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Anti-foreword by DMR for the Unix haters handbook.

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  1. From: dmr@plan9.research.att.com
  2. Date: Tue, 15 Mar 1994 00:38:07 EST
  3. Subject: anti-foreword
  4.  
  5. To the contributers to this book:
  6.  
  7. I have succumbed to the temptation you offered in your preface: I do
  8. write you off as envious malcontents and romantic keepers of memo-
  9. ries. The systems you remember so fondly (TOPS-20, ITS, Multics,
  10. Lisp Machine, Cedar/Mesa, the Dorado) are not just out to pasture,
  11. they are fertilizing it from below.
  12.  
  13. Your judgments are not keen, they are intoxicated by metaphor. In
  14. the Preface you suffer first from heat, lice, and malnourishment, then
  15. become prisoners in a Gulag. In Chapter 1 you are in turn infected by
  16. a virus, racked by drug addiction, and addled by puffiness of the
  17. genome.
  18.  
  19. Yet your prison without coherent design continues to imprison you.
  20. How can this be, if it has no strong places? The rational prisoner
  21. exploits the weak places, creates order from chaos: instead, collec-
  22. tives like the FSF vindicate their jailers by building cells almost compatible with the existing ones, albeit with more features. The
  23. journalist with three undergraduate degrees from MIT, the researcher
  24. at Microsoft, and the senior scientist at Apple might volunteer a few
  25. words about the regulations of the prisons to which they have been
  26. transferred.
  27.  
  28. Your sense of the possible is in no sense pure: sometimes you want
  29. the same thing you have, but wish you had done it yourselves; other
  30. times you want something different, but can't seem to get people to
  31. use it; sometimes one wonders why you just don't shut up and tell
  32. people to buy a PC with Windows or a Mac. No Gulag or lice, just a
  33. future whose intellectual tone and interaction style is set by Sonic the
  34. Hedgehog. You claim to seek progress, but you succeed mainly in
  35. whining.
  36.  
  37. Here is my metaphor: your book is a pudding stuffed with apposite
  38. observations, many well-conceived. Like excrement, it contains
  39. enough undigested nuggets of nutrition to sustain life for some. But
  40. it is not a tasty pie: it reeks too much of contempt and of envy.
  41.  
  42. Bon appetit!
  43.  
  44. [And the cartoon that went along with it http://www.art.net/~hopkins/Don/unix-haters/DennisRitchie.gif]
  45.