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Re: Is it the 40th Anniversary of Emacs

From: Lars Brinkhoff
Subject: Re: Is it the 40th Anniversary of Emacs
Date: Fri, 04 Nov 2016 08:40:54 +0100
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/24.3 (gnu/linux)

Perry E. Metzger wrote:
> Pierre Lecocq wrote:
>> Perry E. Metzger wrote:
>>> If I'm not mistaken, the first Emacs appeared in late 1976. That
>>> would make this approximately the 40th anniversary, which I think is
>>> notable. Am I correct on that?
>> Now, what month or day is another question!
> I suspect if anyone can tell us, it would be RMS, but I also suspect
> that there was no single moment when it appeared. :)

David Moon, 4 Jul 1978:

    In August 1976, a bunch of hackers decided it was time to write a
    new editor, using the sharable-library and named-commands (MM)
    technology developed by Tmacs, but intended for general use.  Tmacs
    was not really set up to be used by anyone but its maintainers, and
    I think every user had a different set of key bindings, although by
    that time it was in use by perhaps eight or ten people.  The new
    editor, which was initially called "?"  because that was a command
    name which could not be typed to DDT, was supposed to take full
    advantage of the TV keyboards, to have a more sensible and
    consistent set of commands, to have good self-documentation, and to
    be faster than Tecmac.  ? was intended to woo people away from

Richard Stallman, 6 Jul 1978:

    1) The name "?" was adopted, as far as I know, only because nobody
    had any good idea of a name to use.  This case of dumb-striking was
    much more severe than usual.  So all we could think of was "?" for
    "I don't know what it will nbe called".

    2) The name E was chosen because I saw that E was one of the
    remaining single-letters left which didn't traditionally abbreviate
    anything.  From E, EMACS followed.  That it might confuse Stanford
    people was a bonus but not the fundamental motivation.  In part,
    another motivation was the desire not to use "T", because of the
    desire to emphasize that the user would NOT be using TECO.

    3) The work done by GLS was
     a) to consider a large number of possible command sets, and suggest
        many interesting possible commands, and
     b) to begin doing actual work (on the purifier and start-up).
        Although none of this code survived after a week or so, I might
        never have been able to start doing anything if left to myself.
        I often have trouble getting off the ground.

    4) I'm not really sure why GLS stopped working on EMACS.  I think he
    was too busy with class-related things, or some such.  I had
    expected him to stay interested.

    5) The first thing done in EMACS was the support software.  The
    purifier, the loader macro scheme, the scheme for dumping an EMACS
    so that it could start up fast, and the self-documentation, were
    finished before there were any editing commands.  I think this has
    helped bring about the quality of the self-documentation.

    6) I do remember that :EJ was patched in by some TMACS person before
    I heard about it.

    7) Most of the theory behind EMACS comes from TMACS, rather than
    TECMAC.  From TECMAC come only individual commands.  I guess that
    the ^X prefix character is from TECMAC also, but I'm surprised to
    hear that there was any macro package which didn't have prefixes.

    8) The first ^R-macro written was an auto-fill space.  It was my
    example of what could be done with such.  I wrote it just after
    implementing redefinable characters.

    9) I think that RMAIL is important, because it was the first
    demonstration that a reliable system program could be written in
    TECO, and the first example of one that was invoked other than by
    running TECO and typing TECO commands.  I was able to document it
    without mentioning TECO at all until the place at the end where I
    mentioned the Altmode command.

    10) When I first heard about TMACS, I assumed that the MM commands
    and the ^R commands were the same.  When I found out that they used
    two separate mechanisms, I was amazed.  Making those two be uniform
    was one of the primary initial goals of ?, which was going to do in
    a reasonable fashion what TMACS had explored with kludges.  EMACS is
    full of kludges inside, but they are hidden away inside of Generate
    Library and EINIT.

Guy Steele, 6 Jul 1978:

    The account of my involvement given by RMS is essentially accurate.
    I started ? because I was getting tired of the kludginess of the
    TCMAC command arrangement, and saw in other editors neat commands
    that could not be fit cleanly into TECMAC.  I therefore decided to
    perform a total reorganization of the command structure, and
    carefully examine all the other existing TECO-based editors, such as
    RMODE, DOC, and the ever-popular TMACS.  Most of my work involved
    playing with assignments of commands to keys, and running around
    organizing discussions and soliciting comments.  I made an initial
    stab at a loader, and I think I invented (or re-invented) the notion
    of a compressing loader, and invented most of the specific
    conventions for the EMACS loader (such as using _ for a space),
    though these conventions were greatly refined later.  It was at
    about this point that RMS and others took over the development work,
    and did a much better job, much faster, than I could have.  For this
    reason, as well as the pressure of classes and the maintenance of
    LISP, I was happy to let others take over ?.  Thus, while I provided
    initial impetus and much of the original user-level command
    structure, most of the development work and succeeding refinements
    is to the credit of other people.

    The name "?" was chosen not only because it was hard to type to DDT
    (one could win with '?), and so would force a more rational choice
    of name later, but also because the initial work was by Quux (GLS),
    strongly influenced by Moon, hence Quux/Moon => QM => Question Mark.

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