On Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 2:40 AM Greg A. Woods <> wrote:
At Mon, 17 Feb 2020 16:17:18 -0800, Jon Steinhart <> wrote:
Subject: Re: [TUHS] man Macro Package and pdfmark
> That's my beef with texinfo; there was already
> an existing functional system and rather than making some improvements a new
> incompatible universe was created.

Actually there wasn't a truly functional documentation system at the
time -- or at least it didn't reach far enough.

I.e. there was no open-source [nt]roff compatible program at the time,
and the mainly available proprietary one produced (for quality printing
purposes) only very convoluted hard-coded output for a quite esoteric
and rare piece of equipment.  AT&T's public attempt to solve this
(ditroff) just added more cost and arguably less availability.
ditroff was always >>open source<< and any licensee could get it and see it.  The problem you are suggesting is that it was not >>free<< i.e. FOSS.  AT&T licensed it with a small set of fees.   IIRC $1K for the first CPU, an $50 for each and redistribution license was $10K and $5/system.  The other issue is you really needed Adobe's transcript package to effectively use it on your Apple Laserwriter and other later PS based printers, as most people lacked actual typesetters.

Please remember that >>all<< the Universities with $150 AT&T licensed and a BSD license, had basic troff on their Vaxen with any BSD systems they had.   So they all had it for 'free' (and open).  I'll accept Larry's previous notes that not all people in those places had access to the sources, but everyone should have had access to the binaries that came with the system.

For folks running binary only systems from Masscomp/Sun/DEC/HP/IBM and the like, it is possible it was different.  The fact is I know Masscomp supplied ditroff on all systems and just ate the $5 license fee.   We also license transcript from Adobe and included that.   My memory is that was just a one-time charge and no redistribution.   I'm not sure what Sun did, but I think they supplied the BSD troff, vcat and the like (Larry may know for sure).  I'm pretty sure HP supplied at least the BSD/vcat family; but they have updated to ditroff.   I've forgotten what DEC settled on. By the time of Tru64 it was ditroff on the system, but with Ultrix it may have been you got the troff/vcat off the BSD tape had their was a fee for the ditroff/transcript package.

So the basic facts are is that in the Unix ecosystem, the nroff/troff ecosystem was very much around before 1990's groff.   Frankly, the biggest thing it did was enabled Linux to have a version of ditroff.   I know in my own case, I would (horrors) carry the sources with me for the AT&T package and Transcript for early PC based BSD's.   The truth is both packages were (and are) easily findable in dark corners of the Internet.

I also request, that we refrain from the seemingly yearly Tex vs. troff war. It's about as productive as the C vs Pascal or C++ vs Java discussions. This thread started as Doug's observation about wanting man pages and issues with Gnu's texinfo scheme.     It turns out man was based on the [nr]roff family.  The reality is that any document compiler >>could<< have been used.    If something other than the roff family was used to create man pages, that would be a different discussion.

... and I like my lawn as it is ...