Thursday, November 18, 2021

the Right Thing

Great Quote:
 These arguments were the lifeblood of the hacker community. Sometimes people would literally scream at each other, insisting on a certain kind of coding scheme for an assembler, or a specific type of interface, or a particular feature in a computer language. These differences would have hackers banging on the blackboard or throwing chalk across the room. It wasn't so much a battle of egos as it was an attempt to figure out what "The Right Thing" was. The term had special meaning to the hackers. The Right Thing implied that to any problem, whether a programming dilemma, a hardware interface mismatch, or a question of software architecture, a solution existed that was just . . . it. The perfect algorithm. You'd have hacked right into the sweet spot, and anyone with half a brain would see that the straight line between two points had been drawn, and there was no sense trying to top it. "The Right Thing," Gosper would later explain, "very specifically meant the unique, correct, elegant solution . . . the thing that satisfied all the constraints at the same time, which everyone seemed to believe existed for most problems."  
--Steven Levy in "Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution" 
I stole a paperback of this from my Uncle's library back in the day. It covers the MIT / Tech Model Railroad Club of the 60s, the Apple II etc homebrew hackers of the 70s, and then the early home computer programmers of the 80s.

On a less dev-y note: The book probably was pretty inspirational for me, and I see how well this "Right Thing" attitude parallels how I see the world, the central relic of the religiosity of my youth... I have this sense that there is an ultimate objective Truth- the "view from God's Throne" of the world for matters of What We Should Do (whether or not there is a divine butt in that chair!) and any view holdable by humans is only an approximation of that divine perspective - and any earthly authority is only valid to the extent to the extent that it is an accurate reflection of that view. (This is in contrast to an everything is subjective view... it leans into uncertainty in a way that both hard core fundamentalism and post-modern-ish existenitalism lack.)

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