[TUHS] Nice video with Brian Kernighan

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Sun Aug 21 02:17:02 AEST 2022


No matter.  I have often thought about what an amazing muse you were to so
many people regarding so many different ideas that have panned out.  It
seems to me that you were always there at the right time.  Your powers to
get the best from everyone around you are unlike anyone else I have ever
been lucky enough to have met. Although I have also often said to students
the one really hard thing to directly teach, that you can learn by looking
at people that came before you is 'good taste.'   We all owe you as much
thanks for being there and inspiring your peers, as for their brilliance in
implementing the concepts with style and taste.


On Sat, Aug 20, 2022 at 11:49 AM Douglas McIlroy <
douglas.mcilroy at dartmouth.edu> wrote:

> Brian's tribute to the brilliant regex mechanism that awk borrowed
> from egrep  spurred memories.
> For more than forty years I claimed credit for stimulating Ken to
> liberate grep from ed. Then, thanks to TUHS, I learned that I had
> merely caused Ken to spring from the closet a program he had already
> made for his own use.
> There's a related story for egrep. Al Aho made a deterministic
> regular-expression recognizer as a faster replacement for the
> non-deterministic recognizer in grep. He also extended the domain of
> patterns to full regular expressions, including alternation; thus the
> "e" in egrep.
> About the same time, I built on Norm Shryer's personal calendar
> utility. I wanted to generalize Norm's strict syntax for dates to
> cover most any (American) representation of dates, and to warn about
> tomorrow's calendar as well as today's--where "tomorrow" could extend
> across a weekend or holiday.
> Egrep was just the tool I needed for picking the dates out of a
> free-form calendar file. I wrote a little program that built an egrep
> pattern based on today's date. The following mouthful for Saturday,
> August 20 covers Sunday and Monday, too. (Note that, in egrep, newline
> is a synonym for |, the alternation operator.)
>         (^|[ (,;])(([Aa]ug[^ ]* *|(08|8)/)0*20)([^0123456789]|$)
>         (^|[ (,;])(([Aa]ug[^ ]* *|(08|8)/)0*21)([^0123456789]|$)
>         (^|[ (,;])(([Aa]ug[^ ]* *|(08|8)/)0*22)([^0123456789]|$)
> It worked like a charm, except that it took a good part of a minute to
> handle even a tiny calendar file. The reason: the state count of the
> deterministic automaton was exponentially larger than the regular
> regular expression; and egrep had to build the automaton before it
> could run it. Al was mortified that an early serious use of egrep
> should be such a turkey.
> But Al was undaunted. He replaced the automaton construction with an
> equivalent lazy algorithm that constructed a state only when the
> recognizer was about to visit it. This made egrep into the brilliant
> tool that Brian praised.
> What I don't know is whether the calendar program stimulated the idea
> of lazy implementation, or whether Al, like Ken before him with grep,
> already had the idea up his sleeve.
> Doug
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