The Eversholt Computer Language

There aren’t many things called “eversholt” on earth, which is convenient when using web search engines. But there is an obscure computer language. How did that happen?

The language is so obscure that it’s quite hard to track down, but an online search for “Eversholt Fault Tree Description Language” will usually turn something up.
Emrys Williams, who lives in Tyrells End, used to design computers for Sun Microsystems. Shortly after 2000, he was working on methods to diagnose problems in complicated systems automatically. Diagnosis is generally quite tricky, because it involves working back from observation of some effect, like “the computer doesn’t work and there’s a nasty smell”, to the cause. Working backwards is hard; working forwards is easier. So Emrys came up with the idea of defining the way errors propagate forward from cause to effect, and having a computer program do the working backwards, which is much easier to think about. The problem then is defining all the things that can go wrong and all the ways that errors can propagate in a system, the “fault tree”, which could be a monumental task, just too big. What’s needed is a very compact way of describing this, so the job of describing it is not overwhelming, and that needed a new language.
Emrys was collaborating with a colleague at Sun, Andy Rudoff. Emrys came up with hare-brained notions and Andy actually understood how to turn them into usable programs. Andy lived in Colorado, so Emrys visited there several times. It was definitely Andy’s turn to visit Emrys, so he flew to the UK and stayed in the Bell at Woburn, travelling to Tyrells End each day to work at Emrys’s house. They were defining the language that they’d use to write down the fault tree, something Andy was expert at. They needed a name for the language, if only so people would remember it –  there were already at least 3000 computer languages. Andy pointed out that Sun Microsystems did have a policy on naming things, just to avoid legal wrangles over using somebody else’s name by mistake, and one of the recommendations was to name things after places, because placenames aren’t copyrighted. They were defining the language in Eversholt, so Andy said that it should be called the eversholt language, and the name stuck.
It’s not a very important language, because it was only ever really used internally in Sun Microsystems, and even that suffered from both Emrys and Andy leaving the company and Sun being taken over by Oracle. But it’s a real computer language, with manuals and training courses and compilers and stuff, forever associated with the corner of Enland that is Eversholt.

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