back to article UNIX co-creator Ken Thompson is a… what user now?

Last weekend, the SCALE conference came back from the pandemic with a bang: Ken Thompson as keynote speaker. In the Q&A at the end of his talk, Thompson made a surprising confession. Bell Labs researcher Ken Thompson was one of the developers of MULTICS, the ancestor of and inspiration for UNIX. He also developed Space Travel …

  1. elDog

    Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

    Lot's of otherwise smart people like the walled garden and some very good tools. Good thing that many of us couldn't afford their offerings or they'd be much more popular.

    I actually started coding in "B" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B_(programming_language)) after starting in assembler and FORTRAN on the GE architecture. It's been fun watching the evolution of these sets of languages and hardware capabilities for so many years.

    Thank you, Ken.

    1. Muscleguy

      Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

      It is expensive only if you buy it new. It is well made stuff so decent second hand kit is available. I’m typing this on a used MacBook Pro. I have recently bought a reconditioned iPhone from eBay for less than £200. It plays better with the laptop than my Android and when I finish transferring stuff from the Android I will log out of my Google account with a happy feeling. They have become Evil.

      1. Stumpy

        Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

        I'm reading this on my 2015 MacBook Pro (yes, bought new, and was the last laptop I bought). Still going strong and still a more than capable machine for general day to day usage and development work.

        1. FatGerman

          Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

          2015? 'Tis but a baby. 2012 here and still working as well as the day my dad bought ir :)

          1. Throg

            Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

            My “spare” MBP that lives in the sitting room is a 2009 model, recently upgraded to Monterey using OpenCore Legacy Patcher.

            I’m not sure I’d use it for music production but it’s fine for casual office use and gentle coding.

        2. steviebuk Silver badge

          Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

          But how its that for upgrading? I still have my old Lenovo from about 2012, W530. Still going fine. The A is popping off the keyboard but its easy to open the laptop to replace the keyboard. I've replaced the HDD with an SSD that didn't cost a fortune and I've put in loads of RAM. Switch to my partners Apple Macbook Pro that she doesn't use much now, and trying to get a new HDD for it and it costs a bomb. Unfortunately she's locked into everything Apple so won't break away.

          1. FatGerman

            Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

            I bought a second hand SATA SSD for my 2012 Macbook Pro. Works perfectly. Accepted though that this is harder on the news ones but it's been a while since I've seen a Windows laptop with an SSD that wasn't soldered on.

            1. steviebuk Silver badge

              Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

              What Windows laptops are you looking at? There are a tone of them that don't have the SSD soldered on. And then we have Framework. If I could, I'd buy one, I really want one. A modular laptop were everything is replaceable. The really stupid thing is, if Apple did such a thing and at a decent price, they'd probably get people like me actually buy some of their kit. But we know they are never going to do that.

      2. 43300 Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

        I've got one as it's useful for the fairly rare occaisons when I need to test something on MacOS - it dual boots and runs Windows most of the time.

        Don't think I'll be getting another one, because the need to test on MacOS has mostly disappeared now, and the lack of a TPM means that they can't run W11 (or not without a level of workaround that I don't want to do)l.

        1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge
          Trollface

          Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

          means that they can't run W11

          Isn't that a positive thing ?

      3. flayman Bronze badge

        Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

        A laptop with its storage drive and RAM soldered onto the board along with jumpers that configure the BIOS. No thanks.

      4. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

        [Author here]

        > It is well made stuff so decent second hand kit is available.

        100% this.

        I am typing on a Retina iMac, my most powerful computer. I bought it from a friend -- one who still works at Red Hat; I make no editorial comment about that -- used, for $LOTS but also a lot less than quarter $NEW_PRICE.

        It runs mostly FOSS apps, currently on 10.14. I have no payment method on my Apple account, because it is 28 years old and the company didn't accept online payments then. You couldn't have a payment method. Nowadays, iTunes throws errors over this, but I only use it for streaming BBC radio and listening to my own MP3s so I don't really care.

        I also have G4 and Core i5 Mac minis, a Macbook Pro, 2 beige G3s, a Mac Plus, an iBook G4 and an SE/30. And a Retina iPad and iPhone 6S+.

        Most were free. The mini and iPhone cost me, but used, so very little.

        I don't personally use their laptops. I dislike the keyboards and trackpads. My fiancee uses the MBP.

        Apple kit is good, but buying it new is a mug's game.

        1. Lazlo Woodbine

          Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

          A few years back I acquired a Mac Mini Server from work, it had spent the previous 7 years acting as a file server for a suite of iMacs.

          Last year I traded it in for a new M1 Mac Mini, the shop gave me £200 for the 10 year old Mac Mini Server, which I'm not about to grumble about, considering I didn't pay for it in the frst place.

          When I checked back later in the day they'd priced it up at £280 and it sold in under 24 hours.

          I think the Mac Mini is the perfect entry into Mac OS, not stupidly priced, and built to last at least a decade...

      5. Gloddata

        Re: Not a bad record. I'll give him some slack for being in the Apple camp for too long.

        > It is well made stuff so decent second hand kit is available.

        That used to be true. Maybe. Based on these experiences and experiences from other people Apple quality is at or slightly below the quality you would expect from a HP laptop.

        I've owned/used several Macs. Used to administrate a large number of early OS X macs at a college. They were solid. Then I bought a Power G4 ibook, which failed due to bad solder joints on the GPU. Recently was required to use Mac for work and first one had keyboard issues. Newer one has been crashing because of the taskbar failing. Which has been solved because the trackbar is now failed completely. No more trackbar, no more crashing.

        As of right now I have to say that my discount $254 Acer throw-around laptop has taken a huge amount of abuse and has carried on quite a bit more reliable then my powerbooks that have lived their entire life sitting protected on a corner of my desk.

        The big advantage for things like Raspberry Pis is that except for the MicroSD they are pretty simple and distraction-free. If you don't need the capacity offered by a modern PC then they are perfectly fine.

  2. stiine Silver badge
    Coffee/keyboard

    ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

    Why do I drink coffee while reading The Register??? Another keyboard bytes the dust...

    I can't remember when I had such an enjoyably satisfying laugh!!!

    1. MiguelC Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      Another one of the many perks of remote working: not having to withhold laughter when it's deserved!

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      Quite a badass boast, if I say so myself.

    3. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      [Author here]

      > I can't remember when I had such an enjoyably satisfying laugh!!!

      Oh, that makes me very happy to read. :-D Glad to be of service!

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

        Reminds me of the good ole days[tm] on alt.folklore.computers when people would argue about some fine point of C semantics, and DMR would weigh in with a flat statement about it.

        Which of course led to the question: "What makes you think you know about it?"...

        1. R Soul Silver badge

          Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

          Something similar happened at a USENIX conference many years ago. Somebody from M$ gave a talk on their shiny new POSIX subsystem that even included a fully functional Korn shell, ksh. As I said it was a long time ago...

          A guy went to the mike and asked questions about various defects in this ksh implementation. The M$ guy blustered and bullshitted for a while, eventually saying the questioner didn't really know the Korn shell. "Who are you anyway,?" he asked. "David Korn" was the reply.

          1. Valheru

            Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

            I remember when that happened! We were in Denver at a Microsoft Event to roll out their SFU, Services For Linux product. We all had quite the chuckle in the auditorium.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

          Reminds me of the good ole days[tm] on alt.folklore.computers when people would argue about some fine point of C semantics, and DMR would weigh in with a flat statement about it.

          Caused quite a careful check of the email headers when you'd suddenly get a long email from DMR discussing a posting you'd made about some aspect of how the kernel did things and he'd explain how and why they did stuff originally and he'd be really interested in how the version you were working on did it differently. Fascinating bloke to converse with and sadly missed. Staggering to think what they achieved with so little.

    4. stryqx

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      Reasonable excuse for exemption.

      Once got credit for a COBOL unit at Uni by providing my COBOL interpreter source code and working demonstration of it.

      1. Blank Reg

        Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

        long ago at work I had to set up and install a system that would used by 100s of thousands of people. We also used it internally and so I was told I was not allowed access until I had completed the training. Even though I had more experience with it than everyone else in the company combined I was forced to go. I eventually did go and spent most of the time asking questions that the trainer couldn't answer

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

          I eventually did go and spent most of the time asking questions that the trainer couldn't answer

          I'll bet you're a lot of fun at parties.

          Humiliating the trainer like this just to give your ego a boost was a pointless waste of time. It certainly wouldn't have been appreciated by the others who were on that class and presumably needed to know how to use the new IT system.

          1. Blank Reg

            Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

            It was the trainer that wouldn't let me skip the class, the brought it on themselves, I have no regrets, and I don't like parties.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

              I've witnessed a trainer at a certain place within site of Tower Bridge taking every opportunity to humiliate people on his course. Some kind of ego trip.

      2. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

        I remember a girl at uni that wrote her assembler semester project... in COBOL. Mainly because one of us said it as a joke one night and she took it as a challenge.

        1. Mage Silver badge

          Re: girl at uni that wrote her assembler project in COBOL

          Her brother is Lil Bobby Tables.

          You don't mess with her mom.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

        As a child I wrote Spectrum (Z80) assembler and was published in a magazine. When I went to Polytechnic the Assembler Programming (Z80) lecturer (M. L.) insisted that I attended his course. He was a PhD student and about 10 pages further in the book than the rest of the students. I was asked not to attend any further lectures after I asked too many questions in the first. Other students would pass on the coursework assignments and would hand in the answers. (In actual fact it was the answers for 6 students, each with their own style and idiosyncrasies e.g. common spelling mistakes and different commenting styles. It kept me well stocked at the student bar! The lecturer never said anything and they all passed.) What did annoy me was only getting 99% for the course - the bastard got his own back and docked me one mark for not attending his lectures :-(

        1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

          A Good response! I saw the same things, learning languages myself as they appeared was never too bad after figuring out how to write 8080 code with a pencil originally and then teaching myself everything else. When Pascal appeared I started using it and then I ended up having to teach a college teacher how to use it. LOL, helping was not an unusual event and the two of us got everyone else up and running with Pascal that week.

          When Apple computers first appeared the company I was working for bought them for all the salesmen and I had to get them up and running for them but have ever used one much myself. Originally computers would appear and "updates" were only optional so everything was easy. These days "updates" are happening all the time and making a mess of the user environment daily.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      "Why do I drink coffee while reading The Register??? Another keyboard bytes the dust..."

      Same here, but with tea :)

      Seriously, which kind of bozo at Google decided he should go through a C test like all the others ?

      Dude is probably famous in a very bad way, now ...

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

        Whoever wrote that rule was probably long gone, and in their defence, they probably weren't expecting one of the authors of C to turn up.

        The real idiot was whoever his boss was, who didn't just tick the "passed the C test, ok to commit code" box, manually.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ...on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

      This just shows you how demented HR types are. "But Sir, its required. That's the process." That is the beginning and ending of their thought processes.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If there's any trolling it's the "because I was sort of born into it" about running Apple. It's not surprising that he finds Debian/Raspbian an accessible replacement for Unix. The questions following the talk do reveal two things. One is that the trojan is no longer in the C compiler. The other is the answer to "Who ate all the Pis?". He's got so many v4s its not surprising the rest of us can't get any.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Where, exactly, does it say ...

      ... he runs Raspbian on a Pi?

      The only instance of Raspbian that I have here at chez jake is running natively on a PC.

      1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

        Re: Where, exactly, does it say ...

        [Author here]

        > The only instance of Raspbian that I have[...] is running natively on a PC.

        Same here, as it happens. I have a Pi with RISC OS, another with Lubuntu, another with Xbian, another with Ubuntu Server... but none with Raspbian.

        1. that one in the corner Silver badge

          Re: Where, exactly, does it say ...

          What, no R'Pi running Plan 9?

          Although, with Plan 9, you want a bunch of them together to properly show off all its features.

      2. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Where, exactly, does it say ...

        I think it is time to interject with a nurdy pedant comment about Raspberry Pi OS being the name for the Pi hardware version linux since 2020.

        The desktop version is called Debian with Raspberry Pi Desktop, I think it's still only 32bit.

    2. Sickovest

      Does anyone have the real story on how Ken Thompson was born into Apple? Was he always using Apple hardware with some kind of Unix or plan 9? The question was about the OS rather than hardware too so can we assume he was always using an OS supplied by Apple? What did he use before Mac OS X? AUX?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Presumably he was alluding to iOS being based on Berkeley Unix and he was at Berkeley and also took a sabbatical back to UCB in mid 70s and was one of the driving forces behind BSD. It might have been more accurate to say that Apple was born on the back of Ken Thompson than visa versa.

  4. trevorde Silver badge

    Good luck...

    ...on actually getting a Raspberry Pi!

    1. simonlb Silver badge

      Re: Good luck...

      As I've commented on here before I ordered an 8Gb Pi 4 on 20th December 2021. Current expected delivery is mid-October this year.

      Yes, I know two years a long time to wait, but I comfort myself with the knowledge that people pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of pounds on new cars and wait an equal amount of time for delivery, but my Pi 4 will still be more reliable and last longer. Probably.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good luck...

        You must be doing it wrong, I've bought 6 in the last month or so. Admittedly 4 were as kits, one with an EU power supply.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Good luck...

        The trick to ordering an unavailable Pi is to take advantage of being able to transplant a "buy it now" button from any other Shopify page to an "out of stock" page. Your order goes through and then you're top of the list when they release new stock to that supplier. I may have done this twice last year, although I'd deny it if challenged in court ;-)

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Good luck...

      Why would I need a Pi (of any kind) to run Raspbian?

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Good luck...

        June 2020 was when it was last called "Rapsbian".

  5. Luiz Abdala
    Pint

    I was expecting he'd compiled his own OS.

    Well, if the man created C, I was kinda hoping he'd have his own WIP pet project OS.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: I was expecting he'd compiled his own OS.

      "I was kinda hoping he'd have his own WIP pet project OS."

      He does. Two actually. Plan 9 and Inferno.

      Apparently he runs Plan 9 on his Mac at AlphaGoo/go ogle.

  6. 3arn0wl

    Joshing or not - I couldn't tell

    Actually, RaspberryPiOS is a well-considered construct : it's lightweight, customizable and stable.

    1. snowpages

      Re: Joshing or not - I couldn't tell

      .. and can often run well on that old 32-bit hardware that you can't bring yourself to throw away!

      1. jake Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Joshing or not - I couldn't tell

        Thank you!

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Linux

      Re: Joshing or not - I couldn't tell

      I'm retired, but not (quite) as old as ken. Maybe it isn't quite a joke - I use an iMac and iPad for most day-to-day stuff, and have 3 RPs: An original Pi; a 2GB Pi4; and a Pi Zero 2W which are for background use and fun. I refer to the newer ones as my "server farm".

      If you don't mind the lack of ports, the pi Zero is "astonishing". I originally used it as a Pi-hole but now it's for casual development work - A rough calculation indicates that its VAX MIPS/VUP performance is nominally ~5,000 times that of a 11/750 that I used in the 1980s. A multiuser web/database test with Bullseye 64 bit Light and a SQLite database on a microSD card gave ~14 inserts+70 updates/second.

      I still run Windows XP and 10 in Parallels on the iMac to run stuff that I wrote before I retired, but if I replace the Mac they won't be installed.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: Joshing or not - I couldn't tell

        I also have a little Pi Zero (2W) on the network for testing. It's currently running node/express. I have it set up so it mostly emulates my cloudy hosted website. It's about the same spec too.

  7. Detective Emil
    Angel

    Only slightly off-topic

    May I recommend Brian W Kernighan's self-published UNIX: A History and a Memoir (ISBN 978-1695978553)? It's an easy read with no shocking revelations, but it's good to hear it from a deity,

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Only slightly off-topic

      >UNIX: A History and a Memoir (ISBN 978-1695978553)? It's an easy read with no shocking revelations,

      UNIX: The secret history, unexpurgated edition, sold in a plain brown cover

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Only slightly off-topic

        "sold in a plain brown cover"

        You've got your eras wrong ... that was 1976's Lions' Commentary.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: Only slightly off-topic

          AT&T ultimately missed a trick there. The Design and Implementation of 4.x BSD by McKusick, Marshall et all became the standard reference for anyone studying Unix internals.

          Even recently I've been known to recommend them - there are guides on the innards of Linux but it is a) more complex b) changes rapidly and c) is getting a bit grubby really - large parts of it are well overdue for a refactor if not redesign.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Only slightly off-topic

            "The Design and Implementation of 4.x BSD by McKusick, Marshall et all"

            Marshall McKusick is one person, not two. He became one of the top guys in BSD when Bill Joy left to start Sun Microsystems. That was at the tail end of 4.2BSD.

            That's not to say Marshal wasn't an important part of the BSDs prior, but Bill Joy was the designer and implementor through 4.2,

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Only slightly off-topic

            Yeah. AT&T really did miss a trick there.

            The book you mentioned by McKusick, Karels et al was published 3-4 years after Maurice Bach's "The Design of the UNIX Operating System". At that time he worked at Bell Labs and was a colleague of Dennis Ritchie, Ken Thompson, Brian Kernighan, etc.

            Both books are outstanding. The BSD book(s) are better on kernel internals detail because they weren't encumbered by AT&T's lawyers and licensing stupidity, as Bach's was. On the other hand, Bach's book is better at explaining kernel fundamentals. IMO they complement each other.

    2. lamp

      Re: Only slightly off-topic

      Indeed. And I loved his Elements of Programming Style as well.

  8. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
    Linux

    Ken Thompson gets a lifetime pass

    The reasoning should be obvious.

    The man created an operating system still in use after almost 60 years. Sure, it has evolvved, but it's still very relevant. So, when he expresses an opinion on an OS, I'll listen to him.

    Thank you, Dr. Thompson, for all you have done for computing.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Ken Thompson gets a lifetime pass

      I'll not just listen, I'll pay very close attention.

      Thank you, ken, for all you have done for computing.

  9. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    Not shocked

    macOS is a flavor of UNIX.

    1. elDog

      Re: Not shocked

      But just like Gates's OS, Apple didn't really want to be seen as just another *nix variant until they had milked the proprietary OS angle for a few decades.

      Personally, I'd love to see a large jump in the evolution of these server/desktop OS's that takes the best and leaves the accumulated cruft behind.

      1. James R Grinter

        Re: Not shocked

        It acquired its OpenGroup Unix certification in 2007, a mere 6 years after public launch, Mac OS X having little technology in common with Mac OS 9 and earlier.

        (though a bit longer than 6 years if you were to include the NeXTStep origins, but I’d argue that would be misleading because a lot of work was done by Apple specifically to be capable of passing the certification. Even then, they never attempted to deny its BSD underpinnings either).

    2. jake Silver badge

      Re: Not shocked

      It's an emasculated version, but a version nonetheless.

      1. the spectacularly refined chap

        Re: Not shocked

        Best version of Unix from Apple was A/UX. I'll really need to fix my SE/30 someday. It has an ethernet card so it would actually even be still useful.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not shocked

      .. which is the reason it plays so well with Linux. It's more BSD at heart, but if you're comfortable with a command line, MacOS is great, especially if you add brew.

      And install iTerm, of course :).

      1. Tim_the_Unenchanter

        Re: Not shocked

        I'd give Tabby a go - I was a hard core iTerm user before I discovered Tabby <- not affiliated in any way shape or form, just a happy user.

  10. jake Silver badge

    The Mac is an AlphaGoo thing.

    Back in 2000, Thompson didn't really like Linux (too rough around the edges for his kind of work) ... but as of an interview in 2009, Thompson was using Linux. See page 479 of Siebel's Coders at Work.

    According to something I read from Russ Cox, Thompson was indeed using a Mac at go ogle, but he used Plan 9 from user space on it.

  11. Lars Silver badge
    Linux

    I must admit I was more surprised by Apple than by Linux. I must have been a bit uneducated I suppose.

  12. that one in the corner Silver badge

    Plan 9 deep inside your Linux VMs

    If you are running VMs under KVM/QEMU, virtfs, the "paravirtualised filesystem" used to share file systems between host and guest, is a port of the Plan 9 remote file system protocol, 9p.

    1. keithzg

      Re: Plan 9 deep inside your Linux VMs

      Oh whoa I didn't know that! Apparently I've long been using more of Plan 9, and far more meaningfully, than when I just installed the reimplemented and ported bits of it from Linux repos out of idoe curiosity. And I had no idea! Crazy to think how some people's influences on the world can seep in so widely and deeply.

  13. Bebu Silver badge

    that he designed the C language.

    "that he designed the C language."

    Not everyone might be as proud of that :)

    Personally I love the language especially once the C89 was standardized.

    I think of C as a very sharp tool like an adze - you can, like Odysseus, build a boat or more easily take your foot off.

    Wonder why he doesn't run Plan9 on his Pi?

    Remarkable piece of hardware. I was given a 2b (return for a favour) which I mounted in a small plastic food container with holes cut for the hdmi, mouse and keyboard cables. Out of curiosity I plugged the usb cable for the Pi's power supply into the usb port of the old TV I intended to use for the display - I was suprised that there was enough grunt for the Pi to boot which then extremely quickly reached multi-user. Makes a nice self contained Linux PC - had to use a usb wifi dongle if I couldn't use ethernet.

  14. The Bam

    Distortions of reflections

    Anyone who actually read Thompson's Turing Award paper would know that he did not include a Trojan in the C compiler. He merely discusses how he could have done it. That's the entire point of the paper: how can you trust the software you use? Still well worth reading today.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Distortions of reflections

      Well, not quite. From https://www.tuhs.org/pipermail/tuhs/2021-September/024485.html "Ken did it locally, but a vigilant person at PWB noticed there was an experimental compiler on the research machine and grabbed it. While they weren't looking for hidden stuff, they probably were trying to find what was new in the compiler." More interesting history in the same thread.

  15. BenDwire Silver badge
    Pint

    MULTICS

    I can't believe that no other commentard has mentioned their experiences of MULTICS (although I fully expect to be Ninja'd in that respect)

    Back in the heady days of the early '80's my university (Brunel) had a system that us undergraduates could use as we saw fit. There were rows of teletypewriters with no screen but spewed fanfold lined paper, and a handful of early CRT terminals (VT52?) and even a card reader for the postgrads.

    It was completely oversubscribed but we discovered that free terminals could be found in the wee small hours after the uni bar closed. This was excellent training in becoming a functional alcoholic, but thankfully none of the code I wrote back then is available for peer review ...

    That said, we had very little actual work to do, so I bought the small MULTICS handbook and amused myself by fiddling around on the command line. All good background for when I took delivery of my own Sparcstation several years later.

    Being an engineer, I rarely throw things away, but I did bin that handbook during a house move. I've regretted it ever since, not just for the nostalgia, but it would have helped me recreate my university computer centre experience with nothing more than a Raspberry Pi.

    Time for beer.

  16. CowHorseFrog Silver badge

    Ken's glory days have passed, hes basically just an old guy having fun, but why does the world need to know what he is doing ?

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      An old guy (who invented Unix) having fun.

      FTFY

      I have an incredible amount of respect for him. I'm interested in what he's up to. If you have a background like his I’d be interested in what you’re up to as well.

    2. R Soul Silver badge

      why does the world need to know what Ken Thompson is doing ?

      Because whatever he's doing is far, far more interesting than any of the crap spewing out of the main OS and software vendors for the last 20-30 years.

      1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

        Re: why does the world need to know what Ken Thompson is doing ?

        Not to mention out of CowHorseFrog.

  17. Benegesserict Cumbersomberbatch Silver badge
    Trollface

    The UNIX philosophy

    seems to be not to worry too much if systemd is your init system.

    1. R Soul Silver badge

      Re: The UNIX philosophy

      Indeed. If systemd is your init system, you're not running Unix and therefore don't have to worry about that piece of shit at all.

  18. John Savard

    Shocking?

    Shocking that Ken Thompson is using a form of Linux?

    I mean, it might have been shocking that instead of something UNIX-related, he was using a Macintosh.

    I was expecting the "shocking" revelation that he used the operating system that actually lets people get work done, for which a large number of applications are available. Microsoft Windows. I could see people being shocked about that.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Shocking?

      Bear in mind the shock is half tongue in cheek, half surprise it's Raspbian. Or so the great man said himself.

      C.

  19. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

    You gave me a scare there!

    I thought you would say Windows.

  20. JulieM Silver badge

    Not really shocked

    There's hardly anything surprising about a Unix developer using an OS derived from Unix.

    If, on the other hand, he had said "Windows", I doubt I would be the only one with my jaw on the floor.

  21. mpi Silver badge

    "He is a genius, who devised and built tools that have deeply affected millions"

    Millions? Try billions, over several generations, with many more to come.

    Considering how important unixoid systems are in the worlds infrastructure, and how influential C is, was and will continue to be, not to mention UTF8, regex, Golang and god knows how many other contributions to computer science, this man and Dennis Ritchie have easily influenced the lives of billions of people, and for the better.

  22. Binraider Silver badge

    The fundamentals of OS X were built on solid ground. No problem with them. But the direction of the unfixable hardware and Apple Store are understandable reasons why one might want to move away.

    Honestly Raspbian, hardware performance aside, is plenty good enough for a lot of routine uses. So, my question is, why not?

  23. Exact Circus
    Pint

    Inferno

    No need to Halt and Catch Fire; it’s already on fire.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halt_and_Catch_Fire_(computing)

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