[TUHS] tangential unix question: whatever happened to NeWS?

Rich Morin rdm at cfcl.com
Mon Jan 25 07:07:27 AEST 2021

John Gilmore probably has some interesting stories to tell regarding NeWS; his Grasshopper Group project ported it to A/UX on the Mac.  Don Hopkins and Hugh Daniel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Daniel) did the heavy lifting, IIRC.

I recall hearing that Gosling had to use GCC to compile NeWS.  It seems that the code had an enormous switch statement which spanned more than 64 KB.  The Sun C compiler used SPARC's location-independent conditional branches, which couldn't reach that far; GCC used a combination of branches and jumps, so it had no problem.

Aside from the use of PostScript and the enormous (for the time) resource demands, NeWS also suffered from economic and political issues.  It wasn't free (in any sense), so other vendors would have had to pay a substantial amount of money to use it.  Also, some other vendors were reportedly unwilling to give Sun yet another standards victory.

Too bad.  X won (at least in Unixish systems) and, as Rob Pike put it:  Sometimes when you fill a vacuum, it still sucks.  Curiously, JavaScript (another Gosling effort) is in some ways the modern version of NeWS...


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