[TUHS] Seeking wisdom from Unix Greybeards

Tony Aiuto tony.aiuto at gmail.com
Thu Nov 26 12:35:01 CST 2020

Every time I see discussions about terminal control sequences and Unix, I
can not help but be reminded
of Johnny Zweig's eloquent analysis, as quoted in The Unix Haters
Handboodk.  https://web.mit.edu/~simsong/www/ugh.pdf

Forcing programmers to be aware of how their programs talk to terminals
is medieval, to say the least. Johnny Zweig put it rather bluntly:

Date: 2 May 90 17:23:34 GMT

From: zweig at casca.cs.uiuc.edu (Johnny Zweig)

Subject: /etc/termcap

Newsgroups: alt.peeves

In my opinion as a scientist as well as a software engineer, there is no
reason in the world anyone should have to know /etc/termcap even
EXISTS, let alone have to muck around with setting the right environment
variables so that it is possible to vi a file. Some airhead has
further messed up my life by seeing to it that most termcaps have the
idea that "xterm" is an 80x65 line display. For those of us who use
the X WINDOWS system to display WINDOWS on our workstations, 80x65
makes as much sense as reclining bucket seats on a
bicycle — they are too goddamn big to fit enough of them on the
screen. This idiot should be killed twice.

It seems like figuring out what the hell kind of terminal I am using is
not as hard as, say, launching nuclear missiles to within 10 yards of
their targets, landing men on the moon or, say, Tetris.

Why the hell hasn't this bull been straightened out after 30 goddamn
years of sweat, blood, and tears on the part of people trying to write
software that doesn't give its users the heebie-jeebies? And the first
person who says "all you have to do is type 'eval resize' " gets a big
sock in the nose for being a clueless geek who missed the point. This
stuff ought to be handled 1 1 levels of software below the level at
which a user types a command — the goddamned HARDWARE
ought to be able to figure out what kind of terminal it is, and if it
can't it should put a message on my console saying, "You are using
piss-poor hardware and are a loser; give up and get a real job."

— Johnny Terminal

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