Re: SGML, HTML and CS:

Peter Flynn (
Mon, 12 Sep 94 13:38:36 EDT

> Amen, brother. You're preaching to the choir. Now: break out your time
> machine, go back a few years and talk TimBL out of basing HTML on SGML
> (or maybe it was me that really made the connection between HTML and
> SGML -- but it was Tim's idea). Better yet, go back 10 or 15 years
> and teach the SGML committee about compiler technology and automated
> parsing.

No good. The problem is that SGML had to pass the ISO cttees to make
IS, so it's written in ISO-ese. Plus a lot of the groundwork done by
Charles G was done in the days of old IBM mainframe technology, which
is a maze of twisty little passages all alike, compared with "normal" :-)
Unix-based CS today, which is a maze of twisty little passages all
different :-)...

> Oh, my brother: would that you were wrong! After spending about two
> weeks reading the SGML standard, one realizes that SGML provides few
> features above and beyond lex/yacc. It is disheartening to realize that
> a technology that should represent one man-month to implement actually
> requires more like a man-year or two. There should have been a libSGML
> years ago that would, by now, be in /usr/lib on every machine on
> the planet.

Right. But I'd venture to say that the SGML spec is more robust than
one for lex or yacc (I've never seen a spec for either), which have an
unerring tendency to fall flat on their faces at critical times.

> I'm afraid the only way out at this point is lots of good documentation
> and support. The real damage is done. Arguments to the contrary
> are more than welcome.

On this point, I've signed with Van Nostrand Reinhold to do a book on
network publishing with WWW. I hope that this will complement the docs
that Dave is writing with A-W.