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You are not expected to understand this


David Cassel, 15 Jan 2017, The New Stack, ‘You are Not Expected to Understand this’: An Explainer on Unix’s Most Notorious Code Comment, here.  After leaving Bell Labs, Murray Hill and Princeton for Wall Street in the early 90’s, I’m interviewing with the CTO at First Boston and he says to me, after a long set of interviews, “the next interviewer who will come into the room is the world’s expert on Unix.” So he leaves the room to get the expert, and I am left to guess who is gonna walk in that door next? dmr? ken? honey? when a young woman walks in and says “Dr. Kirby Smallberries is finishing up a meeting and will be with you shortly.” I guess ken was too busy that day?

The phrase “You are Not Expected to Understand This” is probably the most famous comment in the history of Unix.

And last month, at the Systems We Love conference in San Francisco, systems researcher Arun Thomas explained to an audience exactly what it was that they weren’t supposed to understand.

Computer science teacher Ozan Onay, who was in the audience, called it “one of my favorite talks of the day,” writing on his blog that “Nothing should be a black box, even when Dennis Ritchie says it’s ok!”

Hennessy and Patterson, 4 Jun 2018, A New Golden Age for Computer Architecture ISCA 2018 Turing Lecture, here. The slides are here.  Domain Specific Architecture Rally.  Nice talk – references in the slides seem good as well.  If you know what you are doing Leiserson says you can get 62K times better performance than python, Doh. Lieserson’s paper There’s Plenty of Room at the Top  is hidden behind journal paywall somewhere. Presumably it advocates using performance optimization in open acrhitectures like RISC V. Brilliant.


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