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Art of Unix Programming, The by Eric Steven Raymond

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18. Documentation: Explaining Your Code to a Web-Centric World

I’ve never met a human being who would want to read 17,000 pages of documentation, and if there was, I’d kill him to get him out of the gene pool.

—Joseph Costello

Unix’s first application, in 1971, was as a platform for document preparation—Bell Labs used it to prepare patent documents for filing. Computer-driven phototypesetting was still a novel idea then, and for years after it debuted in 1973 Joe Ossana’s troff(1) formatter defined the state of the art.

Ever since, sophisticated document formatters, typesetting software, and page-layout programs of various sorts have been an important theme in the Unix tradition. While troff(1) has proven surprisingly durable, Unix has also ...

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