Rest in peace, Dr. Pournelle. We will carry on with the fight.
He planted one hell of a seed there. The world owes him one.
He influenced me the most by his columns on space development (A Step Farther Out, and a couple of anthologies The Endless Frontier). I don't clearly remember what was in them, but there was a kind of can-do attitude about developing technological civilization in a strategic way that seems more in tune with the 60s than anything happening now.
Never mind that France rolled out Minitel back then, and similar systems were also deployed elsewhere in the world.
Those guys were on the futuristic fringe, but their ideas looked good to me. So why didn't I believe Pournelle? I was like, sure, someday, but his scenario seemed practically AI-complete. I did not foresee it coming so soon out of a little bit of the right sort of natural language processing plus some great engineering.
I'm sure there were people with a better imagination! But hindsight really is way too easy.
I wrote him because I was having trouble getting it to work with XWindows and he actually wrote me back with some tips to get it working. Don't remember the name of the video card, but I'm sure I have that email around somewhere...
I really appreciated it and remember thinking how special it was to get a personal response from a writer at Byte.
Good bye Jerry.
And while it would be too much of a stretch to say that his printed "Chaos Manor" articles in Byte were the first Blog, there is no doubt that many of the first bloggers where highly inspired by his style of journaling.
He deserves Hacker News' black banner
- Real Soon Now
'Using personal or micro computers'. There are some examples that pre-date your reference:
Lucifer's Hammer was way up there and hit close to home (being in California and all).
Science fiction may have lost another great, but I'd bet he inspired many writers in his time.
May you be able to lift all the computers now.
(I should explain for those who are unfamiliar with the reference: one of Pournelle's Laws was "Never trust a computer you can't lift.")
And now my personal JP story... The one time I met Jerry Pournelle was when we peed together.
I was in the men's room at one of the West Coast Computer Faires when Jerry walked in and used the urinal next to me. We had a nice little conversation while we did our business.
And thankfully for me and the other men nearby, even though Jerry was quite tipsy on that good convention beer, he never lost his aim!
I came to his computer work quite late (mid-2000s), learning of him via his appearances in the This Week in Tech podcast. But then I realised he was the author of Lucifer's Hammer and other classic sci-fi.
He was a great writer and seemed like a great person. Amazing anecdotes. I'm completely opposed to him politically, but I still read his blog every day even as it veered more and more towards politics. He helped me break out of my filter bubble, and showed me the variety of conservative thought.
RIP Dr Pournelle.
"How Jerry Pournelle got kicked off the ARPANET"
However, I enjoyed his writings, both SF and his column in BYTE. Rest in peace, Mr. Pournelle.
"By cannibalizing expanded Medicaid coverage to the tune of $880 billion, Trump and the Republicans can justify massive tax cuts for a group who needs them the least, the very wealthy and reasonably healthy. [...] Trump and the Republicans have seized upon a much bolder solution: Cut costs by making health care accessible to those who need it least — the young, healthy, and rich."
"So what do I do? I agree with nearly everything he is for, but I’m better qualified to make it happen. I avoid some issues, but I go for his most popular ones and say, yeah! Want that! And I can make it happen better than he can. I’ve got the experience of working in government, but I’m not the establishment any more than Mr. Trump is. Heck, I’ll offer him a cabinet post. I could use his energy in my administration." -POURNE
"But he has never wavered on his desire to fill the Supreme Court with Justices as near in scholarship and view to Scalia as possible; that alone would be enough to get me to the polls for Trump if he’s nominated." -POURNE
"One thing that is known about ARPA: you can be heaved off
it for supporting the policies of the Department of Defense.
Of course that was intended to anger me. If you have an
ARPA account, please tell CSTACY that he was successful;
now let us see if my Pentagon friends can upset him. Or
perhaps some reporter friends. Or both., Or even
the House Armed Services Committee." -POURNE
"The man has learned nothing from his presence on MC and sets a bad example of what people might potentially accomplish there. I'd rather recycle his account for some bright 12-yr-old...)" -KMP
Nice to know the internet hasn't changed that much.
1) A group of individuals apparently incensed at some minor infarction by their target.
2) It is not entirely clear why the behavior of their target is wrong, or why it should merit excommunication.
3) The group displays incongruous rage at their target given the apparent wrongdoing, using terms that focus on the target's character rather than the nature of his putative wrongdoing.
4) Certain members of the group are unable to contain themselves and let slip references to the real source of their rage.
5) The expulsion is done by a minor player who does not necessarily take part in the discussion.
6) The summary reason given for the expulsion is different from, and even contradicts the original issue.
R.I.P Jerry Pournelle. Fearless, and always first into the fray.
It was not politically motivated (I am in that thread from 1985). Pournelle was a pain in the neck when drunk. And a blowhard (which is hardly a crime, but doesn't make people sympathetic when you call them assholes and then tell them to do things for you).
As for the proxmiring: he was one of the common offenders; he loved to talk archly about how he was part of the insider elite, while claiming that that was proof of his democratic ideals.
FWIW I did read some of his novels.
In spite of the fact that many of those people who he accused of being "communists" went far out of their way to spend their precious time patiently answering his questions, tutoring and helping him (RMS even personally wrote some free software for him at his request -- how communist is that??!):
>"I first met Richard Stallman (he called himself RMS in those days) when he was a graduate student at MIT and I was just learning about the ARPANET. He was immensely helpful to me in those days, patiently showing me things about emacs — his full-screen editor that he wrote in TECO, and the less said about TECO the better — as well as adding some special code to take care of things I wanted to accomplish. I learned then that RMS and I have a common failing: We don't suffer fools gladly or indeed at all, and we are sometimes wrong about who is a fool. But that's another story for another time."
But POURNE certainly threatened to use his political connections as a weapon against them. POURNE is the one who made his own politics an issue, who told John McCarthy (the computer scientist, not Joseph the commie witch hunter) that he thought MIT was run by a bunch of communists, and who posted ranting threats on BIX.
Re-read the sputtering mis-punctuated threatening screed he posted to BIX, and decide for yourself if you think he was drunk, or if he just acted that way all the time purely because of his political beliefs:
One thing that is known about ARPA: you can be heaved off it
for supporting the policies of the Department of Defense.
Of course that was intended to anger me. If you have an
ARPA account, please tell CSTACY that he was successful;
now let us see if my Pentagon friends can upset him. Or
perhaps some reporter friends. Or both., Or even
the House Armed Services Committee.
I never let on that the person he "knew" online and the person he knew offline were the same me.
I don't remember if the official MIT AI Lab Tourist Policy was written down at the time POURNE was flushed, of if he agreed to it and signed it like the rest of us tourists did, but it's pretty clear he violated it with his anti-social behavior and bad attitude, he took advantage of the MIT AI Lab for his profit making enterprise BYTE Magazine, promoted his books on SF-LOVERS, he never hesitated to espouse his political beliefs, and he threaten to exploit his political connections for revenge. So flushing him was completely justified, regardless of his politics.
>"A tourist sponsored by a laboratory member would generally receive some guidance and tutelage concerning acceptable behavior, proper design techniques for hardware and software, proper programming techniques, etc. The expectation on the laboratories' part was that a large percentage would become educated in the use of the advanced computing techniques developed and used in our laboratories and thereby greatly facilitate the technology transfer process. A second expectation was that some percentage would become interested and expert enough to contribute significantly to our research efforts."
>"13. Any use of the MIT ITS machines for personal gain, profit making enterprise, or political purposes is not a legitimate use of the Laboratories' computer resources."
>"14. These specific statements of policy give a minimum of how a tourist ought to behave to be a responsible user on the MIT ITS system. They are not a complete list of all the ways tourists should or should not behave. Just because some particular anti-social behavior is not listed does not mean that it is acceptable. What a tourist should do is cultivate a good attitude: make a positive effort to anticipate and avoid actions that would interfere with other users. If you cannot tell whether a certain course of action can interfere with any one, find out from someone else before trying it."
When KMP said "The man has learned nothing from his presence on MC and sets a bad example of what people might potentially accomplish there. I'd rather recycle his account for some bright 12-yr-old...)" he could have been referring to good tourists like Rob Griffith:
"I believe on one trip we were touring the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, and we saw some people gathered around this terminal. And we inquired what they were doing, and out of that came this game Zork, and my friend, since he was at MIT, had us get an account, and we were able to log in and figure out what to me looked like an extremely arcane set of commands to actually get this game running. From then on we were pretty much hooked from the first time we actually saw it. I believe we saw it when we were walking through the MIT AI Lab. I was a guest. Even back then there was some pretty amazing stuff in there. To see all these students and professors huddled around this terminal. What are the doing? They had all these incredibly cool Lisp Machines with big gorgeous displays, and a bunch of people were huddled around a machine that's got text. And we were sort of intrigued. I believe that was the first time I actually saw the game, so to speak. You know, I never got names, so I don't know. I was a petrified little 15-year-old kid walking around the MIT lab, so it was a bit of a feeling of "Am I supposed to be here?", and if I am supposed to be here, I'm pretty sure I'm not supposed to talk, so perhaps I'll just be quiet and observe."
"Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free."
A quote from my all-time favorite science fiction author, RAH, also seems appropriate:
"TANSTAAFL - There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch!"
If you think anything you listed was "free", you're delusional. :-)
You're also laser-focused on one minor incident in a very long, productive life.
I certainly hope for your sake that you're not in Texas or Louisiana or Florida, up to your neck in water, waiting for the climate change deniers in the government to bail you out.
MIT never sent me or POURNE a bill for the all the networking and computer services, personal guidance, tutoring and support we received pro-bono from the MIT-AI Lab staff, so it was free to us, and I for one appreciated it and am grateful.
RMS even custom wrote POURNE some free software at his request. You can't put a price on this: "He was immensely helpful to me in those days, patiently showing me things about emacs — his full-screen editor that he wrote in TECO, and the less said about TECO the better — as well as adding some special code to take care of things I wanted to accomplish."
But they did send me an official MIT AI Lab Tourist Policy that I had to promise to abide by in order to use their machines, which I gladly signed and returned and followed. And POURNE was flushed because he clearly violated it, not because of his politics.
>13. Any use of the MIT ITS machines for personal gain, profit making enterprise, or political purposes is not a legitimate use of the Laboratories' computer resources.
>14. These specific statements of policy give a minimum of how a tourist ought to behave to be a responsible user on the MIT ITS system. They are not a complete list of all the ways tourists should or should not behave. Just because some particular anti-social behavior is not listed does not mean that it is acceptable. What a tourist should do is cultivate a good attitude: make a positive effort to anticipate and avoid actions that would interfere with other users. If you cannot tell whether a certain course of action can interfere with any one, find out from someone else before trying it.
It's so ironic you're trying to Gish Gallop with tired talking point against big government, which funded the ARPANET, and which is currently busy dealing with a series of natural disasters, while you are trying to smear the MIT-AI lab as a bunch of communists. My failure to respond to all of your posts within your expected time frame is because they're simply not worth responding to.
It was clear when I read your initial boorish and tone-deaf remarks on a eulogy thread that you worship at the altar of big government and socialism. Sadly it seems your mind is closed to many of the obvious truths surrounding those entities and human nature.
Be sure to keep a close eye out for Putin skulking around! :-)
Their whole argument is how he shouldn't speak in public about ARPANET and that (quoting exactly): "The more attention you (and other people) draw to non-blow-em-up use of the arpanet the more likely some Proxmire type is to start inquiring into its operations.".
So, let's keep it to our small boys club.
Fuck them. If anything Pournelle's exposure of it helped it get into more people's minds, and open sooner.
Pournelle was a GUEST USER of a system at MIT, accessing it through an ARPAnet dialup node (of which he did not have official permission to use).
The admins of said system requested that he not talk about non-official use of the ARPAnet in his BYTE column (so that the government people funding the network, not ask "why does this scifi writer have access to these systems?").
He persisted, and then he decided to be rude and mouth off to the people that ran the system he was a guest user of. When they got tired of it and locked his account, he threatened to use his contacts / influence to make things difficult for them, and falsely claimed it was due to politics and not his own entitled attitude.
How is that not being a huge jerk? Honestly, that's well into a-hole territory in my opinion.
I get all that -- I even quoted where they suggested the non-military it should be kept from the military guys.
What I say is that not having it kept
>How is that not being a huge jerk?
First, those people weren't the creators and payers of ARPAnet. The US government and the "military guys" were. So he wasn't "their guest" to begin with.
They just administered it. The admins of a system are not owners -- nor are their pals who they let in covertly.
Second, (and this holds whether you are a guest or not) if you're invited somewhere and see guys keeping a good thing to themselves and not wanting it to get noticed by the masses, you're not a jerk to dismiss their "radio silence" rule, and tell others about it.
They're the jerks for being silent about it (even if that was just out of fear from having it shut down).
Clearly the ARPAnet needed to open up to more people -- and eventually get to something like the internet.
Keeping silent about the "non-official use" because you are lucky to be in would be cowardly and selfish (I'm in, screw the masses, they don't have to know such a thing exists and people could potentially get join if we opened it up).
You think the only people who built the internet were "military guys"?
You think the ARPANET and MIT AI Lab should have been opened up to all of Byte Magazine's users, instead of Byte starting their own private commercial BIX network, and that MIT AI Lab staff should have supported all of those clueless newbies as well as the drunk and belligerent POURNE himself, instead of performing the research and development that was their day job?
You're totally off base, entitled, and have absolutely no idea what you're talking about. So educate yourself with the facts:
Read the MIT AI Lab Tourist Policy , which POURNE clearly violated.
Then read POURNE's own gushing flattering words about how RMS took his own time to suffer him by teaching him about TECO and EMACS, and actually wrote him free software on demand to his specifications .
And finally, read the words  of an anonymous MIT-AI Lab member who spent much of their own time helping POURNE and I as well as many other tourists. Even though POURNE isn't around to defend himself, I feel obligated to post this in response to the crass misunderstandings and misstatements of the facts in your attempt to smear the MIT AI Lab and its members (your own words: "Fuck them."), and because I agree with the point that "If he didn't want to have this as his enduring legacy, he had plenty of opportunity to make amends. And the offensive acts were not private ones.", and also with the points about asymmetric audience and the responsibility to do well by one's celebrity:
>We definitely had seen a great many "tourist" users, and it seemed to me that they would come away enriched. People spent a lot of time with Niven, Fuzzy (his wife, as I recall), and Pourne, showing them around the place, including them in the social aspects. ____ and I had him use the Lisp-teaching program. He used mailing lists to engage an interested audience.
>Then later, as I recall, he wrote publicly in negative terms about the whole of society that had welcomed him in, as if these were all abuses. As if he had a secret he was compelled to share, but not really a secret since so many knew. As if any community shared was just grist for the mill if it could be turned to buy celebrity.
>But the entire justification of tourist use was that the machines would otherwise sit idle. Any time I spent, and I suspect others spent, talking to him were unpaid. They made better use of resources than if those resources were used strictly as planned. But he didn't see it that way.
>That's his right. But it's my right to see him as neither courteous to his former hosts nor visionary about how the world works and should work, at least from those experiences. (I never got to reading his books, in part because of these other experiences. It soured me to the need.)
>But our public personas, the places we take a stand, are are our enduring legacies. It is our afterlife. I am not religious, and so what I do in life is a preparation for how I will be perceived when I am not around. I hold him to a like standard.
>If he didn't want to have this as his enduring legacy, he had plenty of opportunity to make amends. And the offensive acts were not private ones. They were ones he used his stature in the community to magnify in a way that those of us who were implicated had no similar way to respond.
>This, by the way, is the underlying basis of things like libel that make them differ from slander. I'm not alleging either slander or libel here, but I am saying that the key issue in libel is not just untruth, it's about the access one has to broad audience. If you say something in print and the person who needs to respond has no similar access to print, then your words have asymmetric effect in public conversation. The core issue is not print vs non-print, not paper vs word, in case you get confused about whether the internet is print. The core issue is audience. And even on the internet there is the issue of asymmetric audience.
>Asymmetric audience is prone to variations on the Peter Principle, where a good writer can gain audience that allows them to speak on other topics. There is considerable value in that, but also considerable responsibility to do well by one's celebrity.
Second, the network was for official government approved use only, which mostly meant research and communication between researchers. Everything else was an open secret, but officially under the radar.
At the same time, USENET was running on UUCP over TCP, which meant that the majority of traffic was alt.binaries, and a big chunk of that was porn.
So, yes, having an overly entitled jackass publicly embarrass them was something most admins feared. (My brush with greatness was Cat Yronwode and the cs.utexas mail to news gateway. But that was a decade after this.)
On every frontier we need writers that can translate the wonder to others who don't experience it first hand. IT is no different: he went to live into the near future and always came back with great stories.
I was really shocked when BYTE stopped publishing. I couldn't believe that such a superb publication that was so valued by its readers could go out of business. From what I recall, what happened is first it was bought up by a publisher who wanted to turn it into a magazine for average computer users, not techies, and then when that failed to get a market, just shut it down. So much for the idea that the free enterprise system always makes things better.
One thing he mentioned there that stuck with me was that he logs his daily activities in a journal. What he eats, the weather, phone calls, meetings, etc... I tried to start the habit, but it never stuck.
I wonder if his personal papers will end up in some university's collection?
But though I will also classify myself less than appealed by descriptions of his politics and I voted up davidw above I want to be clear I think it would be uncool to bash him for it at the time of his death.
I enjoyed the heck out of most of the Niven/Pournelle books I read, but the political didactics weren't part of the fun for me.
Heinlein wrote stories about heroic Libertarians and happy soldiers.
Pournelle wrote stories about incompetent and deluded liberal professors and conniving politicians.
Think about the scene with the kid in Moon is a Harsh Mistress where an entitled Earth boy gets handsy with a woman and they hold an impromptu court for him.
In the book, he learns from his mistake and is a "convert" to Heinlein's way of thinking. Pournelle's political writing was much more Manichean - the boy would be an entitled villain to his death.
It's been more than a couple of decades since I have read either. It seems that I need a refresher!
Japan is a great ally. I lived there for over a decade, and I can say that I love the Japanese people. But I will admit - and their people of the WWII generation would too (although - sadly they are (have been) passing too quickly), it took a solid kick in the teeth to get them to calm down and cooperate.
Sometimes, with intense nation-state disagreement, things are settled at the point of a gun. Where there is a winner and a loser.
I like diplomacy as much (or more) than the next guy ... but it is irresponsible for a nation to be unprepared for when that doesn't work.
N.B. Fighting back after Pearl Harbor is a different kettle of fish than exporting democracy by force. We have no business doing the latter. It's obscene.
EDIT: I didn't downvote you. I appreciated your take on the query posed.
I didn't say one shouldn't be prepared to fight, just that fighting is almost never the right way to start it. Being prepared to defend yourself and your allies requires a vastly different inventory than cannon diplomacy.
Both here and elsewhere, Lukacs argued that as white nations, America and Russia might profitably work together to prop each other up against a planet where they were a racial minority. The right-wing science-fiction writers Jerry Pournelle (an admirer of the fascist dictator Benito Mussolini) and Larry Niven pursued a similar argument in their CoDominium novels, a long-running series of novels that started in 1973 and imagines a world where the U.S. and the Soviet Union work together to govern an unruly planet.
At one point, Gingrich was supposed to be writing a novel with his friend, noted authority on the political attractions of Fascism, Jerry Pournelle. I don’t know what happened to it, but I imagine it would have made quite interesting reading (Inferno, Pournelle’s ‘Benito Mussolini redeems himself in an updated version of Dante’s hell’ schlock-epic with Larry Niven, is certainly entertaining if your tastes run to certain varieties of kitsch).
1) Niven didn't co-write any of the CoDominium novels, as far as I know. Mote had some historical references to it, but it was set hundreds of years after the CoDominium had collapsed.
2) The CoDominium weren't the "good guys" in those books.
3) Pournelle was not an "admirer of Mussolini".
Inaccurate to the point of being dishonest.
You're quite aggressive in this thread about someone who just died in a multitude of comments, and it's not like JP will rise up to defend himself. I don't like his politics either and I'm sure that some of what you wrote has merit but please have some respect. This simply isn't the time.
But you both implied the MIT-AI Lab staff came off as jerks, and it was coldtea who said "Fuck them", but I was responding to both of your misimpressions that POURNE doesn't deserve his well earned reputation as a drunken abusive jerk.
But I still ask both of you to please re-read the words I cited. Do you care to address those?
Do you agree that he violated the terms of the MIT AI Lab Tourist Policy, or not?
Do his own sputtering mis-punctuated threats of having his Pentagon friends, reporter friends, and even the House Armed Services Committee upset CSTACY sound like he was drunk to you, or do you believe he behaved that way all the time, his behavior was justified, CSTACY flushing his account was not justified, and do you continue to carry his water (or booze) by denying he was acting like a jerk?
Again, as the MIT-AI Lab staff member I quoted said, "If he didn't want to have this as his enduring legacy, he had plenty of opportunity to make amends."
Wasn't Reagan also against big government? At least in his words?
If yes, working there would be contradictory for Jerry if he was "opposed to government" period, not if he was merely opposed to "big government".
And was considered by others to be the final straw that broke the Soviet Union and put an end to a 70 year Cold War and eliminated one of the most evil empires in the history of the human race.
"I don't think there is much in the constitution mandating space lasers."
Article I, Section 8. Unless you're one of those people who attempt to argue that armies and navies are limited to 18th century technology.
> It is claimed by apologists for the Reagan administration that, whatever the exaggerations in capability, some of it intentional, SDI was responsible for the collapse of the Soviet Union. There is no serious evidence in support of this contention. Andrei Sakharov, Yevgeny Velikhov, Roald Sagdeev, and other scientists who advised President Mikhail Gorbachev made it clear that if the United States really went ahead with a Star Wars programme, the safest and cheapest Soviet response would be merely to augment its existing arsenal of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. In this way Star Wars could have increased, not decreased, the peril of thermonuclear war. At any rate, Soviet expenditures on space-based defences against American nuclear missiles were comparatively paltry, hardly of a magnitude to trigger a collapse of the Soviet economy. The fall of the USSR has much more to do with the failure of the command economy, growing awareness of the standard of living in the west, widespread disaffection from a moribund Communist ideology, and - although he did not intend such an
outcome - Gorbachev's promotion of glasnost, or openness.
Ten thousand American scientists and engineers publicly
pledged they would not work on Star Wars or accept money from the SDI organization. This provides an example of widespread and courageous non-cooperation by scientists (at some conceivable personal cost) with a democratic government that had, temporarily at least, lost its way.
* I know Sagan isn't exactly a historian, but I'll choose his assessment of space war technology over other people's.
Yet ironically, so many of those very same people who once argued that are now enthusiastically supporting and carrying the water for Trump's total capitulation to Putin. Makes you wonder if they really mean what they say, or if they just lust for power and hold party over country. Hmm...
I suspect that you're not actually interested in the facts here.
Actually, the best commentary I have heard on this subject is that the Soviet Union fell of its own internal conflict and didn't need help from your pal Ronnie.
And to further reply to your cousin-comment to this one there is a huge difference between a constitutional mandate and a very specific implementation... Nobody mandated Star Wars.
The fact of the matter is SDI was a fraud on the American people, the United States wasted huge amounts of money on it, it couldn't 'zap incoming missiles', the defense contractors cheated, took the money and ran, which could have been used for much better purposes, because the Soviet Union collapsed for completely different reasons than overspending to compete with SDI.
Technical Failures Bedevil Star Wars
>For the first time, after years of level financing at around $4 billion, opponents are on the verge of pushing through deep budget cuts in the program, which so far has cost $20 billion. The House leadership is moving to slice in half the Bush Administration's request of $4.7 billion for Star Wars for the fiscal year 1991, to $2.3 billion. The Senate voted to set aside $3.7 billion.
>[...] In a dozen or so major tests conducted this year, half have experienced problems, ranging from runaway rockets to warhead explosions to satellite malfunctions. The failures have marred the most ambitious and costly agenda in the program's history, intended to be the first broad demonstration of anti-missile technologies that have been incubating in laboratories, often amid great secrecy, for more than seven years since President Ronald Reagan started the program in March 1983.
Reagan's great lie in the sky: Star Wars scientists may have deceived Moscow and Congress about the project, writes David Usborne in Washington
>Now, however, allegations are being made that the entire experiment was a scientific fraud. According to a New York Times report based on interviews with four unidentified former Reagan officials, the two missiles had secretly been fitted with radio beacons to guarantee their meeting in space.
It's almost as if the goals of Star Wars were written by a ... drunken science fiction writer!
But that doesn't mean we don't need everlasting world peace, or a pony, or whatever fantasy your heart desires, as N Korea proves daily.
There is no such thing. A good defense is the best offense.
He wasn't shy about his politics and I think it's fair to say they were pretty far out to the right.
That is a very, very generous way to characterize defense programs that wasted tens of billions of dollars without producing anything. When you're dealing with a public that finds details boring and is willing to lump it all under "defense spending," you can sort of get away with it.
Well, except for numerous technologies that are in use today. Our current missile defense program, which is fairly crucial right at the moment, greatly benefitted from SDI.
The thing that's frustrating about that (aside from the fact that people are ignorant of such things, but still feel qualified to comment on the topic) is that plenty of people knew it was bullshit three decades ago. The sheer hypocrisy of the politics of SDI is almost unique in human history, considering how much money was wasted by people who claimed to be concerned about excessive government spending.
Regardless, other SDI technologies such as Brilliant Pebbles and Brilliant Eyes are direct predecessors to current, successful, military technologies. There have also been many spinoffs benefiting civilians.
In the analogy Larry Page or Sergey Brin of Google would be Edward Teller, capable of forcing pursuit of an absurd project well past the point where it's obviously ridiculous to continue, simply because he can fire anyone he wants. But those guys aren't blatantly ideological, demented old men, and I'm not aware of Google ever burning money in a manner quite as cosmically absurd as Project Excalibur. The business wouldn't survive much of that.
Well, getting someone to spend themselves to death.
Read his byte article a lot. S-100 based system is a bridge too far from my 1980s me. But enjoy his writing very much his writing.
Anyone interested in science fiction should read at least The Mote in God's Eye.
This is a sad day. Besides his novels, I seem to recall Jerry Pournelle doing a lot of writing for ( Byte | Computer Shopper | PC Magazine). back in the day. I really enjoyed his articles back in the 90's when I was first getting started in computing.
Mods, can we get a black bar to commemorate Mr. Pournelle?
What might be a good starting place with his books?
"oath of fealty" is another good one that should appeal to the hackernews crowd.
Rest well, sir.
If dang or one of the moderators would like to change it, that works for me.