Hello world, 08-28-2012
Hello world illustration by Linda Saboe

Table of Contents:

Let the Bugs Work Themselves Out by Luna Lindsey

Nikki 2.3 by Brent Knowles

The Clockworm by Karen Heuler


Editors' Note: A Brief Introduction to the End/Beginning of the World

In the late 1970s, I witnessed something incredible and world-changing: the Radio Shack in Granite Run Mall set a table out in the hallway. On that table was a grey box, a small black & white television, a typewriter-like keyboard, and a cassette tape recorder. It was a computer, the TRS-80. Like the things we'd seen in science fiction movies, and in video reels in science class. But instead of filling a room, or a building, it was right there. On the table.

The screen was lit, and a white dot blinked at us. There was a chair, empty, sitting in front of it.


We now had a reason to beg our parents to take us to the mall.

This was, for me, the moment when the world started to change, a turning point that lead to laptop computers and smart phones and the Internet, chat rooms and Project Gutenberg and LOLcats. Changing for good and for ill. There are always tradeoffs: a world where everything is data, and the data is just milliseconds away; a world where you are data, and your data is just milliseconds away from someone else.

The shift started some time earlier, of course. It was more subtle, even, than a little grey box in front of the Radio Shack. Even if I'd been lucky enough to witness it, I doubt I'd have understood the significance of a little program developed in a computer room at Bell Labs as a way to introduce computer programming.

Brian Kernighan first published the code for 'hello, world' in an internal Bell Labs memo, A Tutorial Introduction To The Language B, on August 28th, 1972, and then subsequently in Kernighan & Richie's seminal book, The C Programming Language. From there, the 'hello, world' program migrated to many other programming languages, and became as a matter of course the first program a student learned.

This marked a rhetorical and paradigmatic shift in how we approach computers: in the past, we’d had to master the computer; now the computer introduced itself to us, and offered to help. John Mount's article, Hello World: An Instance Rhetoric in Computer Science gives an interesting analysis of this rhetorical change. The 'hello, world' program was the beginning of a shift in how we perceived our relationship with the computer, and with that perceptual shift came all the possibilities that followed.

Forty years later, as those possibilities became actualities, the world has changed so thoroughly and dramatically that it is now difficult to find anything in the "real" world that is not touched, influenced, or altered by the world of computers.

For the 'hello, world' mini-issue of The Journal of Unlikely Entomology, we asked writers to give us tales of something new coming into the world, something which, now that it has come, changes everything. (And also, bugs.) In turn, our authors presented us with tales of evolution and transformation. In this issue, you’ll find a computer program, a colony of insects, and a handful of mechanical devices, all clever enough to exceed their established parameters, and adapt to a new world, or force the world to adapt to them.

Happy birthday, 'hello, world.'


Cover Illustration
Hello world by Linda Saboe