[Beowulf] Re: Religious wars

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Jul 22 10:39:48 PDT 2008

On Tue, 22 Jul 2008, Bob Drzyzgula wrote:

>> By the time of SunOS 1.1, I believe there was Unipress emacs
>> around, as you note. In any case, the Suns I used of that vintage had
>> Emacs available. (I have a genuine Sun 1 sitting in my mom's garage
>> still -- double digit serial number.)
> As I mentioned, Emacs was not included in the OS
> distribution from Sun. If the Sun systems you were working
> on had Emacs, someone went to the trouble of installing
> it from some other source.

This mirrors my own experience, except that I took over managing our
Unix network from a REAL Unix Old Hand, who was running it on a PDP
(20?) for several years in the department before I started doing unix
(and sysadmin) in 1986/1987.  We had jove in part because we WERE on
uucp, and actually were on the early internet with our own IP numbers
and domain in the 128.x.x.x block (the first one heavily populated in
.edu) over a 56K leased line by what maybe 1983 or 1984?  Cyrus had the
PDP nicely outfitted with the earliest sources -- the PDP ran homebuilt
BSD IIRC, and "came" with various build your own packages that were
being passed around on the early internet even back then via FTP as well
as uucp.  I think jove was just smaller and tighter than emacs (which
was already suffering from bloat, and back then megabytes WERE extremely
dear, both on disk and in "core".  Which was still core, in many

By 88 or 89 I was the department's more or less full time part time unix
sysadmin (as well as teaching physics, doing research, coding).  I had a
sun 386i originally (department server a 4/110 that we upgraded to a
4/310 before it finally went away), and got the very first sparcstation
1 in the department if not the school (followed in due time with a 2) a
few years later.  By maybe 1988 I was already in the habit of going in
and rebuilding the sources in /usr/local (NFS mounted) per architecture,
per new machine, per hacks as we got e.g. SGIs (sysv-ish) and ran them
with Suns (BSD-ish).

At that point jove was WAY better than VI, as it is a coder's editor and
rebuilding all that source was really a coding problem, but you
absolutely had to use vi -- no "m" appended on a new, naked system as
that was what you had.  Adequate for editing /etc/passwd.  Not so good
for editing a few thousand lines of code, a couple of Makefiles, running
Make from inside and flipping through errors.

So I was "spoiled" by being on the internet from the beginning,
basically.  Not its beginning, but my own experience with Unix.  And
having an uberunix perfect master for a guru.  So I took source access
for granted; heck, we were just down the road from one of the first big
source repos at UNC and I did work oat ORNL where another (netlib)


>>> [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.
>> Where I was, the '20 heads kind of insisted on Emacsen. Unfortunately,
>> gosmacs didn't have a real extension language, so Gnu Emacs (which
>> arrived quite shortly) was considered a big plus...
> IIRC there were maybe three or four of our users who toughed it out
> with Unipress, in maybe the 1985-1986 timeframe. It wasn't until
> GNU Emacs became available to us that Emacs got any traction in
> my office.
> --Bob

Robert G. Brown                            Phone(cell): 1-919-280-8443
Duke University Physics Dept, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Web: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb
Book of Lilith Website: http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/Lilith/Lilith.php
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