The end of _why

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

One of the great performance artists of the tech industry has closed out their personality, leaving us wondering what it all meant:

Impermanence is possibly the biggest question raised in CLOSURE.

kafka would be a lot harder to get into if the trial only ran on a power pc. – one of _why’s last tweets

This tweet was really confusing, until CLOSURE. _why reveals that one of his biggest problems is what we call ‘bitrot’: you can’t just write a program, it must be updated. I have one of the first C programs I ever wrote, from when I was 12, and it wouldn’t compile on a modern system, due to a ‘clear screen’ function I wrote that interacted with the hardware that I owned at the time. I don’t have any of the GW-BASIC programs that I wrote as a child, because there was no way to transfer the source off of the computer: I didn’t have a disk drive, they were too expensive.

And so it is with Kafka. Right before he died, Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to burn everything he ever wrote. Brod published it instead. _why brings up that if The Trial was written for the PowerPC, he wouldn’t have needed Brod to burn it: it would have just naturally gone away.

Our industry is constantly changing, and that’s great. But we have no institutional memory. We keep making the same mistakes, over and over again. _why talks about fighting NULL, and how that was his biggest struggle as a programmer. The guy who invented null pointers, Tony Hoare, calls it “my billion dollar mistake”. Yet Go has null pointers.

It’s really easy to burn out. I won’t lie, when _why deleted himself, I thought it was a terribly silly idea. But the more stuff I do, the bigger my projects and responsibilities get, and the more of a public person I am, the more it sounds appealing.

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