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SubjectRe: emacs
On 26 Mar 1998, Linus Torvalds wrote:

> - I'm distrustful of projects that do not have well-defined goals, and
> well-defined interfaces. They tend to bloat and do "everything" over
> time. This is what gives us horrors like GNU emacs and Mach: they
> don't try to do one thing well, they try to do _everything_ based on
> some loose principle ("LISP is good" or "microkernels make sense" or

"You vile heretic."

I remember my first unix login. I needed to edit an rc file. Since I had
Unix in a Nutshell handy, I started vi. It kinda did things when I pressed
keys (I could move to the next line), but I got so lost on a regex
replace that it wouldn't respond to keystrokes and I had to break the
connection from my dial-up comm program.

When I logged back in (having browsed a few more pages of UiaN), I
started emacs. This is what I saw (earlier version, actually, on SunOS):

Gnu Emacs 19.34.1 (i486-pc-linux-gnu) of [date] on [host]
Copyright (C) 1996 Free Software Foundation, Inc.

Type C-x C-c to exit Emacs.
Type C-h for help; C-x u to undo changes.
Type C-h t for a tutorial on using emacs.
Type C-h i to enter Info, which you can use to read GNU documentation.
(`C-' means to use the CTRL key. `M-' means use the Meta (or Alt) key.
If you have no Meta key, you may instead type ESC followed by the

Type F10 or M-` to use the menu bar.

[lack of warranty, copying conditions, how to get most recent
(sometimes mule-muddled 20.2 at the moment) version]

I managed to edit the rc file without having to logout with the big
red switch, and have since considered emacs notorious bloat (1/10th of
Netscape size) to be a small price to pay for software that doesn't
lose my work.

It doesn't matter that it tries to do everything, because it does the one
or two things that I use it for reliably, and you can mentally "swap out"
how part of it works because you can always look it up again (easily, not
obscurely) with ctrl-h. If you happen to remember from the last time you
executed some obscure function six months ago, fine, but that's not
required because the (mode-or-function sensitive) help is usually a
keystroke away.

Even if one moves on to vi to lose some of emacs memory footprint when one
becomes more expert, emacs gets you through those first two weeks with
minimal pain and misery. Dismissing it out of hand underestimates emacs'
contribution to unix (and thus linux) initial usability, imho. It's a
foot-in-the-door program.

Regards, Clayton Weaver (Seattle)

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