Religious wars (was Re: [Beowulf] A press release)

Bob Drzyzgula bob at
Mon Jul 21 16:53:26 PDT 2008

On Mon, Jul 21, 2008 at 01:47:02PM -0400, Robert G. Brown wrote:
> On Mon, 21 Jul 2008, Joe Landman wrote:
> This is the sad truth.  I can survive without using emacs, and besides,
> I can use it in an emergency.  But nobody can manage systems without
> knowing vi.  You may use it only long enough to edit /etc/hosts and your
> firewall and your yum repo data so you can install and rebuild jove, but
> that much cannot be avoided...

This, I find, is a strong dividing line. By and large
(not with exclusivity, but IME there is certainly a trend)
systems programmers use vi and applications programmers
use emacs. Systems programmers spend far to much time just
getting in and out to make quick fixes to things -- and
for that matter spend far too much time working with broken
machines -- to ever allow themselves to become dependant
on anything with as much overhead as Emacs. Some of them
will master both, and use Emacs for scripting and such.
But most that I've known just never bother with it.

> Speaking personally, I'd rather burn off my pre-cancerous old-age spots
> with a wood-burning kit than use vi for more than two minutes at a time
> ("... only long enough..." see above) but to each their own, I suppose.

See, I cut my teeth [1] on a Sun 2/120 with a multibus SCSI
adapter, with a 71MB hard drive and a QIC tape drive. This
was running SunOS 1.1 (cf. BSD 4.1), and I can assure you
that it didn't have no stinkin' Emacs;  Bill Joy ran the
OS development for Sun and anyway, James Gosling's Unix/C
port of Emacs was just starting to make the rounds [2].
The only real choices were ed, ex and vi -- vi of course
being a mode you entered from ex, which still was important
and a vast improvement over ed. By the time there were any
other reasonable editors available to me, the vi command
set had moved down into my brain stem. The only command
I ever mastered in Emacs was <Ctrl-x><Ctrl-c>.

FWIW, with vi being so cryptic and Emacs being even worse,
for a while we supported the Rand Editor -- in particular
e19 [3]. Now there was an editor for the masses -- virtually
the whole thing was driven by function keys.


[1] Unix teeth, that is. The first machine I programmed --
with punchcards -- was an IBM 1130...

[2] We did at one point buy some licenses for Unipress
Emacs (the commercialized version of Gosling Emacs), but
only a few hardy souls ever forced themselves to make use
of it.


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