[TUHS] Happy birthday, Niklaus Wirth!

Dan Cross crossd at gmail.com
Fri Feb 16 12:38:02 AEST 2018

On Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 8:56 PM, Lawrence Stewart <stewart at serissa.com>

> ITA’s airline flight booking system, that was used by Orbitz and others
> was pretty much entirely written in Common LISP, and it was certainly both
> large and commercially successful.  Orbitz was bought by Google for $700
> million.  I don’t know how much of the LISP survived sustained attention by
> Google.

Google bought ITA, not Orbitz. Most of the logic in QPX is still in Common
Lisp, but it's not what you'd call "idiomatic" CL code. If one reads a
bunch of Paul Graham and Peter Norvig books and then gets onto QPX with the
expectation of that sort of elegance, you end up pretty unhappy pretty
quick. They do a lot of things very differently to squeeze as much
performance as they can out of what has, historically speaking, been a
fairly mediocre compiler.

        - Dan C.

Paul Graham’s company Viaweb was all LISP.  It was bought by Yahoo! for $50
> million and became Yahoo! Store.
> I think of myself as a systems person and C is still my primary language,
> but I wrote the routing software for the wacky Kautz graph in the Sicortex
> machines in Common LISP. It was substantially easier!  After it worked I
> recoded in C for production.  It isn’t that Common LISP isn’t perfectly
> fast enough, we just didn’t want garbage collection at that level of the
> software.
> My favorite LISP story is the time I was hired to evaluate a proposed
> Cryptosystem.  I was handed 40 pages of C code.  I reimplemented it in 15
> (short) lines of Common LISP.  It wasn’t hard to crack after it fit on one
> page!
> I came to LISP 30 years late because I was in 6-1 at MIT rather than 6-3
> so I didn’t learn LISP or Scheme.  I am not one of the awesome folks of
> which you speak, but I’ve met them and know what you mean.  One MIT
> physicist I met thought MILC was too complicated so his quantum
> chromodynamics code was in LISP.  He wrote his own LISP->C translator to
> get it to generate exactly the code he wanted.
> -L
> > On 2018, Feb 15, at 8:18 PM, Larry McVoy <lm at mcvoy.com> wrote:
> >
> > On Thu, Feb 15, 2018 at 07:51:14PM -0500, Dan Cross wrote:
> >>>> Worth mentioning one significant exception: the Lisp family.
> >>
> >> So anyway...some of you who were there, was there cross-pollination? Was
> >> Franz Lisp a thing Unix people at Berkeley played with, or was it mostly
> >> Lisp people who just happened to be using Unix because VAXen were
> expensive?
> >
> > This is just my opinion so there is a grain of salt.  Or a salt shaker.
> >
> > I think there are two (at least) sorts of programmers, the systems people
> > and the lisp people.  Sometimes you get both kinds in the same person
> > but that tends to be rare (and awesome, I've employeed several of those,
> > they were magic).
> >
> > I'm a systems guy.  I've played with lisp, even wrote a tiny lisp
> (haven't
> > we all?), tried to get to like it and utterly failed.  All sorts of smart
> > people I knew in my career loved lisp, sneered at any other language,
> > tended to think in ASTs, etc, etc.  I definitely felt inferior and tried
> > to like lisp but just never got what was so neat about it.
> >
> > For good reason, I think.  Nobody has written a serious operating system,
> > or a serious $BIG_PROJECT in Lisp.  Not one that has been commercially
> > successful, so far as I know.  I know there were attempts but all those
> > attempts failed.  Why?  Performance I think.  C performs far better even
> > though it is, in the eyes of lisp people, far more awkward to do things.
> >
> > I can't tell you the number of times I've heard "If we were using Lisp
> > we'd be done by now".  100's, 1000's.  What I have never heard is "I
> > recoded this pile of C in lisp and it's 10x faster".
> >
> > I think the thing is that lisp programmers were optimizing for speed
> > of coding and C programmers were optimizing for speed of execution.
> >
> > So I suspect that Franz Lisp was mostly lisp people who happened to be
> > using Unix.  But I wasn't at Berkeley so what do I know?
> >
> > --lm
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