Re: Code Annotation of the Week

Subject: Re: Code Annotation of the Week
From: Robert Lauriston <robert -at- lauriston -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 2009 11:14:56 -0800

Jokes are still common in noncommercial software. Who's to say what's
appropriate except the volunteers who write it? It's not like
humorless customers can demand their money back or get the developers

On Thu, Nov 12, 2009 at 10:54 AM, Laura Lemay <lemay -at- lauralemay -dot- com> wrote:
> On Nov 12, 2009, at 9:51 AM, I wrote:
>> That reminds me, Janice, were you around at Sun for the Great
>> tunefs(8) Scandal of 1990?
> That message was just a bit cryptic.  This is a story from the mists
> of documentation history.
> Back in the early 90's most of Sun's business was selling Unix
> workstations.  And a good part of the documentation load at Sun was
> maintaining the existing man pages for the SunOS, the Unix OS that ran
> on those machines.  SunOS at the time was based on BSD.  And one of
> the BSD man pages was for tunefs, a command that, well, tunes a file
> system (it's kind of like a defragmenter, only lower level).
> In BSD Unix, since the beginning of time,  tunefs man page had
> included what is known as the "tuna fish" line:
> You can tune a file system, but you can't tune a fish.
> Some time in 1990, for the SunOS 4.1 release, an unnamed tech writer
> at Sun removed that line.
> I can't remember who reported it as a bug, if it was internal or
> external, but it caused a HUGE FIGHT on the internal tech writer
> mailing list at Sun.  On one side:  the argument that a joke, and a
> pun at that, in Sun documentation was unprofessional, untranslatable,
> and inappropriate.  On the other:  that this line was folklore, that
> it had been in the man page forever, and that Unix history trumps
> documentation professionalism.  (no one knows how the line originally
> ended up in the man page in the first place.  There are rumors that
> Bill Joy, one of the original authors of BSD, put it there.)
> Eventually the folklore argument won, and the line went back in for
> the next SunOS release.  With it a writer included  this comment in
> the nroff source:
> .\" Take this out and a Unix Demon will dog your steps from now until
> .\" the time_t's wrap around.
> .sp
> You can tune a file system, but you can't tune a fish.
> That comment itself contains a handful of unix puns, and its
> appearance was noted with bemusement a few times throughout the years
> by Unix folklorists.
> SunOS was replaced altogether soon after that with the AT&T version of
> Unix (what is known as SVr4), which does have tunefs but that doesn't
> include the notorious tuna fish line.  All current versions of Unix
> based on BSD with tunefs still include the "tuna fish" line, including
> HPUX, FreeBSD and MacOS X.
> Laura
> alt.documentation.folklore

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Re: Code Annotation of the Week: From: Stuart Burnfield
Re: Code Annotation of the Week: From: Laura Lemay
Re: Code Annotation of the Week: From: Laura Lemay

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