Friday, February 20, 2004

The LaTeX Generation

When I started college in 1981 I brought a typewriter with me. Junior year of college I experimented with a simple text processor system called script--no more white-out but my papers looked artificial.

In the first year of graduate school I used something called troff to write a term paper for operating systems. But then, just as I had my first research paper to write, LaTeX made its way onto the scene.

Back then LaTeX was relatively easy to use and did a great job with mathematics and references. Running LaTeX took a long time but boy did our papers look good. LaTeX has since become the standard in theoretical computer science papers--one has to use it because everyone else uses it. LaTeX fell far behind in user interface but still does mathematics better than anything else out there. LaTeX runs blazingly fast on today's computers but my papers look like everyone else's papers.

On a recent visit to her grandmother's house, my daughter saw my college typewriter and said "Look, Daddy's old computer." She will never know the joy of white-out.

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