Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Hackers' folklore ”Story of Mel”

Hackers' folklore


This piece of folklore ”Story of Mel” was written by Ed Nather in 1980 for his friend Mel Kaye a true programmer credited with doing "the bulk of the programming" for the Royal McBee LGP-30 drum-memory computer in the 1950s.

Real Programmers write in FORTRAN

Maybe they do now,
in this decadent era of
Lite beer, hand calculators, and "user-friendly" software
but back in the Good Old Days,
when the term "software" sounded funny
and Real Computers were made out of drums and vacuum tubes,
Real Programmers wrote in machine code.
Not FORTRAN. Not RATFOR. Not, even, assembly language.
Machine Code.
Raw, unadorned, inscrutable hexadecimal numbers.
Directly.

Lest a whole new generation of programmers
grow up in ignorance of this glorious past,
I feel duty-bound to describe,
as best I can through the generation gap,
how a Real Programmer wrote code.
I'll call him Mel,
because that was his name.


As you see the author was fascinated by the old beautiful difficult days of programming where no compilers even assemblers. All programmers had to write their programs in machine language doing computations manually.

Then he starts to introduce his friend Mel a real programmer who he met in Royal McBee Computer Corp. Well the author Ed Nather was hired to write a FORTRAN compiler and Mel didn’t approve this as he said: "If a program can't rewrite its own code", he asked, "what good is it?"

This story is now regarded as one of the most famous pieces of hacker folklore.

Read the complete story:

http://www.cs.utah.edu/~elb/folklore/mel.html

4 comments:

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