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Re: emacs designers neglect slower computer users?

From: Alan Mackenzie
Subject: Re: emacs designers neglect slower computer users?
Date: 4 Jan 2002 23:09:52 +0100
Date: Fri, 4 Jan 2002 20:55:51 +0000
User-agent: tin/1.4.5-20010409 ("One More Nightmare") (UNIX) (Linux/2.0.35 (i686))

Dan Jacobson <address@hidden> wrote on 04 Jan 2002 16:18:17 +0800:
> It has occurred to me that some parts of emacs are unreasonably slow,
> and that if at GNU Laboratories they used as slow a computer as I do,
> they would soon notice and optimize those areas.

Have you noticed, for example, the optimisations (jit-lock and lazy-lock)
in font-lock.el?  If you haven't, it shows that they were done right :-)
If you have, you'll appreciate the quality of the (difficult) coding
there.  These optimisations probably aren't that important on a
>1GHz machine, though.  That suggests that at least some of the Emacs
core team use "slow" machines.  (Though with twenty years experience in
the industry, I wouldn't call a 166MHz machine with 32Mb RAM slow or

What, precisely, do you find unreasonably slow?  I also have a 166 MHz
machine, and I find Emacs runs fast enough.  I recently rethought some of
my thoughts when some code I'd written walked rather than ran.  With a
modern PC, I'd probably not have noticed.

> On the other hand, asking the GNU engineers to use slow computers
> might stymie their creativity, making them think 1980's thoughts
> instead of 2010's dreams.

It'd be interesting to have a poll of the Emacs developers' machines.
I'd not be surprised if most of them were at or below the 300 MHz level.
The thing is, to upgrade hardware costs very little, yet to move one's
software setup to a new machine is very time consuming and worrying (at
least, it is for me).  Why do it, when the old machine is still perfectly

> On the third hand most of the world's population wouldn't necessarily
> have fast computers if any at all.  So if one wants to be in tune with
> the third world, one needs to slow down, whereupon the non optimized
> parts become noticeable.

> I say it might be a good exercise to use a P166 processor with 32K
> memory like me just to find those slow spots.

I suggest you upgrade to 32M immediately.  (Sorry, couldnt resist it. :-)

>> What spots are those?  Your message is unclear.  I need more
>> information before I can find those spots.*

> Just try it with the slow machine.  Force yourself for a couple hours.
> You'll be bound to find them.  You don't even have to have all the
> bells and whistles turned on like I probably do in my .emacs [linked
> from my software.html page]

As I said, I have a machine about the same speed as yours.  I don't find
Emacs slow.  What do you do that makes Emacs seem slow to you?

> Anyway, see what happens when you win all those prize and award money,
> and even certainly some neat hardware donations?  It was all a plot to
> get you computing too fast --- too fast for the future developing
> world markets.

I think that was a little uncalled for.

[ .... ]

> Oh, I remember, "eight megs and constantly swapping", e.m.a.c.s

Yes, but eighty megs are completely sufficient.

Alan Mackenzie (Munich, Germany)
Email: address@hidden; to decode, wherever there is a repeated letter
(like "aa"), remove half of them (leaving, say, "a").

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