Every once in a while, someone encounters a unique confluence of mental and spiritual clarity, linguistic alacrity, poetic genius, and, often, devastating humor. These are moments whose evidence should be preserved.

My old friend, John Shipman (God rest his jolly soul), was very good at doing just that, and I collected (OK, stole) many of the quotations here from his web site.

I welcome corrections. Although I’m far more interested in the message than the messenger or his exact choice of words, I acknowledge that these, too, are important. Also, just because you see it here doesn’t mean that I agree with it. What it means is that I want people to read these words by these people, that’s all.

Quick Contents

ComputersFreedomThe Future
IntegrityMiscellaneously Humorous“Oops!”
The PastPersonal DevelopmentQuotations
Reality (The Nature Of)Reasonableness and UnreasonablenessReligion
Wisdom To Live By  


“Quotations in my work are like wayside robbers who leap out armed and relieve the stroller of his conviction.”

Walter Benjamin

“To be apt in quotation is a splendid and dangerous gift. Splendid, because it ornaments a man’s speech with other men’s jewels; dangerous, for the same reason.”

Robertson Davies

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“User-friendly, my ass.”

Sally Breeden, commenting on the IBM PC, October 28, 1983

“The most overlooked advantage to owning a computer is that if they foul up there’s no law against whacking them around a little.”

Owen Porterfield, from the .sig of Mark Roedel

“Humility is the hallmark of the experienced programmer.”

Brent White; collected September 26, 1984
[“Humility is the hallmark of the experienced.” — DCB]

“Recursion is self-explanatory.”

NMT graffiti, via Tom Sanderson

“The trouble with structured programming is that your next job is in RPG.”

Tom Sanderson, April 21, 1985

“A year spent in artificial intelligence is enough to make one believe in God.”

Derry Bryson

“The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it.”

John Gilmore

“The nice thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.”


“In this country, everything loose rolls to the West Coast.”

Thomas A. Vanderslice, CEO of Apollo, in the July 6, 1987 issue of the Wall Street Journal (an article on the cultural difference between freewheeling Sun and straight-laced Apollo)

“ACHTUNG! ALLES LOOKENSPEEPERS! Das computermachine ist nicht fuer gefingerpoken und mittengrabben. Ist easy schnappen der springenwerk, blowenfusen, und poppencorken mit spitzensparken. Ist nicht fuer gewerken bei das dumpkopfen. Das rubbernecken sightseeren keepen das cotten-pickenen hans in das pockets muss; relaxen und watchen das blinkenlichten.”

from a sign posted in the Albuquerque CEC, 1978… back in the days when the computers really had blinking lights, and you could really mess them up–blowing fuses and watching sparks.

“To get job security, developers need to position themselves as highly effective business-value generators, working with the rest of the company to solve common goals. If you sit in your cube waiting for a spec to be thrown over the wall, then you may be in for a wait — that spec might be in an envelope on its way to Bangalore

Dave Thomas, 2004. O’Reilly OnLamp.com: “The Pragmatic Programmers Interview

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