Posted On January 9, 2012
Written By Masen Marshall
This post is dedicated to one of my personal heroes: J.C.R Licklider, an early computer scientist and tech visionary who predicted and ultimately helped to create the Internet and interactive computing as we know them today.
If you’re the kind of person who reads my blog you’re probably also the sort who knows about ARPANET. For the uninformed ARPANET was the predecessor to the modern day internet dreamed up by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and connected through university campuses across the US. It’s the kind of thing that a really annoying AC would post about on Slashdot, but they leave out Lick.
J.C.R was envisioning exactly what I’m doing as I type this back in the late 1950′s. Graphical interfaces, complex networks, and even UNIX variants ( UNIX originally being inspired by MULTICS, a project Lick worked on while at MIT in 1968 ) are just a few of the ideas that he planted the seeds for.
That oft used line by fanboys to repute claims that apple created the GUI: “Xerox PARC did it first! Apple just stole it!” has even less bite when you’ve done your research. Robert Taylor founder of Xerox PARC’s Computer Science Laboratory and Digital Equipment Corporation’s Systems Research Center is quoted as saying “most of the significant advances in computer technology—including the work that my group did at Xerox PARC—were simply extrapolations of Lick’s vision. They were not really new visions of their own. So he was really the father of it all.” Xerox did build the first implementation but even Taylor is quick to admit that the ideas used were simply interpretations of J.C.R’s vision.
Licklider summed up his thoughts on the future of interaction between men and their computers in his paper Man-Computer Symbiosis. It’s really not long at about 6000 characters but it’s an amazing look into the future from the point of view of this 1960′s visionary. It’s marvelous, if you have any interest at all in the history of computing it is absolutely required reading.
So take a while to digest this and please do go fact check. The wikipedia article ( with cited references ) is over here and there are a handful of books on this subject alone. When you come back I think you’ll have a much better understanding of how this all came to be and a newfound respect for this man, the grandfather of it all. At the very least it should provide some new fodder to put your know-it-all geek friends in their places at your next social outing.
Posted On December 29, 2011
Written By Masen Marshall
Have you ever wondered what text editor Linus uses when he’s hacking on code? According to the git repo and wikipedia Linus uses a MicroEmacs variant known as uEmacs.
uEmacs is a fast starting and lightweight emacsen that stays out of your way while you code. Very few command parameters are offered, in fact the list is so small I can easily show them below:
[mm 13:25 0]$ em –help
Usage: em filename
or: em [options]
+ start at the end of file
+ start at line
-g[G] go to line
–help display this help and exit
–version output version information and exit
Some may consider his use of an emacs variant humorous after the warm and loving comments he’s made towards GNU Emacs on various mailing lists in the past. But like everything Linus seems to use he has added his own code to uemacs to have it function in a way he is happy with.
Since the project reached it’s final 4.0.15 release in 1996 Linus has contributed the lions share of maintenance updates along with a few other devs such as Thiago Farina ( a Chromium dev ) and Pekka Enberg ( a fellow Linux kernel hacker). That’s just a quick review of the contributors to the git repo of course, if I missed an important name feel free to harass me via email.
If you’d like to install uemacs yourself start by cloning the git repo:
git clone http://git.kernel.org/pub/scm/editors/uemacs/uemacs.git/
Then simply make and install it.
It can now be run with:
The projects original author is Petri H. Kutvonen ( the PK in uemacs/PK I would assume ) who had just enhanced Lawrences Mircoemacs version 3.9e which was released in 1987. It is not free software technically but copying is permitted for non-commercial use.
The git repo also contains an interesting readme describing the authors opinions on why he chose Microemacs v3.9e as well as other thoughts on the program that’s worth checking out even if you don’t plan on cloning the whole repo. You can see the file on the web over here.
At the bottom you can see comments acknowledging contributions from a then much less famous Linus:
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND STATUS
I would like to thank Linus Torvalds and Jyrki Havia for their work on
some bugs. uEmacs/PK 4.0.10 included fixes for a number of bugs and it
was assumed to be the final release for the UNIX platform. However,
there has been a couple of maintenance releases, so the final version is
4.0.13. On other platforms there has been no new releases since 4.0.3 in
April 23, 1995
And yet another release (thanks Linus)! This is most definitely the
really last (not latest) version, 4.0.14. Hmm … 14 looks nicer than 13.
This was my attempt to gather the history of this editor in one coherant place, I’m sure I’ve missed something and I would actually love to know about it to add to this article. It would not have been possible without Kutvonens detailed readme or the Microemacs page on the emacs wiki. Many thanks to all of my sources.