I have a couple of question regarding the first ever TeX example program to be published. I hear that it may be the first program in the TeXBook (Page 24)

Is this true? I wonder also what the name R. J. Drofnats mean? And what's \"O\"o \c c? How would you pronounce this distant galaxy's name?

  • 8
    The full name is “Revinu Jitis Drofnats”. Read it backwards with some fantasy.
    – egreg
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 0:34
  • 2
    \"O is for ‘O with umlaut’ and \c cis for ‘c with cedilla’. Nowadays, we can directly type Ö and ç if we use UTF8 input encoding and a T1 encoded font such as Latin Modern.
    – Bernard
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 0:37
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    What do you mean by "published"? How many people need to have seen the document for you to consider it published? Also by "program" you don't mean a computer program but just a file/document for input into TeX, correct? Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 3:13
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    I don't think you should link to a PDF copy of the TeXbook unless you have permission to do so. (And by 'should', I mean at least you should not do so according to the terms of this site even if the laws of where you reside [which I do not know] would allow it.)
    – jon
    Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 3:58
  • "published" is not very clear here, do you mean what was the first typeset results that DEK managed to produce? Also what is TeX the texbook (now) describes TeX3 but before that there were the (similar) TeX2 and TeX1 and the (not so similar TeX-in-SAIL, TeX79) If I got those version numbers right, from memory Commented Jan 19, 2017 at 9:45

1 Answer 1


No, the first published example is definitely not the text of page 24 in the TeXbook. Besides the exact meaning of "published" and "example program" the version of TeX plays a role.

Here is an attempt to show the history of typeset, printed, and published test documents, papers, and books.

In the errorlog.tex of TeX you can find the entries:

   * 14 Mar 1978
   # 4:30am, \TeX's first page is successfully output!
   # (It was `|\titlepage\setcpage1\corners\eject\end|'.)

So this document was the first to be typeset and printed. Of course, that is TeX78. Later in the file you find:

   * 26 Mar 1978
   # Finally the entire test program was \TeX ed. Happy Easter! Six hours today.

The test program was an excerpt of five pages showing typical aspects from The Art of Computer Programming, Vol. 2, i.e., headlines, text, algorithms, MIX code, etc. It can be found in a paper by David Fuchs and Don Knuth: "Optimal prepaging and font caching."

The first book was the user manual according to Knuth's article `TeX Incunabula'. The manual was published in September 1978. As Knuth wrote the user manual does not seem to count as a real book and he mentions in the article a 28-page book that appeared end of 1978 as the first book published by TeX.

He used a test program for TeX82 too; debugging starts on July 15, 1982:

   * 1 May 1982
   # [That was the historic final change to \TeX78. All subsequent entries
           in this log refer to \TeX82.]
   * 15 Jul 1982
   # Finished draft of test program and began debugging about 1430
           [2:30\thinspace pm]. Taking my time.

His test program is the TRIP test and later errorlog.tex contains:

   * 31 Aug 1982
   # The |TRIP| test looks right; now to test for wasted memory.
   * 1 Sep 1982
   # Most of the memory locations I thought were wasted were actually in good use.

The TeXbook was started much later (although it might reused previously published content):

   * 28 Oct 1982
   # At this time I'm also drafting macros for typesetting {\sl The \TeX book}.

Knuth writes in the paper "TeX Incunabula" that the first book in TeX82 was the TeXbook and his paper "Literate programming" was the third published text.

As noted in the comments to the question R. J. Drofnats is stanforD J. R. backwards. Knuth has not invented the name for the TeXbook as he used it before in his paper "The Dangers of Computer Science Theory" in the early 70s (according to the reprint in Selected Papers on Analysis of Algorithms). But it looks so simple that I assume it is folklore in Stanford. He might have invented univeR sitiJ to be able to spell out the first names as it is suggested in the comments above.

For your last questions I can only guess: The name of the galaxy shows that TeX is able to place an accent above an uppercase and a lowercase letter and that it is possible to have an accent under a letter. Maybe the name was inspired from the well-known name "Oz" but this is just a wild guess.

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    In the summer of 1977, after Knuth wrote down a specification for TeX (in TEXDR.AFT in March and then TEX.ONE in May) and left it to his students Liang and Plass to implement while he was away, when he came back they presented him with a page of output typeset by their program. I guess one could count this proto-TeX too. (After this they had to go back to school and Knuth decided to implement the program himself.) Commented Apr 24, 2017 at 15:41

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