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BIG successes of Lisp (was ...)

In the context of LATEX, some Pythonista asked what the big
successes of Lisp were. I think there were at least three *big*
successes.

a. orbitz.com web site uses Lisp for algorithms, etc.
b. Yahoo store was originally written in Lisp.
c. Emacs

The issues with these will probably come up, so I might as well
mention them myself (which will also make this a more balanced
post)

a. AFAIK Orbitz frequently has to be shut down for maintenance
(read "full garbage collection" - I'm just guessing: with
generational garbage collection, you still have to do full
garbage collection once in a while, and on a system like that
it can take a while)

b. AFAIK, Yahoo Store was eventually rewritten in a non-Lisp.
Why? I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you :)

c. Emacs has a reputation for being slow and bloated. But then
it's not written in Common Lisp.

Are ViaWeb and Orbitz bigger successes than LATEX? Do they
have more users? It depends. Does viewing a PDF file made
with LATEX make you a user of LATEX? Does visiting Yahoo
store make you a user of ViaWeb?

For the sake of being balanced: there were also some *big*
failures, such as Lisp Machines. They failed because
they could not compete with UNIX (SUN, SGI) in a time when
performance, multi-userism and uptime were of prime importance.
(Older LispM's just leaked memory until they were shut down,
newer versions overcame that problem but others remained)

Another big failure that is often _attributed_ to Lisp is AI,
of course. But I don't think one should blame a language
for AI not happening. Marvin Mins ky, for example,
blames Robotics and Neural Networks for that.
Jul 18 '05
303 17528
As to Lisp Successes I would like to add just a few:

Macsyma and Maxima http://maxima.sourceforge.net/

Powercase and Watson http://www.xanalys.com/solutions/powercase.html

AutoCAD http://www.autocad.com

Wade

Jul 18 '05 #21
On Tue, 14 Oct 2003 16:16:52 GMT, Wade Humeniuk <wh******@nospa mtelus.net>
wrote:
As to Lisp Successes I would like to add just a few:

Macsyma and Maxima http://maxima.sourceforge.net/

Powercase and Watson http://www.xanalys.com/solutions/powercase.html

AutoCAD http://www.autocad.com

Wade


You all seem to forget www.google.com
One of the most used distributed applications in the world.
Written in Common Lisp (xanalysis)

--
Using M2, Opera's revolutionary e-mail client: http://www.opera.com/m2/
Jul 18 '05 #22
Isaac To wrote:
>> "Alex" == Alex Martelli <al***@aleax.it > writes:

Alex> Chess playing machines such as Deep Blue, bridge playing
programs Alex> such as GIB and Jack ..., dictation-taking programs
such as those Alex> made by IBM and Dragon Systems in the '80s (I
don't know if the Alex> technology has changed drastically since I
left the field then, Alex> though I doubt it), are based on
brute-force techniques, and their Alex> excellent performance comes
strictly from processing power.

Nearly no program would rely only on non-brute-force techniques. On the


Yes, the temptation to be clever and cut corners IS always there...;-).
other hand, all the machines that you have named uses some non-brute-force
techniques to improve performance. How you can say that they are using
"only" brute-force techniques is something I don't quite understand. But
In the case of Deep Blue, just hearsay. In the case of the IBM speech
recognition (dictation-taking) system, I was in the team and knew the
code quite well; that Dragon was doing essentially the same (on those
of their systems that _worked_, that is:-) was the opinion of people
who had worked in both teams, had friends on the competitors' teams,
etc (a lot of unanimous opinions overall). GIB's approach has been
described by Ginsberg, his author, in detail; Jack's hasn't. but the
behavior of the two programs, seen as players, is so similar that it
seems doubtful to me that their implementation techniques may be
drastically different.

Maybe we're having some terminology issue...? For example, I consider
statistical techniques "brute force"; it's not meant as pejorative --
they're techniques that WORK, as long as you can feed enough good data
to the system for the statistics to bite. A non-brute-force model of
natural language might try to "understand " some part of the real world
that an utterance is about -- build a semantic model, that is -- and
use the model to draw some part of the hypotheses for further prediction
or processing; a purely statistical model just sees sequences of
symbols (words) in (e.g.) a Hidden Markov Model from which it takes
all predictions -- no understanding, no semantic modeling. A non-bf
bridge playing program might have concepts (abstractions) such as "a
finesse", "a squeeze", "drawing trumps", "cross-ruffing", etc, and
match those general patterns to the specific distribution of cards to
guide play; GIB just has a deterministic double-dummy engine and guides
play by montecarlo samples of possible distributions for the two
unseen hands -- no concepts, no abstractions.
even then, I can't see why this has anything to do with whether the
machines
are intelligent or not. We cannot judge whether a machine is intelligent
or
not by just looking at the method used to solve it. A computer is best at
That's not how I read the AAAI's page's attempt to describe AI.
number crunching, and it is simply natural for any program to put a lot
more
weights than most human beings on number crunching. You can't say a
machine
is unintelligent just because much of it power comes from there. Of
course, you might say that the problem does not require a lot of
intelligence.
Again, that't not AAAI's claim, as I read their page. If a problem
can be solved by brute force, it may still be interesting to "model
the thought processes" of humans solving it and implement _those_ in
a computer program -- _that_ program would be doing AI, even for a
problem not intrinsically "requiring" it -- so, AI is not about what
problem is being solved, but (according to the AAAI as I read them)
also involves considerations about the approach.

Whether a system is intelligent must be determined by the result. When
you feed a chess configuration to the big blue computer, which any average
player of chess would make a move that will guarantee checkmate, but the
Deep Blue computer gives you a move that will lead to stalemate, you know
that it is not very intelligent (it did happen).


That may be your definition. It seems to me that the definition given
by a body comprising a vast numbers of experts in the field, such as
the AAAI, might be considered to carry more authority than yours.
Alex

Jul 18 '05 #23

"Paul Rubin" <http://ph****@NOSPAM.i nvalid>
I missed the earlier messages in this thread but Latex wasn't written
in Lisp. There were some half-baked attempts to lispify TeX, but
afaik none went anywhere.


I'm currently working on a Common Lisp typesetting system based on cl-pdf.
One example of what it can already do is here:
http://www.fractalconcept.com/ex.pdf

For now I'm working on the layout and low level stuff. But it's a little bit
soon to think that it will go nowhere, as I hope a lot of people will add TeX
compatibility packages for it ;-)

BTW note that I'm not rewriting TeX. It's another design with other
priorities.

Marc
Jul 18 '05 #24
John Thingstad <jo************ @chello.no> writes:
On Tue, 14 Oct 2003 16:16:52 GMT, Wade Humeniuk
<wh******@nospa mtelus.net> wrote:
As to Lisp Successes I would like to add just a few:

Macsyma and Maxima http://maxima.sourceforge.net/

Powercase and Watson http://www.xanalys.com/solutions/powercase.html

AutoCAD http://www.autocad.com

Wade


You all seem to forget www.google.com
One of the most used distributed applications in the world.
Written in Common Lisp (xanalysis)


I'm pretty sure that this is absolutely incorrect.

--
Raymond Wiker Mail: Ra***********@f ast.no
Senior Software Engineer Web: http://www.fast.no/
Fast Search & Transfer ASA Phone: +47 23 01 11 60
P.O. Box 1677 Vika Fax: +47 35 54 87 99
NO-0120 Oslo, NORWAY Mob: +47 48 01 11 60

Try FAST Search: http://alltheweb.com/
Jul 18 '05 #25
"Christian Lynbech" <ch************ ***@ericsson.co m> wrote in message
news:of******** ****@situla.ted .dk.eu.ericsson .se...
>> "mike420" == mike420 <mi*****@ziplip .com> writes:


It is still a question of heated debate what actually killed the lisp
machine industry.

I have so far not seen anybody dipsuting that they were a marvel of
technical excellence, sporting stuff like colour displays, graphical
user interfaces and laser printers way ahead of anybody else.


I think what helped kill the lisp machine was probably lisp: many people
just don't like lisp, because it is a very different way of thinking that
most are rather unaccustomed to. Procedural, imperative programming is
simply a paradigm that more closely matches the ordinary way of thinking
(ordinary = in non-programming, non-computing spheres of human endevor) than
functional programming. As such, lisp machines were an oddity and too
different for many to bother, and it was easy for them to come up with
excuses not to bother (so that the 'barrier of interest,' so to speak, was
higher.) Lisp, the language family (or whatever you want to call it), still
has this stigma: lambda calculus is not a natural way of thinking.

This isn't to make a value judgment, but I think it's an important thing
that the whole "functional/declarative v. procedural/OO" debate overlooks.
The same reason why programmers call lisp "mind-expanding" and "the latin of
programming languages" is the very same reason why they are reluctant to
learn it--its different, and for many also hard to get used to. Likewise,
Americans seem to have some repulsive hatred of learning latin--for people
who are used to english, it's just plain different and harder, even if it's
better. (Ok, that last bit was a value judgement. :)

Python doesn't try (too) hard to change the ordinary manner of thinking,
just to be as transparent as possible. I guess in that sense it encourages a
degree of mental sloth, but the objective is executable pseudocode. Lisp
counters that thinking the lisp way may be harder, but the power it grants
is out of all proportion to the relatively meager investment of mental
energy required--naturally, it's hard to convince someone of that if they
don't actually _use_ it first, and in the end some will probably still think
it isn't worth the trouble. It will take very significant and deep cultural
and intellectual changes before lisp is ever an overwhelmingly dominant
language paradigm. That is, when it becomes more natural to think of
cake-making as

UD: things
Gxyz: x is baked at y degrees for z minutes.
Hx: x is a cake.
Ix: x is batter.

For all x, ( (Ix & Gx(350)(45)) > Hx )

(i.e. "Everything that's a batter and put into a 350 degree oven for 45
minutes is a cake")

....instead of...

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Place batter in oven.
3. Bake 45 minutes
4. Remove cake from oven.

(i.e. "To make a cake, bake batter in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes")

....then lisp will take over the universe. Never mind that the symbolic
logic version has more precision.

--
Francis Avila

Jul 18 '05 #26
John Thingstad wrote:

You all seem to forget www.google.com
One of the most used distributed applications in the world.
Written in Common Lisp (xanalysis)

That new. But it may explain Peter Norvigs role there.
From where do you know that ?

Best
AHz
Jul 18 '05 #27
Alex Martelli <al***@aleax.it > writes:
[...]
Whether a system is intelligent must be determined by the result. When
you feed a chess configuration to the big blue computer, which any average
player of chess would make a move that will guarantee checkmate, but the
Deep Blue computer gives you a move that will lead to stalemate, you know
that it is not very intelligent (it did happen).


That may be your definition. It seems to me that the definition given
by a body comprising a vast numbers of experts in the field, such as
the AAAI, might be considered to carry more authority than yours.


Argument from authority has rarely been less useful or interesting
than in the case of AI, where both our abilities and understanding are
so poor, and where the embarrassing mystery of conciousness lurks
nearby...
John
Jul 18 '05 #28

"Francis Avila" <fr***********@ yahoo.com> wrote in message
news:vo******** ****@corp.super news.com...
"Christian Lynbech" <ch************ ***@ericsson.co m> wrote in message
It is still a question of heated debate what actually killed the lisp machine industry.


I think what helped kill the lisp machine was probably lisp: many

people just don't like lisp, because it is a very different way of thinking that most are rather unaccustomed to.


My contemporaneous impression, correct or not, as formed from
miscellaneous mentions in the computer press and computer shows, was
that they were expensive, slow, and limited -- limited in the sense of
being specialized to running Lisp, rather than any language I might
want to use. I can understand that a dedicated Lisper would not
consider Lisp-only to be a real limitation, but for the rest of us...

If these impressions are wrong, then either the publicity effort was
inadequate or the computer press misleading. I also never heard of
any 'killer ap' like Visicalc was for the Apple II. Even if there had
been, I presume that it could have been ported to others workstations
and to PCs -- or imitated, just as spreadsheets were (which removed
Apple's temporary selling point).

Terry J. Reedy
Jul 18 '05 #29
Terry Reedy wrote:
My contemporaneous impression, correct or not, as formed from
miscellaneous mentions in the computer press and computer shows, was
that they were expensive, slow, and limited -- limited in the sense of
being specialized to running Lisp, rather than any language I might
want to use. I can understand that a dedicated Lisper would not
consider Lisp-only to be a real limitation, but for the rest of us...


Well its not true. Symbolics for one supported additional languages,
and I am sure others have pointed out that are C compilers for
the Lisp Machines.

See

http://kogs-www.informatik.uni-hambu...h-summary.html

Section: Other Languages

It says that Prolog, Fortran and Pascal were available.

Wade

Jul 18 '05 #30

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