[TUHS] man Macro Package and pdfmark

Greg A. Woods woods at robohack.ca
Wed Feb 19 06:22:56 AEST 2020

At Tue, 18 Feb 2020 10:11:45 -0500, Clem Cole <clemc at ccc.com> wrote:
Subject: Re: [TUHS] man Macro Package and pdfmark
> On Tue, Feb 18, 2020 at 2:40 AM Greg A. Woods <woods at robohack.ca> wrote:
> >
> > I.e. there was no open-source [nt]roff compatible program at the time,
> > and the mainly available proprietary one produced (for quality printing
> > purposes) only very convoluted hard-coded output for a quite esoteric
> > and rare piece of equipment.  AT&T's public attempt to solve this
> > (ditroff) just added more cost and arguably less availability.
> >
> ditroff was always >>open source<< and any licensee could get it and see
> it.  The problem you are suggesting is that it was not >>free<< i.e. FOSS.

Indeed.  I was going to use the word "freeware", but it seems to have
gone out of common use in favour of the now more common "open-source",
as in https://opensource.org/

At the times I referred to the lack of freely available AT&T source code
was extremely limiting in how people viewed the availability of such
"add-on" tools for Unix -- including the C compiler!  AT&T's break-up of
the "Unix" distribution into separately licensed chunks was, from my
perspective, one of the main driving forces behind the creation and
adoption of so many clones and alternatives -- no matter how far they
strayed from the original Unix philosophy.

> For folks running binary only systems from Masscomp/Sun/DEC/HP/IBM and the
> like, it is possible it was different.

It was _very_ different.

If you weren't out in the trenches of end-user Unix-based systems at the
time it may not have been as obvious as to just how restrictive it was
to have proprietary fee-based licensing of such add-on software.  Most
end-users couldn't even pay their vendors for ditroff -- their vendors
didn't want to have to license it from AT&T, even when they had
advocates inside the companies (e.g. I did some work supporting software
for a couple such vendors and was never able to convince them).  Some,
as you mention, were all-in, but it wasn't until UNIX System V Release 4
became more widely available that systems based on it were more likely
to have ditroff, and sometimes (though much more rarely) the "new" dpost
post-processor was also included.  I don't know if there were different
licensing terms for SysVr4 or not.  Don't get me started on how hard it
also was to get some end users to buy a C compiler too.

For the entire decade of the 1990s I was still one of the only people I
knew (outside of those I knew in AT&T Canada and their customers) who
owned a system that included ditroff and dpost and could print directly
to a PostScript laser printer -- and that's despite living in the same
city where SoftQuad was re-licensing ditroff and their variant of dpost
to quite a wide variety of users.  This was my situation because I had
chosen to buy a used AT&T 3B2.  Without that I'd have been without
ditroff -- I would have been very lucky if I had v7 troff binaries so
that I could use Chris' PSroff.

These days of course there's the full ditroff source release in the
Heirloom Documentation Tools collection.  I'd like to see it used to
replace Groff in some places, but so far I've been less than successful
-- that cart seems to have rolled off the road into the ditch, hopefully
without losing the horse though.

					Greg A. Woods <gwoods at acm.org>

Kelowna, BC     +1 250 762-7675           RoboHack <woods at robohack.ca>
Planix, Inc. <woods at planix.com>     Avoncote Farms <woods at avoncote.ca>
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