Long, long, long live Emacs after 39 years
Reading Planet Debian (see, Sam, we are
still having a conversation over
there? 😉), I read
Anarcat’s 20+ years of
Emacs. And.. Well,
brag contribute to the discussion? Of
course, why not?
Emacs is the first computer program I can name that I ever learnt to use to do something minimally useful. 39 years ago.
The Emacs editor was born, according to Wikipedia, in 1976, same year as myself. I am clearly not among its first users. It was already a well-established citizen when I first learnt it; I am fortunate to be the son of a Physics researcher at UNAM, My father used to take me to his institute after he noticed how I was attracted to computers; we would usually spend some hours there between 7 and 11PM on Friday nights. His institute had a computer room where they had very sweet gear: Some 10 Heathkit terminals quite similar to this one:
The terminals were connected (via individual switches) to both a
PDP-11 and a Foonly F2
computers. The room also had a beautiful thermal printer, a beautiful
Tektronix vectorial graphics output
and some other stuff. The main user for my father was to typeset some
books; he had recently (1979) published Integral Transforms in
Science and Engineering
(that must be my first mention in scientific
and I remember he was working on the proceedings of a conference he
held in Oaxtepec (the account he used in the system was
oax, not his
kbw, which he lent me). He was also working on Manual de
Lenguaje y Tipografía Científica en
Castellano, where you
can see some examples of TeX; due to a hardware crash, the book has
the rare privilege of being a direct copy of the output of the
thermal printer: It was not possible to produce a higher resolution
copy for several years… But it is fun and interesting to see what we
were able to produce with in-house tools back in 1985!
So, what could he teach me so I could use the computers while he worked? TeX, of course. No, no LaTeX (that was published in 1984). LaTeX is a set of macros developed initially by Leslie Lamport, used to make TeX easier; TeX was developed by Donald Knuth, and if I have this information correct, it was Knuth himself who installed and demonstrated TeX in the Foonly computer, during a visit to UNAM.
Now, after 39 years hammering at Emacs buffers… Have I grown extra
fingers? Nope. I cannot even write decent
elisp code, and can barely
read it. I do use org-mode (a lot!) and love it; I have written
basically five books, many articles and lots of presentations and
minor documents with it. But I don’t read my mail or handle my git
from Emacs. I could say, I’m a relatively newbie after almost four
When we got a PC in 1986, my father got the people at the Institute to
memacs (micro-emacs). There was probably a ten year period I
barely used any emacs, but always recognized it. My fingers hve
memorized a dozen or so movement commands, and a similar number of
file management commands.
And yes, Emacs and TeX are still the main tools I use day to day.