[CrackMonkey] Whither troff

Nick Moffitt nick at zork.net
Fri Sep 8 15:27:41 PDT 2000

The Usenet Oracle has pondered your question deeply.
Your question was:

> Whither troff?

And in response, thus spake the Oracle:

} In the faraway land of Bimingham-Bean
} King Horowitz stared at his monitor screen.
} The king he was mad, he was sore, he was vexed.
} He was staring at lines of unformatted text!
} The lines were uneven, unjustified too.
} Where paragraphs started, he hadn't a clue.
} He stared at the screen 'til he though he would break.
} His eyes, how they watered! His back, how it ached!
} Suddenly Horowitz could take it no more!
} He struck at the viewscreen which smashed to the floor!
} "I will no longer stare 'til my eyes start to bleed!
}  What I require is some text I can read!
}  Send for my scientist," he said to his aide,
} "It is time that he earned all the wealth he is paid!"
} And so the call went through the streets of the town,
} To search for the man, and when he was found,
} The Official Court Scientist of Bimingham-Bean
} Was involved in an act that was rather obcene.
} Not bothered the least by the odd circumstance,
} He turned himself round and he pulled up his pants.
} He was brought by the guards in front of the king.
} And the Scientist said, "You wanted something?"
} King Horowitz Second, of Verdly-on-Shext,
} said, "Yes! I want something to format my text!"
} "Ah," said the scientist, "Text you can read?
}  You're in luck, Royal Highness, I have just what you need!
}  Allow me a day, to draw up the plans.
}  I'll deliver them right to your hot little hands!"
} Next day, in the throne room, the court was assembled.
} An army of morons is what it resembled.
} And in the room's center, the star of the scene,
} The Official Court Scientist of Bimingham-Bean
} Manned a projector, and an 80-inch screen.
} He said "Lords and Ladies, I have a surprise!
}  A veritable wonderment! A feast for the eyes!
}  Text will be perfect in Bimingham-Bean,
}  Thanks to the Paragraph-Burbling Machine!"
} The man flipped a switch, and there on the screen,
} Was the craziest thing that they ever had seen!
} The thing at it's smallest was big as a horse!
} And looked twisted and turned by invisible force!
} He said "it looks odd, but it's no piece of junk!"
}  It's the power of 6000 Micronized Monks!
}  Input's the end that looks like a candle.
}  You enter the text, then you pull this small handle.
}  You push the red button, then turn the green dial.
}  Then you twiddle your thumbs and you wait for a while.
}  The Monks write the output in one of three styles :
}  Courier, Helvetica, or output-to-file!"
} The machine was impressive, it had lights, it went beep.
} However, the king was decidedly cheap.
} When told of the price, he became quite distressed,
} And said, "how 'bout something a little bit less?"
} The Scientist said, "How's this for an offer?
}  The X107 Grigzapper Runoff-er!
}  Although all the text must be entered by hand,
}  The output is perfect, it's really quite grand!
}  Unformatted text is stuck in this slot,
}  You crank on this crank, and what have you got?
}  Why, formatted text! Just make sure that you
}  Don't get stuck in the slot, or it'll format you, too."
} The king was impressed, was excited indeed,
} But still too expensive for his miserly needs.
} So the Scientist showed him the C107
} Which predicted the text using insight from Heaven,
} Then showed him the Zigula Sentence Compressor,
} The Infinitivator, the New-Line Redressor,
} The Predicate Haggler, the String Farbulator,
} The Vrabiton-Skiddley White Space Demonstrator.
} The models rolled on, getting deeper and deeper,
} And still the king said "Is there anything cheaper?"
} The Scientist paled, and said with a cough,
} "Well, Royal Highness, we've always got troff."
} "Troff? What is that? Does it work? Is it cheap?"
} "That's putting it mildly," and he started to weep,
}  "Your Highness, troff-language is really quite bad!
}   If you force us to use it, we'll surely go mad!"
} "Piffle!" said Horowitz, "Start right away!
}  Teach it to everyone, starting today!"
} And so it was done. The public, confused,
} Was told that troff was all they could use.
} The Scientist was right, they'd all be insane,
} Had not someone noticed the events in Romania.
} The palace was stormed, the king he was shot.
} And soon after that troff was simply forgot.
} The new King, O'Malley, of Sadicum-Smecks,
} Hired the Scientist, who invented LaTex.
} Thus came troff to the end of its time.
} And thus comes the Oracle to the end of the rhyme.
} You owe the Oracle a rhyme for Ceaucescu.

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