If I can't be petty, who can?
Posted by aogSunday, 02 September 2007 at 14:45 TrackBack Ping URL

Back when I was a graduate student, I wrote a variant of the Emacs editor called “Epoch”. It was the first version of Emacs that supported a multi-window graphical environment. Previous versions of the editor were designed to use a text only display (which is so obsolete that some readers probably don’t even remember them — I, on the other hand, remember using punch cards and paper tape). It was eventually used by thousands of people on six continents (I have no evidence that anyone ever used it in Antarctica, although it’s possible). I just missed out on the world wide web, having written Epoch because web browsers didn’t exist and I needed one for my thesis project. It had the equivalent of anchors and serving text pages from a server in response to mouse clicks on anchors before Mosaic came out. Marc Andreessen was actually a maintainer of Epoch for a while after I graduated and before he went on to write Mosaic. I would like to think he was inspired by my work, but it was one of those periods of ferment where such ideas were everywhere. The real originator was Ted Nelson and his book Computer Lib / Dream Machines (I still have my first edition copy).

Anyway, I ran in to a web page written by another person who was at the center of a controversy that raged concerning Epoch, Emacs, and another version of Emacs written at a company called Lucid. Most of that happened after I left, but it was still very annoying to see this article credit NCSA with writing Epoch. That’s so wrong. In fact, I had no support from NCSA or even from the University / department, doing most of the work after hours on machines in the lab I was paid as a teaching assistant to maintain.

Normally I wouldn’t pay much attention, but Epoch is something that I did that was actually well known in the community and Zawkinski is considered a well known and authoritative person on the subject (having lead Lucid’s work on its version of Emacs). Since the work mostly predates the web and has long since passed in to obsolescence, I thought I would write this so that at least one accurate version was available on line. Thank you all for indulging my ego.

Comments — Formatting by Textile
erp Sunday, 02 September 2007 at 16:07

It’s not petty to want your contribution to be recognized. I also remember those days and my hat’s off to you!

Hey Skipper Monday, 03 September 2007 at 00:05

Not hitting in the same league as you, but still:

I wrote this.

Not that you will see my name anywhere.

erp Monday, 03 September 2007 at 07:50

… and you, Skipper.

David Cohen Monday, 03 September 2007 at 17:07

Skipper: Posting from Hong Kong, I see.

Hey Skipper Monday, 03 September 2007 at 20:18


Two things.

1. Yes.

2. How the heck did you know that?

Annoying Old Guy Monday, 03 September 2007 at 20:43

He may pose as a mild mannered lawyer, but he’s really a Dark Agent of the Rovian Empire.

It’s obvious if you link about it.

erp Monday, 03 September 2007 at 22:19

Skipper, even I knew you were in Hong Kong and Japan before that. How??? Why Sitemeter, of course.

Hey Skipper Monday, 03 September 2007 at 23:35

Well, I never got the memo.

FWIW, I’m not the least bit interested in finding out via blog comments where I am going next.

Hey Skipper Monday, 03 September 2007 at 23:37

BTW, the sans serif font makes an italicized “I” look like a forward slash.

Hey Skipper Monday, 03 September 2007 at 23:42

BTW II: The first thing I did was “link” about it; however, while I’m trotting my ignorance in front of everyone like a loud three ring circus, I didn’t find any obvious link.

Standing by for clues, and ridicule.

Michael Herdegen Tuesday, 04 September 2007 at 02:45


Your Google link URL was “www.google.com.hk”. But I must admit that although I clicked through to see what you wrote, I didn’t pick up on it until others pointed it out. I just thought that it was weird that so many of the search results contained Asian pictograph characters.

Annoying Old Guy Tuesday, 04 September 2007 at 07:41

The style sheet here just specifies “sans serif” — the actual font is left to the browser’s discretion so that you can each have your own favorite sans serif font (and you all have particular favorites, right?)

erp Tuesday, 04 September 2007 at 07:55

Skip, no ridicule meant. It’s just fun watching our cyberfriend traveling around the globe while we, or at least I, haven’t left the house. Be safe.

Hey Skipper Wednesday, 05 September 2007 at 08:12

AOG: my favorite fonts are serif; Times New Roman in particular. Serif fonts never (or almost) suffer character ambiguity that can arise with sans-serif fonts.

Your Google link URL was “www.google.com.hk”.

Huh? Wot? Where is my “Google link?”

I must admit to intense embarassment here. I spent two years working as a software engineer for Ford (primarily SQL), so I bloody well ought to be able to figure this stuff out.

On the other hand, I may have surfaced prima facie evidence for Ford’s travails …

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 05 September 2007 at 10:23

You’ve only posted one link in this entire thread, so I think it’s a reasonable presumption that that is the one people are talking about.

I prefer serif fonts myself, but they don’t scale down nearly as well as sans-serif. I was beaten in to submission on this by a variety of technical writers and web experts. Someday, when everyone has 3000×2000 displays, serif fonts will return. Until then, we must but endure.

Michael Herdegen Wednesday, 05 September 2007 at 21:36

Huh? Wot? Where is my “Google link?”

Sorry, verbal shorthand. More properly, I should have referred to “your link to a particular Google page”.

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