Betty L. Harvey harvey at eccnet.eccnet.com
Fri Nov 19 02:44:39 GMT 1999

Sorry - I have to pipe in.  I have missed most of this discussion because
of system upgrades and e-mail being down for 2 1/2 days - so excuse me
if I don't get the context of these last e-mails.

Personally, I give credit to Yuri Rubinsky, President of SoftQuad until
his untimely death, to the birth of XML. I give credit to Tim Berners-Lee
for the insight to recognize that SGML was format for the Web - HTML.  He
could have chosen NROFF, RUNOFF - any of those other system formatting
languages but he chose SGML - Thank you very much.

As Len said, I spent time and a lot of hard knocks with CALS (SGML and EDI
both being part of the CALS standards.  CALS initially represented
Computer Aided Logistics Support, then Continuous Acquisition and
Lifecycle Support (change the meaning of the acronym when it becomes
political incorrect).  Before I worked for the CALS program I was
told that working in CALS was a dead-end to your career.  

When the Web came into existance I was working in CALS within the Navy and
with our local Technology Transfer czar at David Taylor Model Basin.  I
was positive that SGML could not work at a reasonable cost and effort
within a large organization, such as DoD. The Technology Transfer office
funded my way to the second WWW Conference in Chicago (the first in the
U.S.). It is still the best conference I have ever attended.  The
enthusaism was incredible. I can't remember anytime in my career, before
or after, feeling so inspired.

I think I had the privilege of showing Len the WWW for the first time
at David Taylor using Mosaic on a Sun system.  After working with
complex IETM (Interactive Electronic Technical Manual) specifications
and expensive IETM unglamorous browsers the fact that Mosaic was
free, multiple platforms (unheard of until then), had a 'sexy' 
display was exciting.  I tried to talk the Navy into modifying
Mosaic code (it was public domain) to support IETMs.  The climate
wasn't right in 1994 for heresy. Today most IETM projects are
Web based.

Yuri chaired a session called 'SGML on the Web'.  In my mind it
finally clicked!!  I felt so strongly about 'SGML on the Web' i.e.,
XML that I left a safe and long civil servant career to support the
'SGML on the Web' effort.  

It does distress me that now that XML has become popular that the pioneers
are forgotten, especially Yuri.  He was a man who impacted not only the
web but people positively.  He was a real visionary.  I also believe he
would be really pleased about the current XML efforts.

XML is becoming prolific because it is a good technology and people
(computer scientists and marketeers) can understand it.  Even if Microsoft
hadn't embraced it (I am glad they did) it still would have been accepted
because of the other vendors who lined up to support it.  There are
several reasons that SGML didn't become very popular; (1) little vendor
support, (2) too costly, (3) too complex, and (4) personally, I believe
too esoteric.  XML is real!

Enough history - back to technical discussions.  BTW, congratulations
on XSLT and XPath!!!!  This is a major achievement.

In conclusion - thanks Charles, Yuri, TimBL and many others for their


On Thu, 18 Nov 1999, Len Bullard wrote:

> Tim Bray wrote:
> > 
> > So Len says that it only went over the top because Microsoft liked it.  Len
> > is mostly wrong, but he's used to me saying that and sometimes I'm wrong
> > when I do.
> I am used to that.  Reasonable minds can disagree.  I think that without 
> Microsoft's support, getting the XML WG to the finish line would have 
> been more than difficult.  It wouldn't have happened.  Not then anyway.
> > For the record.  By the end of 1995, anyone with half a brain could see that
> > HTML was just not up to some of the jobs that people wanted to get done on
> > the Web.  
> Yes.  OTOH, the GenCode folks knew before then.  It was hard to get
> people 
> to realize that elegance and success don't always go to the ball
> together.  
> Some simple ideas go like a grassfire because they give that girl on TV 
> who can't handle her VCR something she can handle. When Mikey likes it, 
> he really likes it, but if a star sells it, it really sells.
> > In parallel, some of us had been shouting at the SGML crowd from
> > inside for years that SGML needed radical simplification.  I can remember
> > like yesterday at the big SGML conference in 93 or 92 or so, standing around
> > with Steve DeRose and Jean Paoli and Erik Naggum (most XMLers won't remember
> > him) agreeing that we ought to do this.  But we didn't, then.
> Yes.  In 1992, I was demonstrating a radical simplification of SGML in 
> the IADS application which relied on.... stylesheets and a well-formed 
> file all processed on a 386.    I know where de Rose was;  he was
> selling 
> Dynabook for 50k a pop.  We were giving away IADS.  You were selling 
> relational databases then, right?  Can't remember.  The first time 
> we met was in the hallway in Vancouver.  I was listening; you were 
> angry.  You were right.
> Sure, SGML needed simplifying.  Remember, in those days, 
> the hypertext advocates were referred to as "the left wing lunatic 
> fringe of SGML" by the 28001 committees.  It took a few more 
> years of starvation for pony tails to come into vogue.
> As for Erik?  He was holding up comp-text-sgml and fighting with 
> anyone who would spar with him.  I do miss Erik.  Excellent wits.
> > I got invited to join the original XML committee because at SGML/Europe
> > in 1996 in Munich, I gave a closing keynote inviting the crowd to dispense
> > with 80% of it.
> So why do we have 80% of it there and more being asked for? 
> > It is to Jon Bosak's immense credit that he (like many of us) not only
> > saw the need for simplification but (unlike anyone else) went and hounded
> > the W3C until it became less trouble for them to give him his committee than
> > to keep on saying SGML was irrelevant.
> Yep.  Jon mastered DSSSL.  I have to give him credit.  I gave up on
> that.  
> Too hard.
> > Speaking as one of Jon's nominees I am naturally of the opinion that he
> > couldn't have picked a better group, but I kinda think that any group of
> > SGML veterans, some of whom had operated large web sites, would have done
> > about as well.
> Given the SIG and the WG in total, that was pretty much every SGMLer on 
> the planet with a modem.  I would have more respect for the founders had 
> they been more honest about what they had in mind.  On the other hand, 
> with enough of the SGMLers in the crowd, it didn't get too far off
> track.  
> It did manage to pull ISO and the W3C closer and that was worth all the 
> hassle.  In the years to come, a healthier and more productive
> relationship 
> between the inner and outer loops will benefit everyone.
> > And then... First off, Microsoft deserves a lot of credit for Getting It way
> > before many other allegedly smart industry leaders.  But there were a bunch
> > of reasons, some of them accidents of history, why it went over the top.
> > One of them was, people looked at it seriously because Microsoft was onside.
> > They soon noticed that unlike a lot of other things Microsoft liked, it was
> > unlikely to be something that Microsoft could control.
> That was the beauty of it, and the one thing to be said in the defense
> of 
> MS.  They understood the price of supporting it, but they saw the
> enormous 
> advantage of getting as far as they could as fast as they 
> could.  We can debate some what ifs, but we agree, they got out front 
> first.
> > Any simple explanation of XML's success is simply wrong.  Life, and the
> > Web biz, are complicated.
> No, there are just lots of points of views.  We express them here and 
> let the press figure out a shorter more acceptable version.  Life and 
> is simple:  duty, wealth, pleasure.  The web biz: paste .com on the 
> end of the company name, then get venture capital and an IPO.  Seems 
> to be working for Doonesbury.
> > It was astounding; Jon and I and some of the others made a concentrated
> > marketing effort starting at the end of 1996 and went shouting off in all
> > directions about XML.  It was like hurling your entire weight against a
> > locked door that turns out not to be there.  The world, more or less, said
> > "yeah, OK".
> Which is another way of saying, good timing.  Emergence works like
> that.  
> Like surfing, you only want to swim out as far as you can swim back, and 
> always be in the power curve before you stand up.  Enjoy the ride.
> len
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