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Ask HN: What's that quote about X window system?
4 points by acron0 on Aug 13, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 7 comments
I recall reading a hyperbolic, cautionary quote quite some time ago that expressed something along the lines of "all complex software products are destined to eventually become reimplementations of the X window system".

Does anyone else have any recollection of this, or even better, know where it comes from?

> I recall reading a parabolic quote ...

ITYM a hyperbolic quote. A parabolic quote would describe an arc like a thrown ball, which eventually falls back to earth. A hyperbolic quote would escape toward infinity, which is the intended sense of the expression derived from the shapes of conic sections.

Hmm, Wordnik[1] tells me 'parabolic' also means 'Of or similar to a parable'.

[1] | https://www.wordnik.com/words/parabolic

Yes, okay, but the original quote isn't a parable in the classic sense -- no moral or spiritual guidance present. That led me to consider the mathematical/geometric meaning. Saying that all software projects end up being reimplementations of X windows is certainly hyperbolic.

And, sorry to say, I couldn't locate the original quote either.

You're correct. Perhaps "having the properties of a parable" was an inference too far. I've amended the original post.

I can find a lot about Zawinski's law, or Greenspun's tenth law.

Letts' Law: All programs evolve until they can send email.

Zawinski's Law: Every program attempts to expand until it can read mail. Those programs which cannot so expand are replaced by ones which can.

Greenspun's tenth law: Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp.

RTM provided a "corollary which clarifies the set of "sufficiently complicated" programs to which the rule applies: …including Common Lisp." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greenspun%27s_tenth_rule

The X server has to be the biggest program I've ever seen that doesn't do anything for you. -K Thompson (plan9 fortune file)

"If the designers of X Windows built cars, there would be no fewer than five steering wheels hidden about the cockpit, none of which followed the same principles . . . but you'd be able to shift gears with your stereo.

Useful feature, that." -- Marcus J. Ranum, Digital Equipment Corp.

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