[TUHS] Unix tools to aid in the production of Internet RFCs?

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Fri Aug 28 04:32:15 AEST 2020

On Thu, Aug 27, 2020 at 1:51 PM Tony Finch <dot at dotat.at> wrote:

> Yes, very Not Unix. As Dan wondered, the best list for this question is internet-history,
> I think :-)
Maybe - certainly true for the first 1K  (more in a minute...)

> The Network Information Center was at SRI, and they used the ARC NLS: Doug
> Englebart's Augmentation Research Center oN-Line System [1]

SRI just published them, my experience/memory from the time, was the
authors wrote them locally, which as I said was more often than not,
PDP6/10 in the 70s.  Certainly was true at CMU, Stanford, and MIT.  The
problem was we all had XGPs (later Dovers) and original the Stanford PUB
system (folks with PDP-10s seemed to have tended to switch to Scribe after
it became available) but those without a custom output device, many other
folks did not.   PUB really wanted an XGP, not a line printer and the
runoff family pretty much assumed an ASCII printer page.    Scribe could
handle either, as well as the newly emerging 'daisy wheel' printers.
Actually, typesetters like the C/A/T or the APS-5 were not as popular in CS
departments (probably because the cost per page, the nuisance of the
chemistry *et al*.  Although a lot of places that had a 'publications' team
(DEC, BBN, *etc*) had them.   Lasers printers (particularly PS based ones)
were really another 3-5 years away, first Apple, then Imagen, and finally,
HP licensed PS.

So the RFC/IENs et al would have followed the preferred/economic technology
of the time.

> but I get the impression that by the 1990s nroff on Unix was the main
> tool for producing RFCs.
Certainly true, but I would think that the transition was at least 5 years
earlier, maybe 7-8 given the rise of the Vaxen, and using tools like
vcat(1) like we used at UCB (and I had done previous to that at Tektronix).

But that was really the important thing for the IEN/RFCs.   When the 10's
stopped being the backbone of the Arpanet (now Internet) and UNIX took the
helm, the troff family started to be the primary tool.   To be fair, the
Pascal version of Tex appeared in the early 1980s, but it was not until the
Latex (Scribe style Tex macros) and the UNIX/C support that it really began
to take off.  There were a number of reasons for this, but maybe because
Pascal was a second class citizen to C may have hindered its acceptance.  I
can not say.  I have friends that swear by it and have cursed troff
forever, and others like me, that tend the other way (emacs *vs.* vi I

It's funny, I learned runoff, PUB, Scribe, troff, or sort of tex in that
order.   I have a soft spot for Scribe, but I used it for such a short
time, and troff became my primary tool.  Like Larry, I still prefer troff
(groff) today to the tex family as I have fewer problems doing complex
stuff with it; but that may be the familiarity with it being the best tool
available to me for so long.  I suspect, the RFC publishers could be a
similar story.
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