[TUHS] V9 shell [was Re: Warner's Early Unix Presentation]

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Wed Feb 12 03:21:44 AEST 2020

On Mon, Feb 10, 2020 at 10:34 PM Doug McIlroy <doug at cs.dartmouth.edu> wrote:

> Postel's principle: "be conservative in what you do, be liberal
> in what you accept from others" was doctrine in early HTML
> specs, and led to disastrous disagreement among browsers'
> interpretation of web pages. Sadly, the "principle" lives on
> despite its having been expunged from the HTML spec.

I think this is a bit unfair.

Postel was working in an environment where he was fighting an uphill battle
to get the Internet going and, perhaps more importantly, taken seriously: I
still vividly remember the derision that was heaped on it as a "research
toy" and how the "real" implementation was going to sweep it away, usually
in the form of ISO/OSI. An argument can be made that the Internet's
installed base and the fact that it largely worked despite imperfect
implementations headed off that particular trainwreck. Indeed, one wonders
if it would have even been viable as a research project had the early
ARPAnet and Internet implementors taken a hard stance on correctness.

That said, the HTML thing has always felt like a debacle to me, right from
the beginning.  It was an anaemic language delivered over a ridiculously
bad protocol (HTTP 0.9 or whatever).I fully confess that I completely
missed the World Wide Web thing when it first arrived on the scene.  To my
TeX and troff trained eyes used to interactive protocols, I couldn't see
the point. Boy was I wrong!

        - Dan C.
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