Tag Archives: Unix

The Unix Philosophy

For many people, the Unix Philosophy is captured by the aphorism, “Programs should do one thing well.” That’s an important part of the Unix philosophy but the actual philosophy is much richer and more subtle. Actually, there’s no formal philosophy … Continue reading

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Unix History

The other day I saw a reference to this great history of Unix. It’s Chapter 2 from Eric Raymond’s The Art of Unix Programming. I hadn’t read it for some time and enjoyed it all over again. Many—or maybe even … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday Dennis Ritchie

Six years ago, one of my heroes, Dennis Ritchie, died. No one here needs to be told who dmr was or what he did. He’s no longer with us but it’s worth remembering his birthday and sparing a few minutes … Continue reading

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Semantic Locality

I’m an old time Unix guy who’s still more comfortable on the command line than a big GUI. That’s probably why I enjoy living in Emacs to the extent possible. One of the most powerful concepts from Unix is the … Continue reading

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Henry Spencer and getopt

Kids today! They have it so easy. (Waves cane.) Eric Raymond (esr) has posted a charming vignette that, among other things, illustrates how easy we have it today. The story is set in 1984 when AT&T had just announced that … Continue reading

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Comments on the Thompson Hack

I’ve written several times (1, 2, 3) about Ken Thompson’s beautiful if terrifying hack that invisibly inserted a back door into all programs generated with the C compiler. “Invisibly” here means that there’s nothing in the C compiler’s source code … Continue reading

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You Are Not Expected to Understand This

I recently came across a post that explains the famous comment in the 6th Edition Unix source code: * You are not expected to understand this. I haven’t seen or thought about this for years but it was once quite … Continue reading

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Tail Recursion in gawk

Once you've used Lisp—especially Scheme—you come to regard tail recursion as a natural and necessary technique. Perhaps even a God given right. Sadly, leave the Lisp world and you're pretty much out of luck. Of course, you can always make … Continue reading

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The Vacation Memo

In the summer of 1979, Bell Labs purchased a Mergenthaler Linotron 202 typesetter so they could typeset their own documents. The Mergenthaler was an example of the generation of typesetters just previous to laser printers. They were hideously complex and … Continue reading

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A Chat with Brian Kernighan

Arguably, the third most famous member of the Unix pantheon is Brian Kernighan. Although he did not, in fact, work on the development of the C language (he was the co-author along with Ritchie of the definitive book on C) … Continue reading

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