Well, IMHO, it’s still a little short of crystal-clear.
I still don’t see a single sentence that says,
I’m looking for historical references
that describe the decision-making process
that led to the decision to use the name
I don’t even see a question that says,
/dev/null given that name?” except in the title,
and in Michael Homer’s edit,
and some of us believe
that a question ought to make perfect and complete sense
even if its title is removed.
Your version of yours didn’t quite (again, IMHO).
It meandered around,
saying “I wonder why” (which is not an actual question)
and (gently and politely) ranting that it should be called
that the name
/dev/null is inappropriate,
that the documentation discussing it doesn’t make sense,
and that the “black hole” analogy doesn’t work for you.
That’s the sort of opinion-based talk that got the question closed,
and Michael improved the question by scaling that back.
Also, note the official close reason:
Many good questions generate some degree of opinion
based on expert experience,
but answers to this question will tend to be
almost entirely based on opinions,
rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.
It’s fairly well known that Unix was basically created
by two people (Dennis M. Ritchie and Ken Thompson).
Some reports suggest that they were basically
playing around with some hardware that nobody else was using;
even that the work was (to at least some extent) motivated
by a desire to have a platform that ran a game that they wanted to play.
It’s unclear whether they were working under anybody’s direction,
or merely with their employers’ permission.
They probably didn’t know that they were creating a dynasty
that is now in its fifth decade.1
I don’t know whether Ritchie and Thompson shared an office,
or had offices in the same hallway, or what.
In any case, given the informality of the early days,
it seems likely that many decisions were made in casual conversations.
There probably were not a lot of formal, design committee review meetings,
and it’s unlikely that many records were kept (and preserved for 45 years!).
I found a reference to the design of the file system
being worked out on a chalkboard (an intrinsically ephemeral medium).
I can imagine that some trivial decisions (like names for things)
were made unilaterally by one of the developers,
with no consultation or record-keeping.
My point is, I find it highly unlikely
that there are any historical records that would answer your question.
We’re having trouble piecing together the software base
and the official documentation from that far back,
and documentation on why developers made arbitrary decisions
tends to be sparse.
Of course, there might be records;
there was some published discussion regarding
why the file-creation system call was called
when the software development system supported six-letter identifiers
And, if any of the surviving2 members
of the Unix development team are on Stack Exchange,
I’d be thrilled to hear from them.
But, IMHO, it’s a needle in a haystack,
and “answers to this question will tend to be
almost entirely based on opinions,
rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.”
I fear that your question will attract counter-rants
from people explaining why they believe
/dev/null is a perfectly sensible name
(and perhaps critiquing
And I would remind you of this paragraph
from What types of questions should I avoid asking? —
You should only ask practical, answerable questions
based on actual problems that you face.
Chatty, open-ended questions
diminish the usefulness of our site
and push other questions off the front page.
There has been some debate about what “actual problems that you face” means.
To clarify (at the risk of beating a dead horse),
I’m not totally opposed to history-related questions
if they are original/unique, on-topic, clear, well-scoped, objective,
Hypothetical examples of acceptable history-related questions include:
- In what version of Unix was feature X first introduced?
- How could you do Y in Unix before then?
- When was version Z released?
- What did you, Giacomo Tesio, have for lunch on September 9, 1973
(or some other arbitrary date in the distant past)?
(And, of course, this would not be on-topic; I offer it to make a point.)
These questions may be answerable
with facts, references, or specific knowledge.
You might still have a receipt from lunch on September 9, 1973.
But, if we ascertain what you had for lunch,
and we then ask why you chose that meal, the slope gets more slippery.
There’s probably no record of why you selected that food.
Conceivably you might remember,
but you won’t be able to support an answer with evidence,
and it’s almost impossible that anybody else would be able
to give an authoritative answer at all.
And yet you’re asking
“What was Dennis Ritchie thinking on some day in the early 1970s?”
OK, in spite of all of that, I have voted to reopen,
in the hope that somebody may be able to provide a good answer.
Happy New Year.
1 Of course, this is largely speculation on my part;
i.e., my opinion.
It’s next to impossible for us to ascertain
what they knew and when they knew it.
2 Dennis M. Ritchie died in 2011,
and, if Ken Thompson is still alive, he’ll be 74 next month.