Z

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 Tulane University programmer's editor

 Author:   Yale:  Stephen R. Wood; Tulane:  Fred J. Bourgeois, William R. Cook, Christopher S. Warth
 Quickref: Z Quickref
 Manual:   http://www.applios.com/z/z.html
 Family:   DecFamily, LinuxEditorFamily
 Platform: DEC 2060, PDP-11, VAX, Linux, HP-UX, SunOS?, Solaris, MS-DOS
 License:  Unknown, but the source code does not appear to be available

A programmer's editor originally developed by [Steven R. Wood]? and others (including [Alan Perlis]?, [Leonard K. Nicholson]?, ...) at Yale University using the Bliss programming language. The Yale Z Editor was pronounced "Zed" and ran exclusively on DEC 2050 and DEC 2060 computers using the TOPS20 operating system. Wood published a widely acclaimed article entitled "The 95% Program Editor" (available at http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=806447&dl=ACM&coll=portal or if you are a SIGPLAN member http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/872730.806447) which was based on the Yale Z Editor and appeared in an ACM publication in the late 1970s. After departing from Yale, Wood formed a business under the moniker of the [Yale Systems Group]? (YSG) specifically to market software developed by former Yale CS students. After accepting a job with Microsoft (note 1), Wood and the other YSG principals sold the company's source code to Microsoft. Years later, a simplified version of Yale Z was rewritten in C and ported to DOS (mostly by Microsoft's Mark Zbikowski), and thence distributed with a very early version of the Microsoft DOS C Developer's Tool Kit. Within this package the Yale Z editor became known as M. It was later the basis for Microsoft's short lived "Programmer's Workbench".

The Tulane Z Editor was based on Wood's publication, and first implemented in Bliss-36 on Tulane's DEC 2060 running the TOPS-20 operating system by students [Leonard K. Nicholson]?, [William R. Cook]?, Fred J. Bourgeois, and [Steven J. Feinstein]? in 1982. A new and improved version was later developed from scratch entirely in the C programming language running on the CS Department's VAX-780 in late 1982 - early 1983. That version's (dubbed "Tulane Z Version 7 and three-quarters") authors were Fred J. Bourgeois, [William R. Cook]?, and [Christopher S. Warth]?. One notable distinction is that the Tulane version was and is always pronounced "Zee".

Other versions of the Tulane Z Editor were developed by other former Tulane CS students after they graduated from Tulane and sought comfort and solace in their former favorite programmer's text editor. This author has no knowledge of the continued existence of those versions, other than to state that [Barry Schiff]? had an implementation for an old AT&T 3b2 (AT&T System 5 Unix), and [James Johnson]? had a completely different version developed in PDP-11 assembler running on a PDP-11/150 (aka PDT-111).

Bourgeois continues to maintain and use a Z branch descended from the last known "Tulane Z Version 7 and three-quarters". That version currently runs on SunOS? 4.0.*, SunOS? 4.1.*, Solaris 4 - Solaris 8, MicroVAX?/VMS (when his ca. 1989 VAX will boot), HP/UX, *BSD, and various flavors of Linux.

The old Tulane Z Homepage was found at http://www.eecs.tulane.edu/www/system/docs/z.html. Unfortunately, since Hurricane Katrina hit the city of New Orleans in August of 2005, the Tulane EECS Department no longer exists.

The current home page for the Unix Z Editor can be found at http://www.applios.com/z/z.html. Although this page is rarely updated, renewed interest from current and former Z users might spark an interest in bringing the page up to date, and perhaps even placing the other Z documents online.

As an interesting yet probably irrelevant side note, at approximately the same time that Yale Z was being distributed under the M moniker by Microsoft with their C compiler, Bourgeois' completely unrelated version was being included free of charge with a compiler toolkit provided by a competing C compiler company. That distribution was never officially endorsed, documented, nor authorized, but simply included as a convenience to end users who happened to find the executable on their installation disks.

One of Z's more unusual features was its reverse Polish keyboard command structure, allowing it to invoke relatively complex functions with a small number of keystrokes.

Note 1: One of Microsoft's Albuquerque 11 (1978) was named "Steve Wood". The "Steve Wood" associated with the Z editor is a different person; the Z editor "Steve Wood" was hired by Microsoft no earlier than 1981.


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Last edited July 16, 2012 11:26 pm (diff)
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