What You See Is What You Mean

What You See Is What You Mean

On Donald Knuth and when WYSIWYG transforms to WYSIWYM:

As opposed to industry-standard page layout programs that implement a “What You See Is What You Get” (WYSIWYG) paradigm, TeX produces “What You See Is What You Mean” (WYSIWYM) by using plain text files and a semantic mark-up language compiled on-the-fly to produce final pages.


This is where the moral objection comes in. Once the typographic decisions have been passed over to software, then the information no longer is tied to any one specific form. The possibilities multiply.


Plato reminds us that the very tool used to create books — writing — may have placed us in this double bind for good, between remembering and forgetting, information on or off, from zero to one and back.

(I still think he just needed a thank you note.)