1. 57
  1.  

  2. 27

    Terry Davis: a true full-stack developer

    1. 8

      I’m gonna reach a bit here and assume that you’re not joking, because I agree with this as a serious statement.

      His whole story is a testament to the sad state of our mental health care here in the US. It’s a shame he couldn’t have gotten the help he needed once it became clear that he was sliding off a cliff. I wonder if the world could have gotten a few more productive years out of him.

      1. 24

        I’d like to think that I was someone Terry would have considered a friend, and had conversed with him privately on more than a few occasions, and I’d like to think that I knew him a bit differently than most of the onlookers or the audience of his live-streams.

        I don’t want to start any off-topic debate here, but I think a big part of the “problem” was that Terry didn’t want help, and actively turned down help, especially in his clearest moments, including many legitimate offers of money, (free) housing, and other such assistance — even when he was homeless.

        Terry was a very proud person. He seemed very much against charity, but was willing to accept his money from government disability, and when he did get money online - he would get funds via PayPal or other means - he wanted it to be from people who were supporting his projects, or his streaming efforts, etc. He was also (legitimately) concerned that about making too much money online, and losing his disability income, because he was very well aware that the money he made online was not stable and reliable. When he did directly ask for support it was often only for few dollars here or there, and usually when he had nothing left, to grab a bite to eat, get a phone card, etc.

        As he wasn’t an direct danger to others, nor (arguably) himself, I’m not sure how much can be done to help someone involuntarily who doesn’t want the help, nor am I fully convinced that Terry would have been better off if he placed into “the system” involuntarily.

        I hope that he’s in a better place now, with the God of his understanding and the answers to the questions that he sought in life, as those were his beliefs.

        1. 5

          I didn’t know Terry at all and in fact only learned of his story after his passing.

          FWIW I wasn’t suggesting that Terry should have gone into “the system” - in fact it’s been my secondhand experience that said system is pretty destructive for people without the means to elevate the quality of their care.

          (I had a friend who worked in a supervised group home for a few years. I remember him telling me how frustrating it was for him because the way the system was set up, all he could do to help one of his residents who consistently reverted to turning tricks to support her drug habit was to call the police on her. Again. Demoralizing for them both I’d think).

          I wasn’t aware of the fact that he actively refused help. Thanks for letting me know.

          1. 3

            It sounds like a challenging situation from a potential helper’s perspective, and one requiring some creativity.

            You must come up with a way to make the person feel OK with accepting the help as part of the helping process.

            The most commonly used phrasing I’ve heard is, “I have an extra one that I don’t know how to get rid of, do you want it?”

        2. 12

          TempleOS is one of the few operating systems I can say is actually open source. No other OS requires the source code to be present on the disk in order to boot. This is not just a full stack OS, it’s an entire ecosystem to itself.

          1. 9

            I think some small talk or lisp machines switched to interpreting/compiling source fairly early.

            1. 4
              1. 6

                Reading this article and thinking about the author’s point around being able to just dive in and implement simple things makes me think of the ‘fantasy consoles’ like tic-80 and PICO-8.

                In pico8 (which I have more experience with) you can design programs trivially in ‘immediate mode’ like an old fashioned BASIC prompt on an 80s micro, and the editor and immediate mode are complimentary and work well together.

                I’m pretty sure Smalltalk had some of this simplicity and ease as well, and it’s nice to see that getting recognized in more places. I’d love to see this become the norm again for programming - building things interactively is just more fun (at least for people like me :)

        3. 14

          Nice idea for a blog series. This was the last article we had about it here. I was particularly impressed with the HolyC and compiler setup. It was like a C REPL. That was cool. And I can’t resist:

          “It’s fully cooperatively multitasked and all code runs in Ring 0.”

          In TempleOS, your code always gets to run in God Mode. :)

          1. 14

            In TempleOS there’s:

            • God the Father
            • God the Son
            • God the Holy Spirit
            • god the RNG

            Here’s an example of using god to draw tarot cards.

            1. 3

              That great haha. Even more so because, when I was Christian, I suggested TRNG’s as a method of asking God questions. Their consensus was it wouldn’t work cuz He don’t like folks playing games with him. So, TRNG’s would be as random or random-looking as an atheist would expect. And it was if Radin at PEAR’s lab was faking his results. ;)

              1. 13

                So in the Old Testament/Tanakh are artifacts called the Urim and Thummim.

                We don’t know exactly what they were, only that they were attached to the breastplate of the High Priest, used for asking questions of God, and that they appeared to give answers in a binary yes/no way. It would appear that they were objects that were thrown or drawn out of a pouch or something.

                (The words themseleves are of unknown translation. The most popular is “Lights and Perfections” but that’s speculative.)

                So yeah, there’s a random number generator that was used for asking God questions. (The idea of casting lots to divine the will of God/gods is pretty common in various religions, under the generic term cleromancy.)

                1. 10

                  Speaking of weird operating systems which support cleromancy, it will surprise no one to hear that Emacs does that: https://github.com/kliph/i-ching/

                  1. 10

                    Well there is a whole Emacs Religion, whose primary (and ironic) commandment is: to be saved, control excess.

                  2. 4

                    Whaaat?! How did I forget or miss… I’m going to look that one up later. Thanks!

                    Times changed. The preachers would tell us that the questions were OK but definitely getting answers shouldn’t be expected. Maybe that was just rationalizing the difference between what folks believed they’d get vs actually got out of the prayer in average case. Humble attitude, persist prayer, and acceptance of whatever ultimately happened are commonly preached in the Baptist churches down here.

                    “they appeared to give answers in a binary yes/no way”

                    Btw, we probably shouldn’t mention this to the Bible Code or Ancient Aliens people. There would be all new books and TV segments on ancient computers in the Bible. Social media would be flooded with it. Haha.

                    1. 2

                      I wonder if that became the basis behind throwing dice.

                      1. 11

                        Dice go back to before the discovery of writing, and I think many if not most of the relevant experts agree that dice-throwing probably started as a form of cleromancy. We don’t know when the Urim and Thummim started to be used (though cleromancy existed in the various Canaanite and Semitic religions out of which Judaism evolved, and so they may predate what we now call Judaism). We do know that the use of the Urim and Thummim ended around the time of the Babylonian Captivity, presumably because whatever the objects were were lost.

                        (Computer science is my primary hobby. The history of Judaism and Christianity is my other hobby. I’m fun at parties.)

                        1. 3

                          “The history of Judaism and Christianity is my other hobby. I’m fun at parties.”

                          Especially if they’re at a spot with Jewish and Christian folks. I remember lots of deep conversations when I found the right people. To hell with the party at that point. I could find another one of those any time. ;)

                        2. 1

                          Dice seem to be derived from the use of the knuckle bones of… calves, IIRC… for divination purposes. People were using dice for both divination & gambling by the time writing was invented, which we know because we’ve got sumerian tablets describing both things. (Of course, the association between gambling, divination, and magick is a topic in of itself & really interesting – it’s something I wish I knew a lot more about. It seems to appear independently in isolated cultures, to the point where it might be one of these human universals, & like astrology, it’s one of the ones that’s harder to explain.)

                          Certainly, random number generation is extremely strongly tied to divination, but that tie long predates judaism, and appears to long predate monotheism in general. It might predate homo sapiens: neandrathals did a lot of the things we associate with randomness-based fortune-telling, like burying their dead with ceremonial items & creating musical instruments and sculptures, though I’m not aware of any specific neantrathal artifacts that are identified as dice or fortune telling devices.

                2. 8

                  This guy was really amazing, bordering between complete insanity and creativity. His story really needs a whole documentary one day.

                  1. 8
                    1. 12

                      I feel that “documentary” focuses too much on the (very much real) decline of his mental health and his very public interactions (mostly the negative ones and those with trolls, which had the most outside attention), and not nearly enough on his life and work and actual beliefs and output.

                      While not overly offensive, I think that most people would just get the impression of “oh, crazy person”, and while he might have been partly the case (he even acknowledged it - sometimes in a joking manner, sometimes somberly), that shouldn’t define who Terry was, because he was much more than that.

                      He was never fully incapacitated, as he was very much aware of his disability, and while he wasn’t always able to be in control of every moment, he was never completely unaware or blind to his mental state and level of functioning.

                      1. 3

                        That gap in content is what I hope to fill. It’s hard for people to understand operating systems and the massive amount of work they take to make. That youtuber was really trying to make content catered towards his audience first and foremost.

                        The crazy people are the ones who literally see and experience things we do not. Hell when I had a crazy bout I was painfully aware of it. I personally view Terry Davis as a source of inspiration for how to design simpler and more resilient technology, if only because of his bout with insanity.

                      2. 2

                        Damn how didn’t I find this before! thanks!

                    2. 5

                      I’ve been spending the last couple weeks getting pretty deeply familiar with TempleOS. It’s an amazing and fascinating thing, and really carefully and shrewdly thought through one, at that.

                      It’s self-hosting too, no small feat considering that the full system weights in at under 20 MB.

                      Considering its size and scope, it is very well documented. I recommend pressing F1 and starting to explore.

                      I have so much more left to say about it but there’s no way I can do that right now. Looking forward to seeing the rest of Christine Dodrill’s blog posts about it!

                      edit: missing word typo.

                      1. 2

                        ‘art’

                        Edit: sorry this was not meant to be confrontational. I actually really like the tag. I can see why it would seem that I was trashing it though.

                        1. 12

                          If TempleOS is not art then nothing is. Sure it might not represent the political or ideological viewpoints that you enjoy, you might not think it as skillful, but it is as much art as anything else.

                          1. 11

                            If you have a suggestion for a better tag to use, I’m welcome to it. It’s hard to describe TempleOS as anything but Outsider Art.

                            1. 5

                              I have not heard the term “outsider art” in a long time. This post, as well as TempleOS in general, remind me of Henry Darger.

                            2. 9

                              Sure. TempleOS presents a set of ideas in the form of an artifact, & is quite confrontational in this. So, it’s absolutely in line with post-representational art (i.e., all serious art in the past 100 years).