[TUHS] Discuss of style and design of computer programs from a user stand point [was dmr note on BSD's sins]

Doug McIlroy doug at cs.dartmouth.edu
Sat May 6 23:30:58 AEST 2017

> tr -cs A-Za-z '\n' |
> tr A-Z a-z |
> sort |
> uniq -c |
> sort -rn |
> sed ${1}q
> This is real genius.

Not genius. Experience. In the Bentley/Knuth/McIlroy paper I said,
"[Old] Unix hands know instinctively how to solve this one in a jiffy."
While that is certainly true, the script was informed by my having
written "spell", which itself was an elaboration of a model
pioneered by Steve Johnson. By 1986, when BKM was published,
the lore was baked in: word-processing scripts in a similar
vein were stock in trade.

A very early exercise of this sort was Dennis Ritchie's
enumeration of anagrams in the unabridged Merriam-Webster.
Since the word list barely fit on the tiny disk of the time,
the job entailed unimaginable marshalling of resources. I
was mightily impressed then, and still am.


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