Monthly Archives: October 2006

Gentlemen, start my engine?

While in Indianapolis this past week to attend a conference I asked a couple of folks if there were any “must see” places. All agreed I should to the Speedway and so I did Friday afternoon as I had a couple of hours before my plane was due to leave.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the “Indy 500” is a uniquely American institution. I haven’t followed it closely since I was a child in the mid 50’s. The only driver’s name I remember from that period is Bill Vukovich; he won in ’53 and ’54. We didn’t have a TV in those days so my only memories of the race are from listening to it in the radio. It was then always held on Memorial Day and I usually found time to listen to at least part of the race.

My first thought when I saw the track was its immense size. I knew the oval was 2.5 miles around, but I had no idea just how big the stands were. I have been to Belmont and Santa Anita race tracks, and the stands at Indy have a similar look from some angles, but they are much bigger.

There is a museum at the Speedway, inside the track oval. After I parked my car in the parking lot I could see just part of the track oval. The museum itself was wonderful. There was a twenty-minute movie about the history of the race. I learned that about a century ago Indianapolis was a regional center for automobile production in the days when many autos were largely hand-built; for example, Studebaker and Duesenberg. The roads were so bad in those days that it was impossible to test the cars at speed, so a track was built and it was decided to have an occasional competition. The race was 200 laps, or 500 miles, long; that distance was chosen so the race would take about 7 hours. Today, the cars go much faster, so the winning time is under three hours.

The museum has about 100 automobiles, most of which actually were in one of the races. Some are over 100 years old. The fastest can go over 200 miles per hour. It is a unique collection. What is most striking is that while in films and on TV the cars look pretty much alike, close-up it is clear they are hand-built.

The people running the museum — the Speedway is a private company — were very friendly and I told a few of them of my weak connection to the Indy 500. You see, a legendary family of auto racers, the Unser’s, hails from my home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, as does one of the owners of some of their cars that raced at Indy, Richard Galles. I’ve always known Mr. Galles as “Ricky” because he was a classmate of mine in elementary school. Indeed, in the sixth grade I was given a choice of being either the last player on the first-string Little League team, or the best player on the second-string team (I chose to stick with the “big boys.”) Ricky was the 4th grader upstart kid who bumped me down. He was indeed a much better ballplayer and went on to play football at Kansas. Many of them recognized Ricky’s name.

Part of the tour was a bus ride around the track. It looks much larger in real-life than on TV. It took 10-15 minutes. The driver pointed out that if we had tried to drive at that speed during an actual race, we would have been lapped about 20 times!

The stands are immense; they seat about 280,000 people. Over 400,000 people attend the actual race itself. That is a lot of people in a small space. For example, when I moved to Manhattan forty years ago I computed that if Manhattan (with about 1.5 million people in 20 square miles) with about 75,000 people/square-mile, were populated at the same density as New Mexico, (when then had 1,000,000 people in 125,000 square-mile), or about 8 people/square-mile, then Manhattan would have had just over 150 people. On Race Day the Indy track has around 400,000 people in less than four square miles, or about 100,000 people/square mile.

Last Friday when I was at the track I saw less than 100 people at the speedway; so on race day there are about 4,000 people present for every person I saw.

Just before the race starts someone selected by Speedway management utters the famous phrase, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” Being there for that, among 400,000 spectators when the engines of about 40 racers come to life, must surely be one of the great moments in sports.

But I had my own great moment at Indy, though it was much quieter. I don’t travel that much so when I do I find myself driving a car I have most likely never seen before. On this trip the sign of that was the windshield wipers were on most of my time driving around Indy; I learned to lower the speed but somehow found it hard to get them to stay turned off. And when I tried to start my car after leaving the museum, I heard just a click-click as the engine tried to start, and soon confirmed that I had left the lights on, so I was stuck in the lot with less than three hours to go before my flight was due to take off.

I walked back to the ticket counter and asked for help. Within a few minutes a gentleman from Indy security drove up and with his help my car was soon running. I thought of giving him a tip, but he had that innate kindness and good-nature so often found in the interior regions of our country that I felt he might be offended, so I just said thanks and shook his hand.

My good friend Chris Abbey reminded me in the first comment to my previous post about a promise I made to myself in late ’98 in the Jikes Coupon post:

So from now on, when asked to speak about open-source licensing matters my response will be silent and simple — a pleasant nod and a smile.

I get it Chris:


The folks who run the race at Indy also know over the course of a year they will hear similar words from a few hapless souls such as myself who leave their car lights on. They might even suggest to the kindly ladies dressed in red who run the help desk at the Indy 500 Museum that when the next hapless soul comes to them, they should say, with a pleasant nod and a smile, “You mean, you want us to start your engine? Of course, we’ll send someone right out.”

Which side of the firewall are you on? If you are on the inside then you are on the wrong side.

This post is for folks who work for companies and large corporations that have a firewall, a wall that separates work within the firewall from work outside the firewall.

Just under a year ago some folks from IBM’s Corporate Community Relations (CCR) team came to the IBM group that manages IBM’s open-source activities, a group of which I am a part, with a simple idea:

How can we enlist IBMers with open-source skills to use those skills to help projects such as Sahana, an open-source project created in response to the 2004 Asian Tsunami to support disaster relief? This is a project where IBM’s Crisis Management Team helped on initial design, but can we do better?

I was absolutely blown away by this idea — it was that compelling –: using open-source technology to make the world better. Indeed, looking back, it set me on the course that will guide my voluntary open-source activities for the rest of my life, and also on a course where so long as I work for IBM I will try to encourage IBM to support such activities.

The single most striking fact of this suggestion is that it came not from IBM’s technical or business folks, but from the folks responsible for honoring IBM’s commitment to be a responsible corporation, a commitment first expressed by T.J. Watson almost a century ago.

I won’t go into all the history now, though if time permits I will provide more context in the future, but suffice it to say that a small group formed and that group worked entirely inside the IBM firewall until a month ago. Our great concern was that the idea was so compelling that if we asked IBMer’s to volunteer without adequate backing, then we would have squandered the opportunity, mainly because we knew IBM had hundreds (thousands?) of employeer with open-source skills, and that even a hint that IBM would encourage their volunteer efforts would result in a flood of volunteers we couldn’t properly handle.

By August I realized we weren’t making much progress, so I used IBM’s internal “Open Source Bazaar” (IIOSB) to create a mail list, and I also started a wiki to provide content.

This wasn’t very successful, and so just over a month ago I decided to venture outside the firewall, start blogging, and see what I could accomplish.

The results have been striking, if only to me. I have come to realize that to work on open-source you must work outside the firewall, as part of the open-source community. The experience has been invigorating, and most instructive. To work within the firewall is to work under corporate rules, and no matter how well-intentioned those rules are, you will miss the feedback from the world at large.

This is true in the context of blogging, even if you know you have almost no readers and thus are “laboring in obscurity.”For example, my wife Karin, noticing my intense blogging activity, asked why I was doing it. I said I found it useful even though at most ten or twenty folks were reading each new post. She suggested I wrote only for myself, saving my posts on the disk of my laptop.

However, to write in anonymity is not the same as writing on the internet. I have come to learn that even if you know only a handful of folks are reading your work, the knowledge that you don’t yet know these folks gives your an incentive, an edge that makes you want to offer your best, in a way that simply wouldn’t happen if you write in the knowledge that only you, and the folks you chose to invte into your circle, are aware of the writing.

I have also come to appreciate that blogging outside the firewall can be a very valuable experience. Even if no one reads your posts, you will learn something about yourself by your writing. To blog outside the firewall, if you take it seriously, is to take first steps in finding your own voice.

Finding your own voice is especially important if you are, as I am, someone who has a deep commitment to open-source while having a job inside a corporate firewall. The nature of my job is such that some may think I am speaking on behalf of IBM, but I have found that if you enage in intense writing, the kind of writing that reflects what you really think, then you can speak on your own, and in doing so can express opinions you think important.

It also helps if in your blogging you try to push the envelope, to write in a way so far-out that no one can think your writing reflects the views of your employer. You want to push the envelope so you can learn more about yourself; to be effective you must take risks in your writing, as only by doing so can you find your voice.

On child’s play on the Internet: Tag, you’re it! Don’t hide, so others can seek.

I am a novice to this world of blogging and social networking. But I have learned a few things, most of them from observing the blogging behavior of Steve O’Grady of Redmonk.

I have followed only a handful of blogs for some time: Steve’s blog: tecosystems, James Governor’s MonkChips, Bob Sutor’s Open Blog, and Glynn Moody’s blog. Let me explain why:

  • I follow Steve’s blog not because I agree with it, but because his writings make me think. Also, he is an open-source developer because he runs Gentoo, and anyone who does that qualifies as an open-source developer.[1]
  • I follow James’s blog (James is a colleague of Steve’s) because anyone who has a special interest in mainframes has a special place in my heart.
  • I follow Bob’s blog because as he is the senior exec on IBM’s Open Source Steering Committee, of which I am a part. But more importantly, because he clearly has put a great effort into learning how to blog effectively.
  • I follow Glynn’s blog in part because he is the author of “Rebel Code,” a book about the origins open-source and as it happens he interviewed me when he wrote that book, and his report on the Jikes experience can be found on page 209 of so. He is also a professional journalist, as shown by the quality of his writing.

I must confess that when I first started reading Steve’s blog I was put off by the constant name-dropping, text of the form “as so-and-so said” with a link to so-and-so’s blog post. This reminded me of those days we all went through in high school when one’s identify was defined by one’s friends. However, I have come to realize this is just the behavior one should expect from someone who follows the open-source rules: give credit where credit is due.

I also guessed — and my recent blogging experience has confirmed — that serious blogging is a serious activity. You can’t get away with a few short posts every day. You have to commit to it, and be willing to expose your soul so you can develop your own voice. Blogging is not child’s play.

However, two of the games we all played as children provide useful lessons for effective blogging.

First, “Tag, you’re it.” I didn’t grok other than to think it was a website with a very cute name; indeed, a name that was the kind of pun I so love.

However, “delicious” is delicious indeed. It is a key technology, one you should understand and start to use as soon as possible.

Simply put, “delicious” lets you record in a very public way the internet posts and articles that you find interesting. Now I’ve been doing this for several years. When I first started my current job as part of the group that manages IBM’s open-source activities I began to keep a single HTML page that recorded articles I found of interest. I recorded the URL, the title, and usually selected excerpts from the text. From time to time I added editorial comments in italics to record my personal view of the text. I started a new page with each new year, so I have pages for 2003, 2004, and 2005.

About a year or so ago I learned of an IBM-internal tool called “dogear.” It provides a Firefox extension that lets you capture the URL, add a comment, and also record some “tags.” I then stopped keeping a single HTML page and just used dogear, though I focused more on the comments than on the tags.

I have come to realize the tags, not the comments, are the important part. And that is because “delicious” captures than notion so deliciously. To be an effective user of “delicious” you must be a good tagger. Your skills at tagging help define your internet identity. If you are good at it, others will become part of your “social network”. Indeed, “delicious” has a notion of “network” that captures this concept very effectively, and in a way that makes it easy to assign tags.

However, tags do have their problems. My primary interest is “open source” so I first started tagging entries with “open source.” However, that is just the juxtaposition of two words; it is not unique. So then I realized “open-source” was a better tag. You want tags to be identifiable, to be unique, so there is no doubt what you mean.

I blog using Word Press (WP), which uses the notion of “category,” not tag. WP is interesting to use it you are but one of about 400,000 bloggers, and so you should use the tags defined by that community. But if you try to be too specific then you wind up defining lots of categories, which tends to clog up your home page.

The approach I currently use is to use a small number of categories. However, I am more expansive when I tag on “delicious,” where I try to use tags of the form of a list of words separated by dashes. For example, “open-source,” “open-education,” “open-source-volunteers,” and so forth.

The great advantage of “dashed tags” is that can be searched for by using search engines such as Google.

And this leads to what I think is a very useful approach, namely how to “brand” your posts.

As I have mentioned elsewhere (link TBSL), a key benefit of using the name “jikes” for the java-source-to-bytecode compiler than Philippe Charles and I wrote is that to search for “jikes” was to learn what the world thought of us. No one else was using “jikes,” except for a very small population that saw “jikes” as a variant of “yikes.”

Branding is key. You don’t want to use a name already in use, as to do so is to hide your use of that name on the internet. To use a name for your product that has another meaning may be cute, but is also ineffective; to do so is to hide your name so that whose seek its use will get false hits. For example, when I first engaged in the world of “java” I subscribed to an internal IBM tool that searched for documents of interest to me by my specifying key words. So I specified “java” and soon found myself receving as many articles about Sun’s Java language as I did about the island in Indonesia!

So to be effective you need a name or tag that not hidden, something that is unique and so has no other purpose. If you do this you can create your own brand.

This is why you will find almost all my blog posts are tagged with “open-source-twit.” I’m not trying to be cute — I could care less. What I wanted was a string with the property that when I first searched for it using Google there were no hits, and “open-source-twit” filled the bill. Calling it “The Wayward Internet Techologists” is just a pun, having fun while preserving my brand. But fun is important when doing open-source — if you aren’t having fun then something is wrong.

A corollary of this is that acronyms should be avoided. For example, I have written hundreds of e-mails within the IBM firewall assuming the reader knew that “OSS” stands for “Open Source Software,” of else started an email with wording of the form “Open Source Software (OSS)” and then using OSS in the rest of the e-mail. This works inside the firewall, but is ineffective outside the firewall. That is why I have gone back over all the earlier posts on this blog and systematically replaced “OSS” with “open-source-software.”

This also explains why I now write “open-source” instead of “open source” or “OSS.” You need to use those dashes, to rise from ambiguity.

Postscript (10-18-2006): Steve O’Grady noticed an interesting story, School bans tag, other chase games, about the banning by a school in Massachusetts because tag was deemed to dangerous. But playing these games on the internet is certainly safer, and much more education. Why note teach the kids about so they can learn about the internet? Indeed, why not get some open-source into some schools in Massachusetts so the kids can learn to use open document formats?


On Steve O’Grady’s post: “Where to Innovate? Let Others Make the Call”

Steve O’Grady’s post Where to Innovate? Let Others Make the Call includes a few comments about IBM’s alphaWorks site, the site where IBM makes new technology available so users can give it a go:

If that doesn’t work, however, what’s left? While I don’t disagree with Carr entirely – focus from an innovation standpoint is indeed a good thing – I would argue that Darwin should have the final say. I just spent a couple of hours learning the broader history of IBM’s alphaWorks project, and one of the clear lessons is that outsourcing the task of judging an innovation’s merits has unexpected benefits.

According to one of the talks today, Lou Gerstner’s first two questions regarding alphaWorks were first, what about people stealing our intellectualy property (addressed via license), and second, how do we make money (the answer was: I don’t know). My answer to the second question would be that the function – and value – of alphaWorks is simple: it divorces the valuation of innovation from such threats as internal politics and the Innovator’s Dilemma. By the simple act of allowing, even encouraging, outside input, alphaWorks – like open source (see Derby, nee Cloudscape) – makes the process of innovation at once more democratic (note the small d) and Darwinian (note the big D).

Is alphaWorks the perfect – or only – answer to the problem? I’m guessing you know the answer to that. But if I a.) worked for IBM, and b.) was charged with the task of determining which of my innovations was likely to prove important, I’d sure as hell want help from the outside world.

As I’ve said many times it was the release of Jikes on alphaWorks back in April 1997 that led us on the path to success. Though we had gotten some attention inside the IBM firewall it was only because of the attention that we got outside the firewall that IBM management began to pay serious attention to our work.

When you think about, alphaWorks is in the “hello world” business. Each of their new technology posts, say for NewWidget, is a question: “Hello world, what do you think about our NewWidget technology?” The answers can range from “Who cares?” to “Ho-hum” to “Best Widget I’ve ever seen!” and so forth. Indeed, the key part of the answer if whether there are more “!” responses than “?” response. For example, in our case the response was, “Jikes! Yikes it’s fast!”

This reminds me of an exchange reported in one of my favorite books, “The Book of Amazing Facts” by Jerome S. Meyer. My copy is the 3rd printing, copyright 1950. There is an entry called “The Shortest Letter and the Longest Sentence Ever Written.”
It says in part:

Victor Hugo almost set the world’s record for short letter writing. A month or so after the octavo edition of Les Miserables was published he wrote to his publisher the following:


Victor Hugo

Hurst & Blackett, the London publishers, not to be outdone by the master, produced the world’s shortest letter when they wrote back to Hugo on the firm’s letterhead:


and did not sign it. Nobody could write anything shorter that would convey any meaning.

But just to prevent anyone from getting the wrong idea about Victor Hugo, we repint here what we believe to be the longest sentence ever written — by Hugo himself in Les Miserables. This enormous single sentence contains 823 words and is about 4,500 times as long as the letter he wrote to his publisher:

THE LONGEST SENTENCE — 823 WORDS — 3 PAGES — From Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables:

The son of a father to whom history will accord certain attenuating circumstances, but also as worthy of esteem as that
father had been of blame; possessing all private virtues and many public virtues; careful of his health, of his fortune,
of his person, of his affairs, knowing the value of a minute and not always the value of a year; sober, serene,
peaceable, patient; a good man and a good prince; sleeping with his wife, and having in his palace lackeys charged with
the duty of showing the conjugal bed to the bourgeois, an ostentation of the regular sleeping-apartment which had become
useful after the former illegitimate displays of the elder branch; knowing all the languages of Europe, and, what is
more rare, all the languages of all interests, and speaking them; an admirable representative of the “middle class,” but
outstripping it, and in every way greater than it; possessing excellent sense, while appreciating the blood from which
he had sprung, counting most of all on his intrinsic worth, and, on the question of his race, very particular, declaring
himself Orleans and not Bourbon; thoroughly the first Prince of the Blood Royal while he was still only a Serene
Highness, but a frank bourgeois from the day he became king; diffuse in public, concise in private; reputed, but not
proved to be a miser; at bottom, one of those economists who are readily prodigal at their own fancy or duty; lettered,
but not very sensitive to letters; a gentleman, but not a chevalier; simple, calm, and strong; adored by his family and
his household; a fascinating talker, an undeceived statesman, inwardly cold, dominated by immediate interest, always
governing at the shortest range, incapable of rancor and of gratitude, making use without mercy of superiority on
mediocrity, clever in getting parliamentary majorities to put in the wrong those mysterious unanimities which mutter
dully under thrones; unreserved, sometimes imprudent in his lack of reserve, but with marvellous address in that
imprudence; fertile in expedients, in countenances, in masks; making France fear Europe and Europe France!
Incontestably fond of his country, but preferring his family; assuming more domination than authority and more authority
than dignity, a disposition which has this unfortunate property, that as it turns everything to success, it admits of
ruse and does not absolutely repudiate baseness, but which has this valuable side, that it preserves politics from
violent shocks, the state from fractures, and society from catastrophes; minute, correct, vigilant, attentive,
sagacious, indefatigable; contradicting himself at times and giving himself the lie; bold against Austria at Ancona,
obstinate against England in Spain, bombarding Antwerp, and paying off Pritchard; singing the Marseillaise with
conviction, inaccessible to despondency, to lassitude, to the taste for the beautiful and the ideal, to daring
generosity, to Utopia, to chimeras, to wrath, to vanity, to fear; possessing all the forms of personal intrepidity; a
general at Valmy; a soldier at Jemappes; attacked eight times by regicides and always smiling; brave as a grenadier,
courageous as a thinker; uneasy only in the face of the chances of a European shaking up, and unfitted for great
political adventures; always ready to risk his life, never his work; disguising his will in influence, in order that he
might be obeyed as an intelligence rather than as a king; endowed with observation and not with divination; not very
attentive to minds, but knowing men, that is to say requiring to see in order to judge; prompt and penetrating good
sense, practical wisdom, easy speech, prodigious memory; drawing incessantly on this memory, his only point of
resemblance with Caesar, Alexander, and Napoleon; knowing deeds, facts, details, dates, proper names, ignorant of
tendencies, passions, the diverse geniuses of the crowd, the interior aspirations, the hidden and obscure uprisings of
souls, in a word, all that can be designated as the invisible currents of consciences; accepted by the surface, but
little in accord with France lower down; extricating himself by dint of tact; governing too much and not enough; his own
first minister; excellent at creating out of the pettiness of realities an obstacle to the immensity of ideas; mingling
a genuine creative faculty of civilization, of order and organization, an indescribable spirit of proceedings and
chicanery, the founder and lawyer of a dynasty; having something of Charlemagne and something of an attorney; in short,
a lofty and original figure, a prince who understood how to create authority in spite of the uneasiness of France, and
power in spite of the jealousy of Europe, — Louis Philippe will be classed among the eminent men of his century, and
would be ranked among the most illustrious governors of history had he loved glory but a little, and if he had had the
sentiment of what is great to the same degree as the feeling for what is useful.

“Hello World” and Twit-messaging

I began my post e-mail take 2: You get to e-mail; I don’t in discussing how to manage an open-source project:

What I find most interesting are the tools available now that either didn’t exist back then or weren’t widely used … or were widely used and I didn’t know about them:

  • Blogging software
  • wikis
  • content management systems (CMS’s)

I view this blog as part of the open-source-volunteers project, a project I am trying to run as an open-source project. Though e-mail remains the fundamental mode of communication amonst open-source developers, I find e-mail has its limitations. For example, back in June I read over 1500 e-mails posted to the humanitarian-ict mail list. [1] I found there was a wealth of information but it was scattered over many e-mails. I prepared what I call a “mail list sampler” of those messages and posted it to the ReliefSource wiki.

I think blogging offers an interesting alternative to e-mail in that all the posts are grouped by sender, and when you read someone’s blog you read not only their posts about the topic that drew you to the blog, but what they have to say about other topics.

So I undertook an experiment to see if I could build a community using only blogging, and not using e-mail. To do this I came up with what I call TWIT-Messaging-Protocol-V1 (TMP v1). A TMP message is a blog post in which the title has the form “sender HELLO receiver. The content can amplify on the message but is not required. To send a TMP v1 message is to post a blog entry in this form. You know it has been received when the receiver, or someone you now knows the receiver, posts a comment to that blog posting. For example, I have already sent and received one such message; see Dave Shields HELLO Steve O’Grady, and Steve’s comment therein. I also received another TMP v1 message when Steve’s colleague James Governor posted a comment to another of my posts asking if I would be willing to participate in a Redmonk podcast.

There was one TMP v1 message I planned to send, but have held off. I will post it shortly, a TMP v1 message to Tom Friedman. I realized that if I send such a message to Tom the ultimate reply would be for him to write a column for the New York Times that contained the text “Tom Friedman HELLO Dave Shields.”

And that got me to think about how I could send a TMP v1 message to Bill Clinton. I’m in the small group of people who have shared a stage with President Clinton AND with rms himself. But I realized it was impossible to expect that Bill would log into my blog. However, there was another way, and that takes us to TMP v2.

A TMP v2 message has one of the forms:



However, I realized TMP v1 had some limitations. It required that the receiver post a comment, and also allowed no way for someone else to vouch that a message had been received. And this suggested an additional kind of TMP v2 message, one that would someone to confirm that the receiver knew I had sent the message:


For example, one response to “twit-dave-shields-hello-steve-ogrady-tiwt” could be “twit-james-governor-confirms-twit-dave-shields-hello-steve-ogrady-tiwt.”

And if I know that someone knows about a message, say because I sent them e-mail, I can confirm it myself; for example,

But the real advantage of TMP v2 is that no blog comments need be posted. I can either look at the receiver’s blog for a confirmation, or I can use search engines to see if a message has been confirmed. For example, this provides a way for someone to acknowledge a TMP v2 message to Bill Clinton without his having to reveal his e-mail address.

I can search the web for the state of all my TMP v2 messages by a search on “twit-dave-shields-hello.”

“Hello World” and programming

The first program every programmer writes when learning a new programming language is the one that prints out the string “hello world.” Here are examples:

Welcome to the ACM “Hello World” project. Everyone has seen the Hello World program used as a first exposure to a new language or environment. We are attempting to collect examples for as many languages and related programming environments (shells etc.) as possible.

Wikipedia: Hello world program

The Hello World Collection: “Hello World” is the first program one usually writes when learning a new programming language. This collection includes 296 Hello World programs in many more-or-less well known programming languages, plus 47 human languages.

The Hello World Project.

How the way people code “Hello World” varies depending on their age and job.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0 (However, the parts from wikipedia are under GDFSL.)

“Hello World” through the ages

This is the first of a series of posts on “hello world,” the most ubiquitous of computer programs. But before we get to that, here are some examples of “hello world” through the ages.

Genesis, Book 1:

[1] In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
[2] And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
[3] And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

Genesis, Book 2

[19] And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof.
[20] And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him.
[21] And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof;
[22] And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
[23] And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

[1] And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
[2] And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
[3] And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
[4] As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.

[1] And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am.
[2] And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.
[3] And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him.
[4] Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off.
[5] And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you,
[6] And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid it upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together.
[7] And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

From the Bible, Luke 23:

23:33 And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left.
23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
23:35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.

Book I of Homer’s Odyssey:

TELL ME, O MUSE, of that ingenious hero who travelled far and wide
after he had sacked the famous town of Troy. Many cities did he visit,
and many were the nations with whose manners and customs he was
acquainted; moreover he suffered much by sea while trying to save
his own life and bring his men safely home; but do what he might he
could not save his men, for they perished through their own sheer
folly in eating the cattle of the Sun-god Hyperion; so the god
prevented them from ever reaching home. Tell me, too, about all
these things, O daughter of Jove, from whatsoever source you may
know them.

The Koran does not contain the word “hello” but there are numerous instances of “greetings,” including:

And verily, there came Our Messengers to Ibrahim (Abraham) with glad tidings.They said: Salam (greetings or peace!) He answered, Salam (greetings or peace!) and he hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf.

A Shakespeare concordance reveals that the Bard didn’t use the word “hello” but there are several instances of “greetings:” [1]

Romeo And Juliet,Act III, Scene V,Capulet’s orchard

I will omit no opportunity
That may convey my greetings, love, to thee.

The Winter’s Tale,Act V, Scene I

By his command
Have I here touch’d Sicilia and from him
Give you all greetings that a king, at friend,
Can send his brother: and, but infirmity
Which waits upon worn times hath something seized
His wish’d ability, he had himself
The lands and waters ‘twixt your throne and his
Measured to look upon you; whom he loves–
He bade me say so–more than all the sceptres
And those that bear them living.

All’s Well That Ends Well.Act I, Scene III

Why, Helen, thou shalt have my leave and love,
Means and attendants and my loving greetings
To those of mine in court: I’ll stay at home
And pray God’s blessing into thy attempt:
Be gone to-morrow; and be sure of this,
What I can help thee to thou shalt not miss.

King Henry VI, Part III,Act III, Scene III

From worthy Edward, King of Albion,
My lord and sovereign, and thy vowed friend,
I come, in kindness and unfeigned love,
First, to do greetings to thy royal person;
And then to crave a league of amity;
And lastly, to confirm that amity
With a nuptial knot, if thou vouchsafe to grant
That virtuous Lady Bona, thy fair sister,
To England’s king in lawful marriage.

Antony and Cleopatra. Act IV, Scene V

Go, Eros, send his treasure after; do it;
Detain no jot, I charge thee: write to him–
I will subscribe–gentle adieus and greetings;
Say that I wish he never find more cause
To change a master. O, my fortunes have
Corrupted honest men! Dispatch.–Enobarbus!

King Richard II,Act III, Scene I

My Lord Northumberland, see them dispatch’d.
[Exeunt NORTHUMBERLAND and others, with the
Uncle, you say the queen is at your house;
For God’s sake, fairly let her be entreated:
Tell her I send to her my kind commends;
Take special care my greetings be deliver’d.

Coriolanus,Act II, Scene I

[To VOLUMNIA and VIRGILIA] Your hand, and yours:
Ere in our own house I do shade my head,
The good patricians must be visited;
From whom I have received not only greetings,
But with them change of honours.

From Bach and Mozart: “Hello world. Here is more musical perfection.” [2]

From Beethoven, Symphony No. 5 (Beethoven): “Hello world. I have redefined the symphony.”

From Beethoven, who while then deaf could still speak to the world with his music: Symphony No. 9 (Beethoven). The choral ending is based on Schiller’s “Ode to Joy”:


O Freunde, nicht diese Töne!
Sondern lasst uns angenehmere
anstimmen und freudenvollere.
Freude! Freude!


Oh friends, not these tones!
Rather let us sing more
cheerful and more joyful ones.
Joy! Joy!

Moby-Dick: “Call Me Ishmael.”

Alexander Graham Bell while inventing the Telephone: 10 March 1876 Bell transmits speech “Mr. Watson, come here, I want you.” using a liquid transmitter and an electromagnetic receiver.

Guglielmo Marconi radios “Hello, Europe:” On 17 December 1902, a transmission from the Marconi station in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Canada, became the first radio message to cross the Atlantic in an eastward direction. On 18 January 1903, a Marconi station built near Wellfleet, Massachusetts in 1901 sent a message of greetings from Theodore Roosevelt, the President of the United States, to King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, marking the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.

1940 England to Europe:

The summer of 1940 brought an end to the BBC tradition of nameless newsreaders – at least for a time. The BBC explained that, in wartime, listeners “must be able to recognise instantly the authentic voice of BBC broadcasting”.

It was on the lunchtime news of 13 July 1940 that Frank Phillips became the first reader to identify himself. But concern persisted that, named or not, the newsreaders all sounded the same – and it wouldn’t be too hard for the Germans to imitate them.

Next came the realization that the three short notes and one long at the start of Beethoven’s Fifth echoed the Morse
code for “victory”. The V sound on drums immediately became the call sign of all the BBC’s European services.

1948 Harry S. Truman, “The Buck Stops Here”

March 1962: Caltech: “Hello dave, you have a four year full-tuition-plus scholarship.”

Fall 1962. Caltech: “Hello, Dave. You scored 4 out of 60 possible points in your first physics midterm. The class high was 12.” Dave to self, “This is going to be harder than thought.”

In March 1964 I saw a sign on a Caltech bulletin board offering a round-trip to New York for $60, as one of my classmates was driving home to Boston for spring break in his station wagon and wanted help with driving and paying for gas. I spent one of the most wonderful weeks in my life in New York city, staying with one of my high-school classmates who was at Columbia. I was so overwhelmed by NYC that within a few days I recall vividly vowing to myself that I would spend at least five years in NYC before I turned thirty.

I met my wife on February 21, 1967. Our life-long relationship began with our saying hello to each other. I remember the date because I learned later her birthday was the 20th, and we all know the 22nd is G. Washington’s birthday. We have been celebrating what we call out “meet-aversary” for almost four decdes, and if all goes well, will celebrate our 40th in Rome next February.

July 1996: Jikes correctly compiles “Hello world” program.


1. I had planned to include only one example from Shakespeare, but his language is so compelling that I kept on going.

2. The Morgan library in New York City has a wonderful collection of musical manuscripts: Mozart’s is notable for its clarity, Beethoven’s is much harder to read, as one can sense the titanic energy behind his creativity that led to his hammering the notes onto the page. There is a wonderful scene in the movie “Amadeus” Amadeus (1984) described by the critic Roger Ebert as follows:

Almost-great writers (Mann, Galsworthy, Wolfe) make it look like Herculean triumph. It is as true in every field; compare Shakespeare to Shaw, Jordan to Barkley, Picasso to Rothko, Kennedy to Nixon. Salieri could strain and moan and bring forth tinkling jingles; Mozart could compose so joyously that he seemed, Salieri complained, to be “taking dictation from God.”

3. Karin thought she would never see me again because I didn’t ask for her phone number. I didn’t ask for it because, using the circuitous logic of mathematics, I had learned that her roommate worked at Courant and so knew I could learn the number by asking her roommate. I was also inexperienced in using the phone because I grew up in a house without a phone. My mother said we didn’t have a phone because she didn’t want to miss any calls. Looking back I realize we didn’t have a phone because she couldn’t afford one. When I got to Caltech I had to ask my roommate how to use the phone to ask a girl our for a date — I was that inexperienced.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0.

Where did copyrights and patents come from?

I once asked an attorney, “Where did copyrights and patents come from? When did Congress pass the first legislation in these areas?” [1] He replied, “Dave, read our Constitution.” So I did, and here is what I learned.

All the laws related to copyrights and patents derive from Section 8 of the United States Constitution. .
Section 8
enumerates various powers. Here is Section 8:

The Congress shall have power:

  • to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States; but all duties, imposts and excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States;

  • To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian tribes;

  • To establish a uniform rule of naturalization, and uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies throughout the United States;

  • To coin money, regulate the value thereof, and of foreign coin, and fix the standard of weights and measures;

  • To provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States;

  • To establish post offices and post roads;

  • To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;

  • To constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court;

  • To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;

  • To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

  • To raise and support armies, but no appropriation of money to that use shall be for a longer term than two years;

  • To provide and maintain a navy;

  • To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces;

  • To provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;

  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States, reserving to the states respectively, the appointment of the officers, and the authority of training the militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;

  • To exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten miles square) as may, by cession of particular states, and the acceptance of Congress, become the seat of the government of the United States, and to exercise like authority over all places purchased by the consent of the legislature of the state in which the same shall be, for the erection of forts, magazines, arsenals, dockyards, and other needful buildings;–And

  • To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof.

The key sentence is #8, cited further on in the Wikipedia article, Other powers of Congress:

Congress may promote the progress of science and useful arts by granting copyrights and patents; though perpetual copyrights and patents are prohibited, the Supreme Court has ruled in Eldred v. Ashcroft (2003) that repeated extensions to the term of copyright do not constitute perpetual copyright; also note that this is the only power granted where the means to accomplish its stated purpose is specifically provided for. Courts inferior to the Supreme Court may be established by Congress.

One view of this section is that the Founding Fathers, facing a deadlock due to an original plan to “Design it Until it Drops” (DUD), decided to put out the Constitution Release 1.0 with a list of enumerated powers to be sorted out later. It is interesting and amusing, though not too insightful, to wonder how they picked the order in which the powers were enumerated. [2]

So the ideas of copyrights and patents so central to all discussion of open-source licensing issues date to a single sentence, one that says Congress may promote the progress of science and useful arts.

The Founding Fathers left it up to Congress to sort this out. For example, my daughter Jennifer just graduated from Yale and during her years there I took off an occasional day to visit some of her classes. [3] This last Spring I sat in on a section of a course on the Constitution taught by Prof. Akhill Reed Amar, a recognized expert who is the author of “America’s Constitution: A Biography.” (I bought a copy before attending the class and he graciously signed it for me after the class.) His book runs to 654 pages. The index lists the same three pages (108, 111, 112) for copyrights and patents. Page 108 says, “…just as continental standards for copyrights and patents would create a broad New World market for authors and inventors.” Page 111 says, “The monarch had also enjoyed various powers over naturalization, weights, and measures, patents, copyrights, and coinds that, as we have seen, Article I vested in the legislative branch.” Page 112 says, “the framers at times tried to specify the purpose of a particular power. Patents and copyrights could not be given merely to reward political allies, but only to ‘promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts.'” And that is it — just three sentences in a book of 654 pages

My reading of this is that copyrights and patents were to be legislated by Congress in the public arena, if “full public view,” by legislators, experts, lobbyists, special interests, concerned citizens, and anyone interested. In short, to say copyrights or patents are “evil” is to say that stop signs are “evil.” The copyright and patent laws –and all the institutions supporting them — are but the result of the collective efforts of our legislators, as are the traffic laws that give a policeman the right to give us a ticket if we ignore a “stop” sign.

Fundamental to both copyrights and patents is the notion of “intellectual property”. See Intellectual property. One view of “intellectual property” is that it is the value created in the form of a copyright and patent that is protected by the copyright and patent legislations. It is no more, or no less, “evil” or “good” than the notion of patents and copyrights themselves.


1. The attorney is the attorney who was on the conference call with Bruce Perens mentioned in Jikes Archives, in the Jikes Coupon post. He is also the attorney “I” mentioned in the post Which non-existent computer company was almost founded by two IBM IP attorneys?.

2. For example,

  • Taxes, commerce, immigration, counterfeiting and the post office all come before copyrights and patents.
  • The army, navy, militias, declaring war, and piracy all come after copyrights and patents. Are IP attorneys more important than generals and admirals? (I suspect they think they are.)
  • Since the post office comes before copyrights and patents, are mailmen more important than IP attorneys? Than generals and admirals?

3. I wish I had sat in on more classes. The same day I attended Amar’s class on the Constitution I also sat in on a class about the Civil War. The professor gave an wonderful explanation of the Emancipation Proclamation using contemporary materials such as letters as his primary materials.

Copyright (c) 2006 by David Shields. Licensed under the Apache License 2.0.

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