Processing data in blocks

From: Frank McConnell <>
Date: Thu May 28 10:27:34 1998

"D. Peschel" <> writes:
> I hope the invitation isn't directed at only one person. :)


> One thing I realized from the exposure (and have since read about) is
> that the local editing features are usually horribly limited, _and_
> they're impossible to extend unless you modify the hardware. What
> kind of local editing do the HP terminals provide? (Any fancy cursor
> movement keys, line editing, cut- and-paste, etc.?) I'm trying to get
> a feeling for how well the HP editors stack up against more modern
> ones. The line editor sounds pretty nice, actually. (I use vi --
> which is the same kind of full-screen line editor -- a lot. The
> navigation commands are nice and quick.)

For what passes for full-screen editing, the display is pretty much
something you can type on. Cursor movements available are up, down,
left, right, page up, page down, home (top-of-buffer), and
end-of-buffer. Typing defaults to type-over but there is an
insert-char mode that you can turn on and off from the keyboard. If
you do this, wrapping is kind of simple (it will open up a new
next-line and wrap characters onto that as they go past the right
margin). Also you can delete characters from the keyboard (but this
does not un-wrap wrapped characters). It's also possible to delete
lines and add blank lines, and clear to end-of-display. Not
cut-and-paste, though; well, if you can use the memory lock feature
of the terminal you might be able to do it but some of the full-screen
editors used it in a way such that if you tried to use it you would
screw things up and lose work.

Things are somewhat different if protected fields are set up; those
will limit character insertion and deletion.

> I mentioned reading... there are stories about people trying to
> combine full-screen interactive editing with local terminal editing,
> and finding that the two don't mix. The people usually bit the
> bullet, invested in the extra hardware, and gave the workload back to
> the CPU. I think there was an enhanced version of TECO at Stanford
> that falls into this category. I know that Emacs on MULTICS was
> developed like that.

Mind pointing me to some of those stories.

HP did something odd in the early-mid 1980s: HPWORD. This was a word
processing system for the HP3000 that used 2626W (and later, 2628A and
HP150) terminals as intelligent front-ends. When you first started
HPWORD after turning the terminal on, it would spend about 10 minutes
downloading code to the terminal, and then the downloaded code ran the
interface and the communications link back to the HPWORD process on the
3000. I was told at the time that the terminal handled processing up
to the paragraph level, and got the 3000 to do anything larger.

HPWORD was actually a little more WYSIWYG than, say, Wordstar, because
the terminal actually had bold and italic faces and underlining
features. And it was nifty because you could queue up a print job
from one terminal to a printer connected to another HPWORD terminal;
the backing HPWORDs running on the 3000 would talk to each other and
get the document printed. Oh, and someone could be typing on the
terminal that had the printer connected.

All in all, it was a cheaper solution than PCs in the 1983-1984 time
frame when we bought into it -- we didn't have to buy a printer for
every workstation, and we didn't have to pick a PC LAN with lots of
funny cabling.

> Personally, I found the local editing completely inadequate for
> dealing with the multicolumn file lists and pop-up windows the AS/400
> kept putting onscreen. Using only arrow keys to move the cursor to
> precise places all over the screen was a real chore. The designs of
> input and display just didn't match ewll.

Yeah, and back then I used to switch between editors depending
on the job at hand. Some things just work better with good old
EDIT/3000, and even for editing code I liked QUAD. Later when I
went to work at Wollongong I discovered Voodoo on the 3000 there
and got kind of used to it; it tries to be vi-like but the inherent
inability of the 3000's terminal I/O to accept characters without a
pending read (and to do anything else while there is a pending read)
really got in its way sometimes.

Now I just use Emacs (though not on the 3000), and quite frankly I do
think it works better.

-Frank McConnell
Received on Thu May 28 1998 - 10:27:34 BST

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.3.0 : Fri Oct 10 2014 - 23:31:13 BST