Shoutout to HTTP libraries' authors - X-Clacks-Overhead


Some of you can be familiar with works of Terry Pratchett, author of the Discworld series. He died exactly 4 years ago and to keep his memory alive there is initiative to keep his memory alive there is initiative to keep him alive by using his own “invention”:

You know they’ll never really die while the Trunk is alive[…]
It lives while the code is shifted, and they live with it, always Going Home.
– Moist von Lipwig, Going Postal , Chapter 13

In Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, the clacks are a series of semaphore towers loosely based on the concept of the telegraph. Invented by an artificer named Robert Dearheart, the towers could send messages “at the speed of light” using standardized codes. Three of these codes are of particular import:

  • 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

When Dearheart’s son John died due to an accident while working on a clacks tower, Dearheart inserted John’s name into the overhead of the clacks with a “GNU” in front of it as a way to memorialize his son forever (or for at least as long as the clacks are standing.)

“A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.”- Going Postal , Chapter 4 prologue

So to keep Sir Terry from death forever (or at least as long as Clacks*) we should pass his name along all Clacks, to do so there is special header that we can use:

X-Clacks-Overhead: GNU Terry Pratchett

Let keep his memory alive, let our inner nerds flourish, keep the Disk spinning and Great A’Tuin swimming through the universe.

* Currently known as the Internet


Hey @hauleth,

This is certainly a more fun proposal than most. I appreciate the sentiment, but would this be the best default for everyone? Presumably, Terry Pratchett lives on even if only one person is doing this. Maybe this would be a better proposal to HTTP library users instead?


Clacks is a good name for a library.


I mean that it should be opt-in (of course), but it would be nice to have them “built in” :wink: