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Unix, a Hoax?

                   T h e   V O G O N   N e w s   S e r v i c e  

VNS TECHNOLOGY WATCH:                           [Mike Taylor, VNS Correspondent]
=====================                           [Littleton, MA, USA            ]

COMPUTERWORLD 1 April

                     CREATORS ADMIT Unix, C HOAX

    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/Honeywell/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:

    for(;P("\n"),R--;P("|"))for(e=C;e--;P("_"+(*u++/8)%2))P("| "+(*u/4)%2);

    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 have 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
    hastily 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.

    In a related late-breaking story, usually reliable sources are stating
    that a similar confession may be forthcoming from William Gates
    concerning the MS-DOS and Windows operating environments.  And IBM
    spokesman have begun denying that the Virtual Machine (VM) product is
    an internal prank gone awry.
    {COMPUTERWORLD 1 April}
    {contributed by Bernard L. Hayes}

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