Separation of formatting...

Steven R. Newcomb srn at
Fri May 1 01:14:46 BST 1998

[Sean Mc Grath <digitome at>:]

> Version 2 : SGML - Generic Markup
>         <p><i>Customer</i>Joe Bloggs</p>

Maybe the <p> is generic markup, but the <i>
is procedural markup, not generic markup.

> Version 3 : SGML - Data Modelling
>         <Customer>Joe Bloggs</Customer>

The above is generic markup, for sure.

"Generic" means "according to kind".  "Generic markup" means markup
that indicates *what kind of thing* is being delimited, rather than
*what to do with the thing* that is being delimited.  The latter is
usually called "procedural markup".

> I think for some poople, SGML is all about
> Version 2 above. Entire books have been written that
> use SGML to abstract the concepts of "paragraph",
> "artwork" etc. from the typographic codes required to
> achieve the result.

Ain't it the truth.  Well, evidently it's a useful attitude.

> Somewhere along the line, people started thinking
> as in version 3 above. I have no idea when this
> started to happen. Anyone out there know?

I think it was long before there was SGML.  The radical implications
of the modeling power of DTDs still escape most people, even though
they were surprisingly well understood right at the outset.

I think SGML's roots are firmly in generic markup, way back to
the mid-1960s and the precursorial beginnings of the GenCode
committee.  I don't know the details, but the history is long,
has many details, and is only slightly contentious.  Norm Scharpf,
President of the GCA, is one authority on the early history.


Steven R. Newcomb, President, TechnoTeacher, Inc.
srn at

voice: +1 972 231 4098 (at ISOGEN: +1 214 953 0004 x137)
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