Sometime ago, I wrote about being snared to the dark side of text editors’ universe, viz. Emacs. That foray was not long lasted, though. For only reading through its tutorial (and trying things out while I read) was enough to make me stop. Literally: ten minutes after I started my fingers hurt so much I just had to stop. And never bothered to continue where I’d left. Or think much about it—until I found this list of famous programmers that both used Emacs and developed RSI:

I visited Richard Stallman at MIT and I was shocked to learn that he could no longer type. He was given strict instructions by his doctor to not touch a computer keyboard for 6-12 months, and that if he did, he may lose forever his ability to type. He was a programming pioneer, and at the time, his symptoms were not well known or understood. We all came to understand that it was RSI–repetitive stress injury, exacerbated by the very keystroke combinations that made the Emacs editor such a powerful programming environment. But the root cause was not Emacs–it was the punative design of the QWERTY keyboard, a legacy of the industrial era when complex keyboard mechanisms were not able to keep up with the speed of human fingers.

Regardless of whether QWERTY keyboards are or not to blame, the fact is that Emacs is, in what shortcuts are concerned at least, stuck in the past. The shift key is not used, the documentation still refers to the Alt key by its name in the previous incarnation (Meta), and most shortcuts were indeed thought up to be used with keyboards belonging to said incarnation (which today belong in a museum; if only the same could be applied to shortcuts…).

By now you should be wandering why am I complaining about Emacs again?! (“If you don’t like it, just don’t use it!”) Well, I’ve been reading Pratical Common Lisp, and using vim with Limp for Lisp hacking. The problem is that I’m tired of it, and after all I’ve read, been told, etc, about Emacs, I am going to try it. God bless it’s viper mode


2 responses to “Emacs