[TUHS] Line Terminators in Text Files [Was: Re: Why Pascal is Not My Favorite Programming Language - Unearthed!]

Paul Winalski paul.winalski at gmail.com
Tue Sep 5 03:44:21 AEST 2017

On 9/3/17, Steve Johnson <scj at yaccman.com> wrote:
> I think the reason for this is pretty obvious.  At the time -- for
> many of the paper terminals, line feed simply rotated the platen, and
> the print head stayed at the same column position.  Carriage return
> returned the print head to the first column without advancing the
> paper (remember overstriking?).  But there were also some terminals
> that both advanced the paper and returned the print head (I'm hazy
> about this, but I think the IBM Selectric was one...).

IIRC, you're right about this.  I'm pretty sure I remember the IBM
2741 and friends (the Selectric terminals) operating this way.
> I do remember one guy who wrote his program to output LF/CR instead of
> CR/LF.   The teletype driver would do a LF and then space out to the
> previous column and then do a carriage return.  Pretty painful at 300
> baud!

At 110 baud, the model 33 Teletype took up to two character times to
return the typeball to the left margin when executing a CR.  You
needed to follow CR with two non-printing characters to avoid
erroneously striking a character in the middle of the line.  With
CR/LF, the LF served as one of these non-printables.  CR/LF/NUL was
the common sequence used to return the carriage and advance the
platen.  If you did LF/CR you'd need LF/CR/NUL/NUL, thus wasting one
character time.  So just about everyone implemented newline as CR/LF
rather than LF/CR.
> Doug might remember better than I but I suspect some terminal did the
> combined CR/LF only, so that's why Unix adopted it.

I suspect UNIX used LF as EOL for two reasons:  [1] as just mentioned,
nearly everyone did CR/LF vs LF/CR, and [2] breaking lines on the LF
allowed for overstriking.

-Paul W.

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