I'm trying to interpret the highlighted part below. It seems to me that lack of punctuation (serial comma) makes this a little difficult to understand.

One of the comforting things about old memories is their tendency to take on a rosy glow. The programming environment provided by the early versions of Unix seems, when described here, to be extremely harsh and primitive. I am sure that if forced back to the PDP-7 I would find it intolerably limiting and lacking in conveniences. Nevertheless, it did not seem so at the time; the memory fixes on what was good and what lasted, and on the joy of helping to create the improvements that made life better. In ten years, I hope we can look back with the same mixed impression of progress combined with continuity. (from https://www.cs.jhu.edu/~huang/cs718/spring18/readings/unix-evolution.pdf)

Could someone determine which of the following is closer to the originally intended meaning, considering the standard written English usage?

  • what was good, and what lasted (separate)
  • what was good and lasted (grouped)

Thank you.

  • That's a lengthy piece of text (to say the least!) for us to locate the particular expression you're asking about. I'd say that the coordination of noun phrases in "[What was good and [what lasted]" is preferable. The alternant seems stylistically inelegant by comparison.
    – BillJ
    May 24 '20 at 7:49
  • 1
    Think of it as “memory fixes on X and Y, and ...” The original is better parallelism and far better punctuated than your effort to make it so-called standard.
    – Xanne
    May 24 '20 at 8:55
  • The comma is optional in the first alternant. After all, you wouldn't feel it necessary to use a comma in, for example, "the memory fixes on performance and longevity", would you?
    – BillJ
    May 24 '20 at 9:49
  • @BillJ: I understand that it could be deemed lengthy for reviewers, but I wanted to provide as much context as possible. Thanks.
    – Felipe1979
    May 24 '20 at 10:26
  • Frustratingly, the bit you were interested in was right at the end of the article. I almost gave up! I think the way it is written in the article is fine: two "whats" and no comma.
    – BillJ
    May 24 '20 at 10:31

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