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Re: Gremlin Format grn

From: Ingo Schwarze
Subject: Re: Gremlin Format grn
Date: Fri, 16 Jul 2021 17:53:38 +0200
User-agent: Mutt/1.12.2 (2019-09-21)

Hi Wim,

Wim Stockman wrote on Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 10:48:15PM +0200:

> Hi , I was looking into the groff doc dir and found this old file format.
> the Gremlin file format for graphics.
> But even on google I cannot find a lot of information about it.
> Does someone have some info on it ,some documentation perhaps
> I'd like to take a look at this ancient format out of curiosity.

The oldest document using it i managed to find was the manual of
"The SPMS Software Project Management System" by Peter J. Nicklin,
published together with 4.2BSD in September 1983, written in ms(7)
macros with 13 "gremlinfile" drawings.

It seems SPMS was a rather short-lived animal.  Neither 4.3BSD
nor 4.4BSD included it.  4.3BSD-Tahoe and 4.3BSD-Reno appear to
include a radically abridged version of the manual - about
one tenth of the original size - but neither the program code
nor the gremlinfile drawings.

Either way, all this predates most of the history documented by

which consists of

   2% 4.0BSD development history
   3% 4.1BSD development history
  15% 4.2BSD development history
  50% 4.3BSD development history
  30% 4.4BSD development history

Files were only gradually added to the SCCS, so in particular for the
earlier of these releases, some files that were part of releases were
not in the SCCS.  In particular, SPMS never was.  I only found it,
and its gremlinfile drawings, on Marshall McKusick's archive CDs:

The SCCS includes this though:

But this online version of the CSRG SCCS at is
really very, very buggy.  The following files were contained in
the orignal SCCS tree but are missing from

 * a grn(1) manual page written by David Slattengren
 * a gremlin(1) manual page written by Barry Roitblat
 * a gremlinlib(1) manual page written by Mark Opperman
 * some simple gremlin drawing contained in the following handbook:
   "Wisconsin ARGO 1.0 Kernel Programmer's Guide for
    Academic Operating Systems 4.3
    This document describes the design and implementation of the ISO
    transport and network layers written for the ACIS Operating System,
    the IBM ACIS port of Berkeley 4.3 Unix" (1988)
   (I didn't find the author of that document...)
 * three "gremlinfile" drawings contained in the following document:
   "An Introductory 4.4BSD Interprocess Communication Tutorial"
   by Stuart Sechrest, Computer Science Research Group, UCB (1986)

All in all, it appears gremlin was used sparingly even back in the
day, to put it mildly.  It originated in BSD, but what is listed
above is all use of it that i managed to find so far, even after
systemetically searching the complete BSD history from 1BSD to
4.4BSD-Lite2.  That is, i only see evidence for less than three
dozen drawings in three pieces of rather obscure documentation,
grand total.

A printed book i consulted, "Document Formatting and Typesetting
on the UNIX System" by Narain Gehani and Steven Lally (of AT&T)
published in 1987/88 does not even mention gremlin, whereas it
contains long chapters on pic and grap and briefly mentions ideal.


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