Updated: Apr 7, 2022
The legacy my dad left has always inspired me as it made me realise early on the impact you can make in the world. When dad lectured at the UNSW back in the 70s and 80s he wrote a commentary on one of the early editions of UNIX to help his students understand a real computer operating system, as nothing like it was available.
Soon after the book was deemed illegal but some copies had already been distributed to his students. Subsequently - and at a time that photocopiers had become available - these were passed around and photocopied by researchers, academics and industry worldwide, and it became the most illegally photocopied document in computer history.
Students around the world had photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of photocopies of photocopies - to the point they were barely legible. But it was their technical bible to understand code. Peter Salus, a UNIX historian said that 'the book was the most important book in computer history for decades' and others, including some of his students said that they would meet at night to discuss the book and 'it was the only time in my life that I was an active member of the underground'.
On 27 May 2021 UNSW Computer Science and Engineering held a day of lectures named after dad, the 'John Lions Distinguished Lectures'. The final speaker was the creator of MINIX Andrew S. Tanenbaum who said that the direct path to Android - which is the operating system that underpins Google's touchscreen devices, tablets, and cell phones included - Version 6 of UNIX - Dad's book (Commentary on the V6 of Unix Source Code)- Minix-Linux- Android.
Dad's students also say that it wasn't just the book he wrote but the way he connected people ie students and academics with industry, that also made a lasting impact.
It was always dad's dream to see his book published but it wasn't to be and he was forced to retire when he fell ill with the degenerative illness 'Corticobasal Degeneration'. That was extremely tough. Some of his peers continued his fight to get his book published - and after 20 years they finally succeeded. Although he was gravely ill, his face lit up when he saw it. You can read the full story here in the article "Code Critic' published in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999.
After dad died the full impact of his work was starting to be realised, with his students raising money to honour him and his legacy to create a CHAIR position in his name. In 2002 the University of New South Wales also dedicated a garden in his name, with a beautiful tree in the centre.
At the conference the garden was re-dedicated - this time the tree lit up in lights (pictured). Dad would be immensely proud and more importantly, proud that so many people around the world have been able to achieve such great things because of his contribution.
My dad's story is the inspiration behind my 3D Life Vision®.
Have you ever thought about the legacy that you wish to leave?