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Manifesto of the Futurist Programmers

by Umberto Boccioni, Paul Haeberli, Bruce Karsh, Ron Fischer, Peter Broadwell, Tim Wicinski
15th June 1991

The Manifesto of the Futurist Programmers

To the young programmers of the World!

The cry of the rebellion we launch here, in which we firmly implant our ideals alongside those of the Futurist painters, does not come from a little aesthetic minded clique but, on the contrary, expresses the violent desire that seethes in the veins of every creative programmer today.

We want to fight to the bitter end against the fanatical, thoughtless, and purely snobbish religious faith in the past, stoked by the nefarious existence of the academic journals. We are rebelling against the sluggishly supine admiration for old operating systems, old languages, archaic standards, and against the enthusiasm for everything bug-ridden, rotting with code bloat, and eaten away by obsolescence. And we judge unjust - criminal in fact - the habitual disdain for programs whose construction is different and original, new, throbbing with life.

Comrades! We declare to you that triumphant progress in the other sciences has brought about, in humanity as a whole, changes so profound as to dredge out an abyss between the past and us free creatures who are securely confident in the radiant magnificence of the future.

We are nauseated by the despicable sloth that, ever since the 1970's, has let our programmers survive only through an incessant reprogramming of the glories of the past.

For the professionals of other disciplines, programming is still a land of the dead, an immense Pompeii still whitening with sepulchers. But programming is being reborn, and in the wake of its political resurgence an intellectual resurgence is taking place. In the expressways of our teeming cities, the pistons of our automobiles are fired by the spark of microprocessors. In the land of the couch potatoes, computers control the appliances of our daily existence. In the fields of traditional technology one is struck today by a new elan, by lightning-bright inspirations of something utterly new.

Only that programming is vital which finds its own elements in the people who use it. Our forbearers drew material for their programming from the religious atmosphere weighing heavily on their programs. We must now draw out inspiration from the tangible miracles of contemporary life, from the portable CD players that bring digital music to the masses, from the supersonic airplanes which achieve speed of flight through lightness of weight, the portable television sets which are available throughout the world and boot in less time than any computer system, from the convulsive struggle for the conquest of the unknown. Then too, how can we remain indifferent to the frenetic activity of the great cities, to the utterly new psychology of programming that takes wing only after dark, to the febrile figures of the viveur, the cocotte, the hacker, the addicts to coffee?

Because we propose to play our part in the badly needed renewal of all expressions of programming, we resolutely declare war against all those programmers and against all those institutions that, however they may camouflage themselves in raiment of pseudo-modernity, remain mired in tradition, in academicism, in a repugnant mental laziness.

We call on all young programmers to unleash their scorn on the whole lot of brainless canaille who in Computer Science applaud a sick-making reflorescence of spineless classicism; who in MIT praise to the skies the neurotic cultists of network-transparent window systems - a hermaphroditic archaism; who in computer companies heap financial rewards on a pedestrian and blind manual skill a la 1974; who in Berkeley adulate programming typical of pensioned-off government functionaries; and in IBM glorify a farraginous rubbish heap turned out by fossilized alchemists! In short, we rise up against the superficiality, banality, and slovenly, corner-workshop facility that makes most of the widely respected computer programmers in every region of Silicon Valley worthy, instead, of the deepest contempt.

Out with you, then, bought-and-sold rewriters of hack programs! Out with you, archeologists infected with chronic necrophilia! Out, atavistic executives, you complaisant panderers! Out, gouty academics, besotted and ignorant professors! Out!

Go ask the high priests of the True Cult, those guardians of Structured Programming Rules where the works of Henry Massalin are to be seen today; ask them why the official operating systems do not even recognize the existence of self modifying code; ask them where the art of User Interface is appreciated at its true worth! . . . And who takes the trouble to think about the programmers who don't have twenty years of struggles and sufferings behind them but nonetheless are preparing works destined to bring honor to the homeland? Oh no, those critics ever ready to sell themselves have very different interests to defend! The eXhibitions, the standards cartels, and the superficial and never-disinterested purchasing departments are what condemn the programming art to what is, plainly speaking prostitution!

And what should we say about the "Experts"? Come, come! Let's make an end once and for all to the layerists, the extensabilitists, the toolkit mongers, the librarians - We have put up with them quite enough, with all those impotent programmers of useless software!

Let us make an end also to the wasters of disk space who clutter up our machines and profane our lightning-fast memories! An end to the quick-money architecture of the jobbers of the prefabricated! An End to the common run of program decorators, the fakers of technology, the masters of software cosmetology who sell themselves, and the slovenly and thick headed "managers"!

And here are our CONCLUSIONS resolute and in a nutshell. With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism we aim:

1. To destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with all things old, academic pedantry, and formalism

2. To cast our scorn profoundly on every last form of imitation

3. To exalt every form of originality, even if foolhardy, even if extremely violent

4. To bear bravely and proudly the smear of "madness" with which they try to gag all innovators

5. To look on the lot of computer "scientists" as at one and the same time useless and dangerous

6. To rebel against the tyranny of the words "extensible" and "reusable" expressions so elastic that they can just as easily be used to demolish the art of Atkinson, Baumgart and Deutsch as well

7. To sweep out of the mental field of programming all themes and subjects already exploited

8. To render and magnify the life of today, incessantly and tumultuously transformed by science triumphant

Let the dead be buried in the deepest bowels of the earth! Let the future's threshold be swept clean of mummies! Make way for the young, the violent, the headstrong!

Painter Umberto Boccioni (Milan)
Programmer Paul Haeberli (Menlo Park)
Programmer Bruce Karsh (Los Altos)
Programmer Ron Fischer (San Francisco)
Programmer Peter Broadwell (Santa Cruz)
Programmer Tim Wicinski (Mountain View)

June 15, 1991

This manifesto is based on:
U. Boccioni. Manifesto of the Futurist Painters. Feb, 1910.
From the book by:
E. Coen. Umberto Boccioni. Abrams, 1988.

Futurist Programmers - www.sgi.com/grafica/future

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