Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, The Editor War

Scene opens. The Lakota coffee shop in Columbia, MO.

Jane: ... and the other has been really interesting. It's Anthropology, with Jim Metcher.

Ray: (lights up) Yes! I actually got to take one of Metcher's classes during my brief stint in the evening program.

Jane: Are a Mizzou student?

Ray: Close. I graduated from MST in '06. I'm workin' now.

Jane: What do you do?

Ray: I help machines think. I'm a programmer.

Jane: Spiffy! So what's new in the fast-paced world of "programming"?

Ray: Well, lot's of things I guess. Let's see... new languages coming out as usual. PHP making some controversial design decisions regarding namespace. 50th anniversary of Lisp was just celebrated at OOPSLA; I bet there were some great talks at that. Oh yeah, and I just read about a new development in The Editor War.

Jane: ... The editor what?

Ray: War. The Editor War... it's this infamous feud. (waves hand dismissively)

Jane: Feud? (interest grows at the scent of scandal) Over what?

Ray: Which text editor to use.

Jane: (Smirk) No, really. What is it about? I'm actually interested this time, you don't have to make things up to amuse me.

Ray: No... (Slowly raises hand to forehead), that's actually what it's about.

Jane: (Confused) That doesn't sound like a very political decision. Is there some, like, protocol or something that has to... (pauses) I thought text was all sort of... compatible. (glances downward) I guess I don't much about this stuff.

Ray: Actually, you've got a decent grasp of it. While there have been a few new standards in recent years to accommodate different languages, text is overall very compatible from one editor to the next.

Jane: In that case, I don't get it. What other technical hurdle would force all programmers to use the same editor?

Ray: Ahh! I see the source of your confusion. That's not the issue. We're not debating the adoption of an official industry-wide standard editor. Nothing along those lines. It's a matter of personal preference.

Jane: (Disappointed) So it's just different people choosing a different tool? Aren't you exaggerating a bit by calling it a feud?

Ray: I see where you might think that, but believe it or not, I've been to parties where shouting matches broke out spontaneously at the mention of either of these editors.

Jane: Really?

Ray: Really.

Jane: Wow. So this has been going on for what, weeks now?

Ray: A bit longer than that.

Jane: Months?

Ray: It has been going on for over 25 years.