[TUHS] V9 shell [was Re: Warner's Early Unix Presentation]

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Wed Feb 12 10:12:51 AEST 2020

Steffen Nurpmeso writes:
> Of course you are right, you will likely need to focus your mind,
> and that requires an intellectual context, knowledge, to base upon.

Interesting that you mention this as I'm about to leave for a multi-day
advanced yoga workshop.  One of the things that I like about yoga is that
you do have to learn to focus your mind, and it's amazingly difficult to
be focused on something as seemingly simple as standing up straight.  I
don't think that it's reasonable to expect people to be able to focus
without training.  Can you imagine if a computer tried to follow all of
your fleeting thoughts?

In some respects, this takes me back to the early days of speech recognition.
I remember people enthusiastically telling me how it would solve the problem
of repetitive stress injuries.  They were surprised when I pointed out that
most people who use their voice in their work actually take vocal training;
RSIs are not uncommon among performers.

So really, what problem are we trying to solve here?  I would claim that the
problem is signal-to-noise ratio degradation that's a result of too many
people "learning to code" who have never learned to think.  Much like I feel
that it became harder to find good music when MIDI was invented because there
was all of a sudden a lot more noise masquerading as music.

I'm reminded of a Usenix panel session that I moderated on the future of window
systems a long time ago.  Rob was on the panel as was some guy whose name I
can't remember from Silicon Graphics.  The highlight of the presentation was
when Robin asked the question "So, if I understand what the SGI person is saying,
it doesn't matter how ugly your shirt is, you can always cover it up with a nice
jacket...."  While she was asking the question Rob anticipated the rest of the
question and started unbuttoning his shirt.

So maybe I'm just an old-school minimalist, but I think that the biggest problem
that needs solving is good low-level abstractions that are simple and work and
don't have to be papered over with layer upon layer on top of them.  I just find
myself without the patience to learn all of the magic incantations of the package
of the week.


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