A stream of Terry A. Davis & TempleOS related videos sourced from the https://archive.org/details/TerryADavis_TempleOS_Archive Terry A. Davis had schizophrenia. A severe mental disability. It was not uncommon for him to say things many would consider offensive. This stream can be very NSFW.
Ancient Egyptians seem to be the most forward-thinking in their treatment of mental illness; they recommended that those afflicted with mental pathology engage in recreational activities such as concerts, dances, and paintings in order to relieve symptoms and achieve some sense of normalcy.
All good in ancient Egypt until you realise they went in for the ol’ wandering womb theory. But it’s shocking to see how much suffering has been inflicted on people with mental illness throughout human history.
This combination of TempleOS’s amateurish approach and Terry’s unfortunate outbursts have resulted in TempleOS being often regarded as something to be mocked, ignored, or forgotten. Many people have done some or all of those things, and it’s understandable why.
I’m reminded of a movie I once saw called Lars And The Real Girl, in which a man buys a RealDoll and treats her as his real girlfriend. Rather than laughing at him, the residents of his town instead band together and treat her as if she were a real person too. When I started watching it, I expected some Will Ferrell-esque comedy where this guy would be played only for laughs. Instead, I found an incredibly compassionate story within. The writer, Nancy Oliver, got the idea after thinking:
“What if we didn’t treat our mentally ill people like animals? What if we brought kindness and compassion to the table?”
There are many bad things to be said about TempleOS, many aspects of it that seem poorly constructed or wouldn’t work in the “real world”. I’m going to ignore them here. It’s very easy to be negative, but you will never learn anything new by doing so.
Many might consider TempleOS a waste of time, compared to more fully-featured OSs such as Linux, because it will never have the same success. Plan 9, developed by Bell Labs, was a research OS designed to be a successor to Unix. Despite some big names and big ideas, it was never any kind of commercial success. Was Plan 9 therefore a waste of time? Many would argue not, as some of its ideas have since found their way into other products.
Perhaps we should instead look at TempleOS as a research operating system: what can be accomplished if you’re not locked into established thinking, backwards compatibility, and market demands.
What can we learn if we are only willing to listen?
I’ll always remember him wearing that backwards baseball cap, showing off his creation with excited eyes. “I am the smartest programmer that ever lived,” he says several times. As the video gravitates to profanity-laced chest-thumping, he demonstrates the 3D shapes he’s just coded up to spin over his command line. He calls Unix “the last war” and was critical of the Massachusetts Institute if Technology.
Davis’ work may continue, since there’s a fork of TempleOS “for heretics.” It’s called Shrine.
“The phrase, ‘tortured artist’ is thrown around a lot, but he really was a tortured artist… it’s a sad end to a life that went awry for reasons beyond his or anyone’s control.”
“He needed a lot of help, but a great hacker has passed, and we should remember him for his work.”
“I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it’s been living such a challenging life for all these years.”
“I always thought of Terry as somewhat of an anti-hero of the hacker community. Most of us know what it feels like to go down a rabbit hole building something technically impressive, yet ultimately useless, because the voices in our heads told us to.”
Over 600 people upvoted the story, offering one more testimonial to the memories Davis left behind. In the end, nearly 200 comments were added to the thread.
Terry Davis asks God about war (“Servicemen competing”) and death (“awful”), about dinosaurs (“Brontosaurs’ feet hurt when stepped”) and His favorite video game (“Donkey Kong”). God’s favorite car is a “Beamer,” and His favorite singer is Mick Jagger, though if He could sing He’d want to sound like Christopher Hall from Stabbing Westward. His favorite national anthem is Latvia’s. His favorite band is, no surprise, The Beatles, but Rush and Triumph are pretty good, too. Classical music is poison. The best thing Bill Gates could do to save lives, God says, is work on earthquake prediction. The Eleventh Commandment is “Thou shall not litter.” Terry Davis tells God everything seems bad. God replies: “Plant trees.”
The words pour out on TempleOS.org, a torrent of verified random numbers, news links, YouTube videos, and scriptural exegesis. It’s the dense work of a single, restless mind writing ceaselessly without an audience.
After two months of emails and phone conversations, I know more than when I began; specifically, I’ve accumulated more raw data, more facts about his life and experience. But I suspect I’ve only sketched a shadow. The full reality remains unreachable, an irreducible mystery.
Jesse Hick’s article is perhaps the best thing ever written about Terry and his work, you guys should absolutely check it out. And when Jesse finishes his follow up article, we will of course link our listeners right to it.