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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, should I 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.

From the Space Cadet keyboard that (obviously…) influenced Emacs’ early design

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 terminal, 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 literature), 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 usual 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 decades.

Four decades

When we got a PC in 1986, my father got the people at the Institute to get him 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.