[TUHS] Documenter's Workbench versions

Douglas McIlroy douglas.mcilroy at dartmouth.edu
Wed Mar 9 12:06:42 AEST 2022

> The Documenter's Workbench is sort of the unsung hero
> of Unix.  It is why Unix exists, Unix was done to write patents and
> troff and the Documenter's Workbench was all about that.

My response along the following lines seems to have gone astray.

The prime reason for Unix was the desire of Ken, Dennis, and Joe
Ossanna to have a pleasant environment for software development.
The fig leaf that got the nod from Multics-burned management was
that an early use would be to develop a "stand-alone" word-processing
system for use in typing pools and secretarial offices. Perhaps they
had in mind "dedicated", as distinct from "stand-alone"; that's
what eventuated in various cases, most notably in the legal/patent
department and in the AT&T CEO's office.

Both those systems were targets of opportunity, not foreseen from the
start. When Unix was up and running on the PDP-11, Joe got wind of
the legal department having installed a commercial word processor.
He went to pitch Unix as an alternative and clinched a trial by
promising to make roff able to number lines by tomorrow in order to
fulfill a patent-office requirement that the commercial system did
not support.

Modems were installed so legal-department secretaries could try the
Research machine. They liked it and Joe's superb customer service.
Soon the legal department got a system of their own. Joe went on to
create nroff and troff. Document preparation became a widespread use
of Unix, but no stand-alone word-processing system was ever undertaken.


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