[TUHS] Line Numbers Before SysIII nl? BSD num?

Warner Losh imp at bsdimp.com
Mon Jul 25 05:45:52 AEST 2022

By 1984 (so some years after the formative stage in the era between 4.2BSD
and 4.3BSD), there
were a number of different programs on the net (USENET's source groups) to
pretty print things
on laser or line printers: grind, tgrind, vgrind, ete. These all had a
dozen different ways to gaudy up
the output (err, present the listing in a more aesthetically pleasing way):
Line numbers, line numbers
every 5 or 10 lines, line spacing tweaks, keywords as bold or italics,
frames around the output,
"two up" printing, various special behavior for functions (grey bands for
start of functions, function
definitions in bold, etc), as well as specialized options for assembler /
object renderings, etc. Most
were targeted at laser printers, but some were a better version of pr/lpr
for line printer output. Some
targeted postscript directly, while others used TeX, troff, etc in a
pipeline to gain some device
independence. Oh what a long way from pr -n these were. But at the time it
really helped me to
understand the power of the unix philosophy because these 'all in'
approaches were great until
you wanted to get a few steps beyond the beaten path and then it became
impossible (given the
great number of combinatorics for these options, many of the programs
produced odd results for
some combinations of options).

For day to day stuff, I hated these and used simpler options. But for
producing nice looking listings
for appendixes for papers / reports / assignments I'd written for school
they weren't half bad if
you avoided the worst of the gaudiness options. :)


On Sat, Jul 23, 2022 at 7:21 AM Rob Pike <robpike at gmail.com> wrote:

> Very odd. I thought so too, but the 8th Edition manual says pr -n
> prints in n columns, while the 9th and 10th say it numbers the lines.
> No memory, if I ever knew, of what triggered that change.
> -rob
> On Sat, Jul 23, 2022 at 10:50 PM Norman Wilson <norman at oclsc.org> wrote:
> >
> > I had a vague memory that pr could be made
> > to number lines, but a quick check of the 7/e
> > manual says no.
> >
> > I expect Dan's right, and none of the 127 folks
> > felt much need to number lines on printouts
> > so nobody wrote the obvious simple tool.
> >
> > Ironic, since the Unix PDP-11 used by the patent
> > licensing office (and I think shared with the
> > research group, and that was how their first
> > PDP-11 was justified and funded) happened
> > because the patent folks needed line-numbered
> > output and roff was easily modified to do that.
> >
> > Maybe Doug or Ken or Steve has first-hand
> > memories.
> >
> > Norman Wilson
> > Toronto ON
> > (on a train shuffling toward Buffalo)
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