"When I was but a wee computer science student at New Mexico Tech, a graduate student in OS handed me an inch-thick print-out and told me that if I was really interested in operating systems, I had to read this. It was something about a completely lock-free operating system optimized using run-time code generation, written from scratch in assembly running on a homemade two-CPU SMP with a two-word compare-and-swap instruction - you know, nothing fancy. The print-out I was holding was Alexia (formerly Henry) Massalin's PhD thesis, Synthesis: An Efficient Implementation of Fundamental Operating Systems Services (html version here). Dutifully, I read the entire 158 pages. At the end, I realized that I understood not a word of it, right up to and including the cartoon of a koala saying 'QUA!' at the end. Okay, I exaggerate - lock-free algorithms had been a hobby of mine for the previous few months - but the main point I came away with was that there was a lot of cool stuff in operating systems that I had yet to learn."