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A year in Boston


A summary of the TeX project
Donald Knuth Scientist
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The whole thing started in 1977 when I was working all by myself and then in '78, we started having other users, '79 we had Metafont, you know, '81 was the... was the publication of Volume Two in the new format. Many users coming through... through this time and I've also contacted the... the good font designers. Then... then I have to redo all the fonts and I have to have a better language for fonts too, so... so in 1983 and '84 I had the major revision of Metafont language and... and that's when Hermann Zapf came out to spend some... some weeks here and we... and we... and he taught me a lot about, you know, things I needed to know as well as help me refine the new version of... of Metafont language. Richard Southall and Chuck Bigelow... Chuck Bigelow joined our faculty for several years. We had the generous donation from people in Silicon Valley. I was hoping that we might have a... a permanent project between Stanford Art Department and Stanford Computer Science Department. This turned out to be too difficult to... because we needed more than one faculty person to do it, and Chuck would have been good, but there was just too much for one person to handle.  But we had more than a dozen students who... who have a Master's Degree in... in  typography, basically, and they're... they've been extremely important in the... in the industry since then. We had this class in font design at Stanford in 1984, taught... co-taught by myself, Southall and Bigelow. Unfortunately, the video tapes seem to - it was all on video, but I think the tapes were erased - but these guys, Bigelow and Southall gave brilliant lectures and I... and I thought they were, you know, they were archived, but some... somebody seems to have... have lost them or re... re-used them. But that was a... a big point in the development because I was implementing the features of Metafont one week before they were introduced by the class, and... and this was when the Sun Microsystems... the Sun workstations were just new and brand new software for this, and we were also teaching the students how to use the... the Sun workstations in order to prepare their Metafont programs.  And we... and so we had a very exciting time where... where... working day and night to... to make this course happen and it was a huge success. Metafont language finally stabilized in '84, the manual for Metafont was... was written and then I had to do my final revision of the... of the fonts... of the... to make them look acceptable, and for this... we... anyway, let's say I... I finished that in 1985 and... and so finally, after... after eight years I was able to bring my typography project to a conclusion. It was supposed to be a one year project for my sabbatical year.

Born in 1938, American computing pioneer Donald Knuth is known for his greatly influential multi-volume work, 'The Art of Computer Programming', his novel 'Surreal Numbers', his invention of TeX and METAFONT electronic publishing tools and his quirky sense of humor.

Listeners: Dikran Karagueuzian

Trained as a journalist, Dikran Karagueuzian is the director of CSLI Publications, publisher of seven books by Donald Knuth. He has known Knuth since the late seventies when Knuth was developing TeX and Metafont, the typesetting and type designing computer programs, respectively.

Tags: Metafont, Silicon Valley, Stanford Art Department, Stanford Computer Science Department, Stanford University, Sun Microsystems, Hermann Zapf, Richard Southall, Chuck Bigelow

Duration: 3 minutes, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: April 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008