NeWS - Network extensible Window System

NeWS is the Network extensible Window System, written by James Gosling and David Rosenthal, at Sun. It's a multithreaded PostScript interpreter with extensions to draw on the screen, handle input events, with an object oriented programming facility.

NeWS Speak

According to a *completely* unsubstantiated rumor, the Sun Product Naming Division performed a great deal of research to come up with a name for Sun's Network extensible Window System, good enough to replace its original name, "SunDew." (Supposedly, the problem with the name "SunDew" was that the word was not in common enough usage.) It was found that the phrase most often uttered by test subjects shown SunDew was, "Wow! Neat Window System!" This was thought to be a very catchy slogan; however it turned out that the word "Wow" was a trademark of Dolby Labs. So in a reactive flurry of trendy acronymization, the slogan was condensed into the stylishly Californian name, "NeatWS", from which it was eventually transmogrified to "Ne@WS", in order to emphasize its internetworkability. They bounced the idea off the network gurus, who in exclamation pointed out that SunDew was not limited to the SMTP protocol alone, and that the name "Ne@WS" probably wouldn't go over very well with more sophisticated users who use @ as their line kill character. Thus it was decided to make the @ silent, as well as invisible, resulting in the name that was finally settled on: "NeWS". However, once the marketing people made the realization that the name "NeWS" by some strange accident so splendidly paralleled the name "NFS", (except for the "e", but it's small enough that nobody would ever notice ...) they were so excited that they completely forgot about their original slogan. But those "in the know" pronounce "NeWS" just as its capitalization suggests: "Nee-Wus", of course!


Date: Sat 12 Dec 1987 17:01:36 EST
From: David Rosenthal <dshr@Sun.COM>
Subject: Extensions for "documetnation graphics"
There has been some discussion recently of the need to extend X11 to support ``documentation graphics''. I believe that what people need is, in effect, access to both the X11 and the PostScript (TM Adobe Systems) language imaging models.

The implications of the recent deal between Sun and AT&T are relevant to this debate. As part of the deal, Sun will be supplying to AT&T, and AT&T including in their Unix source licensing program, a merged server supporting both X11 and NeWS protocols. If you are a Unix licensee, you will be getting this code as part of the normal AT&T source distributions, and it will, therefore, be a part of "standard Unix". No license with Sun will be required.

Robin Schaufler will discuss the details of the implementation of the merged server at the X conference at MIT in January. Briefly, it will support: The C source code will include: The intention behind this arrangement is to ensure that those who need the PostScript language imaging model will have it available. There will be no reason not to support this capability for those who are Unix licensees, since they will be getting it, already integrated with X11, as part of their Unix source distribution. Almost all significant companies in the computer industry are Unix licensees.

I hope that this will reassure those who need ``documentation graphics'' that the X11 servers they talk to are likely to support the capabilities they need, and that there is no need to design new extensions to address this area.


Date: Fri, 5 Feb 88 01:52:55 EST
Subject: X and the future
From: maximo!mo@uunet.UU.NET (Mike O'Dell)
The astonishing baroqueness of X is the greatest threat to the general sucess of UNIX to have come along since System V hit the streets. If you try to give an X system to a real human being, not a computer hacker masquerading as a normal person, they will croak. If X doesn't instantly burn out their eyes and brain, causing them to throw their UNIX box out the nearest high window, it will drive them straight into the arms of the Macintosh II. With the toolbox under AUX, all the windowy programs on the MacII will have a clear, understable, and universal user interface. With other alternatives, we face the very real prospect of each window (program) having a different user interface. That, friends, will be the death of UNIX.

The Ol' Curmudgeon

-Mike O'Dell

"Nature neither seeks nor abides opinions."

Date: Sat, 6 Feb 88 05:22:33 EST
Subject: Re: X and the future
From:  (Barry Shein)
Although Mike is not that old I tend to otherwise agree with him.

The problem I see right now is that the "truisms" run something like this: Somewhere in here I sense a wheel of reincarnation. If it's only a protocol and we should ignore (well, only if we don't like it) the current implementations of those protocols then I suppose we better not program anything as our code is doomed to obsolescence right after the next major semester break at MIT.

If we shouldn't be coding at the level of XLIB and be using Toolkits instead as they provide the abstract interface we all desire then how come people privy seem to agree that the supplied toolkit is basically incomprehensible and should be, we should be waiting for something else? It's all starting to sound like Nixon's Secret Plan to end the Vietnam War (I suppose that metaphor reveals me to be as old as Mike.)

The wheel of reincarnation reference is that if someone comes along with a toolkit which is useful then the first thing we should do is declare that to be X and throw away anything "below" it other than the protocol. If it can't do that then it's a pretty poor toolkit (not powerful enough or something.) Of course, then we will ask, why wasn't that approach taken in the first place? Well, I suppose one can say, because hindsight is 20/20. The road to hell is paved with myopia.

Disclaimer: I sort of like X11, I use it as my primary window manager on my Sun, have ported the client interface to an Encore Multimax. Clients I have written are "out there" (mostly X10.) I recently wrote an X11 plot interface to DOE MacSyma which should appear on their next release tape and am involved with various groups' alpha and beta-testing new clients and I am working on some of my own.

What I like about X is that it is available in a form which basically works (I'm not sure I can say the same for the competition yet) and is available under a very agreeable source release. Unfortunately there may be fundamental flaws in the model (eg. moving to different res or other variation devices seems to be very painful, again, that may not be the protocol but the implementation, as the NewSpeak goes.)

I suppose one might say that right now there is nothing approaching a standard window system for Unix. NeWS might be a competitor some day although it may have fundamental flaws also (not so much in the windowing model which is very good but in the implementation approach.)

Basically, X and NeWS seem to form the right and left brain halves of windowing systems. X is basic, fast (or should be) and analytical, NeWS seems to be what you should be using if you want something more creative than boxes with chars and/or line drawings in them of a fairly fixed nature. Right now people seem to be responding to each on that atavistic level.

X is a jeep wagoneer with all options including a tow ball if you can't fit it inside the cab, NeWS is a DeLorean turning magnificently on a stand in the main lobby of the Museum of Modern Art, the engine comes in kit form, diesel, gasoline, ethanol, any number of cylinders all available, actually the kit is just a big cube of steel, very high grade, and a textbook on modern engine design.

The X11/NeWS merge might very well end up to be the "long-awaited" station wagon version of the DeLorean, with the jeep hanging off the back on a newly attached brushed stainless steel tow ball, just in case.

-Barry Shein, Boston University