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21.4 Numbers

In July 1992, after months of alpha testing, I released Autoconf 1.0, and converted many GNU packages to use it. I was surprised by how positive the reaction to it was. More people started using it than I could keep track of, including people working on software that wasn’t part of the GNU Project (such as TCL, FSP, and Kerberos V5). Autoconf continued to improve rapidly, as many people using the configure scripts reported problems they encountered.

Autoconf turned out to be a good torture test for M4 implementations. Unix M4 started to dump core because of the length of the macros that Autoconf defined, and several bugs showed up in GNU M4 as well. Eventually, we realized that we needed to use some features that only GNU M4 has. 4.3BSD M4, in particular, has an impoverished set of builtin macros; the System V version is better, but still doesn’t provide everything we need.

More development occurred as people put Autoconf under more stresses (and to uses I hadn’t anticipated). Karl Berry added checks for X11. david zuhn contributed C++ support. François Pinard made it diagnose invalid arguments. Jim Blandy bravely coerced it into configuring GNU Emacs, laying the groundwork for several later improvements. Roland McGrath got it to configure the GNU C Library, wrote the autoheader script to automate the creation of C header file templates, and added a ‘--verbose’ option to configure. Noah Friedman added the ‘--autoconf-dir’ option and AC_MACRODIR environment variable. (He also coined the term autoconfiscate to mean “adapt a software package to use Autoconf”.) Roland and Noah improved the quoting protection in AC_DEFINE and fixed many bugs, especially when I got sick of dealing with portability problems from February through June, 1993.

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