Serious lessons from Knuth’s joke

On June 30, 2010 Donald Knuth announced iTeX, the successor to TeX. His announcement was an extended parody of much of what people recommend as the “right” way to develop software.

TeX has been extremely successful. The vast majority of math and computer science is published using TeX. And yet Knuth implies that TeX would have been an obscure failure if he had developed it using trendy software development techniques.

Here’s the video of Knuth’s presentation.

One thought on “Serious lessons from Knuth’s joke

  1. Wasn’t assembly language with macros and unix-style path-based installs trendy when Knuth invented TeX? TeX’s completely unmanageable for everything from installing fonts to handling unicode, from definining subroutines to modifying the structure of sections. One need look no further than the TexBook itself to verify that it’s a crazy programming language.

    (For a point of reference, I do everything in LaTeX and think MS Word’s the devil’s work.)

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