Creators Admit UNIX, C Hoax

When looking through my old documents archive, I came across the following, saved in 1997. I don't know who wrote it or where it came from originally; it was probably written even earlier. If anyone knows, please let me know in the comments. But it's still just as funny (to a programmer, anyway):

In an announcement that has stunned the computer industry, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan admitted that the Unix operating system and C programming language created by them is an elaborate prank kept alive for over 20 years. Speaking at the recent UnixWorld Software Development Forum, Thompson revealed the following:

"In 1969, AT&T had just terminated their work with the GE/Honeywell/AT&T Multics project. Brian and I had started work with an early release of Pascal from Professor Niklaus Wirth's ETH labs in Switzerland and we were impressed with its elegant simplicity and power. Dennis had just finished reading 'Bored of the Rings', a National Lampoon parody of the Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' trilogy. As a lark, we decided to do parodies of the Multics environment and Pascal. Dennis and I were responsible for the operating environment. We looked at Multics and designed the new OS to be as complex and cryptic as possible to maximize casual users' frustration levels, calling it Unix as a parody of Multics, as well as other more risque allusions. We sold the terse command language to novitiates by telling them that it saved them typing.

Then Dennis and Brian worked on a warped version of Pascal, called 'A'. 'A' looked a lot like Pascal, but elevated the notion of the direct memory address (which Wirth had banished) to the central concept of the language. This was Dennis's contribution, and he in fact coined the term "pointer" as an innocuous sounding name for a truly malevolent construct.

Brian must be credited with the idea of having absolutely no standard I/O specification: this ensured that at least 50% of the typical commercial program would have to be re-coded when changing hardware platforms. Brian was also responsible for pitching this lack of I/O as a feature: it allowed us to describe the language as "truly portable".

When we found others were actually creating real programs with A, we removed compulsory type-checking on function arguments. Later, we added a notion we called "casting": this allowed the programmer to treat an integer as though it were a 50kb user-defined structure. When we found that some programmers were simply not using pointers, we eliminated the ability to pass structures to functions, enforcing their use in even the Simplest applications. We sold this, and many other features, as enhancements to the efficiency of the language. In this way, our prank evolved into B, BCPL, and finally C.

We stopped when we got a clean compile on the following syntax:


At one time, we joked about selling this to the Soviets to set their computer science progress back 20 or more years.

Unfortunately, AT&T and other US corporations actually began using Unix and C. We decided we'd better keep mum, assuming it was just a passing phase. In fact, it's taken US companies over 20 years to develop enough expertise to generate useful applications using this 1960's technological parody. We are impressed with the tenacity of the general Unix and C programmer. In fact, Brian, Dennis and I have never ourselves attempted to write a commercial application in this environment.

We feel really guilty about the chaos, confusion and truly awesome programming projects that have resulted from our silly prank so long ago."Dennis Ritchie said: "What really tore it (just when ADA was catching on), was that Bjarne Stroustrup caught onto our joke. He extended it to further parody, Smalltalk. Like us, he was caught by surprise when nobody laughed. So he added multiple inheritance, virtual base classes, and later ... templates. All to no avail. So we now have compilers that can compile 100,000 lines per second, but need to process header files for 25 minutes before they get to the meat of "Hello, World".

Major Unix and C vendors and customers, including AT&T, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, GTE, NCR, and DEC have refused comment at this time. Borland International, a leading vendor of object-oriented tools, including the popular Turbo Pascal and Borland C++, stated they had suspected this for a couple of years. In fact, the notoriously late Quattro Pro for Windows was originally written in C++. Philippe Kahn said: "After two and a half years programming, and massive programmer burn-outs, we re-coded the whole thing in Turbo Pascal in three months. I think it's fair to say that Turbo Pascal saved our bacon". Another Borland spokesman said that they would continue to enhance their Pascal products and halt further efforts to develop C/C++.

Professor Wirth of the ETH institute and father of the Pascal, Modula 2 and Oberon structured languages, cryptically said "P.T. Barnum was right." He had no further comments.

Amusing video of cars in snowy Portland

Portland only gets a few snow days per year (sometimes none at all), so when it does snow, drivers aren't always prepared. A couple of years ago I posted an amusing/scary video from downtown Portland, and today I encountered another one, from the current snowy weather we're having. This time, it's a small hill in the Southwest Waterfront district. The amazing difference: not one accident!


Internet people commenting on the universe

A clip show! Here are three fun videos I saw in the last week or two. You may have already seen them, but they're enjoyable to watch again if so.

Firstly, Internet People, a fun song featuring lots of popular names in the blogosphere. I think I recognize most of these, though there are a few I don't. (Via WebbAlert - see that link for a list of everyone mentioned in the video.)

Next, a hilarious video on what a business meeting would be like in the style of web commenters... less well behaved ones than on Dejal, anyway! Warning: not suitable for work (NSFW):

Don't miss the followup from the same people, which is perhaps even funnier (and also NSFW).

Finally, an impressive video that starts out with an aerial view of a picnicking couple, then slowly zooms all the way out to 100 million light years from them... then back in again down to a microscopic level. Along the way, it includes an indication of the scale in powers of ten. Very impressive. (Via Dark Roasted Blend, a great site of interesting images and videos.)

And here's a similar scale-of-things site, as a clickable animation.


Too unintentionally with continuation sinking

Something I found amusing: I noticed a mention of the Time Out 1.5b1 release on, a Japanese site (via my site referrers), and auto-translated it to English using Google... admittedly a beta translator. Here's what it came up with:

When work and music are done, (with saying, as for work almost it is Windows but), too unintentionally with continuation sinking, when the air is attached, the eye and the shoulder [gakugaku] is good.

This timeout as at the time interval which is appointed shown under, putting on the thin cover in the picture, (can adjust also transparency), in order to break, you teach. In addition, the script which is executed at the time of sound and start and the end which are let flow when starting and end break (also Automator, AppleScript and the Python script) or the appointment etc of application is possible.

Standard setting is, the public official of the country whether with "micro" break in 10 minutes 10 seconds, with "usually" break in 50 minutes 10 minutes (the [do] [tsu] of is like but), but you are appointment possible by your. It is useful unexpectedly. It is the freeware.

Auto-translation is hard, eh. :)

Syndicate content