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What the roots of the endless analogies to Eastern philosophy,

Etc. I don't see this in any other industry? When did this theme start and what kicked it off?

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    I've always assumed that Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was the influence for naming books this way, but it wouldn't have much to do with the form of the books. – Ross Ridge Oct 25 '18 at 19:05
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    I as well assumed that it came from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. So +1 to Ross's comment. – Ken Gober Oct 25 '18 at 19:17
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    @lvd I don't see much of a problem. "Hardware, including peripherals and Software, including operating systems and applications are in scope." If software is specifically included, it is not a stretch to include books describing techniques for writing that software. More problematic is the relatively recent date of one of the books. But since the first book is clearly within the "retro" range, answering the question seems appropriate. – RichF Oct 25 '18 at 19:58
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    @lvd Pleeeeeease don't quote that! It's something that I threw together in half an hour (from some answers on Retrocomputing Meta) that literally nobody else has edited since; it's not representative of what actually is or isn't on-topic. Feel free to edit it - no, please edit it! – wizzwizz4 Oct 25 '18 at 20:06
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    @wizzwizz4: That's something that should be brought up on meta. There literally isn't anywhere else to look to find out what is on topic, the help page is where everybody looks. – Greg Hewgill Oct 25 '18 at 20:15
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As Ross Ridge already mentioned, it's a stream of titles started with Robert Pirsig's book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance of 1974. This book was a rather unique mixture of fiction, autobiography and philosophy focusing on what quality might be, how it's defined and what it means to people.

It was quite influential to the generation that later founded IT development during the 1980s and 1990s. So no wonder that some took the freedom to tie their works with this iconic title.

And no, it's not so much about far eastern philosophy as it seems. Beside being a fiction, it centers around classic, western philosophy.


Somewhat OT:

I don't see this in any other industry?

Oh, don't hold your breath, there are Zillions:

Just a few picks from music business and there's more from poker to table football. A great panpoticum of writers who wanted to play in the same league as the original. No need to say only that very few are worth being mentioned in the same sentence with mr. Pirsig.

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    It was even on the reading list of one of the CS or AI courses I took in the second half of the nineties! – Stephen Kitt Oct 25 '18 at 20:47
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    Possibly coming through Danny Hillis's AI koans ftp.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/jargon/html/koans.html and don't forget "Zen and the art of the Macintosh" which popularized it again in 1986. – user3486184 Oct 25 '18 at 21:53
  • In Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance, there is a chapter on the Gumption Trap. The Gumpton Trap is relevant to software debugging, and this was realized sometime n the 1970s. – Walter Mitty Oct 27 '18 at 2:32
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Pirsig's title (ZatAMM) is a quote from "Zen in the Art of Archery, by Herrigel, from 1948.

Many programmers, artists, and writers (myself included) find that their best work comes when they are in a state of complete un-self-consciousness, their mind fully engaged with the task. No ego, no id, just a mental model that goes from mind to hand. Surfacing, after hours in that state, is incredibly satisfying, just like meditation.

ZatAMM may well have been the source of the reference specifically for programming. But there was already a pivot to meditative practice, since the 60's, I'd suppose. Many in the west who either dabbled with eastern religion, or independently discovered the pleasure of perfect concentration in the egoless state, made the same association, thus "Zen and {mumble}".

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On a related note, I clearly remember The Tao of Programming making the rounds on BBS in the late 80's and early 90's. According to Wikipedia, it was written in 1987 as a bit of a spoof. A year later the same author wrote The Zen of Programming.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tao_of_Programming

Thus spake the master programmer:

"Let the programmers be many and the managers few - then all will be productive."

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