Awesome Conferences

Recently in History Category

The Usenix LISA conference is no more. After 35 years, I have a lot of good (and some not good) memories of the conference. It was a big part of my career and I'm sad to see it go. However I'm proud of what LISA accomplished.

I wrote my personal reflections on the conference in a new article published on the Usenix website. Warning: this article includes some over-sharing.

Read it here: LISA made LISA obsolete (That's a compliment!)

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in HistoryLISAUsenix

BNF meets Bowie

This is floating around teh interwebz and I normally don't post this kind of thing, but since this blog recently discussed the death of Peter Naur, and since David Bowie passed away recently, I thought this was appropriate.


This song, Modern Love, was a big hit around the time that I was first getting interested in Bowie. At that time he'd already had more fame and success in the music industry than most could even hope for. As a result, I learned his music in a strange order. First his hits of the day, then going back to his back catalog and learning about his early career and music.

David Bowie, RIP, 2016.

Posted by Tom Limoncelli in History

Computer scientists Peter Naur has passed away.

He is the "N" in "BNF". If you aren't sure what BNF is, you may recognize it as a diagram like this:


or this:


You can imagine how error prone it was to specify syntax of new languages and systems before this notation was adopted. Imagine explaining either of those diagrams by writing a paragraph in English. Now imagine dozens of people trying to implement the language based on this description and all coming up with slightly different variations, each slightly incompatible. That was the world.

You can see BNF notation all over the place. Even IETF internet RFCs include BNF notations to accurately describe protocols.

(Sidenote: Why does MarkDown have many incompatible variations? Because its syntax was described in English, not in BNF. We are constantly re-learning these lessons.)

Naur won the 2005 ACM A.M. Turing Award for his work on defining the ALGOL 60 programming language. You can read more about him on the wikipedia page about him.


Posted by Tom Limoncelli in History