Snopes.com debunks old C++ hoax, but ...

For anyone bearing the brunt of an Internet hoax that just won't die, there's little more to hope for in terms of potential relief than a story on Snopes.com stating unequivocally that the hoax is indeed a hoax. After all, Snopes is the gold standard when it comes to debunking nonsense

Computer scientist Bjarne Stroustrup recently received that maximum measure of support. Yet the man who designed C++ -- first released commercially in 1985 -- remains resigned to the fact that a fictitious interview he did not give in 1998 about nefarious motivations he did not have for developing the programming language will nonetheless continue to provide him genuine irritation.

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He's right, of course, and we'll get to his reasoning in a moment.

Here's the background for those unfamiliar with the tale: On June 6, Snopes published its findings about the claim that "C++ designer Bjarne Stroustrup admitted in an interview that he developed the language solely to create high-paying jobs for programmers."

The Snopes verdict: false.

Here's an example of the charge Snopes unearthed from an August, 2009 email: "I just ran across a 'leaked' interview with programming language C++ author Bjarne Stroustrup where he clames (sic) to have developed C++ for the express intent of creating a demand for programmers after IBM swamped the market with C programmers in the 90's. Basically I am asking if there is any truth to this. If so this guy duped an entire industry."

There isn't and he didn't. As the bogus legend goes, Stroustrup was interviewed in 1998 by the IEEE's Computer magazine, which opted not to publish the most incendiary passages "for the good of the industry."

If you'd like to read those fictitious passages, there are excerpts available in this Buzzblog post -- http://tinyurl.com/86t2hwg -- and the entire work can be found within the Snopes article that brands it a fake: http://tinyurl.com/23tq9d3. I found it interesting reading primarily because the "interview" was so over-the-top as to call into question why anyone would possibly think it real. Yet they do ... to this day.

So back to what Stroustrup thinks about Snopes taking up his cause. His website includes a couple of warnings to would-be correspondents that they should not hold their breath awaiting a prompt reply - "I get a lot of email ... sometimes I get overwhelmed" -- yet he needed under an hour to answer my inquiry. It's clear this indignity has gotten under his skin.

"This hoax has been doing the rounds for about a decade. It seems that several times every year someone (usually someone who dislikes C++ for some reason) finds it funny and re-posts it somewhere," Stroustrup says. "By now, I'm a bit tired of it."

I told him I found it difficult to fathom that people actually believe he said the things he didn't say.

"Yes, it is amazing. But every year I get several emails asking me to confirm it or say that it is wrong. It's a FAQ :-)"

He means that literally, too, as in it's listed among the FAQs on his website.

So does he anticipate that the Snopes debunking will do any good?

"Not really. The main effect will probably be to add one more source of the 'interview.' "

Know of another similarly frustrating tale? The address is buzz@nww.com.

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