[TUHS] Project Idea: The UNIX Programmer's Manual: Heritage Edition

Phil Budne phil at ultimate.com
Thu Sep 21 13:48:19 AEST 2023

Adam Thornton:
> Say what you will about VMS, its HELP functionality makes it much easier to
> go from "I want to do X" to "And here's a sequence of commands that will do
> X" when you don't already have a good mental model of what's on the system.

I'm reminded of two fourty-odd year old diatribes(*) against Unix
documentation, yet somehow the Unix model has persisted, while other
systems have long since been taken out with yesterdays ashbin of history.

My beef, coming from TOPS-20 with VMS "HELP" was that (in the days on
having a single dumb terminal on your desk) was if you couldn't
remember a switch midway through typing a command you had to erase it,
wade through multiple levels of HELP screens, cancel out of that, and
then type the switch, until you realized you needed another switch.
On TOPS-20 you just typed ?

Yes, I suppose Unix-like systems could have section of pages with
overviews of functional areas (tho to be fair, v6/v7 era Unix didn't
have any facilities complex enough to warrant such things).

And it depends on which Unix-like system: "man 4 inet" on FreeBSD is a
more useful intro to TCP/IP socket programming than anything I can
find on my Ubuntu 22.04 system.  However, the FreeBSD man page
(unhelpfully) references two 4.3 BSD Interprocess Communication
Tutorials with no obvious information on how to find them.

(*) For diatribe #1 search for: "Last night I dreamed that the Real
World had adopted the Unix Philosophy".  For #2 search for "it's
literally a five-foot shelf of documentation"

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