[texhax] tex vs latex

c.a.rowley at open.ac.uk c.a.rowley at open.ac.uk
Wed Oct 28 23:57:43 CET 2009


At 06:35 28.10.09, Pierre MacKay wrote:
>It is nonsense to speak of LaTeX as developing, while TeX is not.  LaTeX 
>is a macro package built on top of TeX.  It can not "develop" in the sense 
>of altering the basic engine, because Donald Knuth has taken great care to 
>ensure archival compatibility for all input files that ever ran in TeX3.

But that basic monolithic engine and its carefully constructed collection of beautiful but bizarre basic assumptions, limitations, overloadings, quasi-optimisations (need I go on?) has been precisiely the stimulus for major LaTeX kernel developments (and maybe some packages too) over the deacdes.  These have been developed precisely to remove or work-around primitive (in the TeXnical sense) many of TeX's severe limitaions and quirks.  Leslie started this process of removing Knuth's more whacky ideas from ever being used by good LaTeX code and some recent experimental stuff devloped by my colleagues turns off a very large
percentage of the algorithms and code in TeX: The Program (to pursue the car-driving analaogy far too far, that's the book for the materials engineers which of course provides masses of useful information about why certain cars have the steering characteristics that are so essential to Phil's driving techniques).  

Thus it is no wonder that us ageing boy-racers who think of themselves as innovative engineers and Formula One studs do not like LaTeX.

If I could be bothered to look them up I would refer to Leslie's car metaphor's from 25 or so years ago.  But I shall simply note that, for cars (at least in Europe), those decades have seen enormous changes: from the most fundamental engineering at the materials science level to the software and sesnsors at the virtual control level and at all levels in between but most importantly the influence of quality and safety engineering.

All these have led me to have no need at all to understand anything at all about how the car sticks to the road, what speed it does, whether the torque is coirrect, whether the lights are on, etc. etc.  Unfortunately I still need to point it in the roughly the rioght direction:-).

Oh, I almost got too distracted: my question/lament is:

Why have the fundamental processes of automated document processing at most levels progressed not at all during that same period?  (I exclude font technologies from this indictment.)

Have fun,  chris
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