From: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Digging up old troff details Date: June 26, 2007 8:18:08 AM PDT (CA) To: email@example.com Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
On Tue, Jun 26, 2007 at 10:59:48AM -0400, Norman Walsh wrote: / John Maxwell <firstname.lastname@example.org> was heard to say: | Might | you have first-hand knowledge of sqtroff and how it came to be part | of the toolchain at O'Reilly?
For what it's worth, I still have the manuals, and even a set of binaries for Linux.
Stan Bevington is still at Coach House and if you want to know about the starting of SoftQuad, he and David Slocombe would be the best two people to ask. David is now at Exegenics in Toronto, as are a number of other ex-SoftQuad people. Ian Darwin was also involved in O'Reilly using sqtroff. Others might include Murray Maloney (ex. SQ) and Mark Brader (now at Exegenics) and at ORA there were Terry Allen and before him that fair-haired libertarian whose name temporarily escapes me (I plead jetlag) but who was also in the XSL Working Gorup for a while.
Pontus Hedman took the SGML parser that Peter Sharpe of SQ in Vancouver wrote and made a program (SQML) that generated troff markup from SGML input. Nelson Adams and Kate Hamilton (amongst others) used this heavily at Coach House even when Quark Express was being used there.
PostScript came quite a bit later -- troff could drive a number of devices including a Linotronix 300 phototypesetter that Coach House had, and Imagin (spelling?) Laser printers that used bitmap fonts.
The SGML publishing products weren't really very successfull in the early nineties (by my experience). Perhaps if there had been money to throw at the project, they could have been made to work, but there wasn't so our home grown solution was the best thing we had. Some of them did better than others. FrameMaker was always a niche market, and so was Adept really. SoftQuad never actually productised the SGML -> troff converter.
I understand it's all done with XSL and XSL+FO these days, which is very cool. At least the online stuff is. Yes, I've been told taht's how Safari's custom books are done.
James -- I'm away for meetings in Italy right now, I'll be back in Southern Ontario briefly in July before going to Moose Factory for two weeks... but I'd be happy to talk on the phone if it's useful, or to help you find people. If you're in Toronto I'm sure we could arrange for a bunch of people to invade Coach House one afternoon, or to chat with Stan over a beer (he always used to like the piano bar at Pauper's in the Annex).
I think the Swiftcurrents programme for loaning modems to poets in the early 1980s (or earlier) was part of what led up to SoftQuad, that and the influence of the (late, much-missed) Yuri Rubinsky.