ddate - a timeline

Today is Pungenday, the 14th day of Bureaucracy in the YOLD 3183

One of the subtle fun things about being a discordian is seeing Discordianism popping up in unexpected places. We got a dwarf planet named (possibly), got a TV-show host to make some vague references (probably), and there's a copy of our holy book in the JFK assassination archives.

But one of the nerdiest places Discordianism used to turn up is on almost every linux computer. There was a program included by default called "ddate" that calculates the discordian date. I'll give you my output right now:

Today is Prickle-Prickle, the 65th day of Bureaucracy in the YOLD 3178

Ddate was on almost every system because it was included in a useful package of common programs call util-linux, and this package was installed on every system. Unfortunately the current maintainer of util-linux has decided that ddate is a "crazy thing" and has recently decided that it should be removed from linux by default. He did this on June 8, 2012.

Ddate was written on the 65th day of The Aftermath in the Year of Our Lady of Discord 3157 (23 dec 1991) by Druel the Chaotic, obviously in a fit of pre-christmas religious fervor. It's a short program, and Druel uses variable names like "eris", "bob", "hastur" and "raw". In the introductory text Druel gives us his other name ("Jeremy Johnson") and even his zip code.

The ddate he wrote is not the only ddate, in 1993 Rev. T. L. Puckett wrote a perl script also called ddate, that did the same thing.

In early 1994 Lee Harvey Oswald Smith, K.S.C. created a package of discordian softwares that he called "The Emperor Norton Utilities":

The Emperor Norton Utilities is a collectionm of Discordian software. It is the software equivalent of Discordian sainthood. The utilities include mainstays such as ddate, M-x dissociate, and chef, as well as anything you may care to nominate. Indeed, it can contain entire operating systems (such as Linux) and even hardware devices (such as the software-controlled Amiga power light). The documentation for this software consists of the Principia Discordia, the Ludwig Plutonium Hymnbook, Kibo's signature and that sign in California which reads STOP CASTING POROSITY", as well as other sacred tracts too numerous to mention.

(M-x dissociate is a script for transforming any text into potentially humorous garbage. Chef does pretty much the same thing, but in Swedish. Kibo is someone worth looking up, if you haven't heard about him)

L.H.O. Smith also adjusted ddate to make it work on unix-like systems (e.g. linux). His greatest contribution to the code is probably the variable name "funkychickens".

Then, in 1994, Rik Faith put ddate in version 1.7 of util-linux. In 1995 the program was made a lot more sophisticated.

In 2002 Göran Weinholt defended ddate beautifully:

  > People with more traditional moral values might not
  > appreciate a reference to or advertisement for this movement
  > being present on their system.  However, because it is in
  > util-linux, they will not be able to selectively remove it
  > (unless they write a script that is to be run after every
  > upgrade).
  I for one will not stand for this. I personally use ddate, I use it in
  some scripts, I know other people do the same, and I know some Debian
  developers would be annoyed if ddate was removed. There are even programs
  that use ddate, e.g. freecraft and the games that use its engine.
  I will be very sad if Debian can't include ddate because an imaginary
  user with "traditional moral values" means more than real users.

Unfortunately, 10 years later, his plea was not heard, and ddate is out of default linux, and on most systems you need to add it yourself. I will be creating instructions on how to do this in the future. I tried to contact some of the people mentioned here, but I didn't get any comment.