[TUHS] [OT] Re: earliest Unix roff

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Tue Sep 17 04:19:09 AEST 2019

KatolaZ writes:
> Dear Jon, I am a child of the 70s, so I know the drill ;)
> What I am saying is that the vast majority of the software from the
> GNU project actually has a good-quality manpage acoompanying it. And
> it also has the same documentation in info format. Hence I see no
> point in vomiting on info (which I mostly dislike anyway, as I said),
> as on any other document format, as long as the same information is
> made available via manpages as well, as it is the case for most of the
> software present in current Unix systems, wherever it comes from. The
> split caused by the introduction of info has mainly been cured by the
> community, maybe too late, but still.
> We can discuss whether the split was necessary or "right" in the first
> instance, as we could discuss whether it was good or not for cat(1) to
> leave Murray Hill in 1979 with no options and come back from Berkley
> with a source code doubled in size and 9 options in 1982. We could do
> that, but perhaps we shouldn't get too partisan, since the history of
> Unix is not a simple single-threaded and linear one, as the many
> insightful contributions posted in this ML show. It's a continuum,
> where it is difficult to find any single element which is totally
> right or totally wrong.
> I honestly see more danger in the recent trend that avoids
> documentation altogether, except for a scant README.md file at the top
> of the sources. There is an entire generation of developers who see
> little value in producing (and using) online documentation, where by
> online I mean manpage-like or info-like docs. For the simple reason
> that the main way in which documentation is produced and distributed
> has changed a lot in the last 25 years. Now it's all about googling
> the right words, unfortunately.
> We can keep blaming RMS, info, or the GNU project, but indeed blaming
> them for the Web would be a bit too much ;)
> And this is perhaps becoming OT anyway.
> Enzo Nicosia

Well, maybe we're just violently agreeing.  Again, while I think that
info is klunky-feeling, my issue is the ecosystem fragmentation.

I think that it's not our place to discuss cat as Rob is on the list
and he owns that :-)

I do agree that the utter lack of any documentation is a bigger problem.
Or worse, the document that says how to download, build, and install a
package without ever saying what it does or how to use it.

I'm not blaming RMS or GNU, I'm just using them as examples of a way of
doing things that I don't like.  I certainly don't blame them for the web.
Please let's not get started on that!


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