[nSLUG] [YARNING] Re: Your Editor not as good as mine

Mike Spencer mspencer at tallships.ca
Thu Aug 6 13:53:15 ADT 2009

Hatem wrote:

> We had this discussion last nslug meeting so I thought I'd share the
> latest thing of one of the RSS feeds,
>     http://www.eecs.harvard.edu/~cduan/technical/vi/index.shtml

I may have spun this yarn before but it's hot and sticky outside so
I'll procrastinate a bit on the garden work.

In 1989 I was a whiz with CP/M and WordStar. I was programming a flock
of Osborne 1s in assembler and C.  On a visit to MIT, a friend there
plunked me in front of a 19" (!) color (!) monitor on a MicroVAX II,
gave me a couple of manuals for their multimedia authoring system and
said, "Do something interesting."  And Emacs was the standard editor.
Over coffee a few days later, I complained bitterly to the friend and
his team about the complexity of Emacs.  Grumble, grumble.  But I
*did* go and buy a hardcopy manual and read it cover to cover.

Six weeks later, when I left Cambridge, I was an Emacs fan. Once I got
home I was logging into MIT and Dal accounts from my Osborne over
dialup or DataPac and using Emacs for email.  I even used Emacs on
Dal's VAX under VMS.

Fast forward to 1994 when I finally got an Intel box and MS-DOS 5.0.
Installed the "Gnuish" suite of Unix-like apps and Jove (Emacs without
the hard parts).  In 1999, with an upgrade to a Pentium 133 and Linux,
at last I had real GNU Emacs at home, just about the time that the
last of my remote, Emacs-capable academic accounts finally evaporated.

Today I use Emacs for:

    + Writing stuff (of course)

    + Programming

    + Reading, sending and archiving email

    + Read and post Usenet news

    + File management

    + Running a subshell

The last item is a real winner.  Emacs "shell" supports a terminal of
type "dumb" so you can't run curses apps or less or top in it.
But you can run a command line program with yards of output to stdout.
The output ends up in the Emacs "shell buffer" where you can scroll
back arbitrarily far, cut & paste text into other docs or mail.
Except for web browsing, I pretty much live in Emacs.

>From the article that Hatem cited:

    It would seem at first glance that the idea of a simple text
    editor is a pretty silly idea--after all, how much can you really
    do with just plain text without formatting or fonts or anything?
    But a good text editor does more than just edit files: syntax
    highlighting (coloring of special keywords and phrases for some
    programming language) and automatic indentation...

Not to mention mouse support and a menu bar, eh?  Gak!  I actually use
an old version of GNU Emacs that doesn't do all that chrome and disable
other bits of it in the config file. Several instances of very plain
Emacs (some in an xterm, some as X-native) is good enough.

> Please take this with a grain of salt, especially if you prefer
> using an operating system disguised as a text editor.

And not a word against vi, which has saved me several times on rescue
boot-ups where Emacs wasn't available.  But color highlighting is an
abomination and auto-indent a royal PITA, regardless of the editor
that implements it.  OTOH, M-x hexlify-buffer is real handy
for.... but that's another story. :-)

The garden calls. Cucumbers to pick, weeds to pull, asparagus to
mulch, deer fence to upgrade.

So back to your regularly scheduled programming,
- Mike

Michael Spencer                  Nova Scotia, Canada       .~. 
mspencer at tallships.ca                                     /( )\
http://home.tallships.ca/mspencer/                        ^^-^^

More information about the nSLUG mailing list