[OS X TeX] Who should use (La)TeX - who is able to use it?

Fernando Pereira fcnpereira at mac.com
Wed Nov 17 21:42:29 EST 2004

On Nov 15, 2004, at 9:52 PM, Alain Schremmer wrote:

> In any case, I doubt that, 25 years ago, people could have imagined 
> what today's desk computers can do. We were overjoyed with MacWrite 
> and couldn't believe it when the first Laserprinter came out. In fact 
> we couldn't believe the output of the Applewriter (?) to begin with. 
> So, the fact that many people have tried does not seem to me to be a 
> convincing argument.

In the late 70s, places like Xerox PARC and other research labs had 
very expensive custom personal computers that were functionally 
comparable with modern Macs, if with less memory and slower. There's 
*nothing* fundamental in a current OS X environment that is 
qualitatively different from, say, what was available and possible on a 
Xerox Dorado in the late 70s, or a Sun or SGI workstation in the mid 
80s. Slicker, yes. But all of the critical ideas and techniques, 
including bitmapped displays, TeX, window systems, and WYSIWYG editors, 
were already available. I know of several early attempts (for example, 
at CMU in the mid 80s) to put WYSIWYG front-ends on typesetting systems 
that failed not because of computer limitations but for the reasons I 
> Re. "The syntax and meaning of typesetting languages like TeX are too 
> rich and subtle for simple-to-use visual metaphors". Maybe, I 
> certainly wouldn't know, but what about a /subset/ thereof? Many 
> people would be happy to settle for a "lite" version. If only to get 
> started.

Subsetting a language is very hard if the language was not designed to 
be subsetted. That's why it's so hard to teach introductory programming 
with professional programming languages like C++ or Java.
> By the way, just before the Mac came out, I used to hear the same kind 
> of things about why there could be nothing but command language on 80 
> character lines and raw dot matrix printers. I know because a friend 
> and I were trying at the time to get into small press publishing, 
> couldn't believe it and kept looking. And then there was Xerox' star 
> system which we couldn't afford and, eventually, the Mac 128 which 
> couldn't do much of anything but made us wait a bit more and the Mac 
> 256 we bought a couple of.

That might have been the case for the general public, but those of us 
who had the luck to use early Xerox D machines, MIT Lisp machines, and 
Sun and SGI workstations as part of our work around that time had a 
totally different experience.

-- F

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