Exhuming coffins from the last century

Frank Mittelbach
LATEX3 Project
Play (33min) Download: MP4 | MP3

In The TEXbook Don Knuth poses the following exercise: “Why do you think the author of TEX didn’t make boxes more symmetrical between horizontal and vertical, by allowing reference points to be inside the boundary instead of insisting that the reference point must appear at the left edge of each box?” and gives the following answer: “No applications of such symmetrical boxes to English-language printing were apparent; it seemed pointless to carry extra generality as useless baggage that would rarely if ever be used, merely for the sake of symmetry. In other words, the author wore a computer science cap instead of a mathematician’s mantle on the day that TEX’s boxes were born. Time will tell whether or not this was a fundamental error!”

In this talk we will show how multiple reference points on boxes allow for a completely different approach to design specification and what can be done to successfully overcome the limitations resulting from Don’s cap worn that day.

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