[TUHS] The Elements Of Style: UNIX As Literature

George Michaelson ggm at algebras.org
Mon Nov 9 09:23:35 AEST 2020

A lot of industrial design is based on inheritance. The nitrocellulose
filmstock was nominal 40mm, after cutting and sprockets it was 35. cut
it in half you have 16mm single sprocket. Original manufacture was 80
wide cut in half so undo that and you get 70mm. run the film sideways,
you now have 700 high for IMAX dimensions. Why was nitrocellulose film
stock coming in 80mm wide strips? Ask somebody who knows what George
Eastman was doing at the time... My guess is the tank emitted 100mm
but the edges were crinkly, and 80mm was what he got after slicing
ragged margins. The rest is inheritance down the stack working on 1/2
and 1/4 sizing consequences.

IBM was business machines. tabulators. The sheet stock it used for
things in business was defined by what it could source coming in,
reliably. The US census used hollerith cards, this is probably why the
fed reserve used hollerith cards. (My G/F got a 1978 tax cheque refund
from a camp school in the midwest on a hollerith-card-cheque, the last
time I saw one in anger outside of the computer labs where we were
still using them in anger, very anger)

the Banks first atm's used card stock for receipts. they were
mini-hollerith. I imagine because they understood how to do alignment
from a cut corner, and had machinery which worked.

I was told that fmt/72 is a post-hoc rationalisation to allow for 4-5
levels of indentation in >>>quoting. I think this is a post-hoc
rationalisation of a prompter hoc reality. If you go back into
teletype deep history, I bet you find 40/60/72 was coming out of some
combination of fixed-width typeface, mechanics, and paper stock sizes
available in the supply chain.

(Mike Lesk told me the TBL offset in the T/ROFF box drawing was
because of a highly specific throwback effect in the printer at Bell.
The code was adjusted to deal with this, and the rest of us had to
wear the top and bottom lines being misplaced without a patch to the
code. This kind of thing, its classic "because we could, and because
it works" decision logic)

On Sat, Nov 7, 2020 at 10:17 AM Dave Horsfall <dave at horsfall.org> wrote:
> [ Moving to COFF (if your MUA respects "Reply-To:") ]
> On Fri, 6 Nov 2020, Larry McVoy wrote:
> > But I'm pretty old school, I write in C, I debug a lot with printf and
> > asserts, I'm kind of a dinosaur.
> You've never experienced the joy of having your code suddenly working when
> inserting printf() statements?  Oh dear; time to break out GDB...
> -- Dave

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