The Modernization of Emacs

Twisted twisted0n3 at gmail.com
Wed Jun 20 22:21:24 CEST 2007


On Jun 20, 9:09 am, Kaldrenon <kaldre... at gmail.com> wrote:
> Imagine that a man invents a vehicle that's far safer and more
> maneuverable than any existing vehicle. Imagine that the increased
> safety comes from the fact that it has five wheels. How incredibly
> stupid would it be for that inventor to then say, "I'm going to
> convince people to buy my new vehicle, which is safer thanks to this
> fifth wheel. But in order to market it, I'll take the fifth wheel off,
> so it's more familiar and comfortable for them."

Imagine that a man invents a vehicle that's far safer and more
maneuverable than any existing vehicle. Imagine that the increased
safety comes from the fact that it has five wheels. Gratuitously, he
also has his own peculiar ideas regarding how one should control this
vehicle, and instead of giving it a normal car steering wheel, brake,
and gas pedal, he gives it two stick-like left and right throttle
controls, which can be pulled back to brake and even reverse the car,
pushed forwards to accelerate it, and positioned differently to cause
the vehicle to rotate -- even to rotate in place, obviating the need
for three-point turns and simplifying parallel parking somewhat.

Unfortunately, nobody used to a normal car is remotely comfortable
with these controls. They have a very steep learning curve and
numerous accidents result. It turns out there's even a conversion kit
available for replacing them with a normal steering wheel, brake, and
gas pedal, but getting the conversion kit without crashing on the way
to where you get it proves problematic because of the same unusual
controls you're trying to replace. All of the driving schools, of
course, teach the usual wheel-and-pedals method of controlling a motor
vehicle...

This seems to be a closer analogy with emacs versus normal Windows
text editors. Arguably even the weird controls are superior in some
way -- but only if you got used to them, which will never happen
because you'll abandon it for inability to be productive with it long
before that can happen, and also because the same clunky controls
hobble your access to the online help that would otherwise smooth the
path for you. The same problem plagues attempts to reconfigure the
controls to something more normal. And the computer-driving schools --
computer classes in ordinary school -- teach standard Windows UI
conventions (or their Macintosh equivalents, which correspond closely
to one another). If there is any formal training in emacs use, it's
effectively unobtainable due to obscurity and hard-to-findness,
geographical distance, expense, or even more than one of those
factors.

The above applies equally to vi and its derivatives, if not more so --
vi is like taking that same already-wacky car with the two separate
throttles and adding, in a fit of quaint nostalgia, the need to
actually crank-start its engine. ;)




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