[TUHS] Re.: Princeton's "Unix: An Oral History": who was in the team in "The Attic"?

Rob Pike robpike at gmail.com
Wed Oct 12 07:41:11 AEST 2022

I told this anecdote in an internal talk at Google. You might have seen it


On Wed, Oct 12, 2022 at 8:08 AM Dan Cross <crossd at gmail.com> wrote:

> On Tue, Oct 11, 2022 at 4:09 PM Rob Pike <robpike at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I think it is (used to be?) a common pattern.
>> Tom Cargill took a year off from Bell Labs Research to work in
>> development. He joined a group where every subsystem's code was printed in
>> a separate binder and stored on a shelf in each office. Tom discovered that
>> one of those subsystems was almost completely redundant, as most its
>> services were implemented elsewhere. So he spent a few months making it
>> completely redundant. He deleted 15,000 lines of code. When he was done, he
>> removed an entire binder from everybody's shelf. His coworkers loved it.
>> During his performance review, he learned that management had a metric
>> for productivity: lines of code. Tom had negative productivity. In fact,
>> because he was so successful, his entire group had negative productivity.
>> He returned to Research with his tail between his legs.
> Was this vignette in, "The Practice of Programming"? I know I've read it
> somewhere before, either there, or in the first edition of "Programming
> Pearls."
> In the latter, Bentley makes a quip about incentives and lives of code.
> Basically, if one incentivizes repetitive code, that's one what gets; "if
> you pay by the line of code, how do you think an array with 500 elements
> gets initialized?"
>         - Dan C.
> On Wed, Oct 12, 2022 at 7:03 AM Michael Kjörling <e5655f30a07f at ewoof.net>
>> wrote:
>>> On 11 Oct 2022 12:54 -0700, from lm at mcvoy.com (Larry McVoy):
>>> > On Tue, Oct 11, 2022 at 03:43:19PM -0400, Marc Donner wrote:
>>> >> So, come annual review time he gets the most negative possible score.
>>> >> Why?  Because he produced -480K lines of code.
>>> >
>>> > Whoever wrote that review should have been fired.  Absolutely no clue.
>>> Isn't it relatively well established, though, that IBM culture at
>>> least for a very long time put heavy emphasis on counting lines of
>>> source code, and that more SLOC was considered to be better?
>>> I definitely recall it being mentioned in _Triumph of the nerds_ as a
>>> major issue between IBM and Microsoft during development of OS/2.
>>> --
>>> Michael Kjörling
>>>  https://michael.kjorling.se
>>>   “Remember when, on the Internet, nobody cared that you were a dog?”
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