I terminated one of my open-source projects today. MIXAL is dead; it has been replaced by the GNU MIX Development Kit, alias MDK. Open-source projects die so seldom that the circumstances deserve a minor note.
I didn’t actually write MIXAL; somebody named ‘Darius Bacon’ (probably this guy) did it, under DOS. I stumbled across it in 1998, ported it to Unix, and fixed some minor bugs. Later, when I was in semi-regular contact with Don Knuth, he contributed two of his test programs and a text description of MIX from The Art of Computer Programming. Don gets open source; he was careful to arrange with his publisher terms that allow this material to be redistributed not just by me but by any project shipping under an open-source license.
I’m not sure when the MDK project started. When I first ran across it, it seemed to me to be not as capable as MIXAL; I made a note of it in my README file but did not consider simply handing off to it. That might have been as much a decade ago; when I re-encountered it recently, it looked a great deal more polished and mature. I, on the other hand, had barely touched MIXAL since I first ported it.
The world needs one competently-written MIX interpreter, but it doesn’t need two. So I looked up MDK’s maintainer and negotiated a handoff; he got the material Don Knuth donated to MIXAL, and I got to put MIXAL to a tidy end.
This what the open-source version of what musicologists call “folk process” looks like. Re-use, improve, contribute – and when someone else is clearly doing a better job, let go.