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Re: [Groff] Groff and computer education

From: Peter Schaffter
Subject: Re: [Groff] Groff and computer education
Date: Mon, 14 May 2012 01:53:07 -0400
User-agent: Mutt/1.5.21 (2010-09-15)

On Sat, May 12, 2012, Steve Izma wrote:
> James Lowden sent me, off list, this link to an article he wrote
> about the relevance of groff to fundamental concepts of
> programming and computer use. I assume he's too modest to
> broadcast it, but I think it's excellent:

Great article, as others have said.  The substance reiterates points
I've made repeatedly in the documentation for the mom macros, and
at the mom website, for the past decade.  Alas, I fear James'
article will fall on the same deaf ears.  It's appalling how much
intellectual damage Microsoft has done; otherwise intelligent people
actively and knowingly reject the groff/TeX paradigm despite its
clear advantages.

I wrote the mom macros with the aim of making groff friendlier
out-of-the-box for precisely the kind of writing James' talks
about.  It would be heartening if my efforts had made a dent in the
MSWord-shackled world, but it hasn't.  The majority of mom users, to
judge from stuff I get off list, are already comfortable with Unix
text processing.  And in the meat-world, I have never once succeeded
in convincing an MSWord user--individual or organization--to

It does no good to emphasize the universal portability of groff
documents, for reasons I know too well: if the publisher I send
a work of fiction to is a Wordie--they all are--I have no choice
but to provide them with MSWord documents.  Many writers in
many different fields face the same problem, and conclude--one
can hardly blame them--that they'll stick with MSWord.  Let's
face it: filtering a groff document through sed or awk so it
becomes acceptable rtf, readable by MSWord, is not for the
inexperienced.  Lucky those who are in academic publishing, where
*nix is entrenched.

As for the wasted educational opportunity that might be afforded
by teaching students, via groff, to appreciate that "the computer,
properly conceived, is slave, not master" and not "an empty
repository to be filled with purchased applications", well, dream
on if you imagine that's going to change.  Here in North America,
schools have largely replaced education with job-training.  There
is little interest in teaching students more than what is minimally
required to function in the workplace.  If employers are using
MSWord, then all that's required of a graduate, in terms of
so-called computer literacy, is that s/he be familiar with MSWord.

Peter Schaffter

Author of The Binbrook Caucus

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