I have a confession to make. I’m a total nerd when it comes to text and text to HTML conversion systems. You see plain text is just so easy to type and plain text files never cause problems years later when save formats change. Then you just need a way of encoding format in the plain text files.
If you work in a good command line environment there are also a large number of tools that work on plain text files. Unix was actually developed as a document management system – that was how Thompson and Ritchie got the funding to do it from their bosses at Bell.
It was a Unix system, man and mm files, that was my first introduction to specifying formatting in a text file. The drawback of systems such as those that we used under Unix was that they were hard to read – here’s an example of a man file:
\&\fIperldoc\fR looks up a piece of documentation in .pod format that is embedded
in the perl installation tree or in a perl script, and displays it via
pod2man | nroff \-man | $PAGER\*(C'\fR. (In addition, if running under HP-UX,col -x*(C’\fR will be used.) This is primarily used for the documentation for
the perl library modules.
This is a particularly convoluted example but you get the idea – not easy to read.
When web pages came along several projects struggled with a way of making it easier to write web pages with systems that allowed the user to write in simpler syntaxes that were easily translated into HTML. BBCode, from the Universal BBS, was one of the first.