I'm looking for complete compies of UNIX NEWS volumes 1-7. 8 and newer are
available on the USENIX site, or on archive.org, but older ones are not. A
few excerpts are published in newer login issues, but nothing complete.
Reading the AUUGN issues, especially the early ones, are quite enlightening
and help one judge the relative merits of later accounts with better
contemporary context. I was hoping to get the same from UNIX NEWS (later
login) and any other news letters that may exist from the time (I think I
spotted references to one from the UK in AUUGN). It's really quite
Believed lost in the mists of time for over 30 years, the Georgia Tech
Software Tools Subsystem for Prime Computers, along with the Georgia Tech
C Compiler for Prime Computers, have been recovered!
The source code and documentation (and binary files) are available in a
Github repo: https://github.com/arnoldrobbins/gt-swt.
The README.md there provides some brief history and credits with respect
to the recovery, and w.r.t. the subsystem and C compilers themselves.
Credit to Scott Lee for making and keeping the tapes and driving the
recovery process, and to Dennis Boone and yours truly for contributing
financially. I set up the repo.
For anyone who used and/or contributed to this software, we hope you'll
enjoy this trip down memory lane.
Feel free to forward this note to interested parties.
(On behalf of the swt recovery team. :-)
I have revived the 10th edition spell(1) program, allowing it to compile
and run on "modern" systems.
See https://github.com/arnoldrobbins/v10spell ; the README.md gives
an overview of what was done.
As a project for our university's seminar on the PDP-8 I wrote a
compiler for the B language targeting it. It's a bit rough around
the edges and the runtime code needs some work (division and
remainder are missing), but it does compile B code correctly,
generating acceptable code (for my taste, though the function call
sequence could be better).
I hope some of you enjoy this compiler for an important historical
language for an important historical computer (makes me wonder why
the two weren't married before).
() ascii ribbon campaign - for an 8-bit clean world
/\ - against html email - against proprietary attachments
If you have something like perl that needs a zillion sub pages, info
makes sense. For just a man page, info is horrible.
This pokes me in one of my longest-standing complaints:
Manual entries, as printed by man and once upon a time in
the Programmers' Manual Volume 1, should be concise references.
They are not a place for tutorials or long-winded descriptions
or even long lists of hundreds of options (let alone descriptions
of why the developer thinks this is the neatest thing since
sliced bread and what bread he had in his sandwiches that day).
For many programs, one or two pages of concise reference is
all the documentation that's needed; no one needs a ten-page
tutorial on how to use cat or rm or ls, for example. But some
programs really do deserve a longer treatment, either a tutorial
or an extended reference with more detail or both. Those belong
in separate documents, and are why the Programmers' Manual had
a second volume.
Nowadays people think nothing of writing 68-page-long manual
entries (real example from something I'm working with right now)
that are long, chatty lists of options or configuration-file
directives with tutorial information interspersed. The result
makes the developer feel good--look at all the documentation
I've written!!--but it's useless for someone trying to figure
out how to write a configuration file for the first time, and
not so great even for someone trying to edit an existing one.
Even the Research system didn't always get this right; some
manual entries ran on and on and on when what was really
needed was a concise list of something and a longer accompanying
document. (The Tenth Edition manual was much better about
that, mostly because of all the work Doug put in. I doubt
there has ever been a better editor for technical text than
Doug.) But it's far worse now in most systems, because
there's rarely any editor at all; the manuals are just an
And that's a shame, though I have no suggestions on how
to fix it.
Exactly!!!! That's what Eric did when he wrote more(ucb) - he *added to
Unix*. The funny part was that USG thought more(ucb) was a good idea and
then wrote their own, pg(att); which was just as arrogant as the info
behavior from the Gnu folks!!!
And others wrote their own too, of course. The one I know
best is p(1), written by Rob Pike in the late 1970s at the
University of Toronto. I encountered at Caltech on the
system Rob had set up before leaving for Bell Labs (and
which I cared for and hacked on for the next four years
before following him). By the time I reached BTL it was
a normal part of the Research system; I believe it's in
all of the Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Edition manuals.
p is interesting because it's so much lighter-weight, and
because it has rather a different interior design:
Rather than doing termcappy things, p just prints 22 lines
(or the number specified in an option), then doesn't print
the newline after the 22nd line. Hit return and it will
print the next 22 lines, and so on. The resulting text just
flows up the glass-tty screen without any fuss, cbreak, or
anything. (I believe the first version predated V7 and
Why 22 lines instead of 24, the common height of glass ttys
back then? Partly because that means you keep a line or two
of context when advancing pages, making reading simpler.
But also because in those days, a standard page destined for
a printer (e.g. from pr or nroff, and therefore from man) was
66 lines long. 22 evenly divides 66, so man something | p
never gives you a screen spanning pages.
p was able to back up: type - (and return) instead of just
return, and it reprints the previous 22-line page; -- (return)
the 22 lines before that; and so on. This was implemented
in an interesting and clever way: a wrapper around the standard
I/O library which kept a circular buffer of some fixed number
of characters (8KiB in early versions, I think), and a new
call that, in effect, backed up the file pointer by one character
and returned the character just backed over. That made it easy
to back over the previous N lines: just make that call until
you've seen N newlines, then discard the newline you've just
backed over, and you're at the beginning the first line you want
As I vaguely recall, more was able to back up, but only when
reading from a real file, not a pipeline. p could do (limited
but sufficient) backup from a pipeline too.
As a creature of its pre-window-system era, you could also type
!command when p paused as well.
I remember being quite interested in that wrapper as a
possible library for use in other things, though I never
found a use for it.
I also remember a wonderful Elements-of-Programming-Style
adventure with Rob's code. I discovered it had a bug under some
specific case when read returned less than a full bufferful.
I read the code carefully and couldn't see what was wrong.
So I wrote my own replacement for the problematic subroutine
from scratch, tested it carefully in corner cases, then with
listings of Rob's code and mine side-by-side walked through
each with the problem case and found the bug.
I still carry my own version of p (rewritten from scratch mainly
to make it more portable--Rob's code was old enough to be too
clever in some details) wherever I go; ironically, even back to
U of T where I have been on and off for the past 30 years.
more and less and pg and the like are certainly useful programs;
for various reasons they're not to my taste, but I don't scorn
them. But I can't help being particular fond of p because it
taught me a few things about programming too.