Beyond Operating Systems: Ken Thompson's Quest for the Ultimate Jukebox


Legendary computer scientist Ken Thompson gave a talk recently that may not have received the attention it deserved, according to some attendees. While many questions focused on Thompson's views on operating systems, the talk itself centered around a jukebox he had built that contained hit songs from 1900-2000. Thompson, now 80 years old, is still building "cool side projects" and pursuing his interests, and this particular project took years to complete as he compiled and compressed a massive music collection using a Bell Labs-invented algorithm called PAC. While legal issues prevent him from sharing his collection, Thompson's talk was a reminder of the importance of pursuing personal passions and interests, regardless of how they may be viewed by others. Thompson's talk deserves better recognition than it received, and may offer viewers a refreshing break from typical discussions of operating systems and software development.

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