You may not know that the first “k” was actually the zeroeth k–thusly: 0-k. It was thought to have been created by a bored Pascal programmer — therefore he or she always started with zero, rather than 1. In fact, the nomenclature assigned to zero-k was thought to be a rebellious act by a programmer sick of FORTRAN’s indexing (beginning with 1 instead of 0). The identity of this programmer is unknown, but at the time (1970) there were only a few dozen die-hard Pascal programmers in the world, so the pool of possible candidates is small. Here is the documentation, in its entirety, that came with the release of 0-k:
On the development of new arbitrary taxonomic k-like structure
Here the anonymous author purports to create a novel structure to be used in as of yet understood algorithms or other proto-class and/or taxonomic constructs. This structure is defined in the Pascal programming language and is now called “k” The first iteration is the zero-k, and will obviously be described with indices un-related to that reprobate FORTRAN. Future iterations will further develop the necessary complexity and intricacy needed for its purpose. Which at this point in time has yet to be defined.
The preceding was published without comment in the January 29, 1970 issue of Programming Daily.
The article was very popular and soon all programmers were talking about 0-k. In a 1974 TIME article a Bell Labs researcher by the name of Dennis Richie (possibly Ritchie) used the phrase, and the reporter dutifully reported it as “0k.” The public latched on quickly and before the end of the year, Richard Nixon was using the phrase “O.K.” in congressional hearings, and the rest is history. But history was not yet done with k.
A few years later, another much longer and much more complex paper on a new k-structure was published. The 1-k was introduced in 1986, but not many people noticed. In fact, there are exactly zero papers citing the 1-k article, although that may have something to do with the difficulty in citing a paper that is impossible to find. The article was published in the back of a punk-rock zine called “Punk-gramming” and no complete copy of the article has ever been found. It was again published anonymously, leading many to believe that the original author was in fact not involved at all. 1-k didn’t fail completely though. The author’s avant garde marketing and promotion of the structure (through the underground music scene) was seen as a breakthrough for companies desperate to reach a unique and underdeveloped audience: middle class American teenagers.
The marketing strategy was not good enough to save a wretched product, however, and 1-k was essentially wiped from the memories of everyone the moment they laid eyes on it.
Everyone loves a comeback, though, and in the mid-to-late 90s, come back k did.
There’s no such thing as bad publicity
PT Barnum could not have possibly predicted the circumstances leading to the rise and sustained blast of 2-k. It may not ring a bell in your consciousness just yet, but just wait. 2-k came published printed on each and every motherboard of the Power Macintosh 4400 in November 1996, but nobody noticed until early the next year after a vitriolic Steve Jobs appeared in a nationwide television ad campaign famous for the closing seconds where a foaming, crazed Jobs runs toward the camera and screams “Whyyyyy twooooo kaaaaaaaay?!?!”
And now your memory is jogged, right? “2-k” — it was always destined to be Y2K. The author, again, is unknown. But the list of candidates here becomes quite small. Who had access to the printed circuit board designs for the Power Macs? We can never be completely sure, but the least I can do–as an intrepid investigative journalist–is suggest that Steve Jobs himself may have been involved. To what end? We may never know. All we know is that Steve Jobs was a huge dick.
The circus surrounding the Y2K panic will not soon be forgotten by 90s kids, so let us not go into that. What we shall consider, though, is the possibility of what is next for k.
There are whisperings and mutterings on the blackest of the dark webs. Even the scariest spiders refuse to crawl upon these sticky strands of pure hate, evil, and anonymosity. Still, the whispers and incantations speak of a third k. Three k may be coming, but are we ready for it? Is it already here? Is it on your doorstep, scratching at the your teak door? Scritch, scritch, scritch… Or is it right… under… your… nose?