[texhax] (no subject)

Philip TAYLOR [PC336/H-XP] P.Taylor at Rhul.Ac.Uk
Sat Jun 7 19:18:04 CEST 2003

Herbert Gintis wrote:


>         I totally agree that it is an unbelievable coup that Knuth's software of the 1970's survives to this day and remains quite excellent. However, the language he wrote it in is a complete mess. All the \expandafters and \csnames and Lord knows what crazy commands, the absence of real floating point, horrible debugging instruments, not object-oriented, etc. I really hate to hack this code, and would love it if TeX were completely rewritten in C++, Delphi, or Java conforming to modern programming conventions.

There's a strange convolution/conflation of ideas here; the 
language in which Don /wrote/ TeX (82) was Web, based on
standard Pascal.  It has none of the "crazy features" to
which you refer.  However, the language that Don /created/
(i.e., the TeX (82) language) is indeed quirky, and there 
there are rumours that one reason for this was that these
quirky ideas had previously failed to gain acceptance amongs
his peers, and he saw TeX as a way of demonstrating their
validity.  It would be interesting to know if any who were
around at the time (Pierre, Nelson, Barbara, ...) have any
recollection of the truth or otherwise of this rumour.

>         By the way, I have always found it curious that Knuth is such a great computer theorist and a quite good mathematician, but his computer code (e.g., from his multi-volume book on computer algorithms, or his web, tangle, weave, etc.) is really quite awkward and highly inelegant. A good computer program should look like a haiku poem, not a tangle of impenetrable code, IMHO.

Hmmm, just seventeen syllables, with a fixed metre; 
probably best done in Perl, then !

** Phil.

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