Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sat 8th Sep 2018 00:03 UTC, submitted by hornett
OSNews, Generic OSes

Terrence Andrew Davis, sole creator and developer of TempleOS (née LoseThos), has passed away at age 48. Davis suffered from mental illness - schizophrenia - which had a severe impact on his life. He claimed he created his operating system after having spoken with and receiving instructions from god, and he was a controversial figure, also here on OSNews, for his incomprehensible rants and abrasive style towards OSNews readers and staff. We eventually had to ban him, but our then-editor Kroc Kamen worked with him in 2010 to publish an article about his operating system despite his ban.

Davis was clearly a gifted programmer - writing an entire operating system is no small feat - and it was sad to see him affected by his mental illness. I mourn his passing, and I wish his family and friends all the strength they need in these trying times. His family and friends are asking people to donate to "organizations working to ease the pain and suffering caused by mental illness", such as The Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

I hope he found peace - wherever he may be.

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reminds me of an old friend
by gus3 on Sun 9th Sep 2018 02:30 UTC
gus3
Member since:
2010-09-02

His name was Dan. He was a coder, like me. He wasn't full-on schizophrenic; instead, he had schizophreniform disorder, in which the disease manifested episodically.

He'd shown signs that his perception of the world wasn't "normal" since childhood. The first full-blown instance was a result of someone putting PCP, a.k.a. "angel dust," in his drink at a party. (The perp went to prison for it.) Over the next week, Dan suffered some wild hallucinations, mood swings, and obsessive-compulsive behavior. When all other options were exhausted, his parents had him committed to a reputable mental hospital, where the goal was treatment, not isolation. Eight months later, he was stable enough for release, although he still wasn't normal by any measure.

Regarding his illness, he always answered any questions I had, honestly & directly. He described the symptoms of a schizophrenic as the inability to distinguish between sensory perceptions and the bubblings of the subconscious mind, when drugs aren't involved. His own case was latent, before his drugged drink at that party. After that, he had to learn nothing less than a new way of life.

I asked him to describe an incident that best illustrated what it's like for him, to explain it to someone with a "normal" (i.e. normally cognitive) mind. He told me this story.

I'd been in [the hospital] for about 5 months. They were finally letting me brush my own teeth, which meant they could trust me to understand what a toothbrush was, and what it was for. That's no small achievement. (laughter)

One morning, I was doing exactly that. I rinsed the toothpaste from my mouth, bent over to spit into the sink, and stood up. It was no longer me in the mirror. It was the devil, the scariest thing I've ever seen in my life. I was paralyzed with terror.

As I stood there, a beautiful angel descended into my right peripheral vision and said, "Dan? I'm not God; I'm not an angel. I'm the part of your brain which is still working properly. Close your eyes and turn around, and it will go away."

It took every bit of courage to follow those words, but I finally did. And yes, it did go away.


Fifteen years after that episode, as he was telling me about it, his narration was totally calm, even finding humor in small points that the rest of us take for granted. But he had accepted his situation.

His hospital regimen boiled down to a few basic points:

-- avoiding excess stress
-- recoginizing the onset of an episode
-- learning how to remind himself, in an episode, that it will end eventually
-- learning how to spot the tricks a schizophrenic mind imposes on sensory perceptions

One of the things he learned later, was how to deal with employers who had to deal with his week-long absences a few times per year. When he was my colleague, the project management team all knew, but it wasn't always the case with other employers.

His last job was, naturally, computer programming. In April 2003, he took his own life in a schizophrenic rage. His bosses attended his funeral, paying final respects to a fatally-flawed genius.

The next day, I went by to thank them for their actions. The CEO knew I was his friend, so she asked me directly if I had any clue why he killed himself.

They didn't know that Dan had a mental illness.

As his friend, I know he trusted me not to damage his reputation or employability, but he also trusted my judgment when it came to talking about his condition. With nothing more to lose for anyone, I spoke candidly with the CEO and COO about the challenges Dan faced, about how he sometimes had to take off a week or two from office work. They knew Dan took some personal time off now and then, but they had no idea that he sometimes couldn't distinguish reality and fantasy.

-------

Many illnesses are hidden from most of us, until suddenly the symptoms become visible. Some are physical, like hypothyroidism, lupus, or diabetes. Some are mental, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. And some are both, like any addiction, even like self-harm.

As people live their lives, they adapt to the challenges they face. The mentally ill do the same, to varying degrees of success. Dan's was the rare case of mental illness that didn't require long-term drugs. He found a balanced state of mind through training and meditation, which let him live a life that "passed for normal." The journey he took to that place was long and very difficult.

In the end, he fell off the mental cliff. But that ledge he walked was far longer than most of us understood, before he died.

-------

Back to the topic: I remember Kroc Kamen's original posting about LoseThos, how it held my interest, from beginning to end, including the video. My friendship with Dan helped me to see how Terry Davis was a similar flawed genius, but more finely cut. Kamen said LoseThos was a "hobby," but Davis's video (or rather, audio) revealed to me a desperation for an audience. It's a symptom of paranoia, which often accompanies schizophrenia: the sense that nobody else understands what you see, and you're afraid to attempt an explanation because you know someone is coming to take you away; when a receptive audience finally shows up, they get a flood of explanation, along with gratitude for being willing to listen.

Terry Davis's illness wasn't his fault, any more than Dan's was his fault. But in Dan's life, he brought blessing to lots of people, directly and indirectly, and usually through totally screwed-up humor.

Terry Davis might now be an unsung genius (or little-sung genius), but these tiny ripples he made in life can have some far-reaching effects. The pure drive someone needs, to put plain text font and 3D-rendered graphics on a 640x480x16 VGA screen, using cooperative multitasking? A JIT compiler using C syntax? At God's command?

I just turned 50, but I may yet live to see any of Terry Davis's "crazy" ideas get incorporated into BSD/*nix/MacOS or even Microsoft Windows Hudson Bay version 0x0f. Maybe not in their original forms (particularly, "at God's command"), but only time can tell what gems TempleOS holds for the rest of us.

-------

As a postscript: Dan was adopted as an infant. Before he died, he contacted his birth mother, who pointed out some interesting things. He had three half-siblings, who shared some interesting traits with him:

-- All were geniuses but one (a sub-genius)
-- All but one of them were heavy smokers

In the "nature vs. nurture" argument about mental development, it was definitely an eye-opener for me.

Reply Score: 10

UglyKidBill Member since:
2005-07-27

Thank you for sharing this... quite moving, and definitively scratched some old memories. Thanks.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE: reminds me of an old friend
by acobar on Mon 10th Sep 2018 00:24 in reply to "reminds me of an old friend"
acobar Member since:
2005-11-15

Thanks for sharing.

73 years after a very dark period in humanity history, intolerance and indifference is spreading once again on our little blue dot. Stories like yours at least keep my hope in humanity alive.

Best regards.

Reply Parent Score: 1

about Dan's totally screwed-up humor
by gus3 on Wed 12th Sep 2018 04:11 in reply to "reminds me of an old friend"
gus3 Member since:
2010-09-02

One afternoon, he and I were among friends, when the conversation steered to a documentary about the atomic bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs carried the nicknames "Fat Man" and "Little Boy", respectively.

Dan had never heard those names, so he didn't really understand what they referred to. Once I explained the names to him, he began to laugh helplessly. The only reference-point he had for such silly names came from the Saturday morning cartoon "Fat Albert," so he thought "Fat Man & Little Boy" might be another kids' animation.

That silly mistake led to so much more humor:

Little Boy: "Say, Fat Man?"

Fat Man: "Yes, Little Boy?"

LB: "What're we gonna do today?"

FM: "We're going to protect world peace!"

LB: "How are we gonna do that?"

FM: "By blowing up everyone who disagrees with us!"

Soon after, Dan even came up with a fantastic jingle for the cartoon:

FM: "I'm Fat Man!"

LB: "I'm Little Boy!"

Both: "We're a Nuclear Famil-eeeee!"

After he sang that jingle, I was literally doubled over on the floor, laughing so hard I couldn't speak. So were two other friends. Dan's screwed-up humor took the rest of us into a silly place, where nobody else thought to go.

Mental illness is a sad burden to bear, but every case has its own points to laugh about.

Reply Parent Score: 2