Lispian Random meanderings on whatever catches my fancy

Legacies and Folklore

Last night a good friend of mine died of a massive heart attack. He was 56. He was found with the phone in his hand, obviously trying to call 911. His wife found him that way when she got home from work. It makes you wonder what your life is really about, what you’ve done, what’s important and what you’ll be leaving behind. My friend left a lot of friends and good memories and some music. In his latter years he decided to take up the saxophone. He loved the instrument and became quite proficient. I envied him in that I regretted abandoning the instruments I played when I was younger, mostly the French and Alto horns. I remember him playing a venue at Carleton and he looked so happy. Sad we’ll not hear him play again. Life is too short.

This makes you wonder about life in general and about legacies, in terms of what you’ll leave behind. It brought to mind one past incident wherein I made it to alt.folklore.computers.

I’ve been programming and using computers for more than 30 years now. I’ve written my fair share of computer programs, some of which are still being utilized today years after I wrote them. Although I never got rich off of any of them I did enjoy coding them up.

One program that I wrote with some old colleagues at Carleton was a lot of fun. It was a UNIX Rogue clone we titled Lair. It worked on the old Honeywell CP-6 systems and was quite popular at all the various sites that ran CP-6. It was written in Pascal, which itself was written at Carleton, and on which I worked as well. A small group of us wrote Lair in our spare time and it became one of Carleton’s most popular exports. It was actually included with each Pascal compiler Carleton shipped. We had players around the world sending us email, missives, and notes ranging from frustration to bug reports. We maintained it for a number of years. To this day I meet people who played that game and are pleasantly surprised when they realize that I was the primary author. They were all thankful for Lair because, at the time, there weren’t many games on CP-6. And having Lair meant not having to miss out on the Rogue mania that was sweeping the Unix world back in the mid-80s.

You’d think that would have made it into the folklore group, but alas, it wasn’t. Instead, and ironically, instead of being remembered within alt.folklore.computers for Lair instead I’m remembered for a rather silly little series of “wars” that a colleague and friend of mine and I got into. You see, for a number of years we exchanged puns and compiled them into the PUN-ic Wars. It seems that those puns got out. How far they may have gotten is unknown, but there is a reference in alt.folklore.computers. I do recall they were bad and I do recall that the two of us wrote a goodly number of them. But what I can’t understand is how they ever got out. But it is funny to see that a number of others “enjoyed” our little battles to the point where it made it into alt.folklore.computers.

So even though Lair didn’t make it into computer folklore, I do know people enjoyed it. I also hope that my contributions to IT security, functional programming, languages, etc. will also be remembered as being useful. That when my time comes my life contributed to the advancement of our society and civilization. Maybe not as much as some, but enough to have pushed us forward. It’s the least any of us would want.

I know my friend pushed our society forward with his work on the festivals in and around Ottawa. And I know those who worked with him will remember him fondly. My prayers and thoughts go out to his family who lost a father and husband way too soon. Hopefully his legacy and any folklore he left behind will bring some solace to these most painful of days.

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May 2012
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