[TUHS] Is the Teletype the unsung hero of Unix?

scj at yaccman.com scj at yaccman.com
Tue Mar 29 06:12:44 AEST 2016

> On 25/03/2016 16:43, Aharon Robbins wrote:
>> 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.
> In a paper we will present at this year's International Conference on
> Software Engineering we show (among other things) that the mean length
> of identifiers in Unix C source code has risen from 3.5 to 7.5
> characters from 1973 until today. We also observed a corresponding rise
> in the length of lines and files. Better terminals can be one reason for
> this rise. Other possible reasons may be increased software complexity
> as well as CPU power and memory that allowed the processing of more
> verbose code.
> I've uploaded a preprint at
> http://www.dmst.aueb.gr/dds/pubs/conf/2016-ICSE-ProgEvol/html/SLK16.pdf
...  and I once heard an old-timer growl at a young programmer "I've
written boot loaders that were shorter than your variable names!"


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