[TUHS] Command-line options

Warren Toomey wkt at tuhs.org
Sat Mar 26 07:29:25 AEST 2016

On Fri, Mar 25, 2016 at 05:43:08PM +0300, Aharon Robbins wrote:
> One of Unix's signature hallmarks is its terseness: short command names
> like mv, ln, cp, cc, ed; short options (a dash and a single letter),
> programs with just a few, if any, options at all, and short path names:
> "usr" instead of "user", "src" instead of "source" and so on.
> I have long theorized that the reason for the short names is that since
> typing was so physically demanding, it was natural to make the command
> names (and all the rest) be short and easier to type.  I don't know if
> this was a conscious decision, but I suspect it more likely to have been
> an unconscious / natural one.

I'm going to throw in an aside at this point. PDP-7 Unix packed 2 characters
per 18-bit word. So, when comparing things, it's easy to compare one
word against another. I believe this is why command-line options were
2 characters (e.g. -l, -v, -c, -d) etc.

Cheers, Warren

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