A Message from the President

Michel Goossens
Geneva, Switzerland

After those long and cold winter months we all long for Spring, with its flowers, sunshine, and warmth that make us dream about our next summer holidays. Since last September the members of the TUGboat Production Team have been working hard to produce five issues of TUGboat in as many months. I think we have shown that TUG is still alive and well, and can still deliver the goods it promises. Therefore I hope, dear reader, that we have regained your complete confidence, and that we shall be able to count on your continued support, since TUG exists through and for its members.

This is your first issue of TUGboat for 1996 and, as announced in the December issue last year, the Proceedings of TUG'96 will come next, followed by another regular issue in September. In December we plan to have a special thematic issue, exploring examples of how TeX is used around the world in non-mathematical contexts to generate real ``master works of the typesetting Art''. Barbara Beeton, in her comments, gives a few more details. We invite all those interested to submit an article for any of these issues, because I am convinced that numerous TeX and METAFONT pearls are still hidden in many parts of Planet Earth.

As each year, one of the great TeX events of 1996 will without doubt be the annual TUG Conference. As announced several times before, and repeated one last time on page 76, TUG'96, our 17th Annual Conference, will take place from Sunday July 28th to Friday August 2nd in Dubna, Russia. Dubna is a small but famous town a mere 70 miles north of Moscow, in the middle of picturesque pine woods, on the banks of the Volga, and the home of an international scientific institute and a university. Those attending TUG'96 will be able to meet many TeX gurus and celebrities, or solve that stubborn TeX-problem that has been with them for so long, or talk face-to-face with the email correspondent only known from electronic exchanges. It will also be a unique occasion to get acquainted with a different but still profoundly Indo-European culture, its traditions, gastronomy, and the typical Slav hospitality. You will return home with a feeling of well-being, that you were amongst those who participated in the first-ever TUG Conference organized outside the English-speaking world, at the frontier where East meets West, where Europe ends and Asia starts, a real melting pot of cultures. Where ``da'' means ``yes'', and ``nyet'' means ``no'' --- and all that served in the Cyrillic alphabet. I look forward to meeting all of you, TeX-enthusiasts, in Dubna in July at TUG'96. You will not regret your visit!

Let me come back one moment to the present issue of TUGboat, where you can find a wide variety of topics. First of all we include the transcript of Donald Knuth's question and answer session at TUG'95. It gives an in-depth insight into the way of work of the author of ``The Art of Computer Programming'', and the father of TeX. Let me wholeheartedly thank Christina Thiele for her painstaking editing of Don's text, based on her personal notes and a tape recordings, and Don himself, who took the time to carefully go through the proofs only a few days before he had to leave for Europe to lecture at various universities, and to receive a degree of Doctor honoris Causa of Masaryk University in Brno (Czech Republic). Congratulations to Don who, by his continuous efforts for writing about and teaching mathematics, and his professional and thorough approach to problem solving, is and will remain an example of true dedication to the ideals of pure science for generations to come.

As Barbara Beeton, the TUGboat Editor, and I already explained, we want TUGboat to become a journal that can be read by TeX users of all levels of TeX proficiency. Therefore, we welcome tutorials like the one on LaTeXe's graphics capabilities by Ken Reckdahl. We also plan to regularly include material about what is happening in the various TeX user groups worldwide. In particular, an overview of the resources which these groups have to offer can be found in the present issue.

As you will have realized by reading the editorials in past TUGboats, TUG has been going through a difficult period. We hope that the worst is now behind us, so that we can concentrate on building for the future. First of all let me reassure you that TUG, in this seventeenth year of its existence, will continue its quest for finding optimal ways to support the TeX community worldwide. I remain convinced that TUGboat will continue to play an important role in TUG's future as the reference journal with TeX-related material, but I am equally sure that other, complementary communication channels will become ever more important, as indicated by the many articles on TeX, electronic documents and the Internet in recent issues of TUGboat. Therefore it is with great pleasure that I am able to announce that Karl Berry (the author of the well-known TeX implementation web2c, plus many software packages in the GNU world) has graciously put a PC running linux at TUG's disposal. It is connected to the Internet at Karl's university (the University of Massachusetts at Boston, also known by its acronym umb). We run a WWW and ftp service on that machine (see the article on the resources offered by the various TeX user groups on page 37). Let me take this occasion to express TUG's sincerest thanks to Karl for allowing us to use his machine, and to his University for their Internet connection. With time I am convinced that the names www.tug.org and ftp.tug.org will become part of the daily (electronic) vocabulary of every TeX user as a convenient one-stop site, where up-to-date reference information on TeX, TUG and the other User Groups can be found.

The Future of the TeX Users Group

At the end of my first message of 1996 to you, dear Reader, it is also my duty to inform you that the storm clouds we have been living under for the past year have not gone away. TUG, and especially the TUGboat Production Team, have done their best to deliver TUGboat on schedule again, hoping that this would lead to a new wave of renewals. We had hoped that we would be able to reach a number of at least 2000 members again, the minimum TUG needs to survive in its present form. The mid-March membership figures stand at around 1200 (57% North America, 35% Europe and 8% rest of the world). Unless we witness a significant increase in the renewal rate in the coming months, we will have to take drastic measures to reduce cost even further, and probably the TUG Office will have to be closed down temporarily, to allow us to concentrate on the production of TUGboat and seeding TeX-related activities worldwide, thereby solely relying on volunteer labor.

TUG realizes that computing changes at an ever-increasing pace and what was common practice only yesterday is already old stuff and unusable today. The Internet, CD-ROMs, multi-Gbyte hard-disks attached to a PC equipped with eight or more Mbytes of memory are now commonplace. TUG must and will find its place in this new Web-linked universe. We shall concentrate on areas where we can positively contribute, namely electronic publishing, by producing TUGboat, the definitive international journal on TeX-related issues, and coordinating the information flow between the various local TeX user groups worldwide, which, by exploiting the proximity factor, are, in general, better placed to serve their respective user bases. Therefore, acting as a clearing house for global TeX-related information and complementarity with the local TeX Groups will be our motto for the future. I sincerely hope that we will be able to count on all friends of TeX wherever they reside to work together to support us in this endeavor.