In the early days of computers, they did not even have computer terminals; these times were hard. People wrote computer programs on cards and an operator would enter them into the computer. The bootstrap programs had to be toggled into the computer's memory in machine code and in octal.
Luckily, the computer industry advanced and got simple computer dumb terminals. In the beginning, they were not very advanced, so line editors, such as ed, were used to edit information on computers. But, what these editors lacked in visual prowess, they compensated for in power. Modern utilities, such as grep (for g/RE/p, which is read: Globbaly Search for a Regular Expression and Print), derive their names and origins from ed.
Gradually, the dumb terminals became less dumb. So, the vi editor was created. Since, much time was spent perfecting the ed editor and programmers are inherently lazy, it seemed obvious to build the new, more screen oriented editor using the power of the ed editor. The ex editor was built like the ed editor, but with much more power. An interesting and very intelligent distinction was made between command and insert mode in this editor. Then, the visual editor (vi) was built with ex as its command engine. The design was near perfect. The editor had objects --which signify blocks of text-- and operators --which act upon those blocks of text. By learning just a few operators and a few objects, you could do an enormous number of tasks quickly and easily. Nearly all keys used by this editor were keys which every keyboard has. The keys hjkl were used in command mode to move around the screen to avoid using arrow keys which were not on, or did not work properly, on many keyboards. Bill Joy might not have invented the idea this obviously intuitive method for directing the cursor, but he sure popularized it.
At about the same time, a good man had a bad idea. He made an editor with no distinction between insert and command modes, instead it used control sequences, arrow keys to move around, and other macros. It was hard to learn and slow too. So, no one really used it; however, so many features were added that it was no longer an editor anymore, but an environment which could read mail, usenet news, and do everything besides edit text quickly and easily. Some people liked his idea, but wanted to edit text. So, they created a micro version of his editor which had an ugly, but useful, macro language and used the basic editor macros style, but faster and nicer. It had multiple buffers and other advancements over vi, while being a lot faster than emacs. The only problem was the stupid interface.
Then came Paul Fox. He had a vision of a text editor which was small, fast, and powerful like the micro editor macros based text editor, but with the intuitive, finger-feel style of vi. And, so was born the first version of vile. Now, Paul Fox did not make vile what it is today by himself. Kevin Buettner, Tom Dickey, and others have all contributed in combined effort to make sure that vile never looses a step. Today, the effort is mostly headed by Tom Dickey.
Copyleft: (C) 1997 1998 2001, William Totten