Rob Austein (SRA@XX.LCS.MIT.EDU)
Tue, 6 Oct 1987 03:13 EDT
Granted that window protocols are a subject deserving lots of skull
sweat and are good clean fun. However, I don't think this eliminates
the continuing need for a "terminal" protocol (ie, something that
passes "keystrokes" in one direction and "characters" to be displayed
in a more or less boring and regular fashion in the other direction).
Two reasons for this:
- Bandwidth, RTT, and cost constraints are still with us and
presumably always will be. Dr. Malthus always has the last laugh.
- Most of the researchers in my building have some kind of bitmapped
display running a window system. Nevertheless, it seems that most
of these people spend most of their time talking to two kinds of
programs: command interpreters and text editors (both of these also
come in various specialized flavors, such as lisp listeners and
mail readers/composers). I believe that this will be the case as
long as the primary mode of data input is a keyboard. While it is
certainly possible and probably useful to hair things up with
bitmapped graphics, people can get their work done using programs
that operate within the "terminal" model. There is no particular
problem with having the terminal model support mice; mouse clicks
can be represented by a "character" followed by coordinates in
terms of character positions (an existing library for Lispm mice in
ITS/Twenex EMACS via SUPDUP does this).
Taken together, I think this points out a continuing need for terminal
support. In particular, I find it hard to believe that users faced
with a severe bandwidth or RTT problem will buy the argument that they
really want to be using a window system when they know that they could
be getting useful work done with a plain old terminal. Certainly one
can add hair to the window protocol to deal with these cases, but
doing so is essentially resurrecting the terminal protocol inside the
window protocol; you may decide that this is what you want, but it's
by no means an open and shut issue.
I agree with John Wroclawski about the direction any new work on
terminal protocols should take, so I won't repeat it.
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