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Re: [feyerabend-project] An introduction to Lisp

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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 1 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 2 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 3 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-


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          ---
          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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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 9 of 22 , Sep 2, 2002
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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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