my new boss to keep him happy. Neil had never used it either, but he stayed up all night to help me "cram" for my LaTeX/TeX final ;-) We learned it in a few hours and were drawing in TeX by the morning. Neil was always good at figuring out how something worked, much better than I am.
The security cable
While working at the IAM lab at UBC, Neil supervised the installation of a security cable on 6 new Workstations. The cost of the machines was considered sufficient to warrant installing a security fibre optic cable. The theory being that if the cable is broken, the alarm will sound. Neil let the installer in and showed him the machines then left for a few minutes to check on some other machines. When he returned the installer had drilled through the machines and installed the cable. Directly through the middle of the towers, motherboard and all. All six machines were lined up under a desk and you could clearly see through them to the end of the room. All six machines were on at the time, all six machines were still on after the "install".