[TUHS] Happy birthday, Niklaus Wirth!

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Fri Feb 16 12:19:31 AEST 2018

    > From: Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com>

I am completely non-LISP person (I think my brain was wired in C before C
existed :-), but...

    > Nobody has written a serious operating system

Well, the LISP Machine OS was written entirely in LISP. Dunno if you call that
a 'serious OS', but it was a significantly more capable OS than, say,
DOS. (OK, there was a lot of microcde that did a lot of the low-level stuff,

    > or a serious $BIG_PROJECT in Lisp.

Have you ever seen a set of Symbolics manuals? Sylph-like, it wesn't!

    > Not one that has been commercially successful, so far as I know.

It's true that Symbolics _eventually_ crashed, but I think the biggest factor
there was that commodity microprocessors (e.g. Pentium) got faster so much
faster than Symbolics' custom LISP hardware, so that the whole rationale for
Symbolics (custom hardware to run LISP fast) went away. They still exist as a
software company selling their coding environment, FWTW.

    > C performs far better even though it is, in the eyes of lisp people, far
    > more awkward to do things.

I think it depend on what you're doing. For some kinds of things, LISP is
probably better.

I mean, for most of the kind of things I do, I think C is the bees' knees
(well, except I had to add conditions and condition handlers when I went to
write a compiler in it), but for some of the AI projects I know a little
about, LISP seems (from a distance, admittedly) to be a better match.


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