From http://www.speedygrl.com/funnies/texts/computer.folklore.from.net.rumors.html

Another story, which took place on April 1st 1984:

I was requested to present Unix software tools to the Software
Workbench undergraduate course. After talking about grep, SCCS,
lex and what not, I described an experimental expert system that
creates applications by combining UNIX tools. Given an English
description of an application, the system produces user manuals.
Given an “O.K.”, it would go on and produce the actual

The system was a success: it kept some of the students busy for
a long time. Here it is, reconstructed from memory:

#!/bin/csh -f
echo “What should your application do?”
echo “Type a short description followed by a control-D”
cat > /dev/null
echo “Working… here is the user’s manual:”.
/usr/games/festoon | some sed | nroff -man | more
echo “Is that O.K? If not, please describe what’s wrong.”
exec /usr/games/doctor

I’m I strange for finding this hilarious?

(Yes, I know the answer, never mind)

Geek line, do not cross.

OK, maybe I should explain.

  • /usr/games/festoon creates gibberish sentences (See footnote. The man page is also… interesting)
  • This gets made into a Unix man page.
  • /usr/games/doctor is Eliza, an early experiment in very artificial non-intelligence. If you type “I am worried about my mother”, Eliza would reply something like “why are you worried about your mother” or “do you think it’s normal to be worried about your mother”. This kept us going for ages. The world was different then. Get off my lawn.


Footnote: an example of festoon output:

Inconsistancies had been conventionally factated by a measurable configuration, and a functional overview shall have been being easily licated by that minimization.
Because an attractiveness was being microated by an appearance, there is not a candidate prolonged assumption of the affirmation which is zoated by development progresses of many constructivenesses.
A permissibly paracreaful current task is simply victesced by a total effect.

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