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Emacs as a Highschooler: How It Changed My Life

Pierce Wang

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Could Emacs be humanity's solution to the turbulent years of adolescence? So much more than a text editor, Emacs changed the way I approach everything at the age of 15. In the two years since discovering Emacs in my sophomore year of high school, I have been constantly amazed at what Emacs is capable of. In this talk, I would like to share this journey of discovery and what I've learned along the way, beginning with what led me to Emacs. I will reflect on my experience of the Emacs learning curve and then also talk about the many ways that Emacs has shaped my life as a student, programmer, violinist, and a productive and happy adolescent. In each case, I have thoroughly enjoyed figuring out the best way to make Emacs work for me. Finally, I will reflect on my journey thus far and briefly talk about my plans for the future.

  • Actual start and end time (EST): Start: 2020-11-29T13.06.20; Q&A: 2020-11-29T13.16.52; End: 2020-11-29T13.21.51


Q6: How would you introduce other classmates to Emacs? Meaning what's the "gateway" drug to Emacs?

Would probably start with doom or Spacemacs.

Try to find their reason for using Emacs.

Q5: What made you use Vim in the first place? Were you looking for a note-taking system in plain text (such as Markdown), or were you using it for programming?

Used vim first time mainly for programming not for Markdown.

Q4: I tend to think that life in school-age is somehow simple to organize since categories are easy to distinguish (years/classes, hobbies, …) in contrast to business life (many projects in parallel with many touch-points in-between them). From your point of view: do I have wrong memories on my time in school or did school change that much?

School makes it easier to have a structured system.

Q3: Assuming you keep real time notes during your lessons how do you manage to keep up with the lecturer's speed. I can write LaTeX fragments pretty fast but I am not yet at the point that I can keep up with them. What are the tricks/snippets you use? Oh and do you have a git repo with your Emacs dots that we can see?

Types pretty fast (~110 wpm); for math/science uses CDLaTeX, YASnippet expansion, and LaTeX fragments.

Emacs config!

Q2: What do your friends think :) ? (Do you collaborate with your friends?)

Overwhelmed them by the positive experience at first :). Now that the configuration is somewhat stable Emacs doesn't come up as often in discussions, though. [someone can probably come up with a better summary of this answer]

The general concensus is that it's an amazing piece of software, but they think it's too complicated for them to use. I think they also still have PTSD from the initial days when I was talking about Emacs all the time (whooops).

Q1: Do you use Emacs for school assignments?

Answered in talk: yes, Org mode, export to LaTeX -> PDF.

One Org mode template file with latex-fragments that is used for exporting.


Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 1:03 PM - 1:13 PM EST
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~10:03 AM - 10:13 AM PST
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 6:03 PM - 6:13 PM UTC
Sunday, Nov 29 2020, ~ 7:03 PM - 7:13 PM CET
Monday, Nov 30 2020, ~ 2:03 AM - 2:13 AM +08

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