Norman Wilson norman at oclsc.org
Sat Sep 14 07:37:12 AEST 2019

Well, if we're going to get into editor, erm, version-control wars,
I'll state my unpopular opinion that SCCS and RCS were no good at
all and CVS only pretended to be any good.  Subversion was the first
system I could stand using.

The actual basis for that opinion (and it's just my opinion but it's
not pulled out of hyperspace) is that the older systems think only
about one file at a time, not collections of files.  To me that's
useless for any but the most-trivial programming (and wasn't
non-trivial programming what spurred such systems?).  When I am
working on a non-trivial program, there's almost always more than
one source file, and to keep things clean often means refactoring:
splitting one file into several, merging different files, removing
files that contain no-longer-useful junk, adding files that
implement new things, renaming files.

A revision-control system that thinks only about one file at a
time can't keep track of those changes.  To me that makes it
worse than useless; not only can it not record a single
commit with a single message and version number when files
are split and combined, it requires extra work to keep all
those files under version control at all.

CVS makes an attempt to handle those things, but the effect
is clunky in practice compared to successors like svn.

One shouldn't underestimate the importance of a non-clunky
interface.  In retrospect it seems stupid that we didn't have
some sort of revision control discipline in Research UNIX, but
given the clunkiness of SCCS and RCS and CVS, there's no way
most of us would have put up with it.  Given that we often had
different people playing with the same program concurrently,
it would have taken at least CVS to meet our needs anyway.

Norman `recidivist' Wilson
Toronto ON

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