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Old 04-19-2019, 08:53 AM   #1
newbiesforever
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I saw what was wrong with Scott Adams' old "UNIX computers" strip in Dilbert


I saw a Dilbert strip from many years ago which insulted UNIX users. (Here is the link: https://dilbert.com/strip/1995-06-24. I was unable to find out whether it would be acceptable on LQ to actually post the image of a copyrighted comic.) I save it because I find it amusing and apropos. Anyway, as you can see, Wally calls someone a "condescending UNIX computer user." What's a "UNIX computer"? Adams conflated operating systems with computers. It's just odd because I don't expect to use the phrase "didn't know what he was talking about" with Scott Adams.

I wonder if -NIX users at the time (1995) laughed; and if they did, whether they laughed at the humor in the strip (as I did) or just laughed at Adams' display of ignorance.

Last edited by newbiesforever; 04-19-2019 at 08:56 AM.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 09:18 AM   #2
TenTenths
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
What's a "UNIX computer"? Adams conflated operating systems with computers.
So you've never heard or used the terms "linux laptop" or "windows desktop PC"? No difference. Not seeing anything "wrong" here.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 09:18 AM   #3
cwizardone
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To be able to write/draw that humor you cannot (IMHO) be ignorant of the subject matter.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 10:27 AM   #4
newbiesforever
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenTenths View Post
So you've never heard or used the terms "linux laptop" or "windows desktop PC"? No difference. Not seeing anything "wrong" here.
Sure I have. I know a "Linux laptop" is only a laptop intended to use Linux, and doesn't make "Linux" the construction of the laptop. It's irrelevant because Adams said "UNIX," not "Linux." Also, you would have to think Adams was making fun of not UNIX users but only the smaller segment of UNIX users who use it on laptops designed for Linux.

The entire concept of UNIX is actually immaterial in the strip except as an erroneous label for a computer.

Go back a few days around this strip in either direction, and you will observe evidence for either interpretation. At times Adams has the company wanting to eliminate both "Mac" and "OS/2 Warp," which ultimately suggests: Adams was satisfied with being sloppy for humor's sake, and wasn't inclined to be obsessively precise like I'm being.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cwizardone View Post
To be able to write/draw that humor you cannot (IMHO) be ignorant of the subject matter.
Then he would have deliberately and disingenuously conflated "operating system" and "computer" for humor's sake.

No, no...I've got it. Adams' background and character make it most plausible that he believed his readers were too ignorant to know the difference between "computer" and "operating system." The real condescension was from him, not the imaginary "UNIX computer user."

This from someone who has laughed at the Dilbert comic strip probably more than anything else except Garfield.

Last edited by newbiesforever; 04-19-2019 at 10:28 AM.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 10:33 AM   #5
TenTenths
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
Sure I have. I know a "Linux laptop" is only a laptop intended to use Linux, and doesn't make "Linux" the construction of the laptop.
And in this case Adams is likely referring to a computer running the AT&T UNIX operating system. So if you're happy that "Linux laptop" is perfectly acceptable as a laptop running linux then you should also fully embrace "UNIX computer" as a computer running UNIX.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 10:38 AM   #6
DavidMcCann
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Perhaps this cartoon would be more to your taste?
https://xkcd.com/456/
 
Old 04-19-2019, 10:47 AM   #7
newbiesforever
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TenTenths View Post
And in this case Adams is likely referring to a computer running the AT&T UNIX operating system. So if you're happy that "Linux laptop" is perfectly acceptable as a laptop running linux then you should also fully embrace "UNIX computer" as a computer running UNIX.
I would, if I were more sure that enough computers ran AT&T UNIX that Adams would want to bother making fun of them.

Thanks for reminding me of the interesting and unexpected fact that AT&T UNIX was invented at a phone company.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 11:02 AM   #8
michaelk
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Quote:
Thanks for reminding me of the interesting and unexpected fact that AT&T UNIX was invented at a phone company.
Back in its prime it most have been an amazing place to work. Bell Labs was one of top research facilities in the US and owns something like 26,000 patents including the transistor.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 11:04 AM   #9
jsbjsb001
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidMcCann View Post
Perhaps this cartoon would be more to your taste?
https://xkcd.com/456/
Now that's funny, if you'll excuse me, I've got a kernel to re-compile...

newbiesforever, I missed what was wrong with the cartoon you posted. Was it because UNIX isn't a computer?

If so, I think the point was that the guy in the white shirt, couldn't figure out how to use UNIX, and saw who he thought was Ken Thompson walking up to him, then decided to give Ken Thompson a "piece of his mind" - because he (the guy in the white shirt) didn't understand UNIX.

Was that your point?
 
Old 04-19-2019, 12:00 PM   #10
rtmistler
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michaelk View Post
Back in its prime it most have been an amazing place to work. Bell Labs was one of top research facilities in the US and owns something like 26,000 patents including the transistor.
Didn't work there, but I was on site a few times. It was wicked neat for those of us who could appreciate it.

I also met the woman who was the basis for Alice in the Dilbert strip. Once she said so, I could see it. Not the rage part, the personality and stuff.

I too agree that there's no big deal with the verbiage that's worth over-analyzing. Unix is an OS, but it runs on "a computer". Just that computers were mainframes back in the day.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 12:27 PM   #11
newbiesforever
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jsbjsb001 View Post
Now that's funny, if you'll excuse me, I've got a kernel to re-compile...

newbiesforever, I missed what was wrong with the cartoon you posted. Was it because UNIX isn't a computer?

If so, I think the point was that the guy in the white shirt, couldn't figure out how to use UNIX, and saw who he thought was Ken Thompson walking up to him, then decided to give Ken Thompson a "piece of his mind" - because he (the guy in the white shirt) didn't understand UNIX.

Was that your point?
Yes, my point was only that UNIX isn't a computer. (The series in the strip at that time was "Computer Holy Wars.") I have no point to make about the other strip, because someone else posted that.

Last edited by newbiesforever; 04-19-2019 at 12:31 PM.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 01:42 PM   #12
Trihexagonal
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It's been posted at the FreeBSD forums before. I thought it was hilarious.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 01:43 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
I saw a Dilbert strip from many years ago which insulted UNIX users.
I don't think the strip insults UNIX users. It depicts a character insulting a UNIX user. I don't think the joke is ultimately on the UNIX user character though...

Quote:
Adams conflated operating systems with computers.
Adams didn't conflate anything. A character which Adams wrote did that.

Last edited by ntubski; 04-19-2019 at 01:43 PM. Reason: missed word
 
Old 04-19-2019, 05:31 PM   #14
fido_dogstoyevsky
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Quote:
Originally Posted by newbiesforever View Post
I saw a Dilbert strip from many years ago which insulted UNIX users...
Every time I've seen (and laughed at) it, I've taken the condescension to be aimed at Wally. Mainly because it's the sort of reply I've occassionaly had to use to condescending proprietary OS users.


Edit: grammar fix

Last edited by fido_dogstoyevsky; 04-19-2019 at 07:55 PM.
 
Old 04-19-2019, 06:02 PM   #15
freemedia2018
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ntubski View Post
Adams didn't conflate anything. A character which Adams wrote did that.
I'm looking up various places where I can earn certifications for working with UNIX and "Linux" servers. It seems more like a conventional short hand than revealing ignorance to me. If we are going to conflate the kernel and the operating system ("Is that macOS?" "No, I just call it Darwin." "Why?" "Because a mac is a kind of raincoat and it's confusing.") we might as well conflate the operating system and the computer as well.

"Are those Linux servers?" "No, they're all Xeons." "But what OS do they run?" "Hippity HoppitOS." Part of the reason language is so ambiguous is that Person A may care more about the OS, Person B may care more about the model, and Person C may care more about the specs of the configuration. Whomever is asked "what kind of server is that" has to guess, because one server can be distinguished from another along more than one axis-- and people are casual enough to not ask very specific questions. There's an evolutionary advantage to being less specific anyway. If you need more information, being vague might get you more information rather than less. People who don't want more information can learn to be specific in their questions.
 
  


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