Bullied, schizophrenic, genius: the sad story of Terry Davis

Posted 7 months ago by David McManus
Programmer and controversial software developer Terry Davis intended for TempleOS to be the ‘third temple,’ referenced in the Bible. [Source: _Prink_ via r/VXJunkies]
Programmer and controversial software developer Terry Davis intended for TempleOS to be the ‘third temple,’ referenced in the Bible. [Source: _Prink_ via r/VXJunkies]

Warning: this edition of Talking Disability may contain sensitive content

Key points:

  • American software programmer Terry Davis grew a cult following after his death for developing ‘TempleOS,’ an operating system akin to Windows, IOS or Linux
  • Davis’ schizophrenia served as a notorious point of conversation in TempleOS forum discussions, as his fervent religious beliefs and odd mood swings due to hallucinations and delusions would often creep into his online presence
  • Despite accomplishing a feat that senior software programmers have recently compared to ‘one man building a skyscraper,’ Davis spent his later life incarcerated, experiencing homelessness and impoverished


The sad story of legendary North American software programmer Terry Davis surged in widespread popularity following a YouTube documentary by content creator, Fredrick Knudsen. The video, part of Knudsen’s Down The Rabbit Hole series, covered the monumental achievements of Davis, who lived with schizophrenia and was hounded online by malicious trolls.

Terry Davis’ system, ‘TempleOS,’ was heavily inspired by the developer’s interpretation of the Bible. This, compounded by Terry’s fears of United States’ secret intelligence stalking or harassing him, led many to mock his motivation and downplay his achievements.

Although the operating system is far from what some would consider ‘usable,’ with a poor user interface and janky user experience, Davis’ ‘TempleOS’ was ingenious. Online critics would often cajole Terry into reacting negatively or erratically based on his mental well-being or the relatively unintuitive operating system, relative to others on the market.

For reference, Windows 7 was developed by approximately 23 groups of 40 developers, totalling an approximate workforce of 920 staff members. Terry made his operating system completely independent from other input, refusing to even accept assistance from fellow coders, despite welcoming the input of others.

Yet, as his mental health continued to take a toll on his social interactions and potential ‘legendary’ status online in the eyes of onlookers, Davis frequently used slurs to demean hostile commenters. YouTube tutorials for the use and development of his operating system were routinely taken down for hate speech and his mind seemed to wander whenever a topic outside of his programming knowledge was broached.

The news of Terry’s death came as a shock to many adoring fans who had tried to offer him resources and support during his periods without shelter, which commenters said he politely denied. The pioneer of independent software development was initially unnamed in the local news coverage, which simply stated that a man had been struck by an oncoming train. The Oregon railway engineer behind the Union Pacific train incident believed that the cause of death — either unintended or with the intent of taking his own life — was likely suicidal.

In the aftermath of Davis’ death, many who have looked into the troubled history of both the programmer and his unique biblical operating system, concede that he was a bright and insightful man whose passion for advancing technology was likely stifled by his psychosocial disability.

Computer engineers have likened Terry Davis to Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, noting that if not for his mental illness, he would have gone on to forge his name in human history. The man who created a program to enable man to speak ‘with God,’ is now a footnote in the annals of computation ingenuity, having accessed a public library computer only two hours prior to passing on August 11, 2018.

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