Talk:Ken Thompson

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C and Unix a joke[edit]

"In an announcement that has stunned the computer industry, Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie and Brian Kernighan admitted that the Unix operating system and C programming language created by them is an elaborate April Fools prank kept alive for over 20 years. Speaking at the recent UnixWorld Software Development Forum, Thompson revealed the following: In 1969, AT&T had just terminated their work with the GE/AT&T Multics project. Brian and I had just started working with an early release of Pascal from Professor Nichlaus Wirth's ETH labs in Switzerland and we were impressed with its elegant simplicity and power. Dennis had just finished reading Bored of the Rings, a hilarious National Lampoon parody of the great Tolkien Lord of the Rings trilogy. As a lark, we decided to do parodies of the Multics environment and Pascal. Dennis and I were responsible for the operating environment. We looked at Multics and designed the new system to be as complex and cryptic as possible to maximize casual users' frustration levels, calling it Unix as a parody of Multics, as well as other more risque allusions.

Then Dennis and Brian worked on a truly warped version of Pascal, called "A." When we found others were actually trying to create real programs with A, we quickly added additional cryptic features and evolved into B, BCPL and finally C. We stopped when we got a clean compile on the following syntax:


To think that modern programmers would try to use a language that allowed such a statement was beyond our comprehension! We actually thought of selling this to the Soviets to set their computer science progress back 20 or more years. Imagine our surprise when AT&T and other US corporations actually began trying to use Unix and C! It has taken them 20 years to develop enough expertise to generate even marginally useful applications using this 1960's technological parody, but we are impressed with the tenacity (if not common sense) of the general Unix and C programmer.

In any event, Brian, Dennis and I have been working exclusively in Pascal on the Apple Macintosh for the past few years and feel really guilty about the chaos, confusion and truly bad programming that has resulted from our silly prank so long ago.

Major Unix and C vendors and customers, including AT&T, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, GTE, NCR, and DEC have refused comment at this time. Borland International, a leading vendor of Pascal and C tools, including the popular Turbo Pascal, Turbo C and Turbo C++, stated they had suspected this for a number of years and would continue to enhance their Pascal products and halt further efforts to develop C. An IBM spokesman broke into uncontrolled laughter and had to postpone a hastely convened news conference concerning the fate of the RS-6000, merely stating "VM will be available Real Soon Now." In a cryptic statement, Professor Wirth of the ETH institute and father of the Pascal, Modula 2 and Oberon structured languages, merely stated that P. T. Barnum was correct."

Just something I happened across. Does anyone think this is true? Dessydes (talk) 05:47, 21 August 2009 (UTC)

I highly doubt it. Where did you find it? Stuart M (talk) 10:56, 21 August 2009 (UTC)
This text is an April fools joke. However, despite people like Fred Brooks and [Gordon Bell]] recanting their early opinions, people who hate Unix still abound and curse it. This does not mean that these people like Windows either. (talk) 19:54, 18 May 2012 (UTC)


I swear: the junkie who wrote this was on drugs. Ken and dmr didn't 'take' anything to Bell Labs. Read dmr's bio - his father worked for Bell Labs and he came straight from Harvard.

It gets worse: for Multics was used not outside Bell Labs but inside. Bell Labs being one of three major locations for this 'GE' project.

Dennis didn't not come to Bell Labs until years after Ken.

Seriously: where is the responsibility? This article is a POS and its author should be banned. I'd consider gutting the entire thing but in such case there'd be nothing about this stellar and important individual. I'd consider the rewriting myself but just reflecting on what kind of pinhead came up with this sophomoric stunt makes my physically nauseated.

—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:31, 25 June 2007 (UTC)

I don't understand the drama. If there are misstatements in the article, please fix them, and document them with references. —johndburger 02:31, 26 June 2007 (UTC)
I've removed the part about 'taking' anything to Bell Labs. Jay (talk) 10:32, 29 December 2008 (UTC)
Then you are obviously not qualified to judge this very important matter. Your parent is spot on. Obviously more than you realise. Which is why you should butt out. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:56, 17 August 2008 (UTC)
I agree completely. I agree author should be banned. I agree completely. Banned, gutting the entire thing, stellar and important individual, pinhead, physically nauseated - all of it. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:56, 17 August 2008 (UTC)
We do have a banning policy. See if this qualifies for a ban. Jay (talk) 10:32, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Changed link to Turing paper[edit]

The old link to Reflections on Trusting Trust now points to a list of classic computer science titles. I replaced it with the document's DOI.

Tekkaman 14:42, 28 August 2007 (UTC)

Trojan Horse[edit]

Did he ever get any backlash for basically creating the Trojans that are the bane of most computer owners' existence? They are really evilly genius but nonetheless if doesn't make him any less of an a-hole for making them... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:52, 26 September 2007 (UTC)

Another example of how a great individual can be reduced to rubble by the trailer park surfers @ Wiki. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:58, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

666 is the number of the Beast, is the number of AN @#!HOLE. RTFM || STFU. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:54, 13 October 2011 (UTC)

Utter Crap[edit]

Who is rewriting history here? Some 12yo? It sure looks it. Ken and dmr didn't quit Multics because it became too complex - they quit it because they were shut down. Odds are the author doesn't even know what hardware this ran on, who financed the hardware, and what happened to those machines at Mountain Avenue. Stop writing things just because you think they make a good story. Go back to the engineers themselves for the real story. Such as BWK who has detailed this transition period many times. And don't use anything but the real sources for the story. Next time when I come back here: if this crap remains I shall delete it. Be warned. And shame on you all. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:52, 17 August 2008 (UTC)

It is a right observation. I've removed the part about Multics becoming complex. Jay (talk) 10:32, 29 December 2008 (UTC)

Endgame tables[edit]

Someone who is knowledgeable about the EGTB work of Ken Thompson, should verify if a complete set of 6-piece tables has ever been generated by him, or by others in this format. I am not sure, but I don't think so. The Wikipedia endgame tablebase article only mentions his "...tablebases to cover all four- and five-piece endgames", but no 6-piece tables. I think though that it is possible that he has generated some (but most probably not all).

(There are 6-piece tables available, in currently popular but other endgame database formats.)

Edit, after re-reading the paragraph, I see that it doesn't claim that all 6-piece tables were generated anyway, but that "He also wrote programs for generating..." such tables. Nevertheless it may cause misunderstandings. But it would really require someone with in-depth knowledge about that, to state it more precisely.

-- (talk) 23:55, 10 January 2009 (UTC)

Known as "ken" in hacker circles?[edit]

The reference to him being "ken" seems to be from a light-hearted comment in a twenty-year-old book, which doesn't even support the supposition that he is "commonly" known as "ken" in hacker circles. NotYourFathersOldsmobile (talk) 06:38, 10 September 2015 (UTC)

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