GNU Headers

First Published: Tue Nov 08 2022
Last Updated: Tue Nov 08 2022

In the Terry Pratchett novel Going Postal Pratchett pays homage to the early internet in the form of the Clacks. It's essentially a in world equivalent to the telegraph system, however instead of copper and dots and dashes, it uses semaphore towers with huge sets of shutters so that it can include not only the messages being sent, but the metadata around those messages.

Going Postal introduces a header on the clack message system called GNU.

  • G: send the message on
  • N: do not log the message
  • U: turn the message around at the end of the line and send it back again

This is a header that's not in the official books or system logs, it's a header that's been added by the Clacks operators themselves to help keep alive the memory of people who have died working on the Clacks.

“A person is not dead while their name is still spoken” (slightly paraphrased)

Pratchett knew what he was doing when he wrote this, he knew how the internet worked. Soon afterwards people began adopting those headers in their own infrastructure to keep some part of the memory of people they have lost alive.

 It's very simple, there's even a site to tell you how to set it up on the web server of your choice.

To this end I've added GNU headers for people I have lost to the setup for this site. It's my own personal little thing but it works for me I guess.