# A New Year's Message and Invitation/ my current "initiatives"

Mike Marchywka marchywka at hotmail.com
Fri Jan 1 01:44:58 CET 2021

On Thu, Dec 31, 2020 at 01:39:50PM +0000, Jonathan Fine wrote:
>    Below is a message I've already sent to the members of UK TUG. You're also invited to the TeX / LaTeX Office Hour at 6:30
>    to 7:30pm tonight (UK time), and every Thursday until the end of March 2021.
>    Dear Fellow Member
>    This evening we'll increment the year counter. Like birthdays, an important symbolic event. A time to look back, and
>    forward. The present crisis in UK TUG has its roots in mostly gradual changes over the last 25 years. This crisis is also
>    an opportunity to renew the TeX community and its tools.
>    Every Thursday evening, from 6:30 to 7:30pm UK time, I'll host a TeX / LaTeX Office Hour. All TeX users are welcome,
>    especially beginners. They'll continue at least until the end of March 2021.
>    Zoom details
>    [https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78551255396?pwd=cHdJN0pTTXRlRCtSd1lCTHpuWmNIUT09]https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78551255396?pwd=cHdJN
>    0pTTXRlRCtSd1lCTHpuWmNIUT09
>    Meeting ID: 785 5125 5396
>    Passcode: knuth
>    My fear is not that UK TUG is dissolved, or that its money is wasted. My fear is that we miss and close off the opportunity
>    to renew TeX. Succeed, and the future of TeX in STEM and elsewhere can be assured for the next 30 years. Fail, and TeX will
>    become a niche product well removed from the mainstream of authoring and publishing. With dwindling use as legacy
>    print-only publishing systems are replaced. Is this a binary choice, or is there a middle ground?

I was hoping to get someone interested in the topics I posted earlier that seem well suited to the TeX products.
I have encountered the "fixed" nature of the typsetting system but for most serious work I don't
see this as a significant problem for now. I wrote some macro's and hacked up a version
of evince DVI interpretter to control block visibility ( it is nice to collapse blocks
of text away ) and thought it was nice but not high priority.

The strength is the simplicity and portability of text. I have been trying to create interest
in bibtex or bomtex for non-academic site ( anyone who has written high school papers knows you
can cite popular news items or even rather frivolous sites ). Bomtex would be the "bill of
materials" adaptation of a bibliography perhaps even with some system for allowing
an author to get credit when readers buy something based on the bomtex entries
( url with doi included or someway to include a referer header with the doi ).

>    When it was created, TeX was something of a miracle. There was nothing like it. High quality, almost bug free, solving a
>    difficult problem, and running on ordinary PCs (say 10 MHz, 2 MB and 40 MB). I still have confidence in TeX, and it's still
>    central to math, physics and similar research.
>    Looking forward, TeX has problems. Many arose from after TeX was frozen (at version 3) in 1989. For example, creating
>    accessible PDF via TeX isn't yet practical. PDF was introduced in 1993. Similarly, the first release of HTML was in 1993.
>    Python was first released in 1991, Lua in 1993, Ruby and Javascript in 1995. Perl goes back to 1987.
>    These are not problems in TeX's fundamental typesetting algorithms. Rather, they are problems and opportunities in document
>    transformation at the input side, and rendering of typeset material on the output side. At present our use of TeX depends
>    on enormous amounts of software written in the TeX macro language. I fear that this is an emerging weak point and fault
>    line.
>    Put simply, LaTeX is written in what is now an obscure and specialised language. As our community ages, we have to think
>    about renewal. Here there's a fork in the road. Keep developing LaTeX forever, or freeze it as it is and develop a
>    replacement in a more modern language such as Python or Ruby or Lua. Or even Haskell, as used by Pandoc.
>    We're still waiting for widespread easy and reliable conversion of LaTeX source documents into formats such as XML and
>    HTML. And in web pages, MathJax has the same dominance for mathematical content that TeX had for print, since about 1990.

Latex is much better than these XML languages as humans can read the source code for comprehension
if reasonably written - that was an explciit anti-objective for the XML languages.
In fact, I'm still on and off looking at latex type emails.

For a typsetter or "compiler" or whatever you want to call latex, why not go right
to c++? Even my "med2bib" bibtex downloader script I want to port from a bash script
so I can use the c++ data structures and logic ( but still mostly invoking
things like wget and even sed/grep ). I wrote a basic bibtex parser in C++ so I could
load various bibtex files and clean them up but not sure it is close to
a "conforming" parser. Not sure what exisiting stuff exists for the
basics of TeX.

>    Without a standard for LaTeX mathematics, this is a potential fault line.
>    Understanding the experience of users, particularly beginners, is a vital part to the renewal of the TeX community. Also
>    vital is the experience and loyalty of existing TeX users and developers. Hence the zoom TeX / LaTeX Office Hour, every
>    Thursday 6:30 to 7:30pm UK time, until the end of March 2021.
>    Here's that URL again:
>    [https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78551255396?pwd=cHdJN0pTTXRlRCtSd1lCTHpuWmNIUT09]https://us04web.zoom.us/j/78551255396?pwd=cHdJN
>    0pTTXRlRCtSd1lCTHpuWmNIUT09
>    Happy TeXing and Happy New Year
>    Jonathan Fine
>    [https://jfine2358.github.io/]https://jfine2358.github.io/

--

mike marchywka
306 charles cox
canton GA 30115
USA, Earth
marchywka at hotmail.com
404-788-1216
ORCID: 0000-0001-9237-455X