I will remember to the end of my life the way that his reserve cracked a little when I gave him his “hacker” ribbon at Penguicon 2003 – how the child who’d been told he couldn’t be a programmer because he was “no good at maths” felt on finally knowing, all the way down, that we accepted him as one of our own.
Because Terry loved us. He loved everybody, most of the time, but he loved the people of the clacks especially. We were one of his roads not taken, and he (rightly!) saw himself in our earnestness and intelligence and introversion and determined naivete and skewed sense of humor and urge to tinker. It mattered to him that we loved him, and in the unlikely event there’s an afterlife it will matter to him still.
Our own Sam quoting on my post about the death of Terry Pratchett. I get it and so, very clearly, did Sir Terry – the sheer exaltation of coding. I think, perhaps, Pratchett felt it when on a roll writing. You do feel like a Small God doing something to the porpoise at a keyboard. You get the same with pencil and paper mathematics. Perhaps more so for me. You simply don’t know where you end. It is sober intoxication (although I have to admit to doing pissed physics on occasion). I have had it with things like fluid mechanics and electromagnetism. It’s a rush and you have to be careful because your mind can just and skip to the step after next quicker than your hand can scribble it and it can turn into utter gibberish. You can do the same with a keyboard. Maybe one of the reasons I always use Thinkpads is that the Trackpoint ties you into the system more tightly. It’s like HOTAS on an F-16. You might think it is merely more convenient or whatever but it is about a merging of systems. It is transcendental (and that is not an expensive trip to the dentist). It is a rush. It is almost mystical. It is being wired on your own skill. A narrow technical skill no doubt but in the academic-ish setting I’d rather take the cocaine of that than the valerian of poring over dusty tomes and producing something “scholarly”. It is Yeat’s “Lonely Impulse of Delight” rather than flying an A320 from Manchester to Paris and back again. It is moments worth years.
Sir Terry grokked this. I bet he felt it when he got the mot just.
So, it is with that lonely impulse of delight that a truly great memorial is to be erected to Sir Terry that shall last until the last disk spins down unlike the statue near the Whitehall piggery of a skinny borderline peado commie in a nappy that was recently erected. They have form on that score. Why do they have a fine equestrian statue of Richard I when he spent bugger all time in England, didn’t speak English and ultimately almost bankrupted the country largely due to a fit of pique.
This is a truly fitting tribute to Sir Terry and it shall last whilst information exists. It is The Overhead. It is everything. It is the it from bit.
Tech-savvy admirers of the late Terry Pratchett have hit upon an idea for a particularly appropriate memorial. It will be everywhere and nowhere, hiding in the code of the internet.
Pratchett’s 33rd Discworld novel, Going Postal, tells of the creation of an internet-like system of communication towers called “the clacks”. When John Dearheart, the son of its inventor, is murdered, a piece of code is written called “GNU John Dearheart” to echo his name up and down the lines. “G” means that the message must be passed on, “N” means “not logged”, and “U” means the message should be turned around at the end of a line. (This was also a real world tech joke: GNU is a free operating system, and its name stands, with recursive geek humour, for “GNU’s not Unix”). The code causes Dearheart’s name to be repeated indefinitely throughout the system, because: “A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.”
We shall all live forever in the overhead. That is perhaps a scary thought but not all scary thoughts are bad. Sir Terry in the ether for all eternity or at least whilst there are still ones and zeroes is something I just love.