From firstname.lastname@example.org Tue Feb 20 00:47:47 1990 From: email@example.com (Sean Colbath) Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers Subject: Origins of the finger command Date: 20 Feb 90 02:39:31 GMT Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org (Sean Colbath) Distribution: alt Organization: U of Rochester, CS Dept, Rochester, NY In response to a number of users who read my article re: the etymology of the "finger" command, I send mail to Les Earnest, who, according to ARPA RFC742, wrote the original finger command. Here is the reply I got, reproduced with his permission. I think you may find it quite amusing and enlightening. From LES@SAIL.Stanford.EDU Mon Feb 19 21:32:35 1990 Date: 19 Feb 90 1831 PST From: Les Earnest Subject: re: Greetings... To: colbath@CS.ROCHESTER.EDU [In reply to message sent Mon, 19 Feb 90 16:02:17 EST.] I'm glad that you are enjoying the C3 articles. I need to write another one soon. Here is a response to your conjectures, mostly regurgitated from an article that I posted on Human-nets in 1985. Feel free to forward it to alt.forklore.computers, or I can post it there if you prefer. I haven't been reading that newsgroup, but a quick look indicates that maybe I should. Finger was named for the act of pointing. I recall that sometime after it became popular I received a message from a system administrator who thought that it should be renamed so that users would not have to use a "dirty" word. I gave his request all the consideration that it deserved. I created Finger around 1971 to meet a local need at the Stanford Artifical Intelligence Lab. People generally worked long hours there, often with unpredictable schedules. When you wanted to meet with some group, it was important to know who was there and when the others would likely reappear. It also was important to be able to locate potential volleyball players when you wanted to play, Chinese food freaks when you wanted to eat, and antisocial computer users when it appeared that something strange was happening on the system. The only tool then available for seeing who was running on our DEC-10 computer was a WHO program that showed IDs and terminal line numbers for people who were logged in. There was no information available on people who were not logged in. I frequently saw people running their fingers down the WHO display saying things like "There's Don and that's Pattie but I don't know when Tom was last seen." or "Who in hell is VVK and where does line 63 go?" I wrote Finger and developed the supporting database to provide this information in traditional human terms -- real names and places. Because I preferred to talk face to face rather than through the computer or telephone, I put in the feature that tells how long the terminal had been idle, so that I could assess the likelihood that I would find them there if I walked down the hall. The program was an instant hit. Some people asked for the Plan file feature so that they could explain their absence or how they could be reached at odd times, so I added it. I found it interesting that this feature evolved into a forum for social commentary and amusing observations. Finger was picked up by a number of other groups with DEC-10 computers that were connected to Arpanet -- software flowed in all directions around the net in those days. It later migrated to Un*x, probably via U.C. Berkeley. Somewhere along the line the idea arose to provide a network Finger service. I don't remember who suggested that but it seemed like a good idea at the time so I stuck it in. Some other anxious people wanted to be able to verify that their mail was delivered to specific addressees, so the Mail feature was also added. While I was somewhat surprised by the popularity of Finger, it has not been as successful as an earlier program that I invented -- the spelling checker. It too was created to fill a personal need that many others apparently share. We didn't think about commercial development and software protection in those days, but if we had we probably could have made something out of it. On the other hand, I enjoyed the comradery of those gentler times and have no regrets. -Les Earnest (Les@Sail.Stanford.edu) -- Sean Colbath email@example.com ...uunet!rochester!colbath "And now for something completely different..." From mrc@Tomobiki-Cho.CAC.Washington.EDU Thu Feb 22 13:21:20 1990 From: mrc@Tomobiki-Cho.CAC.Washington.EDU (Mark Crispin) Newsgroups: alt.folklore.computers Subject: Re: Etymology time again... Date: 20 Feb 90 23:55:37 GMT Distribution: alt Organization: Mendou Zaibatsu, Tomobiki-Cho, Butsumetsu-Shi In article firstname.lastname@example.org (Barry Shein) writes: >Someone probably has the truth but finger certainly goes back at least >as far as the mid-late 70's on ITS systems. FINGER originated on the DECsystem-10 at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (SU-AI, now SAIL.Stanford.EDU). It was written by Les Earnest in the SAIL (a cousin of ALGOL) programming language. This was in the late 1960's or early 1970's. Ken Harrenstein implemented FINGER at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (MIT-AI) as NAME. A FINGER protocol was implemented soon afterwards. This was in the mid 1970's. The next version of FINGER was for Tenex and TOPS-20, writen by Mike McMahon and Stuart Cracraft. A later TOPS-20 FINGER was written (in order of who worked on it) in the early 1980's by myself, Mike Peeler, and David Eppstein. By 1979, the number of FINGER servers had proliferated to the point that everyone had given up on having "FINGER @*" (!!!) work. I think the first Unix finger programs appeared by 1979 or so; I have a bit set that UCLA-SECURITY had a finger program written by Lauren Weinstein. _____ ____ ---+--- /-\ Mark Crispin Atheist & Proud _|_|_ _|_ || ___|__ / / 6158 Lariat Loop NE R90/6 pilot |_|_|_| /|\-++- |=====| / / Bainbridge Island, WA "Gaijin! Gaijin!" --|-- | |||| |_____| / \ USA 98110-2098 "Gaijin ha doko ka?" /|\ | |/\| _______ / \ +1 (206) 842-2385 "Niichan ha gaijin." / | \ | |__| / \ / \ mrc@CAC.Washington.EDU "Chigau. Gaijin ja nai. kisha no kisha ga kisha de kisha-shita Omae ha gaijin darou." sumomo mo momo, momo mo momo, momo ni mo iroiro aru "Iie, boku ha nihonjin." uraniwa ni wa niwa, niwa ni wa niwa niwatori ga iru "Souka. Yappari gaijin!"