back to article Remembering those who logged off in 2015

As with every year, 2015 brought with it the departure of a number of beloved and respected figures in the world of technology, science and popular culture. To mark the end of the year, El Reg is looking back on those people we lost over the last 12 months. [Editor's note: This article was written and edited before the death …

  1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    What about Ian Murdock

    Creator of Debian. Without whom there would be no Ubuntu.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: What about Ian Murdock

      [Editor's note: This article was written and edited before the death of Debian founder Ian Murdock this week.]

      I'll assume that was added after the article was published, rather than that you (and at the last count, eight others) lack reading skillz :-)

      Steven R

  2. Trollslayer
    Thumb Up

    Much better than the government honours list

    It also helps us to see where the industry came from.

    Thank you.

  3. RIBrsiq



    1. BebopWeBop

      You haven't met mine. Could teach the mafia a lot about protection rackets - Amazon, Microsoft, Apple - mere beginners as far as they are concerned.

  4. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    Lemmy. Okay, maybe not exactly an IT angle here, but if you aspire to be a convincing BOFH he should be one of your role models.

    1. Anonymous Coward
    2. Killing Time

      Lemmy is valid as a figure from popular culture. a true original and a musical influence which spanned rock music sub genres, computer games and a man of integrity.

      True to himself, his beliefs, his fans and bollocks to the insincere.

      1. jake Silver badge

        Following Lemmy all these years, my gut feeling is he intentionally missed the End Of Year deadline, just to give the finger(s)thumb his nose at the press in general ;-)

        Anyone here old and fortunate enough to catch Motörhead & The Damned's "World Tour"?

        1. Killing Time

          Never caught the Damned but I saw MH on 'The Ace up your Sleeve' tour and even though it is a rather hackneyed comment I will swear to any God (you choose) it was the loudest thing I have ever heard in my life, despite working in heavy industry for a large part of my career.

          The front of the hall was just a wall of Marshall cabs and bass bins. Pre H+S legislation, there was little regulation on volume levels in those days, it took me a week to get my hearing back.

          The concert was in a big old wooden building and I swear the whole structure was resonating and upping the volume levels, the effect of it passing up your legs from the wooden floor is not something I have experienced anywhere else. A life event I remember distinctly, good times....

        2. Chris G


          I didn't catch the tour but I am old enough to have been one of the bouncers(security) at Motorhead's first official gig at the Saxon's Tavern pub in South London. Their tour bus was just that an old double decker Routemaster.

          On a sadder note and another non IT loss my friend Guru Josh the writer of the classic House Music number , Infinity died on the 29/12/15, he was only 51 and still writing good music.

    3. itzman

      Lemmy and the IT connection

      Silver machine is obviously an early Apple prototype.

  5. Novex

    I mention the film composer James Horner who died in his aircraft accident in June. The only I.T. angle I can think of is that in some of the films he scored, there were computers (STII, STIII, Clear and Present Danger, and others).

  6. JeffyPoooh

    Chuck Forsberg - Zmodem

    (Well noted.)

    Thank you Chuck.

    1. Peter 26

      Re: Chuck Forsberg - Zmodem

      I know some of the other people in this list may have greater achievements, but I will always remember switching to zmodem as the transfer protocol to speed things up. It didn't matter if it was via a home made null cable from my amiga to my 386, or for dialling up to the local BBS (or the odd international BBS - sorry dad!), you always knew that zmodem was the best choice.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Chuck Forsberg - Zmodem

        you always knew that zmodem was the best choice

        If you had Telebit Trailblazers at both ends, then for some workloads their proprietary protocols could beat Zmodem. And Kermit had more features, and some people claim offers better performance on noisy links. (And prior to V.42 adding LAPM framing to async protocols, SDLC had less overhead than any of the standard async wire protocols; that's a different layer, but the application doesn't care.)

        But for general use, Zmodem was indeed very good.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Pleased to see we're still sending our clacks.

    That's all.

    1. Holleritho


      Claques? Cliques? People remembering the recently dead whom they admired and would like honoured in this list?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Clacks?

        "Claques? Cliques?"

        You sound puzzled. The Clacks are a telegraph semaphore system in Terry Pratchett's Disc World books. As long as internet web sites send his name continuously then he won't be forgotten. El Reg is one of those sites.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Re: Clacks?

        It's a Discworld reference. A type of semaphore, and the messages sent via same.

        1. Anonymous Coward
        2. Gatt

          Re: Clacks?

          GNU Terry Pratchett...

          'No one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…’ – Reaper Man

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Passed on, passed away...

    I think the commentardiat is sufficiently adult to use the word "died". We're not children and I suspect that the great majority do not believe in any kind of afterlife. Death stalks the Discworld, after all. When it comes to the Great Certainty, euphemisms (to me at least) just aren't appropriate.

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Passed on, passed away...

      I wholeheartedly agree! On the other hand, I do like a good euphemsm, must be all the Monty Python* I've been exposed to. As to the question of an afterlife: I've put that on the back burner. One day I'll know, but it can wait.

      * Yes, that one. Just for a change, the german version: Dieser Papagei ist tot!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Passed on, passed away...

        "One day I'll know, but it can wait."

        Well, if there isn't one, there won't be a you to know, so there is that.

    2. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: Passed on, passed away...

      >Death stalks the Discworld, after all.

      Sadly a question Pterry never answered - what happens to dead people/animals/political movements/companies AFTER DEATH FINISHES TALKING TO THEM IN CAPITAL LETTERS?

      Where do they go? What do they do? Who do they do it with? Do they have broadband?

      We're never going to find out, and that's sad.

      1. theOtherJT

        Re: Passed on, passed away...

        Where do they go? What do they do? Who do they do it with? Do they have broadband?

        Actually he answered this quite comprehensively in Soul Music. They go where they expect to go!

        From the cartoon adaptation but the scene is basically the same in the book.

        He goes into it in several others too iirc.

  9. Simon Westerby 1

    Sad to see the "C" word (including Lemmy) so much in there. Still shows we have a long way to go before we banish it to the annals of time ;(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      If so, we don't need to get rid of celebrity but rather to water it down. When there are three celebrities and ten former celebrities on every street the world will be sane again. Sadly the world is becoming such a small place that a few dozen celebrities can sew up the planet.

    2. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Oh, go ahead and say it: CANCER. Haven't you learned anything from Harry Potter? "The disease that must not be named." Cancer has been a part of my life by proxy for the last ten years - my better half went through two rounds of breast cancer so far, and there is no guarantee there won't be a third one. As 'cells growing in your body' is a normal thing per se, we will maybe never be able to prevent or cure all kinds of cancer. But every year research makes progress, and just a couple of years can make a world of difference, especially in the treatments and protocols that are availiable. Still, cancer is and will be one of the horrible facts of life that exist - and it won't go away by ignoring it.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Aw, crap.

        Okay, I think my brain is avoiding facing that subject because, stuff.

        Seriously, man. Fuck cancer.

    3. Why Not?

      Unfortunately cancer is just a word used to describe mutated cells multiplying uncontrollably. They tend to do it in a different way depending on the type of cancer and cell. That's why some cancers have a great survival rate and some don't. But great advances are being made every day.

      Its a bit like calling it 'a cut' regardless of whether its the Jugular or little pinky.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Unfortunately cancer is just a word used to describe mutated cells multiplying uncontrollably

        It's more general than that; the cells in question need not be "mutated". That is, they don't need to have genetic damage in comparison to other cells in the subject's body (obviously all cells with genetic material are "mutated" in the sense that such material has, at many points in the past, mutated.)

        Cancers can be caused by viruses, by epigenetic factors such as methylation, by cellular signaling, etc.

        What distinguishes a cancer is that the two processes that control the cellular population, cytogenesis and apoptosis, are no longer in (rough) equilibrium at one or more sites in the body, with cytogenesis outstripping apoptosis. There are many possible underlying causes.

        Some oncological researchers claim that even healthy people have small cancers - regions of unbalanced cellular reproduction - all the time; it's just that usually the body is able to snuff them out before they progress too far.

        Basically, complex organisms walk a tightrope of creating and destroying cells, through a hugely complex array of hugely complicated mechanisms. It's tautological to say that cancer awaits everyone who doesn't succumb to something else first, but there is a sense in which cancer is a sort of default fate. The body keeps moving along, creating and destroying; eventually it will stumble.

        So we aren't going to "cure" cancer. Ever. That's not a thing that will happen, as long as we have biological bodies. We will undoubtedly create better treatments - more specific, more potent, etc. We will get better at handling the matter in other ways, relieving side effects and prolonging survival and improving palliative care. But even in some blue-sky future with, say, body-swapping "cures" (as in Doctorow's Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom and any number of other SF exercises), we wouldn't have a cure for cancer in general; we'd have a way to jump ship.

        (And, personally, I'm extremely dubious of the whole body-swapping scenario, for any number of scientific, philosophical, and ethical reasons. But whatevs - it's not something we'll have to worry about in practice any time soon.)

  10. Paul A. Clayton

    No mention of Amdahl's Law?

    As a computer architecture enthusiast, I was disappointed that no mention was made of Amdahl's Law ('s_Law), which is frequently generalized to any fractional improvement.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: No mention of Amdahl's Law?

      It's a gem, but I'd have to agree with the article that Amdahl's biggest contribution to the industry was creating the IBM mainframe clone market. That was a shift on par with "unbundling", I'd say.

  11. Colin Miller

    Leonard Nimoy

    I can't believe that the article didn't, and no commentards have, mentioned Leonard Nimoy.

    1. Tony S

      Re: Leonard Nimoy

      @Colin Miller

      I was as surprised. Although not a scientist; his acting work certainly encouraged a lot of people to go into STEM subjects.

      1. Robert Helpmann??

        Re: Leonard Nimoy

        Likewise Christopher Lee, whose passing was covered by El Reg.

  12. ratfox

    There is somewhere a huge life-timer carried by four elephants on the back of a turtle, and the sand has settled in the shape of a landscape with a tall mountain in the center. A man wearing a hat emblazoned with the word WIZZARD is sitting on the edge, and an Orangutan is climbing up the sand clock using three hands, the fourth one is holding a book.


    1. Chris G


      Hopefully SirTerry will be the ArchWizzard there for all time.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Some more IT related deaths in 2015

    Stephen Gold, the journalist who achieved notoriety for hacking Prince Philip's Prestel account.

    Friedrich Bauer who invented the stack method of expression evaluation, worked on the ALGOL language committees and published a book on cryptology.

    Paul Hudak, who helped design the Haskell programming language.

    Robert Dewar, compiler writer. In particular he co-wrote the GNAT ADA compiler which is part of the GNU Compiler Collection.

    John Henry Holland, a pioneer of genetic algorithms.

    Donald Shell, inventor of the Shell sort.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some more IT related deaths in 2015

      Many of these people were pioneers - yet not much older than I am. It reminds me that as youngsters in the industry we didn't realise we were pioneers too.

      The companies we joined were often long established household names - the newly created computer sections were rapidly evolving. Our technical leaders shocked us when we asked them to explain something - and they told us we were the first to try to do it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Some more IT related deaths in 2015

      For the longest time I had no idea how the Shell sort got it's name. I kept looking for some pattern in the way list items moved around that might motivate it...

      ObPratchett: Of course, you're not really famous until you have a dessert or an item of clothing name for you.

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Some more IT related deaths in 2015

        Of course, you're not really famous until you have a dessert or an item of clothing name for you.

        Can I interest you in my recipe for Shell Pudding? It's a sort of trifle where the layers start far apart, and then you keep decreasing the intervals.

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