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Vim and the Copernican principle

“You’ll type rm -rf /bin/vim in ten years and tell me that I was right.” In non-technical terms, a friend said that I’d stop using an ancient text editor named Vim and switch to something better. That was ten years ago on this day. I’m typing this post in Vim.

The exchange reminds me of the Copernican principle, which assumes that there is nothing special about our place in space and time. Astrophysicist John Richard Gott thought through the principle’s implications and deduced that it’s unlikely that we observe a random thing at its beginning or end—we should be closer to the middle of its existence on average. If a thing existed for two years, it would likely exist for two more; if it existed for two hundred years, that’s probably two centuries more.

The principle doesn’t apply to living or perishable entities. If you see a puppy, you can safely conclude that it is just starting out. But software is different. vi, the precursor to Vim, was created and published in the middle of the 70s and Vim at the beginning of the 90s; that’s half a century from today. So, following the reasoning above, there are many more decades in front of the ancient text editor.

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