Bits: the mute conquerers of thought.

2022-11-26, post № 266

opinion, #computing, #despair, #free-software

It must have been last year’s late months when while strolling through my library’s isles I glimpsed at one unexpected cover which earnestly pulled me in: with bold, dark cyan letters on a once white background which by now radiated its decades shelved away it read UNIX. One of the original works [KP84 [1]] on the approach to conducted computing now ever so dear to my heart: Its authors instrumentally involved in its creation, I felt compelled to read an ad fontes account of the digital landscape of forty yesteryears.

For by now nearly a year I flipped through the yellowed pages of gorgeously typeset hardware descriptions, shell documentation, design rationale, operating system history, C listings and DSL showcases. This book accompanied me an entire year and despite hiatuses of several weeks at a time, when I did pick it up, it pulled me into a magical world of optimism and dare I say naïf exploration of live symbol shifters, their capabilities and aesthetical merits. I wistfully bethink; reading a story of thought, interleaved with prose of C. Slightly smirking at the supposed limitations of terse call stacks notwithstanding true marvel for what had then been achieved.

I seem to have lost this spark. The raw awe of feeling text come alive on its own. The artful contention with the impossibility of an oracle but the dullness of an echo. The joy of playing this game: talking to a single dollar sign on a black void and therein watching my thought act, be, talking back.
Nowadays, the air of digitality becomes further and further intertwined with a frightened, unsmotherable and ever-present anticipation of existential demise. [F22 [2]]

I have furthermore come to the realisation that all I do is long for the origins of our stagnant over-technologized world. When at a rasterized photon spewer, I do everything to make it be a terminal. If I want my letters to have non-informational entropy attached to them, I incorporate caligraphy into my hand writing and enjoy the flown ink. I see nothing more than byte transformers in these machines and for that the simple read and write syscalls are sufficient. All advances made in the field of hardware are about dubiously motivated reality approximation unit density and time warping, yet can still be described by ps. I don’t care for the web, for the obsessive skeuomorphic recontextualization of reality GUIs make one believe in. [S99 [3], pp. 46—60: ‘The interface culture’]
I even wonder if Stallman’s legacy is indeed a cult with only those wise enough to abstain from befouling their mouths with ignorance the likes of ‘FOSS’ members. A cult which has failed, their one and only message through conformance kneaded into obscurity.

But where to then? With churches crumbling and analogue life waning? With every last cranny infested by fakery? — Maybe the right choice is to hide in local woodland; all efforts to think the contrary seem that unbearably inane.


  1. Brian W. Kernighan and Rob Pike: The UNIX Programming Environment. Prentice-Hall, inc., New Jersey, 1984. ISBN: 0-13-937699-2
  2. Jonathan Frech: Temporal einseitige Anomalien ; Der zukunftsbesessene Lichtraub. Self-published, fall 2022. Online: https://www.jfrech.com/texte/2022-herbst_jonathan-frech_temporal-einseitige-anomalien.html
  3. Neal Stephenson: In the beginning ... was the command line. Perennial, 2003. ISBN: 0-380-81593-1
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