March 6th, 2008
Many of you have seen the net classic If Operating Systems Were Airlines. Today, let’s consider what the world might be like if version control systems were airlines…
Before anyone gets mad, this is all in fun, OK?
RCS Airlines: One of the first airlines, from way back when this whole aviation thing was new and exciting. Each RCS flight carries exactly one passenger, which RCS believes is a superior way to fly. Although most RCS airplanes are rusty and battered today, RCS Airlines still retains its historic dedication to security. Each airplane is kept locked as much as possible for safety. Occasionally flights will be delayed for hours because the pilot can’t open the locked plane. When this happens, the pilot will frantically try to get the cell phone number of whoever it is that has locked the plane. When the plane finally gets unlocked, you may be tempted to ask why it was locked for so long. Veteran RCS users have learned that the answer is usually disgusting, and never ask anymore. Main competitor: CP/M airlines.
CVS Airlines: Founded on the belief that they could be more efficient than RCS by carrying multiple passengers per flight. They still carry each passenger in a separate RCS-built airplane, but the airplanes fly in a goose-like “,V” formation. Watch out for layovers, though. It can take hours to merge new passengers into the formation properly, and it might take several attempts to take off afterwards.
CVS flights often feature fights over who gets to fly. CVS piloting fights are legendary; rumor has it that OpenBSD got started after CVS airlines refused to allow a passenger to board on the grounds that he had in the past refused to stow his tray table in the upright and locked position.
CVS airlines mostly counts as customers the “over-50” crowd who grew up using CVS and don’t like change. Its in-flight magazine features advertisements for balding-reversal treatments and uuencode tools.
Main competitor: AIX airlines.
Subversion Airlines: Started by some grey-haired CVS executives with long, wispy beards, Subversion airlines got started by trying to be “CVS, but better”. Subversion airlines was the first major airline to use planes that seat more than one passenger. Unlike CVS airlines, all passengers on a Subversion flight travel in the same plane.
Subversion airlines is famous for its Soviet-like centralized control. All operations must be approved by the Kremlin, and you are allowed, by the grace of the Party Leader, to gaze at the massive airplanes. Those that have served the Party and Airline well for many years are allowed to enter the Great Shrine of the First-Class Comitter, and actually make changes to the airplanes themselves. Plainclothes Subversion Airlines security agents lurk on every flight, and you should not be surprised to be thrown out an airplane window if you make a joke in bad taste about the pilot’s flying skills.
Subversion airlines thrives on the concept that “photocopying is cheap”. You are encouraged to make photocopies of your ticket, or to photocopy your photo ID, and give copies of each to as many people as you can. At checkin time at the gate, if more than one person arrives with a copy of the same ticket, they are ushered into the “merging room” and each person is given a brick. The door is closed, something magical occurs, and the one person that emerges still able to walk is allowed to board the plane.
Main competitor: Windows airlines with no Administrators allowed.
tla airlines: Founded by one of those eccentric British noblemen, Lord Tom’s airline is the utopian philosopher’s airline. Chafed by the heavy-handed control of Subversion Airlines, tla airlines wants every passenger to be created equal. As you approach the gate area in the terminal, you will find many philosophers occupying the gate area, extolling the virtues of tla airlines. They compare tla airlines to reaching out and touching the heavens, leaving behind the bonds of a ground-based life, actually merging with the stars. Oh, the gorgeous beauty of it all! The things we will see!
As you see people arriving from another flight, you observe that some of them have burn marks. One of them comments that “merging with the stars doesn’t work.” Immediately, a dozen philosophers get in a fight with him, claiming that he simply doesn’t understand what it means to merge with the stars, and that if he gets his inner being in the proper state first, he’ll have a much better experience.
As you board the tla airplane, you obvserve that the jetway is a mile long. The airplane itself reminds you of something of a cross between a gothic cathedral and a level of Doom. There are spectacular archways everywhere, sometimes where they don’t really belong. Each archway is supported by ornate curly braces which you don’t normally see on airplanes, and frankly, you’d rather not, because they look all pointy and confuse the kids.
As you arrive as your destination terminal, you see it too is full of philosophers, most of them dining.
Main competitor: VMS airlines.
Darcs Airlines: Unlike every other airline, this one uses physicists instead of engineers to design its airplanes. One brilliant Darcs physicist has finally come up with The Theory of Everything, and as such, Darcs knows where you want to go before even you do. Darcs airlines prides itself on customer service, and asks your preference for even the tiniest details about your trip.
Each seat pocket features a copy of the Theory of Everything for your reading enjoyment, but nobody actually understands it.
Occasionally, you will find that Darcs pilots get into angry conflicts with the control tower in mid-flight. This results in the control tower revoking your permission to land. Legend has it that one Darcs pilot of a plane with exceptionally large fuel tanks actually resolved his conflict with the tower and landed two weeks after taking off. Experienced Darcs users board with several parachutes: one for themselves, and a few more for the newbies.
The Darcs physicists claim that the Theory of Everything predicted the pilots would act this way, and that all pilots eventually act this way throughout the entire universe. They toil day and night finding a way to adjust the gravitational constant of the universe, thereby reducing the anger factor of the pilots.
Main competitor: OS/2 airlines.
bzr airlines: Founded by a South African who had been injured by a curly brace on tla airlines, bzr airlines aims to be “tla done right”. They have shortened the jetway, gotten rid of the curly braces, chased out the philosophers, and no longer have a vision of merging with the stars. Many that were injured on tla airlines fly bzr airlines, and out of respect for tla airlines, bzr airlines will still honor tla tickets.
bzr passengers consider themselves part of an exclusive club because each flight takes off from a launchpad. They often can be seen standing in the terminal passing out bzr literature, trying to get passengers of other airlines to fly bzr, and can’t understand how other airlines continue to exist while people keep walking past their airplanes.
Main competitor: BeOS Airlines.
Bitkeeper Airlines: One of the world’s faster airlines, Bitkeeper airlines occupied that obscure gate for rich people at the end of the terminal for many years. Tickets on Bitkeeper Airlines were rumored to cost thousands of dollars, and were rare and jealously guarded. Then for awhile, Bitkeeper Airlines started giving away tickets for free, though they also kept around the expensive tickets for those with discriminating tastes. Free tickets were made widely available, but the 3-point type on the back of tickets said that you were never allowed to think about another airline before, after, or during your flight, and some people claimed they actually saw the small print morphing right before their eyes.
Bitkeeper flights often featured arguments over whether people were harboring secret thoughts of other airlines. If you were caught thinking about another airline, you were expected to scream vigorously while being thrown out the escape hatch without a parachute. All of this commotion tarnished the rarified air that the rich people paid to experience, so one day it was decided that there would be a Great Purge, because obviously all free ticket holders had harbored lustful thoughts of other airlines, so they were all thrown off the airplanes simultaneously. Today, people aren’t exactly sure where the Bitkeeper gate is, but everyone suspects it still lurks somewhere.
Main competitor: SCO Airlines.
Mercurial Airlines: The “there’s one right way to do it” airline, Mercurial is a sterile, agile, and shiny airline. Every Mercurial airplane looks identical to every other one, shiny and clean. You could swear that all the passengers look alike too, and as you approach the gate, it seems like you too look like everyone else. Mercurial passengers tend to be a happy bunch, who can’t comprehend anybody that flies Git Airlines. Specks of dirt and dust confuse the pilots, so it is best to make sure you have showered before boarding. It is rumored that, through bolting on more engines, some Mercurial airlines can fly to as many places as Git airlines can, but most Mercurial passengers are content to not worry about that.
Main competitor: Python Airlines.
Git Airlines: The “there’s more than one way to do it” airline, Git flies the world’s largest and fastest airplanes. Git Airlines was founded by some priests who were flying for free on Bitkeeper Airlines and survived the fall after the Great Purge. Git airplanes start as spartan, empty cabins, with no carpeting, chairs, or piloting controls. At the departure gate, each passenger is handed a bag containing 173 standard airplane components, accompanied by a 4×5″ sheet of information on the theory of flight, written in 1950. Once onboard, the passengers use these components to finish out the airplane for flight: installing chairs, rudder controls, etc. Every flight results in a plane assembled in a different way, and passengers on each flight believe they are flying the world’s best airplane. Arguments in the terminal after a flight are common, as passengers from different flights debate the merits of their particular design.
Despite all this, Git planes turn out to be safe, and Git passengers believe they get to their destinations in half the time it takes any other passengers, though sometimes they secretly wonder if the Mercurial flight got there faster. Occasionally, passengers on Git airlines build an airplane that appears to go into a tailspin. When that happens, they simply assemble a tool that lets them go back in time and change history so that it doesn’t crash, although it is rumored that if you are a member of the public watching this happen from the ground, it will lead to seizures.
Git airlines takes special pride in the one piece that passengers don’t have to assemble: the plumbing. Every Git lavatory is equipped with state-of-the-art never-fail plumbing, and the best porcelain washroom fixtures money can buy. None of these cheap plastic toilets like you get on every other airline. Here, we have fine porcelain fixtures.
During a flight, after passengers use the lavatory, they frequently get into arguments with each other about which style of porcelain toilet is the best. These arguments are only resolved by the Zen-like Git Priests, who insist that only inferior passengers need to use a toilet while in the air.
Main competition: Perl Airlines.