On Terry A. Davis

As someone formally diagnosed with schizophrenia who happens to be a programmer, I often get questions such as, “What do you think of Terry A. Davis and his OS, TempleOS?“ While people who ask me this question often mean well, it is often a catalyst for some complicated thoughts on mental illness and product development.

I want to be delicate while also being realistic about Terry. He was, indeed, a brilliant programmer. Where I disagree with him is in his insistence that there was a grand conspiracy to hold back his operating system, perhaps orchestrated by the CIA. Anyone who used his operating system could tell that it was, at the very least, unpolished. While it did have some recreational value, it did not provide a product that people could use that would enrich their lives.

While I certainly can relate to Terry’s sense of fleeting success, I do not ascribe any agency or conspiracy as the cause of my failures, nor my lack of successes. Any failures I have made in my life are strictly my own and, if nobody wants to read my posts or hire me to do a job, that is on me. Of course, I also disagree with Terry’s use of racial and ethnic slurs. Let’s be clear: schizophrenia does not cause racism. That failure was his own, as well. [Edit: Several people from the HN thread mentioned that his usage of these terms might have stemmed from his persecutory delusions. Well, maybe so. Honestly, that’s still not good, but I can at least see where that perspective comes from. Sorry if I appeared judgmental here. :) ]

So what is the take away from all this? First, that Terry was a complicated figure, often brilliant, but certainly flawed. Second, that it is not my intention to present my lack of (current) success as anything other than the failures (so far) to produce a useful product.

With that said, I wish to send regards to Terry’s family and say a prayer that he is now in a better place. May he find many successes in (if it exists) the afterlife. :)