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Re: Emacs and the modern world

Chris Brannon writes:
 > Jason White <jason@jasonjgw.net> writes:
 > > It is also a mistake to believe that because a piece of software is old, there
 > > must be something better available by now. In fact, some of the best software
 > > is good precisely due to its having been developed and improved over decades,
 > > with contributions from a vibrant community.
 > "Recently produced" and "innovative" aren't the same thing.  Is anyone on
 > this list familiar with an operating system called TOPS-20?  It was one
 > of the operating systems available for DEC's PDP-10 computers.  TOPS-20 is older
 > than I am.
 > Its shell, known as the exec in TOPS-20 parlance, makes Unix shells look
 > primitive by comparison.  TOPS-20's command interpreter had context-sensitive
 > help.  It could tell you which sort of argument it was expecting
 > (for example, a filename, a number, a switch, et cetera).
 > It had command completion (as do BASH and later Unix shells).
 > The exec also allowed abbreviated input of commands.  For instance, the command 
 > to display the current date is "daytime", but you can abbreviate it to
 > "day".  In other words, the command-line interface was innovative and
 > extremely user-friendly.  So why aren't modern command interpreters quite
 > as usable?
 > The OP in this thread mentioned the web.  Realize that the web is hardly
 > a new idea.  Hypertext has been with us since the late 1960s or so.  We've
 > had protocols for pushing bytes down a wire for a long time, too.  XML
 > is basically a way of transmitting tree-structured data.  So are Lisp's
 > s-expressions.  The sexprs are a lot more concise than XML.
 > What is really modern about the web?  The buzzwords and the standards?
 > One thing that makes Emacs so relevant is that extensibility was
 > designed into the software from the outset.  The uses of Emacs are limited
 > only by the imagination and ability of its users.
 > Hope that didn't sound like a rant!

No, but brought back memories. I still have the TOPS-20 user manuals
sitting on my bookshelf! Now I'm showing my age.

It is a pity that too often everyone equates new with good and old with
outdated. I recently had a debate with a colleague who was upset when he
found out the timetabling system we use is written lisp - his complaint was
that it was no good because lisp was old. I pointed out that most of the
'inivations' being added to python, java and other 'modern' languages have
been 'borrowed' from lisp (lambda, macros, etc). 

To get old and still be used and actively developed has to mean something!


Tim Cross

There are two types of people in IT - those who do not manage what they 
understand and those who do not understand what they manage.

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