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Emacs history, and "Is Emacs difficult to learn?"

From: Emanuel Berg
Subject: Emacs history, and "Is Emacs difficult to learn?"
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2013 15:05:42 +0200
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.4 (gnu/linux)

> Remember he [RMS] is talking about secretaries in early days of
> computing learning Emacs and learning programming in the
> process.  I am sure secretaries had no CS degrees and more
> importantly they belonged to a period when computers were not
> common place and were quite the cutting edge.  I just laugh when
> young kids in this day of Google complain that Emacs is
> primitive and is difficult to learn.  I consider it a joke.

Oh! That's not a joke, that's *sad*! Those secretaries back then
read *books* all they childhood, and they wrote diaries, and
letters. In school, if they did not have math and logic, they had
languages - perhaps even Latin - and even if they "only" had
French, German, or whatever, those languages were acquired in a
very systematic way, with classification, parts of speech, all
that formal stuff. (This is a dubious way of learning a language,
but it certainly trims your brain to think in a focused way.)

As for the secretary part later on, they had skills like manual
copying - to write with both hands, the same text, simultaneously,
on two papers! Those gorgeous wenches at age 22 would - with
*skills*, not beauty - scare any monk of medieval Europe back to
their monasteries for good!

I'm not in the least surprised those blondes, redheads, etc. could
use Emacs with a high degree of fluency in but a couple of days.

*But*: The kids of today are another ball game. They are not
benefited by Google. On the contrary. Their brains are destroyed,
or severly confused, by (a)social media, IM, and cell phones, that
has made them all jittery with nervous energy, and with an
attention span of like one meter straight ahead, and with no self-
confidence. Those sad kids-for-life can't learn Emacs, not because
Emacs is difficult, but because they can't learn anything.

> One does not have to be a Technologist to use or be proficient
> with Emacs.

100% correct! I think everybody that types every day should learn
to do that in an advanced editor. I never used vim, but I heard
that is good, too.

You have got this "Technologist" stuff (your word, but OK)
backwards. Yet another history lesson from the "youngster": Once
upon a time, when the paleo-programmer logged onto a mainframe,
there was a shell, and some tools. The paleo-programmer tried them
out, and they were cool. But they were few and didn't do that
much. The tools spread a small net, and the fish caught were
smaller still. Then came Emacs, and by time, it became not a big
net, but an industrial fishing expedition. It gave tremendous
leverage for access and productivity.

I've heard this story told, by a guy - it doesn't matter: I
believed him. And all my experience with Emacs since confirms

So you see, I'm not saying "I'm a 'Technologist', so I use Emacs,
and in such a cool way!" - I'm saying, "Because I want to be a
(better) 'Technologist', I'm using Emacs as a Kon-Tiki, to go from
Peru to Polynesia, and learn everything about it in the process".

If you, on the other hand, write poetry or whatever with Emacs, I
have absolutely no problem with that, and I consider it completely
normal that different persons do different things. I guess I was
just born that generous :)

[ meta - I didn't read any messages after I said I was done
feuding. This because I feared that there were shots at me in
those messages, and then I had to fire right back, and we'd never
get anything done. This was a practical measure, and shouldn't be
interpreted as "I left in total disgust". If you *really* think I
should read something between then and now, mail me, and I'll do
it. ]

> That you have to be super-human to learn and use Emacs is more
> of a myth and in reality has no truth to it.

Just to hammer the nail, I agree, and I am very surprised you
think I thought so.

> We can learn a lot from these secretaries and each other.

... and that's the whole point discussing a common interest.

Emanuel Berg - programmer (hire me! CV below)
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internet activity:

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