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Humanist Archives: April 24, 2020, 8:47 a.m. Humanist 33.797 - proprietary formats

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 797.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

    [1]    From: David Hoover 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.794: proprietary formats (28)

    [2]    From: John Laudun 
           Subject: Re: proprietary formats in general, PDF in particular (63)

    [3]    From: Tim Smithers 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.790: on academia.edu, proprietary & open (155)

        Date: 2020-04-23 14:42:52+00:00
        From: David Hoover 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.794: proprietary formats

Gabriel Egan's suggestion that Word's ability to write PDF's helped it to
become an open standard seems likely to be right, but the irony seems
rather great, as Word is certainly one of the most invasive and coercive of
all proprietary programs.

I am often coerced into translating my manuscript (including my current
nearly complete book) into Word by the publisher. I am one of the die-hards
who still uses WordPerfect, which, by the way, had the ability to produce
PDF's long before Word. Yes, it too is proprietary, but consider this. I
chose WordPerfect in 1982 or 1983 because I needed to produce camera-ready
copy that included proportionally-spaced parallel columns, and, so far as I
could determine, WordPerfect was the only program that could do it. I
couldn't have insisted on open source. Consider also that I can go to my
archive and open documents I wrote in 1983 in WordPerfect 4.2 and haven't
opened since in the current version of WordPerfect (X9).
Don't try that with Word.

 David L. Hoover, Professor of English  NYU Eng. Dept. 212-998-8832

   "There is no nonsense so arrant that it cannot be made the creed
    of the vast majority by adequate governmental action."
          -- Bertrand Russell, "An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish"

        Date: 2020-04-23 14:14:01+00:00
        From: John Laudun 
        Subject: Re: proprietary formats in general, PDF in particular

This is correct. With OS X, Apple switched from QuickDraw to Quartz for the
rendering of all 2D objects. Quartz uses the PDF drawing model. Thus, PDF
creation was "baked" into the OS. As one description of the system notes: "Even
spool files sent to a printer are PDF data."
(https://www.prepressure.com/pdf/basics/osx-quartz) It should be noted that at
the time of its introduction, Quartz only used a subset of the PDF spec. Things
have changed over the years, obviously.


John Laudun
Department of English
University of Louisiana
Lafayette, LA 70504-4691

> On Apr 23, 2020, at 1:46 AM, Humanist  wrote:
>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 33, No. 794.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                       www.dhhumanist.org
>                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>        Date: 2020-04-22 12:44:11+00:00
>        From: Robert Delius Royar 
>        Subject: on academia.edu, proprietary & open
> Before the adoption of export to PDF by MS-Word OS X 10.3 provided internal
> PDF read/write support (released October 2003). If I recall correctly, the
> PDF format was integrated into the way that the OS handled display and
> printer rendering.
> On Wed, Apr 21, 2020 at 12:58:38+00:00 Gabriel Egan 
> wrote
>> The greatest service done to the usefulness of PDF
>> occurred before its transition in 2008 to an Open
>> Standard, when in 2006 Microsoft's 'Word 2007'
>> software offered an optional 'Save as PDF' add-on,
>> which became a standard feature with 'Word 2010'.
>> This broke the illusion that only institutions and
>> corporations could create PDFs and, I suspect, it
>> hastened the format's transition to an Open Standard.
> --
>               Robert Delius Royar
> Caught in the net since 1985

        Date: 2020-04-23 11:33:00+00:00
        From: Tim Smithers 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 33.790: on academia.edu, proprietary & open

Dear Fran├žois, Ian, and Robert,

I think you, Fran├žois and Ian, point to the often hidden
distinction between data and presentation, as you put it, Ian.
Keeping these separate is important, I agree.  But, again, not
so easy to do.  Still, keeping the data on the Open side is
where our priority should be, I also agree.

Keeping data and presentation is not simple, though.

When, and where, for example, does the 'W' in this "When"
change from being data to being presentation?

When I write by hand a 'W' I feel no distinction: I see no
distinction; there is no distinction, I would say.  I can't
have a 'W' without first scribing it, ie, without presenting,
it somehow.  The typewriter didn't, I think, change this.  It
just changed the way I get the presentation made on the paper.
The electric typewriter made no difference either.  The
distance between me wanting a 'W' and having one was still so
short that no data/presentation distinction existed, nor was

Things changed, I would say, when we went digital, now a long
time ago, with the early mini and micro computers that offered
text editing and printing.  The early printers were
essentially electric typewriters with some digital interfacing
and decoding electronics added so that they could be sent
sequences of codes for characters to be "typed" out.  This
turned the characters we typed in the text editor into data,
with (internal) representations, such as ASCII. And it turned
the 'W' our printer made for us, into a presentation.
Writing, the Solid Form of Language, as Robert Bringhurst so
nicely calls it [1], took on a certain liquidness.  A rather
viscus liquidness to start with, for sure, but a liquidness
that has since flowed and splurged all over the place,
flooding all graphics production, 2D and 3D, not just the
typographic parts.  It has made so much more possible, but
often left us standing in muddy pools that don't join up, some
Open, some not.

PDF is a part of this (long, winding, branching) story.  And,
Ian, you are right to mention that PDF has been integral to
Mac OS X since it's early versions.  Mac OS 10.0 was
introduced in March 2001.  Mac OS 10.2 (August 2002) was the
first to us OpenGL to compose windows for screen display (and
take advantage of hardware acceleration) in the Quartz
Compositor, the display server in Mac OS. This uses an imaging
model that is very close to the Portable Document Format (PDF)
imaging model, thus making it easy to output PDF to multiple
devices [2], and making PDF sort of native to Mac OS.

PDF, as you probably know, evolved from PostScript, a
dynamically typed, concatenative page description
(programming) language developed by (the then newly founded)
Adobe Systems [3].  The story is that Steve Jobs persuaded the
people at Adobe to adapt PostScript to drive (the then new)
laser printers, and the Apple LaserWriter was the first
printer to ship with a PostScript engine, and start the (so
called) desktop publishing (DTP) revolution in the mid-1980s.

This meant that the Apple Mac sent content data to the
printer, and the printer, using PostScript, composed the
presentation.  (To do this, the Apple LaserWriter needed a
Motorola 6800 microprocessor, a bigger processor than the Mac
had at the time.)  Since then, except for high-end printers,
all PostScript generation has migrated back to our PCs, so
that printers could become cheaper.  This resulted, as we've
seen, in PDF becoming an Open standard for document
representation easily rendered on screens (of all shapes and
sizes) and by printers using different printing technologies.

But still, what is the data and what is the presentation in
all this?  To attempt to answer this I suggest we need to
change the terminology.  The term 'data' is too vague.  What
isn't data?  Instead, I think we need to talk of the
distinction between representation and presentation.  The
presentation is what is needed for good communication of what
we want to communicate.  (I don't want to use the term
'content' here.  It's as vague as 'data'.)  Representation is
what is needed to keep what we make in some reusable, easily
turned into a presentation, long lasting, way.

PDF, and PostScript before it, are good ways of encoding the
presentation, but notice, like all programming languages
(pointing across to the other DH discussion going on) they
determine what we must think about, and shape the way we think
about this when use them.  In the case of PDF and PostScript
it is pages: they are page description languages,
sophisticated ones.  (Of course, like most programming
languages, you can try to do whatever you like in PostScript,
but it mostly is not fun.)

The laser printer and PostScript afforded the possibility of
turning the simple typewriter-like text we typed into our text
editors, into book quality typographically smart documents.
But how to turn our (typically) ASCII represented text into
these wonderfully looking "professionally typeset"
productions?  Along came text processing, and, most famously,
and most importantly, TeX and LaTeX (and its subsequent
friends), then, later, HTML and its friends, for the web.
This added to the production of the needed words, the text,
the job of adding the commands needed to get the PostScript
engine to turn our plain text on the screen into nice looking
printed documents, using the fonts of our choice, and
typographic designs of our own deciding.  (Which lead to the
draining of good typographic design from so much of what we
see and have to look at and read today.  Desk Top Publishing,
my foot.)

But, that's not how things stayed, and it's not how it is, I
think, for most people.  Along came Graphical User Interfaces,
and, with these, WYSIWYG Word Processing (What You See Is What
You Get) -- and typographic and typesetting standards declined
further.  Why?  'Cos Word Processing confuses representation
and presentation, making it seem to the author like there is
no distinction.

I've over simplified, unfairly ignored, and exaggerated here,
a lot, but we are, I would say, still a long way off
understanding the need to distinguish between the
representation and the presentation of things, and a long way
off having the means to manage this well in all the ways and
places it would be good to do this.  Except to say that the
nearer stuff is to flat plain text or coding, albeit with
embedded commands to control presentation, the easier it is to
change the presentation, mostly.

The plain text (ASCII+ represented) form and presentation of
DH posts will, thankfully, mean we'll be able to render them
easily for many more years to come, I think.  But, as a
postscript, PostScript still works on a surprising number of
machines.  My oldest still working program is a PostScript
program for making calendars, first written in about 1987.

With that I'll send this data and trust that it'll get
presented in a readable way at your end.

Best regards,



[1] Robert Bringhurst, 2004: The Solid Form of Language,
    An Essay on Writing and Meaning, Gaspereau Press.
    -- A book that you must have in physical (analogue form),
    not digital.

[2] macOS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MacOS)

[3] PostScript (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PostScript)

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