Interview with Brian Kernighan

A conversation with one of the creators of AWK and AMPL.
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Thorough interview!

Dharmaraj Iyer's picture

Thank you, Aleksey, for such a long and thorough interview. You might be interested in this recent interview with Brian Kernighan. After touching on many of the same points, he offers advice for students, and gives his perspective on India. And there are a few photos!

So Brian

Anonymous's picture

So Brian, K&R or BSD layout ?

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

This was a very nice interview. I enjoyed it very much. However, it could have been more useful in a sense if it had focused on the idea of programming languages. Mr. Kernigan has seen the days when programming languages were begining to take the shape that they are in today. It seems to me that at the time the idea of creating a new language was not to show one's disgust with another language, or to come up with a language consistent or compatible with one's level of discipline or seriousness as a programmer as is the case these days. Rather it was the efficiency or more precisely the quest for tools for production of good prose that led for example to the C language. I do not think that it is just a happy coincidence that Mr. Ritchie can write a concise and clear manual. I am personally of the opinion that given the time and effort that every programmer has to put in learning the principles and syntax and philosophy of moden OOP languages like Java, assembly language, or C for that matter, can be as productive. With those languages one knows what is happening inside their programs and their computer. With Java or Perl, one has to be totaly educated in the inner workings of the VM or the interpreter or else just program with a wish and a prayer. In fact contrary to the appearance of the computer culture in general, we are dealing more and more with a landscape that is more mythological than enlightened with not so very infrequent bolts from VM or interpreter heaven reminding us that there is a price to pay for being go happy idealists that we are.

Parts of this interview are

Anonymous's picture

Parts of this interview are suspiciously all too similar to an interview given with a researcher at Bell Labs years earlier.

Did you use to say...

Anonymous's picture

"what kernighan and ritchie say?" when you meant read the book and check something. I miss that.

How to pronounce the name

Anonymous's picture

As someone who shares a surname with Brian, I'd just like to point out that it's pronounced

Kern-i-han.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

It is nice to hear comments on today's topics from a renown person like Kernighan.

Thanks!

who came up with the name Unix

Anonymous's picture

I found an article that says:

Brian Kernighan jokingly named it the Uniplexed Information and Computing System (UNICS) as a pun on MULTICS. When multiprocessing functionality was added a short time later, the name was changed to "Unix", which is now just a name and not an acronym for anything.

http://livinginternet.com/?i/iw_unix_dev.htm

But it doesn't seem to say whose idea the name change was either. Searching Google and Google Groups didn't turn up anything better.

Rather amazing really - you'd think whoever it was would have taken credit by now. So where is this person?

Re: who came up with the name Unix

Anonymous's picture

Why its the SCO group of course! We own UNIX, and you had better stop messing with it and trying to steal it from us or we will sue the heck out of you!

Re: who came up with the name Unix

Anonymous's picture

In reality though, all they own is IP rights to the UnixWare product.

Re: who came up with the name Unix

Anonymous's picture

Fine. Since you're so curious, it was me.

more leads

Anonymous's picture

good interview

Anonymous's picture

Yeah.. that was a nice interview... covered interesting questions with interesting answers... You can basically sense a strand in the evolution of computers with people like Brian...

Sivaram Velauthapillai

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

I'd rather see what he thinks of an innovative language, that being Python.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Python is poo-poo

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Python is a good language, but much as i like it, i wouldn't call it very innovative. most of its features appeared in other languages long before Python; i suppose collecting that particular set of features in one single language might be an innovation, and the taste and style of the collection-making is certainly creative, but few if any parts of the language are particularly new with it.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

I would love to hear Brian's answer to "What do you think of Perl"

Nice interview..

Jerry Rocteur (macosx@rocteur.cc)

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

brian opined against the creeping command line flags:

cat -v considered harmful

I don't think he'd have much good to say about perl.
He might consider commenting a waste of time.

-- Marty McGowan (mcgowan@alum.mit.edu)

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

I bet he thinks it SUCKS!

Especially what he said about computers being hard to use and hard to program. Brian's career has been about simplifying, generalizing... making computers easier to program and use. Perl isn't simple, and it's evolving toward ever-greater complexity. What he said about Multics, having many ways to do the same thing, that applies to Perl. Python and Tcl are much closer to the UNIX spirit.

Re: Perl

Anonymous's picture

The authors use perl as an example language in the Practice of Programming: their comments were that it was good for small programs, but that they would want to use something like Java or C++ for a larger program, in order to take advantage of object-orientation. They also mentioned that they might use awk or Perl for writing a quick program, and then flesh it out more in C, C++, or Java.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

There's another interview with Mr Kernighan; I thought it covered perl, but it doesn't appear to on second reading. I think he mentions his feelings briefly in "the practise of programming", but my copy is at home.

-Dom

Very nice

Anonymous's picture

That was a very nice interview; I enjoyed it a lot. Thank you.

Re: Very nice

Anonymous's picture

I agree, very nice interview. The interviewer was relevant and Kernighan was gracious. What a nice guy, and obviously accomplished and intelligent. Totally refreshing in comparison to today's so-called "gurus" who are rude and know much less than they think.

Thanks for the interview, good work.

Ditto. And he really is like

Anonymous's picture

Ditto. And he really is like this. All the crew from CSRC are like this. I met Brian and he is totally like he appears to be in this interview. That is what makes him and the others there - Ritchie McIlroy et al - so great. Brian is also one of the best if not the best 'book teachers' ever.

Re: Very nice

Anonymous's picture

Yes, great interview. Thanks a lot.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Don't forget Mr Kernighan's other "creation" -- The UNIX Programming Environment. A classic!

-----

UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the United States and other countries.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Don't forget Elements of Programming Style, either!

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Or "the practice of programming" for that matter.

Re: Interview with Brian Kernighan

Anonymous's picture

Or "Software Tools", or "The AWK programming language".
Kernighan is one the best authors and generations of programmers have learned A LOT from his books.

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