Julia Morgan Would Have Been a Great Unix Programmer

by Chris DiBona

Related link: http://www.greatbuildings.com/buildings/San_Simeon.html

Recently, Californians in the Paso Robles/San Simeon area experienced an earthquake which rated 6.5 on the Richter scale. This caused a great deal of damage and some deaths in the town of Paso Robles. When I heard the news that it was in the San Simeon region, I , like many, thought of Hearst Castle.

Designed by Julia Morgan in 1919, with the famous directive from William Randolph Hearst to “build a little something” on the ranch, the Castle is a beautiful place to visit and is one of the top attractions for visitors to California. But enough tour guide talk, the point of this article is to hold up Julia Morgan for the genius she was and to examine what computer science can learn from her.

The castle itself is made from reinforced concrete with a thin sheathe of marble which gives it the appearance of marble throughout, but the strength to withstand the shaking that building on the San Andreas fault can promise to deliver. Ms. Morgan had seen firsthand in San Francisco the devastation that seismic events can bring, her office had burned down in the 1906 fire. Considering this, she wanted Hearst Castle to be able to stand up to what to her was a reality that she herself faced.

In my mind Julia Morgan would have been a terrific Unix developer, had she been a programmer. She would have noted the horrific construction failures exploited by the Morris worm, blaster and others and designed future structures with them in mind. She would have learned that without proper permission, memory protection and security structures in place, you invite disaster. I’m actually not trying to write yet another Microsoft is insecure article here, that’s been done by better writers than I, but I would love if we could all just learn from our past mistakes in the industry , be more like Julia.

I think we all have something to learn from the durable architecture of Julia Morgan.