Where it Comes From, Nobody Knows

A friend of mine stumbled across this page today. It has an interesting section about X Video Adapters that got me thinking; though it wasn't what was on the page that got me all wound up, it's what wasn't.


Nobody wants to say how this works. Maybe nobody knows ...

I presume that last bit is a joke, but maybe it's not. The X Windowing system dates back to the early 80's, and it's gone through so many iterations and revisions that it's probably safe to say that there are definitely parts that literally no one understands.

As computing and the Internet get older, the nuances and particulars of most software will be lost as it fades from living memory. It's quite possible that, years from now, we'll all be depending on lots of software that no one has seen or touched in decades. Its secrets lost, its workings unknown.

Time Immemorial

The City of London, not to be mistaken for the city named London, is an ancient city alive today in the center of the capital of the U.K.. To this day it has its own customs, rights, and traditions, and in most respects it's more of a country than a city. This small 1-square mile of land is extremely special. Why? Because it always has been. The founding of The City of London predates the country that surrounds it by several hundred years. For as far back as anyone can remember the City has been there, lying on the Thames. It gets its special status and powers, not from The People, or from God, but from Time Immemorial. The City just is, and always has been.

We are still in the bright, starry-eyed youth of the software world. But our software, should it continue to run that long, may outlive its founders, maintainers, and followers. In the future we may find that lots of software just is, and always has been.1 Future help articles may offer little more than this:

Why does it do X?

It just always has.

1 NASA already has lots of experience with software that has outlived and outlasted its creators, maintainers, and who's documentation has been lost to fire, flood, and the careless efforts of man.