On choosing a text editor

When I was young, I read an excerpt from a book about a child who was becoming a pearl diver. I can’t find its source (it turns out that there are many children’s books about pearl divers), but the scene has stuck with me with a dreamlike combination of haziness and crystal-clarity.

A child (or young man?) had to choose between donning a hooded suit of cotton or covering himself with hot oil to protect himself (from what?) in the water while diving for pearls (or maybe something else?). This was presented as a momentous decision: you were either a cotton suit diver, or a hot oil diver, and whatever you picked for your first dive decided which it was going to be. I think the protagonist chose oil?

Many years later (but still a long time back) I was presented with a similar choice. I was an engineering student in college, and CS coursework was most reliably completed by connecting to a shell account and editing files right in the terminal¹. Everybody started with pico, but eventually you had to choose a “real” text editor. Would it be Vi or Emacs?

I honestly can’t remember how I made my decision, but I’ve been using Vi-based editors for decades now. Sometimes I wonder: would I be a different person if I had chosen Emacs?

[1] IIRC, our solutions were checked using Sun’s C++ compiler. It was certainly possible to do the work on your own computer (especially if you were one of the clever people running Linux), but we were well advised to check out work against that compiler before submitting it.