( Exodus

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 14.2 Exodus
 As I got feedback from users, I incorporated many improvements, using
 Emacs to search and replace, cut and paste, similar changes in each of
 the scripts.  As I adapted more GNU utilities packages to use
 `configure' scripts, updating them all by hand became impractical.
 Rich Murphey, the maintainer of the GNU graphics utilities, sent me mail
 saying that the `configure' scripts were great, and asking if I had a
 tool for generating them that I could send him.  No, I thought, but I
 should!  So I started to work out how to generate them.  And the
 journey from the slavery of hand-written `configure' scripts to the
 abundance and ease of Autoconf began.
    Cygnus `configure', which was being developed at around that time,
 is table driven; it is meant to deal mainly with a discrete number of
 system types with a small number of mainly unguessable features (such as
 details of the object file format).  The automatic configuration system
 that Brian Fox had developed for Bash takes a similar approach.  For
 general use, it seems to me a hopeless cause to try to maintain an
 up-to-date database of which features each variant of each operating
 system has.  It's easier and more reliable to check for most features on
 the fly--especially on hybrid systems that people have hacked on
 locally or that have patches from vendors installed.
    I considered using an architecture similar to that of Cygnus
 `configure', where there is a single `configure' script that reads
 pieces of `' when run.  But I didn't want to have to
 distribute all of the feature tests with every package, so I settled on
 having a different `configure' made from each `' by a
 preprocessor.  That approach also offered more control and flexibility.
    I looked briefly into using the Metaconfig package, by Larry Wall,
 Harlan Stenn, and Raphael Manfredi, but I decided not to for several
 reasons.  The `Configure' scripts it produces are interactive, which I
 find quite inconvenient; I didn't like the ways it checked for some
 features (such as library functions); I didn't know that it was still
 being maintained, and the `Configure' scripts I had seen didn't work on
 many modern systems (such as System V R4 and NeXT); it wasn't very
 flexible in what it could do in response to a feature's presence or
 absence; I found it confusing to learn; and it was too big and complex
 for my needs (I didn't realize then how much Autoconf would eventually
 have to grow).
    I considered using Perl to generate my style of `configure' scripts,
 but decided that `m4' was better suited to the job of simple textual
 substitutions: it gets in the way less, because output is implicit.
 Plus, everyone already has it.  (Initially I didn't rely on the GNU
 extensions to `m4'.)  Also, some of my friends at the University of
 Maryland had recently been putting `m4' front ends on several programs,
 including `tvtwm', and I was interested in trying out a new language.
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