[multicians] Emacs humor

Rich Alderson RichA at LivingComputerMuseum.org
Tue Dec 1 20:13:06 CST 2015

From: Johnny Billquist
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2015 5:44 PM

Thanks for chiming in, Johnny!  Keeps me from having to do it. :-)

> But, of course, Emacs was not developed on Lisp machines. TECO was a DEC 
> edtior/language, and Emacs came about on PDP-10 machines. I think 
> originally with ITS, but it could also be ran on TOPS-20.

Well, technically, the original TECO was developed on the PDP-1 at MIT,
taken up by DEC, and ported to most of their subsequent systems.

The version of TECO in which EMACS was developed was an MIT-AI Lab local
creation with no DEC input, for ITS; that version of TECO, and therefore
EMACS, was ported to TENEX and TOPS-20.

> About the cokebottle reference, here's the quote from JARGON.TXT:

> COKEBOTTLE n. Any very unusual character.  MIT people complain about
>     the "control-meta-cokebottle" commands at SAIL, and SAIL people
>     complain about the "altmode-altmode-cokebottle" commands at MIT.

> So that really did not have anything to do with Emacs. But this is all 
> ancient history by now, and I'm not surprised history has twisted some 
> facts... :-)

The history of "bucky bits" goes back even further than most people know.
Before the PDP-6 came into existence, SAIL ran a computer-assisted lab
using a PDP-1 with specially modified terminals.  These were designed by
a Swiss computer scientist later known for creating a paedogogical Algol
derivative, a gentleman whom the SAIL graduate students did not like and
called (referring to a malocclusion) "Bucky Beaver".[1]  The extra 2 bits
on the terminals became "bucky bits".

With the PDP-6 came a design for special terminals which included not 2
but 5 bucky bits (though 2 were unnamed on the Stanford keyboard), in a
14-bit character set[2] where Control was the 200 bit, Meta was the 400
bit, and Top was the 4000 bit.  Top referred to non-Latin characters on
the keys, above the usual typewriter characters we all know and love.
Internally, Top+character was translated to a value in the range 0-37,
which were graphical rather than ASCII control characters.

I used to use one of these terminals from time to time, to read mailing
lists hosted on SU-AI (AKA Sail.Stanford.EDU in a more modern era), and
to SUPDUP to my account on MIT-AI, where I could use EMACS with real
bucky bits just as $DEITY intended.

Up next here is to modify a terminal emulation program to provide SUPDUP
and the Stanford character set in order to talk to our WAITS[3] system
on the net.


[1] The name of an animated spokescreature for Ipana toothpaste.
[2] Hey, if RMS can do that in the EMACS manual...
[3] The OS, descended from the PDP-6 monitor and thus related to Tops-10
    which SAIL ran on the PDP-6, the PDP-10/PDP-6 dual processor, the
    KL-10/PDP-10/PDP-6 triprocessor, and KL-10/PDP-10 dual processor and
    the KL-10 uniprocessor between 1964 and 1990.  Also ran on a Foonly
    at CCRMA and a KL-10 at Lawrence Livermore Labs, but retired earlier.

Rich Alderson
Vintage Computing Sr. Systems Engineer
Living Computer Museum
2245 1st Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98134

mailto:RichA at LivingComputerMuseum.org


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