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Bill Wear, Developer Advocate for MAAS: foo.c

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I remember my first foo. It was September, 1974, on a PDP-11/40, in the second-floor lab at the local community college. It was an amazing experience for a fourteen-year-old, admitted at 12 to audit night classes because his dad was a part-time instructor and full-time polymath.

I should warn you, I’m not the genius in the room. I maintained a B average in math and electrical engineering, but A+ averages in English, languages, programming, and organic chemistry (yeah, about that….). The genius was my Dad, the math wizard, the US Navy CIC Officer. More on him in a later blog — he’s relevant to what MAAS does in a big way.

Okay, so I’m more of a language (and logic) guy. But isn’t code where math meets language and logic?

Research Unix

Fifth edition UNIX had just been licensed to educational institutions at no cost, and since this college was situated squarely in the middle of the military-industrial complex, scoring a Hulking Giant was easy. Finding good code to run it? That was another issue, until Bell Labs offered up a freebie.

It was amazing! Getting the computer to do things on its own — via ASM and FORTRAN — was not new to me. What was new was the simplicity of the whole thing. Mathematically, UNIX and C were incredibly complex, incorporating all kinds of network theory and topology and numerical methods that (frankly) haven’t always been my favorite cup of tea. I’m not even sure if Computer Science was a thing yet.

But the amazing part? Here was an OS which took all that complexity and translated it to simple logic: everything is a file; small is beautiful; do one thing well. Didn’t matter that it was cranky and buggy and sometimes dumped your perfectly-okay program in the bit bucket. It was a thrill to be able to do something without having to obsess over the math underneath.

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Also: How to upgrade to Ubuntu 20.04 Daily Builds from Ubuntu 19.10

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