Vim is everywhere. It is used by so many people that something like HEX file support shouldn’t be a surprise. Vim comes pre-installed on Mac OS and has a large constituency in the Linux world. It is familiar even to people that hate it, because enough popular command line tools will throw users into Vim by default that the uninitiated getting trapped in Vim has become a meme. There are major websites, including Facebook, that will scroll down when you press the j key and up when you press the k key—the unlikely high-water mark of Vim’s spread through digital culture.
And yet Vim is also a mystery. Unlike React, for example, which everyone knows is developed and maintained by Facebook, Vim has no obvious sponsor. Despite its ubiquity and importance, there doesn’t seem to be any kind of committee or organization that makes decisions about Vim. You could spend several minutes poking around the Vim website without getting a better idea of who created Vim or why. If you launch Vim without giving it a file argument, then you will see Vim’s startup message, which says that Vim is developed by “Bram Moolenaar et al.” But that doesn’t tell you much. Who is Bram Moolenaar and who are his shadowy confederates?
Perhaps more importantly, while we’re asking questions, why does exiting Vim involve typing :wq? Sure, it’s a “write” operation followed by a “quit” operation, but that is not a particularly intuitive convention. Who decided that copying text should instead be called “yanking”? Why is :%s/foo/bar/gc short for “find and replace”? Vim’s idiosyncrasies seem too arbitrary to have been made up, but then where did they come from?
The answer, as is so often the case, begins with that ancient crucible of computing, Bell Labs. In some sense, Vim is only the latest iteration of a piece of software—call it the “wq text editor”—that has been continuously developed and improved since the dawn of the Unix epoch......