As part of my ongoing research in the field of cyber security, I read a research paper every week and discuss it with my research professor.  As I was reading my paper for the week today, I realized how cool it is to be able to read what is essentially a primary historical source- even though its recent history, in the history of engineering is the history of modern society.

In particular, the paper I was reading today is called “Reflections on Trusting Trust”, by Ken Thompson, who is largely credited for coming up with the Unix operating system.  This makes him a pivotal figure in history because, although not many people nowadays have used Unix, it was one of the earliest powerful operating systems and is directly what Mac OS X and Linux are built upon.  This paper is a transcript of a lecture he gave while accepting computer science’s highest honor, the Turing Award, in 1984.

Even though he received the award for his work on Unix, he gave his talk on computer security, specifically on what security engineers called the issue of “trusted computing.”  It is still an open question that asks- how do we know whether we can trust hardware and software from other people? It is a question that many universities and companies have obsessed over for decades.

This isn’t the only historical document I’ve read- many papers I’ve read paint a picture of how different the world of computers was even a decade ago.  A good example is a paper about the first known Internet worm- not only does the paper still remain relevant today, but it documents how the idea of a worm over the internet wasn’t even thought up until it happened!

And being at USC, you get access to some of the biggest online databases from professional organizations and societies, so you can read all these- they normally are not readily available without that type of access.  Personally, I use USC’s access to the Association for Computer Machinery (ACM) database and Intstitute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) database the most.

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Hopefully, one day I’ll get a paper added to some of those databases- I’ve got a paper undergoing reworking right now.


Have a great week,