Coding in the great outdoors

Cottage Computer Programming

Paul Lutus (above) has sailed solo around the world, in a 30-foot yacht, worked for NASA, designing electronics for the Space Shuttle and modelling the solar system for the Viking Mars mission and written one of the most popular word processors ever, Apple Writer.

The story of the writing of the initial version of Apple Writer is the subject of his article above, how he dropped out of college, and out of NASA, and moved into a cabin in the forest (see below). He tells us how he began developing software in almost total isolation. It is inspiring, one man's private exploration of the inner space of the microcomputer.

I was particularly struck by the third section, disputing the death of the individual programmer, who seems to have been dying since about 1965. One man can still write a program. If I wanted to, I could still write an entire operating system from the metal up. This might not be the best use of my time, by normal measures, but as Lutus says, it doesn't matter.

Programming need not just be a mechanical means to an end. It can be an almost philosophical exercise, creating something from tiny bricks of pure logic. Like the carpenter or mason, a programmer chips away at the program until only the desired form remains, sometimes surprising even its own creator.

I don't want to build atop the tottering hierarchies of libraries and objects and APIs, conforming and compromising my way to mediocrity.

I want to write my own tiny operating system, for a small computer, with a minimal programming language of my own devising, and I want to live in the mountains. Just for a while.

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