[TUHS] really Pottering vs UNIX

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Fri Sep 15 06:46:07 AEST 2017

On Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 4:09 PM, Jon Steinhart <jon at fourwinds.com> wrote:

> Well, I'd suggest that a lot of this has to do with people who have vision
> and people who don't.  When you look at UNIX, you see something created by
> a bunch of very talented people who had a reasonably shared vision of what
> they were trying to achieve.

​Jon - I mostly agree, but would twist it a little differently (hey, we've
been arguing since the 1970s, so why stop now).

I think you are actually touching on an idea that has been around humanity
for a long time that is independent of the computer field.  We call it
"good taste."  Part of acquiring good taste is learning what is in bad
taste, a heavy dose of experience and frankly the ability to evaluate your
own flaws.   What I always love about Dennis, Ken, Doug, Steve and the rest
if the team is their willingness to accept the shortcomings and compromises
that were made as the developed UNIX as a system.   I never saw them trying
to claim perfection or completeness, much less and end state had been
reached.  Always looking for something better, more interesting.  And
always, standing on the shoulders of others...

What I really dislike about much of the crowd that has been discussed is
that they often seem more contented to kick people in the shins that
standing on their shoulders.

I used to say, when we were hiring people for some of my start-ups, what we
wanted was experienced folks that had demonstrated good taste.  Those are
people you can trust; and will get you pretty close to where you want to be.

In fact, to pick on one of my previous employers, I have always said, what
DEC got wrong, was it was always striving to be perfect.  And lots of
things never shipped, or when they did (like Alpha) it was wonderful, but
it did not matter.  The opportunity window had passed.

Part of "good taste" is getting the job done and on time.  Being "good
enough" and moving on to the next thing.   Sun (certainly at the beginning)
was pretty good at this idea.   The UNIX team clearly got a lot of it right.

It is easy to throw stones at others.  It is hard to repeatedly get so much
right for so long and UNIX has and did.


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