Fortune cookies

Think much, speak little, write less.

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Hackers at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Project in the late 1960s and 1970s loved Chinese food, and the Bay Area had great Chinese food: Louis Kao's Hsi Nan at Town & Country Village (later in Menlo Park and Redwood City), Chef Chu's on El Camino, and Kapok in Oakland were among our favorites. After dinner, we stuck the fortunes from our fortune cookies into our shirt pockets and headed back to the AI Lab, where most useful work was done very late at night. Then we typed the gathered fortunes into a fortune file, so we could receive a random fortune each time we logged in.

One time I reached into my pocket and pulled out "This garment inspected by #17", so I just typed it in; it became a local favorite. (Thirty-five years later, I realize this anecdote is probably incomprehensible to younger generations; I haven't bought a shirt with an inspection slip in the pocket in decades.)

The Stanford AI fortune file probably still survives at, but I haven't been able to find it. However, I continued the fortune file tradition when I worked at Mark Williams Company starting in 1977. Our COHERENT operating system had a fortune program /usr/games/fortune, and the fortune at the top of this page is from the COHERENT fortunes file /usr/games/lib/fortunes; this version dates from 4/18/1991.