worse is better

It used to be to that I spend Sunday mornings with the paper. If you don’t go to church on Sundays, then you have this amazing time that you can read just for your own joy. These days it’s the internet. Of course. But I follow different stories on a Sunday morning. Today is was Worse is Better by Richard P. Gabriel, via Math for programmers via BlogsNow background info on this important essay from seventeen years ago. It probably is so important that I should pretend that I woul have just ‘reread’ it. But, no: Never had heard of it before. Much like a really good movie that you see for the first time after it has been out for 20 years and that you picked up via DVD it makes you feel good since there might be countless other gems out there. Burried in all that history, waiting for to come back to light much like diamonds emerge from the soil in heavy rain. The “test of time”. Or it can make you sad, since you lived without this piece for 20 years. Might have gotten hundreds of references and jokes not all or only half way. Digressing entirely here I am considering to show my seven year old son the original Star Wars movie, even though I think he is WAY to young for that. But there are so many references in the culture around him that I feel he should see it, only that he can decipher all those references. Finally the fact that an important piece went on noticed for me for so long could also have a vastly depressing aspect: How many other items are lingering out there and I never came accross them. And, at least that is a fact, I spent the last seventeens years rambling about everything, including software creation, without being able to put into a context to “Worse is Better”. Now that I have had it my coffenated head for half an hour I am almost tempted to reference to it as “WIB”.

The essay might also only intresting to me, since I was writing in Lisp seventeen years ago and switched to Unix/C. I have to correct this, since I wrote my first code for legal money in AutoLisp under AutoCAD Version 2.18. Lisp was not my choice, C was. Very much so.

Of course now we can read things like

Unix and C are the ultimate computer viruses.


The good news is that in 1995 we will have a good operating system and programming language; the bad news is that they will be Unix and C++.

with a historical perspective. 1995 and it turned out that Mr Gabriel thought to be worse would be pushed from 90% of all CPUs by something that is even worse than worse: Windows 95. Ironically Windows 95 could also be seen as Version 1.0 of a virus (real ones here) API disguised as an ‘operating system’.

… and then a fast forward to the world of software development in 2006. “totally”

One Response to “worse is better”

  1. ben gibbs Says:

    Some people read the paper/internet on sunday mornings - Some people read the blogs of those who are more intelligence than they are.
    Thank you for the good reading.

    I began to watch Star Wars with my son when he was around 6yrs… There was a scene with he Princes which had a male/female dynamic been played out. I could see my sons mind processing it all. We switch it off and haven’t gone back to it. He’s now 8.

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