Some years ago, in The Delusion of Expertise, I wrote about the memorable occasion in 2003 on which some friends and I were able to bestow on author Terry Pratchett the accolade of hacker, recognizing him as what he had always been: one of us.
Now comes the news that as part of his preparations to be formally knighted by the Queen of England, Terry made his own sword – smelted the iron, and helped hand-forge it. Including, as he says, “several pieces of meteorites â€” thunderbolt iron, you see â€” highly magical, youâ€™ve got to chuck that stuff in whether you believe in it or not”.
To heck with a trivium like knighthood – with this beautiful hack, Terry ascends to a different pantheon. Here’s what I emailed him:
That is take-my-breath-away *awesome*. Even though no actual code is
involved, it arguably exceeds the awesomeness even of the guys in
Norway who actually implemented TCP/IP over carrier pigeons in 2002.
Some instances of ha-ha-only-serious achieve a sublime quality that
will be praised as long as there are geeks and hackers to remember
them. I think this is one.
Happens I taught Terry how to shoot pistols that weekend in 2003. I hope his sword is properly balanced for combat use, because this I swear on my honor as a swordsman and a geek: if I ever make it to within travel range of Terry and his sword, I will teach him at least the basics of what he needs to know to use it properly.
Well, unless he already knows. It never came up when we talked, but he could be a swordsman too. I think I’m long past being surprised by any brilliant talent Terry exhibits.