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Rest in peace

Eulogy for Pieter Hintjens

Sebastian Meyen

Pieter Hintjens has passed away. He died earlier this week at his own demand, after learning in April this year that he was suffering from a terminal carcinosis. Under such circumstances, euthanasia is legal in his homeland Belgium.

Pieter was known mostly for founding the ZeroMQ project but he was also an ambitious fighter for the open source philosophy, an active opponent to software patents and an inspiring and keen thinker on open systems of all kind. We had the pleasure of having him as a speaker at two of our JAX conferences (in Mainz and London). In March this year, he gave a keynote at our Internet of Things conference in Munich.

 

Now he is not part of our software community anymore but he had indubitably sent so many invaluable impulses; that is a new kind of experience in our rather young industry.

Pieter was a realist and in clear and analytic words he kept the minutes on his illness and the parting from his own life publicly on Twitter and his blog. In his articles on hintjens.com, he also offered insights into his emotions, his parting from his kids and looked back at his life.

After his first chemotherapy on the 4th of May he said:

To be clear, I’m not resigned, hopeless, or fatalistic. I’m absolutely determined to beat this cancer, by sheer force of will, and blind hope in the miraculous. This is how I’m designed, like a unbreakable self-righting toy. Put me into any situation, no matter how impossible, and I will always find a way to make things work. Yet I know that I’m bullshitting myself in this case. “Always” only ever means, “so far, so good.”

The internet was his dearest metaphor for his philosophy that, in the end, only open systems would prevail globally and in the long term: no proprietary philosophy, no closed system of just one vendor or consortium would ever have been able to offer the basis for this living and worldwide system. “Living systems are like the free economy: decentralized, sturdy, unplanned and belonging to everyone”, he said during his keynote at our conference.

Personally, I was fascinated with the way he thought about globalization without any illusions. Whilst most Europeans still think about China as the elongated workbench of our industry, he was able to explain how radical and innovative Chinese hardware designers are pushing onto the market with new ideas for products and how they proof that short iterations and the principles of Continuous Delivery are not only applicable to software development.

Last Tuesday he announced the date of his death on Twitter. As of this day the world has lost a brilliant intellectual and an excellent technician. We would like to express our sincere condolences to his family. You can donate to them via PayPal (ph@imatix.com).

Rest in peace, Pieter.

Pieter Hintjens, 12/3/1962 – 10/04/2016

Pieter Hintjens, 12/3/1962 – 10/04/2016

Author
Sebastian Meyen
Sebastian is Chief Content Officer at S&S Media, the publisher of JAXenter.com. He has been actively involved with the IT industry for almost two decades. As a journalist he is constantly in touch with thought leaders in software development and architecture. He is editor in chief of the German speaking Java Magazin and program chair of the JAX conferences since 2001. Prior to joining S&S Media, he studied philosophy and anthropology in Frankfurt, Germany.

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