UNIX Philosophy: Fast Food the UNIX way
Last night I dreamed that the Real World had adopted the “Unix Philosophy.”
I went to a fast-food place for lunch. When I arrived, I found that the menu had been taken down, and all the employees were standing in a line behind the counter waiting for my orders. Each of them was smaller than I remembered, there were more of them than I'd ever seen before, and they had very strange names on their nametags.
I tried to give my order to the first employee, but he just said something about a “syntax error.” I tried another employee with no more luck. He just said “Eh?” no matter what I told him. I had similar experiences with several other employees. (One employee named “ed” didn't even say “Eh?,” he just looked at me quizzically.) Disgusted, I sought out the manager (at least it said “man” on his nametag) and asked him for help. He told me that he didn't know anything about “help,” and to try somebody else with a strange name for more information.
The fellow with the strange name didn't know anything about “help” either, but when I told him I just wanted to order he directed me to a girl named “oe,” who handled order entry. (He also told me about several other employees I couldn't care less about, but at least I got the information I needed.)
I went to “oe” and when I got to the front of the queue she just smiled at me. I smiled back. She just smiled some more. Eventually I realized that I shouldn't expect a prompt. I asked for a hamburger. She didn't respond, but since she didn't say “Eh?” I knew I'd done something right. We smiled at each other a little while longer, then I told her I was finished with my order. She directed me to the cashier, where I paid and received my order.
The hamburger was fine, but it was completely bare… not even a bun. I went back to “oe” to complain, but she just said “Eh?” a lot. I went to the manager and asked him about “oe.” The manager explained to me that “oe” had thousands of options, but if I wanted any of them I'd have to know in advance what they were and exactly how to ask for them.
He also told me about “vi,” who would write down my order and let me correct it before it was done, and how to hand the written order to “oe.” “vi” had a nasty habit of not writing down my corrections unless I told her that I was about to make a correction, but it was still easier than dealing directly with “oe.”
By this time I was really hungry, but I didn't have enough money to order again, so I figured out how to redirect somebody else's order to my plate. Security was pretty lax at that place. As I was walking out the door, I was snagged by a giant Net. I screamed and woke up.
Notes from Xah Lee
The above essay is found on the net dating back to at least 1984. The author may be Bob Peirce.
See also: The Nature of the Unix Philosophy.