Forty Two Years of Hoarding ....time to pass it on: Latinoware, Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil 2011

The recent death of my mother, father and several of my “extended family” of friends have once again reminded me of my own mortality. I do not think of myself as an old man of 61. I think of myself as a young man of twenty-one, until I look in the mirror and wonder who this old guy is who is looking back at me, or when I have to get up in the middle of the night to answer a call of nature that a younger bladder would have held until morning (unless accompanied by an excessive amount of drinking the night before, which I seldom do these days).

Another issue which I have is that I hoard things. Not things of great monetary value, but things of sentimental value.As an example of my hoarding, before Unix was popular there were a set of tools used to make programs more “portable”. One of these tools was RatFOR (developed by Brian Kernighan of Bell Laboratories in 1974), which stood for “Rational FORTRAN” as part of a group of “Software Tools” that people used. Rational FORTRAN used control sequences "shamelessly stolen" from "C" (as Brian himself stated), but also compiled programs amazingly fast for the day.

Of course there were T-shirts generated for “Software Tools”, one of which had an illustration of a rat sitting at a piano with a candelabra. The rat wore a vest with the number “4” on it (RatFOR), spelling out the words “Software Tools” with his tail. I have two of these T-shirts which I have never worn, still in the bag they came in. Remember that these T-shirts are close to forty years old. I have even older memorabilia of the computing industry....a LOT older. I also have over 7000 other T-shirts, most of which have never been worn, closets full of coffee cups that are from computer companies that not only are no longer in existence, but most people do not remember that they ever existed, and other such "memorabilia", including parts of computers both famous and infamous.

I have spent the last 42 years collecting these things, now I have to spend the next 42 years getting rid of them. Some things I bought, but a lot of these items were given to me, some as trade show give-aways, some as gifts. Their worth was not generated by anything I did as much as it was generated by the hard work and dreams of thousands of people that I have known. For me to sell them would be a slap in the face to the people that gave them to me, but if I do not dispose of them gracefully they will end up in a yard sale for people who have no idea of of their history or their worth. So I have decided to sell off some of them on Ebay and donate the money to free software projects, while others will be used to stimulate various projects directly. Some of the items may end up in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California where several years ago I nominated Linus to become a Fellow.

Some of you know that Linux International and I were helpful to LPI in its very beginning. Since I believed in LPI's model of certification and the need for it, I contributed a certain amount of my personal funds to LPI so LPI could afford to offer the first tests. This allowed LPI to complete its psychometrics, perfecting its first bank of test questions. Many of LPI's Board of Directors, including myself, also participated in the LPI steering committee as it formulated its technical and business plans. I was present at the first LPI tests given in Brazil, sponsored and proctored by 4Linux, a Linux consulting company in Brazil that also believed (and believes) in LPI.

So other items of my “collection” will be used to encourage people to take LPI exams and stimulate the number of Level II certified Linux systems administrators, particularly in support of Project Cauã, which needs millions of people in Brazil, more millions of people in Latin America and still more millions of people around the world trained to LPI Level II in the next six years. In light of this, LPI Level II exams will be given at Latinoware this year, proctored by 4Linux. For those people taking either of the Level II exams (201 or 202), they will be entered into a contest to win a clock made from a CD-ROM autographed by Linus Torvalds. The clock is a simple quartz movement that play six melodies:

  • Westminster Chimes
  • Ava Maria
  • Somewhere Over The Rainbow
  • Try to Remember
  • Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer
  • Happy Birthday

The CD-ROM is a special one that came from the parent company, SSC, of the Linux Journal. It is the first electronic reprint of some of the early issues of the Linux Journal, and was given out at trade shows in 1998. SSC gave me a few and I asked Linus to sign them. As you can see, it was during the time that you could actually read his signature. Today all you can read is “L_______ T______” (a letter “L” with a line after it, and a letter “T” with a line after it).

Back in those days he actually took his time in signing autographs (not that I blame him for his current autograph technique). I bought the parts and assembled the clock myself, but it is a pleasure for me to give away this clock to one of those people taking either of the Level II exams (201 or 202) at the Latinoware event. I have only one other of these CD-ROMs, and I will make that into a clock for my own wall. However there are other CD-ROMs that Linus has signed (he is very patient with me), as well as CD-ROMS that have been signed by other people, such as Mark Shuttleworth, Ken Thompson, and the late Dennis Ritchie, as well as books signed by people like Donald Becker (Beowulf super computers) and other computer notables. These CD-ROMs, books and other things will make their appearance over time. I can not promise items like this at every LPI test, but I hope to continue to support LPI with objects like this at various testing events in the future. maddog