Monday, March 29, 2010

There's a Lesson Here, but I Can't Remember What

Perhaps you are graced with a mind like a steel trap. I have always had a mind like a steel colander.

I frequently read stuff I wrote, and think, "That's clever. Too bad I can't remember ever knowing that, much less writing about it."

Just now, I was reading an RHCE-prep guide that was explaining pr. I thought, "pr? Geez. There's some ancient history. Next they'll be explaining FORTRAN line-printer-carriage-control codes."

This starts me reminiscing.

"There was an old, Software Tools filter, in RATFOR, that would interpret those codes, called asa (a reference to the American Standards Association, a progenitor of ANSI's). At some point, it was ported to C/Unix. I should see if it's on my Ubuntu desktop."
(As an aside, and before I forget to say it, Kernighan and Plauger's Software Tools is the best book ever written about software engineering.)
It's not there. I think, "Well, okay, I'll install it.

I try apt-cache search and don't find it. Rats.

I google for an Ubuntu version. Nothing. A Linux version? Nothing. Humph.

Well, surely it was in UNIX Version 7. I remember some work Tom Christiansen put in, collecting Perl implementations of old, V7 commands. Maybe he found an implementation of asa(1) that I can just port.

Except I can't remember what he called his collection. I go back to googling, this time for Tom's collection. After a bunch of failed tries, I finally get a hit. You guessed it: a column by Jeff Copeland and, um, me -- Software Ptools -- which I have no recollection of ever having written. How embarrassing.

I should have given up right there, while I was behind, but Noooo .... ("What would you pay? But wait! There's less!")

Had we provided the name of Tom's project? Sho 'nuff: "Perl Power Tools." Maddeningly, the link in our column has gone dead. The universe hates me and there's no beer in the fridge.

I scroll down, hoping for another link. Ooh! Look! There's code! We implement a V7 command, right there in the column, to contribute to PPT ourselves.

We implement asa(1)

Oh, ow.

(I've now learned that the entire Perl Power Tools project has been moved to the CPAN by Casey West.)

1 comment:

jed said...

I'm old enough to remember Fortran carriage control. Heck, I got started in IT (back when it was called 'data processing') on IBM mainframes. Initially, I was unaware of the internals of it, but I knew about using COBOL's write ... {before|after} advancing ..., and for some reason which escapes me, wound up learning how that was accomplished.

I stumbled upon pr pretty early in my Unix/Linux days, because coming from RSTS/RSX/VMS, I thought it only natural that there would be a print command that would spool something to the printer.

PPT is an interesting collection of stuff.