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Re: Upcoming loss of usability of Emacs source files and Emacs.

From: Stephen J. Turnbull
Subject: Re: Upcoming loss of usability of Emacs source files and Emacs.
Date: Thu, 18 Jun 2015 13:29:09 +0900

Dmitry Gutov writes:
 > On 06/17/2015 04:03 PM, Stefan Monnier wrote:
 > > To me, one of the motivations for the change (after the visual
 > > aspect) is to have a *more* robust handling because it is *less*
 > > ambiguous (within the context of Elisp).
 > That is probably true, but by that logic, using rare unicode
 > characters is a great choice for any markup language.

You're missing the point by calling them "rare".  They are *not* rare;
they are in daily use by the 99.44% of the English-speaking population
that *doesn't* program.

Of course using a WYSIWYG word processor is a blatant admission that
you don't care about backward, forward, or cross-system compatibility
of your document, and *we* can't do that with programming languages.

The point is that these characters have better semantics from the
point of view of *new* programmers and even non-programmers.  Really,
isn't it time to start moving in that direction now that Unicode has
clearly won?

 > Yet, I don't see anybody  doing that.


Seriously, why would any language designer who cares about popularity
as such risk the wrath of the ASCII-capped lobby?  Emacs cares about
popularity of course, but as Drew and RMS are always at pains to point
out, we don't do things in Emacs because they're popular, we do them
because they are "right" (or, what is more important, because they're
directly freedom-enhancing), and hope to popularize TRT through Emacs.

 > Markdown, for instance, when rendered, only emphasizes code
 > segments using a special tag, which translates into a different
 > font face/color/etc. I don't see why we won't choose to do that, or
 > allow users to customize that aspect.

That would be insane.  Markdown (and ReST) do that because they, too,
need to deal with the ASCII-capped lobby, or at least they still did
when they were first developed a decade or so ago.  But *humans* don't
need tags, and programs are rapidly acquiring the ability to do
without.  I believe we should look forward to the day when that is the
norm, and *get there first*.

That same capability should do 90% of the job of disambiguating usage
of these *common* characters, and backslash-escaping should get 90% of
the rest.  It's still going to requiring people to change their
habits, and that is not going to make conservatives like Drew and Alan
happy (at first: if I didn't believe they'd find reason to come
around, I wouldn't propose it).  Can't make everybody happy all the

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