Prompts: (was RE: A basic question on encoding Latin characters)

From: Edward Cherlin (
Date: Tue Oct 05 1999 - 02:14:28 EDT

At 13:40 -0400 10/3/1999, Frank da Cruz wrote:
> > Which protocols defined in some standard or by some vital piece of
> > software use prompts without terminators?
> >
>Every timesharing computer that has been used since the advent of
>timesharing in the 1960s, including even the most modern versions of UNIX,
>VMS, VOS, and so on, in which every session goes like this (prompts can
> login: <type your user id>
> Password: <type your password>

Did any of them ever use two distinct prompts differing only by the
addition of a single character?

I got used to treating the colon as the terminator. I suppose that it
is not a universal practice.

>It's not a question of standards; it's a culture and style that has evolved
>"in the marketplace of ideas" over decades and encompasses a vast array of
>existing software.
>Perhaps the designers of these systems lacked foresight, but their users
>are not going to discard them. Until the advent of the GUI, this was the
>predominent model for human-computer interaction. And even today, fifteen
>years (or more) into the GUI era, it still has its attractions. I'll be
>glad to list them if asked.
>- Frank

No, that's all right. I went through the same thing with APL
timesharing systems in the 70s.

I never saw a prompt that ended in an overstrike character, although
the bare quote-quad prompt consists of starting a new line without
typing anything at all. We could find out what the last character
should be in any other prompt, and we could begin to reply as soon as
we saw it.

As I understand the discussion, you have been asking for a technical
solution to a problem that seems to me much easier to deal with by
convention. That is, if nobody insists on such bad design as
minimally distinguishable prompts, users will never be confronted
with the problem, and we don't have to solve it.

Ed Cherlin
"Well, you may be right, and certainly I cannot go so far as
to say that you are wrong, but still, at the same time..."
Jurgen, A Comedy of Justice, by James Branch Cabell

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