[TUHS] Anybody recognise this Unix editor?

Richard Miller miller at hamnavoe.com
Sat Jan 22 01:38:27 AEST 2011

Warren Toomey said:
> I first encountered Unix in 1982 at a summer school held by the University
> of Wollongong in Australia. They had an modeless text editor installed,
> and I have never been able to determine if this was a homegrown editor, or
> an editor which was more widely distributed.

The editor was homegrown in Wollongong in 1981, as a late addition to the
Interdata Unix port.  I wrote it in response to an elegant and concise
formal mathematical specification of a "display-oriented text editor"
written by Bernard Sufrin of Oxford University's Programming Research
Group.  Bernard's specification was essentially an abstract model of an
existing minimalist (and modeless) screen editor 'ded' developed by his
colleague Richard Bornat at Queen Mary College in London.  I've never seen
'ded' itself, but I expect that if you tried both editors you would see a
close family resemblance.

The Wollongong editor was not widely disseminated.  I don't think it got
into any official Unix distribution except perhaps for Edition VII - its
austere minimalism could not compete with the dazzling complexity of emacs
or vi.  I did license it to Interdata (later aka Perkin-Elmer) for use on
their own OS/32 operating system, where it was called MEDIT.  I carried on
for many years using it myself and porting it to various flavours of Unix,
Minix, even MS/DOS, and most recently Plan 9.  It was only after giving up
Unix for Plan 9 that I finally switched to using Rob Pike's 'acme', which
is, in its way, even more elegantly minimal.

-- Richard Miller

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