[TUHS] earliest Unix roff

Steve Johnson scj at yaccman.com
Tue Sep 17 10:20:12 AEST 2019

Dennis had a model 37 on his sunporch for years.  The innards were
nearly all mechanical -- cams and levers, etc.  And as the years went
by, wear and tear made the thing shake when it was being used.  
From time to time, it would shake so much that a space would be added
into whatever you were typing.

I think Dennis finally retired it after he typed the command "rm
*.o"  (a common command in those days of small discs), and got the
respnse ".o not found"

The model37 used fan-fold paper, that we got by the box.  It was an
art to arrange the paper flow so that the output didn't pile up inside
the box of blank paper,
but rather ended up in a pile on the floor.

In this era, Unix would, from time to time, crash unexpectedly,
causing you to lose all the edits you hadn't written out yet.  The
drill in that case was to
gather up the paper with all your typing on it, and, with a
highlighter, highlight the stuff you needed to retype when the system
came up.

One day I had been furiously editing a long program file for about an
hour and a half when I was called away to lunch, and, being hungry,
didn't save
my file.  When I got back to the terminal an hour later, I discovered
two things -- the system had crashed, and our cat had decided that the
pile of paper
on the floor made a great litter box.  After a few choice words, I
sighed and picked up my highliter...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Doug McIlroy" <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu>
To:<tuhs at tuhs.org>
Sent:Sun, 15 Sep 2019 18:07:11 -0400
Subject:Re: [TUHS] earliest Unix roff

 > Excellent - thanks for the pointer. This shows nroff before troff.
 > FWIW: I guess I was miss informed, but I had been under the
 > that was the other way around. i.e. nroff was done to be compliant
 > the new troff, replacing roff, although the suggestion here is that
 > wrote it add macros to roff. I'll note that either way, the dates
are all
 > possible of course because the U/L case ASR 37 was introduced 1968
so by
 > the early 1970's they would have been around the labs.

 nroff was in v2; troff appeared in v4, which incidentally was
 typeset in troff.

 Because of Joe Ossanna's role in designing the model 37, we
 had 37's in the Labs and even in our homes right from the
 start of production. But when they went obsolete, they were
 a chore to get rid of. As Labs property, they had to be
 returned; and picking them up was nobody's priority.
 Andy Hall had one on his back porch for a year.


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