[tex-live] Difficulties in Rewriting the Core TeX WEB Code

Nelson H. F. Beebe beebe at math.utah.edu
Mon Nov 14 13:53:09 CET 2016

Jayesh Badwaik <public at jayeshbadwaik.in> asks on Sun, 13 Nov 2016
23:14:54 +0100:

>> No one has tried rewriting it [TeX's Web code] ...

That is incorrect.  In the 1990s, there was a ground-up rewrite of TeX
in Java, but that project never received distribution.

More recently, there is a completely new implementation, JSBox, that
passes the trip test, allowing it to call itself TeX (though it
doesn't do so).  See

	Doug McKenna
	On tracing the {\tt trip} test with {{\tt JSBox}}
	TUGboat 35(2) 157--167

TeX's long use (since 1977--1978) is due to the high quality, and
portability, of its code.  Because it was developed in a time of small
computer memories (256KB RAM, or less), its designer had to make many
economizations that make the code more intricate that one would like.
Doug McKenna's clean-room implementation aims to be suitable for
64-bit machines, and eliminates many of the aggravating limits of the
original design.

However, any replacement for TeX will have to maintain compatibility
with millions, perhaps billions, of existing documents. If you just
want a new typesetting system, there are several wordprocessors that
could be used: they just do a poor job, particularly for mathematics.
And worse, they offer no document stability, since most are
proprietary, undocumented, and change unpredictably from time to time.
With TeX, I have recently retypeset documents from the 1980s without

For more on the history of TeX's development, see

	The design of {\TeX} and {\slMF}: A retrospective

	25 Years of {\TeX} and \MF: Looking back and looking
	forward\Dash \acro{TUG}\,2003 keynote address}

- Nelson H. F. Beebe                    Tel: +1 801 581 5254                  -
- University of Utah                    FAX: +1 801 581 4148                  -
- Department of Mathematics, 110 LCB    Internet e-mail: beebe at math.utah.edu  -
- 155 S 1400 E RM 233                       beebe at acm.org  beebe at computer.org -
- Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0090, USA    URL: http://www.math.utah.edu/~beebe/ -

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