P. F. Hawkins' Dot-Com

IN WHICH Understanding Accrues

How I Came to Love Emacs

This is the story of a man and his favorite text editor.

In 2001, I was a freshman in college, which meant the closest thing to highspeed internet that I had hitherto experienced. Which upped my time surfing the web. One of the delightful sites I lighted upon was Ftrain.

One day, I dug through Ftrain’s archives and found Emacs Notepad. I was intrigued. Having exclusively used Word (and Notepad to edit HTML - ha!) up until that point, this Emacs thingy sounded fascinating. I downloaded a Windows version right away.

I soon found that the Windows port of Emacs was stuck on version 19, and the rest of the Emacs-lovin’ universe was using version 21 on some posix-compliant operating system. I decided to hope and pray that soon the Emacs developers would take a little time out to help us poor souls using Windows.

It was a long wait. A long wait in which I could not get LaTeX to work. So long, in fact, that the next fall, with the aid of a new dorm-mate, I dual- booted Red Hat 9 Linux.

What’s great about Emacs, and about free software in general, is that I have as much control as I desire over my computer. I haven’t taken the time to install Linux from scratch, but if I wanted to, the tools are there, and there aren’t any proprietary hindrances or DRM snafus to thwart my progress. My limited ability to understand maths may hinder me, but my software isn’t.

So actually, I am indebted to Emacs for not only making my computing life much easier and more productive, but from freeing me from the limitations of Microsoft. Although I see I didn’t really describe just how it has made my computing life easier, or more productive. I’ll have to remedy that in a future post.

DISCLAIMER: I never said it was a good story of a man and his favorite text editor.