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Re: An introduction to Lisp

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  • David Leibs
    Thanks Pascal, You have inspired me. Next time I start something significant I am going to use Common Lisp. I have never gotten to take Common Lisp for a
    Message 1 of 22 , Aug 26, 2002
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      Thanks Pascal,
      You have inspired me. Next time I start something significant I am going to use
      Common Lisp. I have never gotten to take Common Lisp for a proper ride because
      I was tied up pushing Smalltalk between 1984-2000. I have really missed Lisp.

      Given how the world has gone so wacky over XML I can imagine an S-Expression
      Renaissance.

      -David Leibs



      feyerabend-project@yahoogroups.com wrote:

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      > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
      >
      > There are 3 messages in this issue.
      >
      > Topics in this digest:
      >
      > 1. Re: An introduction to Lisp
      > From: Pascal Costanza <costanza@...>
      > 2. Re: An introduction to Lisp
      > From: Pascal Costanza <costanza@...>
      > 3. From Lisp to ???
      > From: "Logan, Patrick D" <patrick.d.logan@...>
      >
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      >
      > Message: 1
      > Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 17:23:49 +0200
      > From: Pascal Costanza <costanza@...>
      > Subject: Re: An introduction to Lisp
      >
      > Dirk Riehle wrote:
      > >
      > > Thanks for the answers so far:
      > >
      > > - I don't think showing some success stories help. For every Lisp success
      > > story there are, unfortunately, substantially more success stories for C,
      > > C++, Java (success measured as commercial success...)
      >
      > I don't know, it depends on how you sell it. I have found Paul Graham's
      > story about Yahoo stores quite impressive, especially the bit about
      > changing code on the fly.
      >
      > > - Business goals change and I would believe only the most seasoned CEOs
      > > with strong backing can rule out an exit strategy that involves being
      > > bought. And even then, it is probably still stupid if they ruled it out
      > > right away.
      >
      > I don't know enough about the way the economy works in the US currently.
      > However, my impression is that it is capitalism and liberalism driven to
      > the extreme. I don't know if there are any chances at all to do decent
      > work in such a situation.
      >
      > Especially, I find the various "scientific" ways to predict success or
      > failure extremely strange, like for example expressed in Dick's "Models
      > of Software Acceptance". IMHO, they are self-fulfilling prophecies at
      > best. We're dealing with people's behaviors and any theory about them
      > will probably change them as well - that's an essential property of
      > social sciences. So you can only explain successful projects in
      > retrospect but you cannot predict what will happen in the future. The
      > future can and eventually will be different.
      >
      > > Let me play the devil's advocate. It is a well-known sermon:
      > >
      > > Choosing CLOS or the like:
      > >
      > > - you don't get enough people
      > > - those people you get cost too much
      > > - you are incompatible with the rest of the world
      > > - adapters and bug-fixes will always be last for you
      >
      > That's a static view. If people would be allowed to learn at their
      > workspace, things could be different.
      >
      > > Specifically for a startup:
      > >
      > > - choosing a niche language at the core of your technology strategy may
      > > make you liable to shareholder lawsuits if the company goes south
      > >
      > > Actually this isn't even about a specific language but about any
      > > non-mainstream technology. I remember these arguments from the days when we
      > > tried to convince UBS to widely deploy a meta-programming approach to
      > > achieve flexibility etc. on an enterprise level.
      >
      > Java was non-mainstream in the beginning, but companies opted for it
      > nevertheless.
      >
      > > Looks like this is the standard "Crossing the Chasm" problem. Well, then
      > > CLOS is dead, because you don't get a second chance.
      >
      > Who says so? (i.e. that you don't get a second chance)
      >
      > > Unless, maybe, you
      > > position it right to solve a new business problem.
      >
      > For example.
      >
      > In my opinion, the situation is currently as follows. Java was
      > successful in bringing some properties of higher-level languages to the
      > mainstream, like garbage collection and a disregard of pure efficiency
      > in favor of more convenient features. IMHO it's important to note that
      > this is an improvement over Algol- and C-like languages. (This is to say
      > that, apart from its shortcomings, Java has real merits.)
      >
      > Now, Microsoft has jumped on the unhappiness of many programmers about a
      > Java-centric world and created (the illusion of) a language-independent
      > virtual machine as part of .NET. However, .NET's IL is still too close
      > to Java bytecode, and so still too limited, and with a too-strong focus
      > on OOP, for many programming languages.
      >
      > I think this story will eventually lead into a true paradigm-agnostic
      > virtual machine by some other vendor that will (consciously or
      > unconsciously) be based on a Lisp-variant internally. Only then the
      > abstract instruction set will be powerful enough to have the potential
      > to be targeted by any language. Lisp treats data and programs uniformly
      > and I guess that this will turn out as an essential property of such a
      > virtual machine.
      >
      > Because we are living in a post-modern world, there will never be a
      > single language for all purposes. The deliberate restrictions of many
      > languages have their merits (for example static type systems). Common
      > Lisp could be repackaged as a virtual machine for many languages, with
      > Common Lisp as the low-level entry for "power users". This would reduce
      > the need to build "bridges" between different languages.
      >
      > Just my 0.02€
      >
      > Pascal
      >
      > --
      > Pascal Costanza University of Bonn
      > mailto:costanza@... Institute of Computer Science III
      > http://www.pascalcostanza.de Römerstr. 164, D-53117 Bonn (Germany)
      >
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      >
      > Message: 2
      > Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 17:31:32 +0200
      > From: Pascal Costanza <costanza@...>
      > Subject: Re: An introduction to Lisp
      >
      > Erann Gat wrote:
      > >
      >
      > > <rant>
      > > The whole situation with languages in software engineering has
      > > always struck me as rather bizzare. The skills of a software engineer are
      > > almost invariably defined in terms of the languages they use, which is to
      > > say, in terms of the tools they use, not in terms of the tasks they
      > > perform. Job ads ask for a "C++ programmer" or a "Perl programmer". If
      > > you had the equivalent situation in, say, building construction you'd see
      > > "hammer user" or "screwdriver user" instead of "carpenter."
      >
      > Well, I think this is mostly our own fault (i.e., the fault of computer
      > scientists). The term "programming language" raises certain associations
      > in non-programmers. If they ask for "C++ programmers" they think about
      > it in the same way as in asking for people who speak Spanish or French.
      > Perhaps "programming tools" would be a better term?
      >
      > I don't know - several factors contribute to the fact that computer
      > science is totally different from other disciplines. In a historical
      > perspective, we are still at a very early stage and so we probably need
      > metaphors and analogies. How can we avoid that non-experts misunderstand
      > our terminology?
      >
      > > </rant>
      >
      > Pascal
      >
      > --
      > Pascal Costanza University of Bonn
      > mailto:costanza@... Institute of Computer Science III
      > http://www.pascalcostanza.de Römerstr. 164, D-53117 Bonn (Germany)
      >
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      >
      > Message: 3
      > Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 10:29:06 -0700
      > From: "Logan, Patrick D" <patrick.d.logan@...>
      > Subject: From Lisp to ???
      >
      > Getting this conversation back on-topic... I think Lisp is a good vehicle to
      > get to the next thing, but we should not mistake it for the next thing.
      >
      > Something interesting I read this weekend...
      >
      > http://www.paulgraham.com/spam.html
      >
      > Paul Graham's simple statistical approach to handling spam. This is an
      > example of the little bits and pieces that can be used in new ways. It was
      > easy for him to prototype it in Lisp. The solution is beyond Lisp, Lisp was
      > the vehicle for his thought process.
      >
      > How else can these little ideas be strung together into new and simpler ways
      > of doing useful things?
      >
      > -Patrick
      >
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      > ________________________________________________________________________
      >
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    • Richard P. Gabriel
      ... Though it s not relevant, I would argue like this: My team will be able to program circles around everyone else. They will be able to construct rapidly a
      Message 2 of 22 , Aug 26, 2002
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        At 22:23 +0200 8/25/02, Dirk Riehle wrote:
        >Choosing CLOS or the like:
        >
        >- you don't get enough people
        >- those people you get cost too much
        >- you are incompatible with the rest of the world
        >- adapters and bug-fixes will always be last for you

        Though it's not relevant, I would argue like this:

        My team will be able to program circles around everyone else. They
        will be able to construct rapidly a language specific to the problem
        we are solving rather than using a language designed by computer
        scientists worrying about their place in history and a herd of
        library writers working in cubicles a thousand miles from our
        business. My team will be able to use a language without training
        wheels. Strong typing is for weak minds, and it's exactly like they
        say at MIT: Our current popular languages are designed to help losers
        lose less.

        I will be able to point to various examples where Lisp programmers
        have written not only 3-5 times faster, but they wrote things other
        programmers thought were impossible. In this regard, I'd tell the
        CEO, our competitors will be spending all their time trying to figure
        out that it's really possible we're doing what we're doing, because
        they will be thinking in terms of customization at compile time or
        link time, not at runtime.

        Moreover, we will be operating where the CEO is focusing on his or
        her specialty and not imposing his or her knuckleheaded view on
        technology.

        Because Lisp is dead, I'll get better programmers for less money.
        I'll be able to guarantee 50 more IQ points for the same pay. And my
        guys will be able to spend their time typing in value not book
        keeping overhead and typing in type descriptions because their guys
        are too stupid to know when they type + numbers are involved.

        Because no one uses Lisp, I'll have my pick of thousands of great,
        experienced programmers looking to work for someone with a non-zero
        IQ, not the ones fresh out of college with 10 programs under their
        belts.

        I'll be compatible with everything because it is right now. And if
        someone throws me a bug, I can code around it in a few minutes. Being
        a niche market means we're more proprietary. People will not use Lisp
        to compete with us because they are lamebrains listening to the
        latest fashion statement from Sun or Microsoft.The open source crowd
        isn't even smart enough to notice C++, so they are especially nowhere
        in the picture.

        Of course, no CEO will belive this because every one of them is stupid.

        -rpg-
      • Brian Wallis
        ... Thanks Dick, That was a great way to start my morning. I ll be quoting from it all day :-) brian wallis...
        Message 3 of 22 , Aug 27, 2002
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          On Tue, 27 Aug 2002 13:03, Richard P. Gabriel wrote:

          > Though it's not relevant, I would argue like this:

          Thanks Dick, That was a great way to start my morning. I'll be quoting from it
          all day :-)

          brian wallis...
        • eliot@parcplace.com
          ...and to folow on I d argue that the current post-9/11 downturn is the time when Lisp and Smalltalk will come to be dominant players in the enterprise .
          Message 4 of 22 , Aug 27, 2002
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            ...and to folow on I'd argue that the current "post-9/11 downturn" is the time when Lisp and Smalltalk will come to be dominant players in "the enterprise". In fact 9/11 has little to do with the current economic realities, but marks the time; that being the bursting of the 90's stock market bubble, with corporate collapse the new commonplace (which could soon include Microsoft, see www.billparish.com/presslist.html, especially http://www.billparish.com/msftfraudfacts.html).

            Those "stupid" CEOs and their inefficient companies are now being culled in a darwinian selection process caused by a "sudden" change in the environment. Gone is the easy investment provided by the stock market, and with it the realities of unweildy mergers (WorldCom) have been exposed as fradulent; but which in biological terms are grotesque mutations too gluttonous to survive in lean times, too unweildy to move fast and too disabled in their malformed nervous systems to actually coordinate their limbs. As the regulatory environment grows harsher so companies are put under greater strain, more fail and seek the rich feeding grounds of chapter 11 bankruptcy in which they can stave off payments to creditors.

            Those CEOs were adaptations to an environment which in the short-term supported the gigantic and that which could grow at the highest rate. But the meteor has hit and if governments don't step in only the mammals and insects will survive (if the whole thing doesn't collapse, but then computer languages may be the least of our problems). Analogously, Java was/is force-fed marketing dollars and promoted by significant tools players (Sun, IBM, Microsoft) at least one of which is a dinosaur on the verge of extinction. Java was extremely fit for the pre 9/11 environment; replicated at zero cost (ok, not _zero_; IBM charged $11 for their offering), highly visible, and so able to find many willing hosts. Its failure to carve out the ecological niche it claimed to be able to dominate at the start (mobile code on the internet) mattered little in an environment where hype was what a language needed to prosper, and Java was the one and only language to get the huge amount of hype it did get from corporate backers.

            In the mean time Smalltalk and Lisp companies have learnt to survive on the scraps left by the behemoth. [In actual fact they've existed largely on existing customers with mission-critical applications to keep running; existing customers who specifically ban the vendors from mentioning their use of said languages since it constitutes an important competitive advantage]. Those vendors who avoided or miraculously survived the same stock-market-derived temptations to grow via merger and aquisition and start selling snake-oil (i.e. try to con their share holders that a move into selling Java GUI builders would make them irresistable stock-market picks), have emerged with mature reliable products, that can be maintained by small teams (beautifully formed by nearly a decade in the cold). Some have been aquired by older more stable com,panies that have provided the necessary veneer of stability to get their existing customers to provide new revenue and upgrade.

            The mission-critical applications deployed in Lisp and Smalltalk are impressive. The Smalltalk ones I'm aware of include the timetable calculation for a major European railway, derivatives trading systems generating $10^9 annual profit, command and control of all petroleum distribution in the U.S. for a consortium of three major oil companies, and so on. Amongst these are systems that their corporate IS teams have estimated would cost two to three times their entire existing development costs to port to Java. Others are systems maintained by teams of three or four programmers being harrassed by know-nothing managers pushing them to port to Java when the team is well aware of the infeasibility of the task. Still others are running on eight year old versions with management pushing for reimplementation for Java and the vendor negotiating for upgrades, a solution orders of magnitude cheaper for the customer.

            In short, the languages are being used, their markets are growing and the competition is becoming less and less attractive. But Smalltalk and Lisp only win when the imposed fitness function is an objective one. The fitness function being imposed on U.S. corporations post 9/11 is in turn forcing - from a management perspective, or enabling - from a programmer perspective, IS departments to impose an objective fitness program on their technologies.

            Of course, the context of existing users of Lisp and Smalltalk is entirely different from "pre-enlightenment" companies. What can be done to drag such denizens forward from the dark ages? [Argh! I have to go home and buy diapers on the way...] Please let it not be hype, but industry journals typically favour paid articles, academic journals all too readily follow fashion as their contributors abandon principle to chase funding, and an objective, temperate and informative medium usenet does not make.

            This leaves schools (but those run by followers of fashion are lowering IWQs with C++ and Java) and Open Source (Python is prospering). [Damn, I really do have to go home now; the supporting argumentation and completion of this article is too small to write in the margin of this screed...]

            +-----------------------------
            | Date: Mon, 26 Aug 2002 20:03:49 -0700
            | From: "Richard P. Gabriel" <rpg@...>
            | Subject: Re: [feyerabend-project] An introduction to Lisp

            | At 22:23 +0200 8/25/02, Dirk Riehle wrote:
            | >Choosing CLOS or the like:
            | >
            | >- you don't get enough people
            | >- those people you get cost too much
            | >- you are incompatible with the rest of the world
            | >- adapters and bug-fixes will always be last for you

            | Though it's not relevant, I would argue like this:

            | My team will be able to program circles around everyone else. They
            | will be able to construct rapidly a language specific to the problem
            | we are solving rather than using a language designed by computer
            | scientists worrying about their place in history and a herd of
            | library writers working in cubicles a thousand miles from our
            | business. My team will be able to use a language without training
            | wheels. Strong typing is for weak minds, and it's exactly like they
            | say at MIT: Our current popular languages are designed to help losers
            | lose less.

            | I will be able to point to various examples where Lisp programmers
            | have written not only 3-5 times faster, but they wrote things other
            | programmers thought were impossible. In this regard, I'd tell the
            | CEO, our competitors will be spending all their time trying to figure
            | out that it's really possible we're doing what we're doing, because
            | they will be thinking in terms of customization at compile time or
            | link time, not at runtime.

            | Moreover, we will be operating where the CEO is focusing on his or
            | her specialty and not imposing his or her knuckleheaded view on
            | technology.

            | Because Lisp is dead, I'll get better programmers for less money.
            | I'll be able to guarantee 50 more IQ points for the same pay. And my
            | guys will be able to spend their time typing in value not book
            | keeping overhead and typing in type descriptions because their guys
            | are too stupid to know when they type + numbers are involved.

            | Because no one uses Lisp, I'll have my pick of thousands of great,
            | experienced programmers looking to work for someone with a non-zero
            | IQ, not the ones fresh out of college with 10 programs under their
            | belts.

            | I'll be compatible with everything because it is right now. And if
            | someone throws me a bug, I can code around it in a few minutes. Being
            | a niche market means we're more proprietary. People will not use Lisp
            | to compete with us because they are lamebrains listening to the
            | latest fashion statement from Sun or Microsoft.The open source crowd
            | isn't even smart enough to notice C++, so they are especially nowhere
            | in the picture.

            | Of course, no CEO will belive this because every one of them is stupid.

            | -rpg-


            | To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
            | feyerabend-project-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

            |

            | Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            ---
            Eliot Miranda ,,,^..^,,, mailto:eliot@...
            VisualWorks Engineering, Cincom Smalltalk: scene not herd Tel +1 408 216 4581
            3350 Scott Blvd, Bldg 36 Suite B, Santa Clara, CA 95054 USA Fax +1 408 216 4500
          • patrickdlogan
            Trying to stay very much on topic (and trimming my replies too, folks!)... Even if Microsoft is allowed to fail, there will be work to do on the Feyerabend
            Message 5 of 22 , Aug 27, 2002
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              Trying to stay very much on topic (and trimming my replies too,
              folks!)...

              Even if Microsoft is allowed to fail, there will be work to do on the
              Feyerabend Project. Sticking to technical aspects, a large number of
              developers have the Microsoft mind-set. They cherish the traditional
              one-upsmanship of knowing anachronistic details of the proposed WS-
              Complexity spec ver. 1.2.1. This same spec can be implemented in
              CLOS. So that is not enough, even if it is the better choice today.

              I believe and hope that a successful Feyerabend Project result would
              be taking computing out of the hands of developers with this mind-
              set. (They would be allowed to give up that mind-set and follow along
              the new path.)

              This is not about some CEO agreeing to a Lisp or Smalltalk pilot
              project, and a bunch of geeks putting on a show Friday night in a
              barn. This is about cutting to the chase of something that would not
              require marketing. It would be so obviously better.

              Er, I hope.

              -Patrick
            • Dirk Riehle
              Since we are discussing an age-old problem that the Lisp/CLOS companies had already 10-15 years ago, I wonder whether hasn t been proof of CLOS (programmers )
              Message 6 of 22 , Aug 28, 2002
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                Since we are discussing an age-old problem that the Lisp/CLOS companies had
                already 10-15 years ago, I wonder whether hasn't been proof of CLOS
                (programmers') higher effectiveness. Aren't there any studies that show how
                much more effective you can be with a CLOS (language + tool set) over a
                C/C++/Java (language + tool set)?

                I also believe that you can do more things faster and better with CLOS etc.
                However, it is not clear to me that this is the case the first half year of
                a startup that is doing product development. Doesn't it kick in only after
                a certain amount of time? When you really start evolving the product? When
                you need features that typically aren't there in a first release?

                >Because Lisp is dead, I'll get better programmers for less money.

                Well, the sad thing is, I wonder whether it's that easy still to get them.
                The universities I've been connected with don't really teach Lisp/CLOS
                anymore. (To any real degree.)

                >latest fashion statement from Sun or Microsoft.The open source crowd
                >isn't even smart enough to notice C++, so they are especially nowhere
                >in the picture.

                After a talk a few years back I asked Eric Raymond whether there is real
                open source outside the C/Unix world. He didn't know. Of course there is,
                but not anywhere near where we would like it to be. It's strange.

                >Of course, no CEO will belive this because every one of them is stupid.

                Oh did you enjoy writing this sentence with bitterness in your words.

                Well, I think most CEOs are clueless when it comes to technology. They
                shouldn't be, but then, they are clueless about many things, just like most
                people. So they go with the "safe" solution, except that it will kill them.
                (Most of them anyway, except for the few survivors, who survive for
                whatever other reason. Evolutionary selection is so apparent among startups.)

                Enough rambling.

                Dirk
              • Erann Gat
                ... http://www.flownet.com/gat/papers/lisp-java.pdf (See also http://www.flownet.com/gat/papers/ljfaq.html) All this interest in Lisp motivated me to finish a
                Message 7 of 22 , Aug 28, 2002
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                  On Wed, 28 Aug 2002, Dirk Riehle wrote:

                  > Since we are discussing an age-old problem that the Lisp/CLOS companies had
                  > already 10-15 years ago, I wonder whether hasn't been proof of CLOS
                  > (programmers') higher effectiveness. Aren't there any studies that show how
                  > much more effective you can be with a CLOS (language + tool set) over a
                  > C/C++/Java (language + tool set)?

                  http://www.flownet.com/gat/papers/lisp-java.pdf

                  (See also http://www.flownet.com/gat/papers/ljfaq.html)

                  All this interest in Lisp motivated me to finish a writing project that
                  I've been working on for about two years recounting my experiences with
                  Lisp at JPL. You can find it at:

                  http://www.flownet.com/gat/jpl-lisp.html

                  Warning: it's not a happy ending (though the first half is actually not
                  too terribly depressing, and there's a warning before the scary part.)

                  My bottom line on selling Lisp is that if you find yourself having to
                  argue about it you've already lost. The right thing to do at that point
                  is to find someone else to work for, or even better, start your own
                  company and kick your old company's ass.

                  Erann
                  gat@...
                • Theo D'Hondt
                  I promised myself not to let myself be dragged into this kind of discussion but ... Theo D Hondt Programming Technology Lab : Computer Science Department
                  Message 8 of 22 , Aug 30, 2002
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                    I promised myself not to let myself be dragged into this kind of
                    discussion but


                    ----------------------------------------------------------------
                    Theo D'Hondt
                    Programming Technology Lab : Computer Science Department
                    Faculty of Sciences : Brussels Free University
                    Pleinlaan 2 / B-1050 Brussels / BELGIUM EUROPE
                    mailto:tjdhondt@... http://prog.vub.ac.be/~tjdhondt
                    Phone : +32-2-629 33 08 Fax : +32-2-629 35 25
                    ----------------------------------------------------------------
                  • Theo D'Hondt
                    but here goes: Common Lisp isn t Lisp and (certainly) neither is CLOS. Lisp might be a thing of beauty but ... I remember being disgusted by the ADA reference
                    Message 9 of 22 , Aug 30, 2002
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                      but here goes:

                      Common Lisp isn't Lisp and (certainly) neither is CLOS. Lisp might be a
                      thing of beauty but ... I remember being disgusted by the ADA reference
                      manual and then having to submit to the fact that CL/CLOS manuals were
                      triple its size. Somewhere in this thread somebody used the term
                      "bloated" for something entirely different but it might be applicable
                      here. And Scheme as (Common) Lisp subjected to a fitness regime is
                      still not satisfactory (does Scheme count 3 or 4 variations on the Let
                      special form?). During the first issue of the Feyerabend workshop Dave
                      Thomas insisted on the importance of LITTLE languages - I am convinced
                      he is right. Lisp might be the original little language but we might be
                      able to do better ...
                      ----------------------------------------------------------------
                      Theo D'Hondt
                      Programming Technology Lab : Computer Science Department
                      Faculty of Sciences : Brussels Free University
                      Pleinlaan 2 / B-1050 Brussels / BELGIUM EUROPE
                      mailto:tjdhondt@... http://prog.vub.ac.be/~tjdhondt
                      Phone : +32-2-629 33 08 Fax : +32-2-629 35 25
                      ----------------------------------------------------------------
                    • Pascal Costanza
                      ... Here is a quote from an interview with James Gosling (see http://java.sun.com/features/2002/03/gosling.html) ... I think that this is just a pattern that
                      Message 10 of 22 , Sep 2 6:27 AM
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                        Theo D'Hondt wrote:
                        > Common Lisp isn't Lisp and (certainly) neither is CLOS. Lisp might be a
                        > thing of beauty but ... I remember being disgusted by the ADA reference
                        > manual and then having to submit to the fact that CL/CLOS manuals were
                        > triple its size. Somewhere in this thread somebody used the term
                        > "bloated" for something entirely different but it might be applicable
                        > here.

                        Here is a quote from an interview with James Gosling (see
                        http://java.sun.com/features/2002/03/gosling.html)

                        | JDC: The Java language adds features with every release, and this is
                        | generally good, but the whole thing is getting pretty large. If you
                        | could take a few things out, what would they be?

                        | JG: The Java language actually doesn't add very many features. [...]
                        | What has really gone nuts is all the different APIs [...]. And this
                        | question, in some sense, is unanswerable. It says, if you could take
                        | a few things out of [the] J2SE [platform], what would they be? One
                        | of the tragedies we have is that we've got so many customers and
                        | everything that is in the platform is critical to a pretty large
                        | group of customers. So, for any particular person, any particular
                        | developer, not all of [the] J2SE [platform] is going to matter. But
                        | for every developer, the slice of the platform that they care about
                        | is different. [...]

                        I think that this is just a pattern that emerges when you try to balance
                        several forces. They are: trying to serve the needs of many potential
                        users, trying to achieve portability, and trying to do this all in a
                        unified framework. If you drop the unified framework then you get
                        several interoperability problems that you need to solve on a case by
                        case basis.

                        > And Scheme as (Common) Lisp subjected to a fitness regime is
                        > still not satisfactory (does Scheme count 3 or 4 variations on the Let
                        > special form?). During the first issue of the Feyerabend workshop Dave
                        > Thomas insisted on the importance of LITTLE languages - I am convinced
                        > he is right. Lisp might be the original little language but we might be
                        > able to do better ...

                        I don't think that it is possible to show that "little languages" are
                        inherently better than big languages (or than languages with big
                        libraries). They just resolve different sets of forces.

                        The size of a language cannot be a measure in its own right. Although
                        "umlambda"
                        (http://www.eleves.ens.fr:8080/home/madore/programs/unlambda/) is
                        clearly a joke, it shows that the size of a language must be balanced
                        against other forces in order to provide something useful.

                        I think we are in need of a kind of "Pattern Language of Programming
                        Language Design". I am convinced that language advocacies don't make any
                        sense and that a PLoPLD would clarify that each programming language
                        just tries to balance a different set of forces. I don't think that
                        there can ever be a single general-purpose programming language because
                        I am convinced that there cannot be consistent resolution of all
                        thinkable forces in this regard. However, from what I have seen so far,
                        Common Lisp has obviously (to me, at least) successfully managed to
                        resolve a relatively large set of fundamental forces.

                        Pascal

                        --
                        Pascal Costanza University of Bonn
                        mailto:costanza@... Institute of Computer Science III
                        http://www.pascalcostanza.de Römerstr. 164, D-53117 Bonn (Germany)
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