[Beowulf] EMACS vs VI

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Thu Feb 17 08:38:13 PST 2011

On Thu, 17 Feb 2011, Bob Drzyzgula wrote:

> On 17/02/11 22:44 +0700, "C. Bergström" wrote:
>> Bob Drzyzgula wrote:
>>> While I tried to learn emacs a couple of times, it just
>>> seemed like it took forever for the thing to load.
>> fwiw some people still *really* care about emacs performance even on
>> modern hw.  We (PathScale) have a few vocal users and plan to spin some
>> cycles to speed it up a bit.  (If you're interested to help test/give
>> feedback ping me off list.)
> It is one of my standing, and I'm sure tiresome, jokes
> that when someone asks me how fast a new system seems
> to be, I respond with something along the lines of
> "well, vi just screams". Vi, of course, having "screamed"
> on a MC68010 with 2MB of memory.

Well, that >>is<< the advantage of relatively compact compiled code over
lisp, right?

Addressing your last post, a lot of sysadmins and top-gun systems
programmers and so on do use non-vi compiled editors, notably jove, me,
joe, although as you note anybody who started the game in the 80s had to
learn vi because (among other things) it was all that you could be more
or less assured of having access to on a new system install or a crashed
system with no /usr.  Even older guys could still use ed on an actual
teletype (not a tty interface, mind you, I'm talking the actual printer
terminal).  I did my share of that, but I really hated it, to be honest.

vi had the advantage of letting you do fullscreen, and lots of early
terminal games used vi key commands to navigate and hence were actually
vi learning games as well -- good old hjkl.

The two reasons I came to dislike vi and abandoned it for jove were:

   a) Moving in and out of insert mode is a pita.  Yes, a lot of the time
one just uses direct edit commands in command mode instead of navigation
and retyping (shades of ed) but for someone who learned to >>type<<
before they learned to edit, this was actually counterintuitive.  jove
was more "typewriter like" and less QED/ED like.  Note well that in my
terminal timeshare days I wrote a complete basic front end for QED that
turned it INTO a fullscreen editor because editing a program sucked
using line commands (I was probably one of the only humans in the world
that could edit my fortran using QED under TSO with cursor keys and a
full screen of text and block movement and so on, even though I did have
to roll my own to get it:-).

   b) Jove runs (ran) make from inside and was smart enough to permit one
to run through the syntax errors a la full emacs.  No popping in and out
with suspends.  In fact, at one point in time I too kept three internal
windows open, one for source, one for the make/errors to run in, and one
for a shell so I could actually compile, debug, and runtime test the
program without leaving jove.  But eventually tcsh and bash got good
enough that the advantages of a CLI inside jove (or emacs) to give you
editing and replayability wasn't worth the hassle, and I started to
suspend once again to runtime debug or just run the code.

I'm sure that by now vim or whatever has long since subsumed these
advantages so that there is no real need for me to stick with jove, but
as you said (I think) -- once you've used an editor for a decade or
more, it is >>very very difficult to change<<.  I still more or less
constantly pop up strange printscreen windows and so on inside
browser-based editors because I forget and I pop a Ctrl-P in trying to
move up a line.  My fingers move like lightning, and I can navigate
instantly without my fingers leaving the home keys...

I had the damnedest time when IBM moved the Ctrl-shift and introduced
the Alt key.  Dark evil, carpal tunnel inducing change.  I still resent
it -- nobody ever uses caps lock and there it is, wasting primary
keyboard space to the left of the a one lousy cm away, where the Ctrl is
now a full fifth-left-wrist-pivot and two row down movement.  I'd type
>>even faster<< if it were still where it belonged, but remapping the
keyboard (although not too much of a problem if you only work on one
machine) makes you crippled every time you change to a different machine
without the map.

Naturally, I'd be happy to challenge >>anybody<< to a typing
speed/prolixity dual... and a lot of my speed advantage is, in fact, due
to my use of jove....


> --Bob
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Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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