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publication /tekh/ An extremely powerful macro-based text
formatter written by Donald Knuth, very popular in academia,
especially in the computer-science community (it is good
enough to have displaced Unix troff, the other favoured
formatter, even at many Unix installations).
The first version of TeX was written in the programming
language SAIL, to run on a PDP-10 under Stanford's WAITS
Knuth began TeX because he had become annoyed at the declining
quality of the typesetting in volumes I-III of his monumental
"Art of Computer Programming" (see Knuth, also bible). In
a manifestation of the typical hackish urge to solve the
problem at hand once and for all, he began to design his own
typesetting language. He thought he would finish it on his
sabbatical in 1978; he was wrong by only about 8 years. The
language was finally frozen around 1985, but volume IV of "The
Art of Computer Programming" has yet to appear as of mid-1997.
(However, the third edition of volumes I and II have come
out). The impact and influence of TeX's design has been such
that nobody minds this very much. Many grand hackish projects
have started as a bit of toolsmithing on the way to
something else; Knuth's diversion was simply on a grander
scale than most.
Guy Steele happened to be at Stanford during the summer of
1978, when Knuth was developing his first version of TeX.
When he returned to MIT that fall, he rewrote TeX's I/O to
run under ITS.
TeX has also been a noteworthy example of free, shared, but
high-quality software. Knuth offers monetary awards to people
who find and report a bug in it: for each bug the award is
doubled. (This has not made Knuth poor, however, as there
have been very few bugs and in any case a cheque proving that
the owner found a bug in TeX is rarely cashed). Though
well-written, TeX is so large (and so full of cutting edge
technique) that it is said to have unearthed at least one bug
in every Pascal system it has been compiled with.
TeX fans insist on the correct (guttural) pronunciation, and
the correct spelling (all caps, squished together, with the E
depressed below the baseline; the mixed-case "TeX" is
considered an acceptable kluge on ASCII-only devices).
Fans like to proliferate names from the word "TeX" - such as
TeXnician (TeX user), TeXhacker (TeX programmer), TeXmaster
(competent TeX programmer), TeXhax, and TeXnique.
Several document processing systems are based on TeX, notably
LaTeX Lamport TeX - incorporates document styles for books,
letters, slides, etc., jadeTeX uses TeX as a backend for
printing from James' DSSSL Engine, and Texinfo, the GNU
document processing system. Numerous extensions to TeX exist,
among them BibTeX for bibliographies (distributed with
LaTeX), PDFTeX modifies TeX to produce PDF and Omega
extends TeX to use the Unicode character set.