[texhax] TeX without backslash: possible?

Michael Barr barr at math.mcgill.ca
Thu Nov 8 13:53:23 CET 2007

I am typing this from a public access terminal in a Quebec City hotel. 
The keyboard lacks a backslash and it got me wondering if TeX was even 
possible on it.  Sure you can change the catcode of some other character 
(but which?), but you cannot do that without a backslash.  The first place 
I read about TeX, it was TeX 1 (TeX and MetaFont published around 1980) 
the way it worked was that the first character in the TeX file that it saw 
became the escape character for that file.  There were (and remain) things 
like backslash sb and backslash sp for sub- and superscripts on deficient 
terminals.  AFAIK, there is no way of doing this in TeX 2.*.

Of course a decent editor would allow you do this by copying the backslash 
from a working file and using it to change the catcode of something else 
to be the escape.

Michael Barr

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