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Re: [feyerabend-project] An introduction to Lisp

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  • 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 1 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

      | 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
      (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 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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