UNIX co-creator Ken Thompson is a… what consumer now? • The Register

Final weekend, the SCALE convention got here again from the pandemic with a bang: Ken Thompson as keynote speaker. Within the Q&A on the finish of his speak, Thompson made a stunning confession.

Bell Labs researcher Ken Thompson was one of many builders of MULTICS, the ancestor of and inspiration for UNIX. He additionally developed Area Journey in 1969, arguably one of many first video video games, after which ported it from MULTICS to GECOS… after which to a spare PDP-7 that was knocking across the lab, within the course of making a set of improvement instruments that he and the late Dennis Ritchie subsequently changed into an working system they referred to as UNIX.

He additionally co-designed and co-wrote Plan 9 from Bell Labs, the better-architected successor to Unix. Plan 9 did not displace its way more primitive forebear, however it’s nonetheless being developed at this time. He then went on to design Plan 9’s CPU-independent successor, Inferno. Though Thompson is now 80 years previous, he most lately labored at Google, the place he co-developed Go… though his hiring brought about issues: he refused to take the corporate’s necessary C proficiency take a look at, on the feeble pretext that he designed the C language.

Residing programmers do not get way more eminent than this. He’s a genius, who devised and constructed instruments which have deeply affected thousands and thousands of individuals – together with UTF-8 encoding, presumably the primary implementation of regex common expressions, and ed, which is, after all, the usual editor on UNIX. So it will need to have been one thing of a coup when the Southern California Linux Expo 20x bagged Thompson as a keynote speaker.

His speak is somewhat stunning in a number of methods, however all the identical, it’s extremely a lot value watching. Thompson admitted to struggling badly from stage fright, and struggled with transferring by his slides. All the identical, we advocate his speak. It is about recorded music, and does not actually contact on Unix in any respect. It does have loads about early digital music encoding methods and codecs, Wurlitzer jukeboxes, participant pianos, and way more in addition to.

The true shock is throughout the question-and-answer part on the finish, although (on the 57¾ minute mark.) An viewers member requested “What’s your working system of alternative at this time?”

Thompson replies:

I’ve for many of my life – as a result of I used to be type of born into it – run Apple. Now lately, which means inside the final 5 years, I’ve change into increasingly and extra depressed… And what Apple is doing to one thing that ought to mean you can work is simply atrocious… However they are taking plenty of house and time to do it, so it is okay. And I’ve come, inside the final month or two, to say: despite the fact that I’ve invested a zillion years in Apple, I am throwing it away, and I’ll Linux. To Raspbian, particularly.

The Reg FOSS desk can truthfully say that we didn’t see that coming.


We really feel that we should always notice that Mr Thompson has a protracted and storied historical past of trolling the pc trade, which we now have touched on earlier than, notably his well-known 1984 paper “Reflections on Trusting Belief” [PDF], during which he revealed, throughout his Turing Award lecture, that he had planted an primarily untraceable again door within the unique C compiler… and it was nonetheless there. ®

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