[Dev-luatex] Modifying the LuaTeX Engine

David Kastrup dak at gnu.org
Sun Dec 28 12:57:17 CET 2008

Jonathan Fine <jfine at pytex.org> writes:

> Just a reminder, which is probably not necessary.  In The TeX Boook,
> Donald Knuth wrote (page 226):
> ===
> The author hopes that such extensions will not be made very often,
> because he doesn't want incompatible pseudo-TeX systems to
> proliferate; yet he realizes that certain special books deserve
> special treatment.
> ===

As far as I understand, LuaTeX is a secular institution with regard to
the worship of Knuth and his word.  Knuth has taken TeX development to a
radical halt in order not to interfere with further developments.  One
has to keep in mind that TeX was designed to meet the requirements of
"The Art of Computer Programming" and then some.  The category of
"certain special books" has been taken much further with unmodified TeX
engines than Knuth ever thought reasonable.

I think there is much less "proliferation" than he, as a hacker with
little qualms to adapt a tool with available source to his needs, would
have expected.

> I'm encouraged, that a dialog is taking place.

Knuth set an example by molding a tool for his job at hand.  I don't
think we are doing his example justice by jumping through a load of
hoops for the sake of bending the unmodified tool into doing jobs it is
not suitable for.

If a toolmaker shows us how to create a perfect screwdriver, do we show
our admiration by using it for driving nails into the wall?

Knuth had been quite reluctant to extend TeX from 7 bits to 8 bits and
allow multiple hyphenation patterns.  Seeing how this has encouraged
people into trying to hang onto the old code at whatever cost, I
understand why he had resisted this for so long.  Maybe it really was a

David Kastrup, Kriemhildstr. 15, 44793 Bochum

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