[TUHS] man-page style

Jim Capp jcapp at anteil.com
Sat Nov 17 01:33:05 AEST 2018

It was man pages that first caught my eye, placing me on a life-long path of working 
with Unix and its derivatives. 

I was working on a project for a telephone company, converting IBM 2780 Bisync to 
async, and was given a manual and root access to a Xenix machine. I had cut my 
teeth on a Radio Shack TRS-80 and knew BASIC and Z80 machine code. 

The machine had BASIC, so that is where I started. I had spent an afternoon 
writing a hex dump program before I discovered "od". I spent the next day reading 
all the man pages. I was amazed with their simplicity and clarity. 

Having finished the man pages, I read the Unix Programmer's Manual cover to cover. 
I re-wrote the hex dump in C just for fun. I was sold. 

The remarkable simplicity of Unix, the kernel, the commands, the documentation, 
is a beautiful thing. And I was fortunate to have found it early in my career. 

It was also a time, when the manuals were concise enough to read them all 
in a few day's time. 

To put that into perspective, it took me weeks to acquire a copy of the documentation 
for IBM 2780 Bisync, and even then it left me with more questions. 

I was simply amazed to have found such an elegant system. That it came with 
documentation on every aspect of the system was almost to good to be true. 

For a young programmer starting out in the world, man pages were like gold. 


From: "Grant Taylor via TUHS" <tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org> 
To: tuhs at minnie.tuhs.org 
Sent: Friday, November 16, 2018 1:03:37 AM 
Subject: Re: [TUHS] man-page style 

On 11/15/2018 10:32 PM, Dave Horsfall wrote: 
> The Unix manpage format is the epitome of perfection; they tell you 
> everything you need to know, and in the right order. Frequently I 
> cannot recall a particular flag (but I know what it does), and it's 
> right there at the start. 

I think man pages make a great reference. But I don't think they are a 
good teaching source for someone that doesn't know the material or what 
the components are for. 

Grant. . . . 
unix || die 

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