WinEdt's Story (a project in progress)

We all have a story; so does WinEdt, whose first few chapters are recorded below...

WinEdt first surfed into cyberspace in August 1995. The program's conception, of course, occurred some time earlier, after Alex, as a PhD student, bought his first computer in order to work on his dissertation at home. As a 3rd-year PhD student with smaller tuition fee obligations, he found himself, happily, with a "couple of bob" in his pocket. This major milestone in the preconception of WinEdt was aided and abetted by one of Alex's bad habits: working at home was particularly appealing because of the no smoking policy at his department.

So, late in 1993, Alex had acquired his 486/25mhz laptop; black and white screen, but, hey, it was a bargain. Next began a quest for software tools. Finding nothing quite to his liking (although he admits he didn't come across PFE, otherwise things might have turned out differently), he thought to write his own TeX front-end. By November 1994, PhD had been defended and Alex looked ready to embark upon a golden career in Mathematics (Adriana was meantime teaching History part-time and also holding down a contractual administrative position). However, destiny had its own agenda, and, as a consequence - who can resist Destiny? - the idea of offering the editor as shareware started to crystallize in Alex's mind. This path of independent shareware developer would prove arduous and intense, especially since the sole program he had developed and the laptop on which it was brought to life had a few hazardous experiences of their own to face and overcome.

The first was the case of the clutsy wife, who, late one evening, haplessly hopped onto the laptop, which lay by the bed, packed and ready for a journey. ("I didn't [mean to] do it," saieth she [shamelessly sounding like Bart Simpson]; "after all, the phone rang and I had been unceremoneously awakened from a golden slumber.") Next morning, the laptop revealed its screen: newly cracked and emanating (pretty, the artistically-minded might say) liquid patterns - but very little in the way of viewing. Later, with the help of a hastily-borrowed monitor, the whole truth was exposed: the colours in WinEdt were somewhat unconventional: yellow and green proliferated, and the status line was particularly sickly looking. The day, which was to have been devoted to preparing slides for a conference talk, turned into a marathon session in repairing what had not been apparent when the laptop, with its black and white screen, had been entire of itself. Ultimately the conference slides were fine; and so too was the colour scheme in the editor!

Hazardous situation No.2 took place 15 months later. The doors to academe having yielded not a crack, WinEdt was now our only resource. And while it had attracted a few registrations, not enough was forthcoming to ward off the hard times that provoked a relocation to a cheaper quarters. Alas! three days after WinEdt settled into a its new HQ, the place went up in smoke. The hapless one this time was the 16-year old downstairs neighbour, who fell asleep with candles burning (the electricity in her flat having been disconnected) and at 6am awoke to the lick of flames and sniff of smoke. She escaped, along with several of her squatting friends; so too did a visiting dog, which was more fortunate than two cats which fell victims to the fire and heat. Also caught amidst the smoke, ash, and devastation, was the laptop whose innards contained the only copy WinEdt, the project-in-progress, our bread and butter.... Fortunate it was that we were away for the week-end; but that seemed little consolation until it was ascertained, after a quick de-sooting operation, that the laptop - still with its cracked screen - worked and safely nestled WinEdt's sources (thus Alex has ever since made sure to safely back up the program).

While WinEdt had a close call, Windows 3.1 was gone for good, as were all the floppy discs (melted or just plain damaged). A very old 286 computer used by the historian of the family (me) was also a goner, residing as it had been on a (very makeshift) desk by the window of the room that took the brunt of the damage. Kudos, nevertheless, to the firemen who responded to the alarm: on first dousing down and smashing through this, our bedroom, window, they had first of all chucked out of the way the big padded envelop containing the copy-edited Press version of a manuscript (subsequently published).

The chapter on hazardous situation no.2 must become a little extended because it leads directly to the close encounter of a third kind. No, we weren't visited by Aliens wanting to register - or abscond with - WinEdt (it's not aliens we have to worry about on that second account); no, indeed; this experience can be called quite natural. It came courtesy of Hortense, one of those Caribbean productions which on occasion have enough power to make their hurricane trip all the way up to Nova Scotia. Hortense's touch-down here came nowhere close to the power right now being exuded by Georges as he approaches the Mississippi Delta (as I write); still, she did come close to leaving her mark on WinEdt.

Let's retrace our steps for a moment, however. At this juncture, 2 years ago, the immediate imperative in the WinEdt enterprise was to find a new home/HQ. Picture the scenario: the hottest few days of the summer came just as our mad salvaging was taking place in the aftermath of the fire. The sun was welcome in one respect: its power was badly needed to dry out what was being salvaged and scrubbed. But it was a killer to be working in (though, granted, it's never quite as hot here as Texas)!. Notwithstanding this relative quality of the heat, we two (Alex and Adriana), stinking of smoke and stained with soot, sought out and found this our current spot after a couple of hours' search (it's just around the corner from the fated flat). And throughout that day any lucky bystander could have observed Alex and his friend Francisco, two PhDs in Mathematics, one quite skilled in the art of computer programming but both quite untutored in the art of moving furniture, clumsily propelling a bulky cart moving on small iron wheels through a couple of blocks on Windsor Street. Alex, with good reason, I suppose, was rather put out!

Work on WinEdt was, naturally, suspended for a few days. Then, gingerly at first, but with growing gusto and desire to get things back to normal, Alex resumed work. Then the rains came. And it turned out that this building was not entirely storm-proof. I actually lied above: Laptop and WinEdt got a little damp but remained unsullied; it was the MS edition of Constant Minds that got drenched, adding a new set of water stains to the already stained and smoky set of papers. The editor at the Press was quite impressed by the state of MS when it finally arrived back, still exuding an odour of soot, and water-stained from two different experiences.

1996 was WinEdt's (and our own) "Annus Horribilis". There was nowhere to go, surely, but up - to better times.


The Rocky Road to WinEdt32 and beyond...

To be continued: [pending popular requests for the sequel]...