Tuesday, March 23, 2010


Most of the people who use UNIX instead of Windows, consider themselves to be smarter computer professionals and learned programmers. Not all, but some always keep an air of superiority around themselves...
But all this will fade off once you read this speech which the developer of UNIX- brian and Ken Thompson gave after the release of their OS. Here it is as extracted from the book UNIX HATERS' BOOK.

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 April Fools prank kept alive for more than 20 years. Speaking at the recent Unix World Software Development Forum, Thompson revealed the following:
   “In 1969, AT&T had just terminated their work with the GE/AT&T
   Multics project. Brian and I had just started working with an early
   release of Pascal from Professor Nichlaus Wirth’s ETH labs in Swit-
   zerland, and we were impressed with its elegant simplicity and
   power. Dennis had just finished reading Bored of the Rings, a hilari-
   ous National Lampoon parody of the great Tolkien Lord of the Rings
   trilogy. As a lark, we decided to do parodies of the Multics environ-
   ment and Pascal. Dennis and I were responsible for the operating
   environment. We looked at Multics and designed the new system to
   be as complex and cryptic as possible to maximize casual users’ frus-
   tration levels, calling it Unix as a parody of Multics, as well as other
   more risque allusions.
   “Then Dennis and Brian worked on a truly warped version of Pascal,
   called “A.” When we found others were actually trying to create real
   programs with A, we quickly added additional cryptic features and
   evolved into B, BCPL, and finally C. We stopped when we got a clean compile
   on the following syntax:
“To think that modern programmers would try to use a language that
  allowed such a statement was beyond our comprehension! We actually thought
  of selling this to the Soviets to set their computer science progress back 20 or
  more years. Imagine our surprise when AT&T and other U.S. corporations
  actually began trying to use Unix and C! It has taken them 20 years to develop
  enough expertise to generate even marginally useful applications using this
  1960s technological parody, but we are impressed with the tenacity (if not
  common sense) of the general Unix and C programmer. In any event, Brian,
  Dennis, and I have been working exclusively in Lisp on the Apple Macintosh for
  the past few years and feel really guilty about the chaos, confusion, and truly
  bad programming that has resulted from our silly prank so long ago.”

After having read this I was Laughing out Loud and Rolling on my stomach. Its true a genius can make a fool of the world!! Every bit of computers 0 or 1 seems ephemeral now. It was an enlightening event......

DISCLAIMER: This extract has been taken from the book only for entertainment and sharing purpose. Anybody wanting to cite it for his/her book or any other purpose must follow the norms of copyright law and seek permission from the authors of the book. 


  1. This itself is a Fool's Day joke, by Computer World.


  2. @ punchgan- what do you have to say about the manchester and new jersey philosophy? "worse is better" is the approach involved. i doubt if this speech is a fools day speech! why would a book keep such articles?

  3. I don't know what the Manchester and New Jersey philosophy is. I couldn't find anything relevant, with a quick web search. any links would be appreciated.

    The preface of the book, (and wiki entry) clearly mentions that this book "is a semi-humorous edited compilation of messages to the UNIX-HATERS mailing list" [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_UNIX-HATERS_Handbook]

    And if you look at the gnu.org link (previous comment), it clearly says that this is writing is from Computer World, 1 April. Essentially, the article in Computer World is a Fools day prank, not the speech. (There was no such speech or confession)

    Also, I would like to point out this piece of writing from the Foreword by Don Norman.

    Unix was designed for the computing environment of then, not the machines of today. Unix survives only because everyone else has done so badly. There were many valuable things to be learned from Unix: how
    come nobody learned them and then did better? Started from scratch and produced a really superior, modern, graphical operating system?

    You may be interested to read this article on the history of Unix. http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/dmr/hist.html

    ps: I guess this comment makes it clear, I'm one of those with that "air of superiority". I admit shamelessly, I'm incapable of using Winblows.

  4. Well a very informative one!
    i am anyhow a complete noob to discuss this topic as this whole thing is just the knowledge imparted by the book as I wrote above. Well there was a link to another article by Richard P. Gabriel http://www.dreamsongs.com/WIB.html
    it is from here that I used those terms. Please go through section 2.1 of this article.

    PS. anyhow I too am not trying to bring a bad name to unix or the users as I am myself an avid fan of ubuntu which is by and "linux 4 humans".. as for winblows if Unix is a virus, it is a trojan..(evil laugh)

  5. I have nothing against you, or this post. I just wanted to clarify that this Fools Day prank thing is not true.

    Thanks for the link to "Worse is Better"