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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 17539
Francis Avila wrote:
"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.


Wrong in two ways:

1) Lisp is not a functional programming language.

2) Imperative programming does not match "ordinary" thinking. When you
visit a dentist, do you explain to her each single step she should do,
or do you just say "I would like to have my teeth checked"?
Pascal

Jul 18 '05 #41
On Fri, 17 Oct 2003 12:04:58 +0200, an***@vredegoor .doge.nl (Anton
Vredegoor) wrote:
Stephen Horne <$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$@$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$.co.uk > wrote:

Now consider the "Baldwin Effect", described in Steven Pinkers "How
the mind works"...


<SNIP>
A human brain is not so simple, but what this says to me is (1) that
anything that allows a person to learn important stuff (without
damaging flexibility) earlier in life should become innate, at least
to a degree, and (2) that learning should work together with
innateness - there is no hard divide (some aspects of neurological
development suggest this too). So I would expect some fairly fixed
heuristics (or partial heuristics) to be hard wired, and I figure
autism and Asperger syndrome are fairly big clues as to what is
innate. Stuff related to nonverbal communication such as body
language, for instance, and a tendency to play activities that teach
social stuff in childhood.


Sometimes I wonder whether Neandertals (a now extinct human
subspecies) would be more relying on innate knowledge than modern Homo
Sapiens. Maybe individual Neandertals were slightly more intelligent
than modern Sapiens but since they were not so well organized (they
rather made their own fire than using one common fire for the whole
clan) evolutionary pressure gradually favored modern Sapiens.


As I understand it, Neanderthals had a very stable lifestyle and level
of technology for quite a long time while us cro-magnons were still
evolving somewhere around the North East African coast. In accordance
with the Baldwin effect, I would therefore expect much more of there
behaviour to be innate.

While innate abilities are efficient and available early in life, they
are also relatively inflexible. When modern humans arrived in Europe,
the climate was also changing. Neaderthals had a lifestyle suited for
woodlands, but the trees were rapidly disappearing. Modern humans
preferred open space, but more importantly hadn't had a long period
with a constant lifestyle and were therefore more flexible.

Asperger syndrome inflexibility is a different thing. If you were
constantly overloaded (from lack of intuition about what is going on,
thus having to figure out everything consciously), I expect you would
probably cling too much to what you know as well.
--
Steve Horne

steve at ninereeds dot fsnet dot co dot uk
Jul 18 '05 #42

Ever noticed how upgrading a PC tends to lead to disaster?

Upgraded to 768MB yesterday, which I need for Windows 2000, but now
Windows 98 (which I also need, sadly) has died. Even with that
system.ini setting to stop it using the extra memory. I'm pretty sure
it's a driver issue, but I haven't worked out which driver(s) are to
blame.

Anyway, I haven't had a chance to read your post properly yet because
I've been farting around with old backups and reinstalls trying to
figure this out, but I will get around to it in the next couple of
days.
--
Steve Horne

steve at ninereeds dot fsnet dot co dot uk
Jul 18 '05 #43
Stephen Horne <$$$$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$@$$$$$$$$$$$ $$$$$$$$$.co.uk > wrote:
Asperger syndrome inflexibility is a different thing. If you were
constantly overloaded (from lack of intuition about what is going on,
thus having to figure out everything consciously), I expect you would
probably cling too much to what you know as well.


It is tempting to claim that my post was implying Aspergers to be
potentially *more* flexible because of lack of innateness, however
knowing next to nothing about Aspergers and making wild claims,
linking it to anthropology and computer science, may be a bit prone to
making oneself misunderstood and to possibly hurting people
inadvertently in the process of formulating some consistent theory. So
I'd rather apologize for any inconveniences and confusion produced
sofar, and humbly ask my post to be ignored.

Anton

Jul 18 '05 #44
Someone wrote:
It is still a question of heated debate what actually killed the lispmachine industry.
The premise of this question is that there actually was a lisp-machine
industry (LMI) to be killed. My memory is that is was stillborn and
that the promoters never presented a *convincing* value proposition to
enough potentional customers to really get it off the ground.

and continued:I have so far not seen anybody dipsuting that they were a marvel oftechnical excellence,
Never having seen one, or read an independent description, I cannot
confirm or 'dipsute' this. But taking this as given, there is the
overlooked matter of price. How many people, Lispers included, are
going to buy, for instance, an advanced, technically excellent,
hydrogen fuel cell car, complete with in-garage hydrogen generator
unit, for, say $200,000.
sporting stuff like colour displays, graphical
user interfaces and laser printers way ahead of anybody else.

I believe these are disputable. The American broadcast industry
switched to color displays in the 50s-60s. Around 1980 there were
game consoles (specialized computers) and small 'general purpose'
computers that piggybacked on color televisions. TV game consoles
thrive today while general PC color computing switched (mid80s) to
computer monitors with the higher resolution needed for text. It was
their use with PCs that brought the price down to where anyone could
buy one.

Did lisp machines really have guis before Xerox and Apple?

Did lisp machine companies make laser printers before other companies
like HP made them for anyone to use? If so, what did they price them
at?
Francis Avila wrote:
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.


"Pascal Costanza" <co******@web.d e> responded Wrong in two ways:


In relation to the question about the would-be Lisp machine industry,
this answer, even if correct, is besides the point. People buy on the
basis of what they think. One answer may to be that the LMI failed to
enlighten enough people as to the error or their thoughts.

I wonder about another technical issue: intercompatibil ity. I
strongly believe that media incompatibility helped kill the once
thriving 8080/Z80/CPM industry. (In spite of binary compatibility,
there were perhaps 30 different formats for 5 1/2 floppies.) I
believe the same about the nascent Motorola 68000 desktop Unix
industry of the early 80s. (My work unit has some, and I loved them.)
So I can't help wondering if the LMI made the same blunder.

Did all the LMI companies adopt the same version of Lisp so an outside
Lisper could write one program and sell it to run on all? Or did they
each adopt proprietary versions so they could monopolize what turned
out to be dried-up ponds? Again, did they all adopt uniform formats
for distribution media, such as floppy disks, so that developers could
easily distribute to all? Or did they differentiate to monopolize?

Terry J. Reedy
Jul 18 '05 #45
Stephen Horne wrote:

[snip]

While innate abilities are efficient and available early in life,
they are also relatively inflexible. When modern humans arrived in
Europe, the climate was also changing. Neaderthals had a lifestyle
suited for woodlands, but the trees were rapidly disappearing.
Modern humans preferred open space, but more importantly hadn't
had a long period with a constant lifestyle and were therefore
more flexible.

Asperger syndrome inflexibility is a different thing. If you were
constantly overloaded (from lack of intuition about what is going
on, thus having to figure out everything consciously), I expect
you would probably cling too much to what you know as well.


Asperger's syndrome? -- I did a search and read about it. And,
all this time I thought I was a *programmer*. If I had only known
that I've had Asperger's disorder, I could have saved myself all
those many years of debugging code. It's been fun though,
especially with Python, even if the DSM IV does authoritively say
that I'm just crazy.

Is there any way that I can pass this off as an efficient
adaptation to my environment (Linux, Python, XML, text processing,
the Web, etc.)? Not likely I suppose.

I look forward to DSM V's definition of PPD (Python programmer's
disorder): persistent and obsessive attention to invisible
artifacts (called variously "whitespace " and "indentatio n").

Here is a link. Remember, the first step toward recovery is
understanding what you've got:

http://www.udel.edu/bkirby/asperger/aswhatisit.html

From now on, I will not have to worry about how to spell
"programmer ". When the form says occupation, I'll just write down
299.80.

From the DSM IV:

=============== =============== =============== =============== =========
Diagnostic Criteria For 299.80 Asperger's Disorder

A. Qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at
least two of the following:
1. marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such
as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body postures, and gestures
to regulate social interaction
2. failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental
level
3. a lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or
achievements with other people (e.g. by a lack of showing, bringing,
or pointing out objects of interest to other people)
4. lack of social or emotional reciprocity

B. Restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior,
interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the
following:
1. encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and
restricted patterns of interest that is abnormal either in intensity
or focus
2. apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines
or rituals
3. stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger
flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements)
4. persistent preoccupation with parts of objects

C. The disturbance causes clinically significant impairment in social,
occupational, or other important areas of functioning

D. There is no clinically significant general delay in language (e.g.,
single words used by age 2 years, communicative phrases used by age 3
years)

E. There is no clinically significant delay in cognitive development or
in the development of age-appropriate self-help skills, adaptive
behavior (other than social interaction), and curiosity about the
environment in childhood

F. Criteria are not met for another specific Pervasive Developmental
Disorder or Schizophrenia

=============== =============== =============== =============== =========

Dave

--
Dave Kuhlman
http://www.rexx.com/~dkuhlman
dk******@rexx.c om
Jul 18 '05 #46
"Terry Reedy" <tj*****@udel.e du> writes:

[some opinions and questions about Lisp Machines]

I'm going to take the questions out of order. I'm also leaving the
crosspost in because this is an immediate response to a Pythonista.
I wonder about another technical issue: intercompatibil ity. Did all
the LMI companies adopt the same version of Lisp so an outside
Lisper could write one program and sell it to run on all?
As a first-order approximation, there really was only one Lisp machine
company: Symbolics. Xerox, Lisp Machine Inc. and TI were minor players
in the market.

Nevertheless, the effort to create a common Lisp specification that
would be portable across all lisp implementations produced ....
Common Lisp. This was in the early 80's while the industry was still
growing.
The premise of this question is that there actually was a lisp-machine
industry (LMI) to be killed. My memory is that is was stillborn and
that the promoters never presented a *convincing* value proposition to
enough potentional customers to really get it off the ground.
The first principle of marketing is this: the minimum number of
customers needed is one. The Lisp machine customers were typically
large, wealthy companies with a significant investment in research
like petrochemical companies and defense contractors. The Lisp
machine was originally developed as an alternative to the `heavy
metal' of a mainframe, and thus was quite attractive to these
companies. They were quite convinced of the value. The problem was
that they didn't *stay* convinced.
How many people, Lispers included, are going to buy, for instance,
an advanced, technically excellent, hydrogen fuel cell car, complete
with in-garage hydrogen generator unit, for, say $200,000.


Very few. But consider the Ford Motor Company. They have spent
millions of dollars to `buy' exactly that. There are successful
companies whose entire customer base is Ford.

The Lisp industry was small, no doubt about it, but there was (for
a while) enough of an industry to support a company.

Jul 18 '05 #47
[followup set to comp.lang.lisp only]

Terry Reedy writes:
The premise of this question is that there actually was a lisp-machine
industry (LMI) to be killed. My memory is that is was stillborn and
LMI may be a confusing acronym for that. LMI (Lisp Machines, Inc.) was
just one of the vendors, together with Symbolics, Texas Instruments,
Xerox and a few minor ones (e.g. Siemens).

As for your point, you may check the book:

"The Brain Makers - Genius, Ego, and Greed in the Quest for Machines
that Think"
H.P. Newquist
SAMS Publishing, 1994
ISBN 0-672-30412-0

that the promoters never presented a *convincing* value proposition to
enough potentional customers to really get it off the ground.
From page 2 of the above mentioned book:

[...] Symbolics [...] had been able to accomplish in those four
years what billion-dollar computer behemoths like IBM, Hewlett
Packard, and Digital Equipment could not: It had brought an
intelligent machine to market.

>>I have so far not seen anybody dipsuting that they were a marvel of >>technical excellence,


Never having seen one, or read an independent description, I cannot
confirm or 'dipsute' this. But taking this as given, there is the


Here are a few relevant Google queries (I am offline and I don't have
the URLs handy):

lisp machines symbolics ralf moeller museum
minicomputer orphanage [see theese PDF documentation sections: mit,
symbolics, ti, xerox]

You may also search for "lisp machine video" at this weblog:

http://lemonodor.com

Did lisp machines really have guis before Xerox and Apple?
Xerox was also a Lisp Machine vendor. If I recall correctly, the first
Lisp Machine was developed at MIT in the mid 1970s, and it had a GUI.

Did all the LMI companies adopt the same version of Lisp so an outside
Lisper could write one program and sell it to run on all? Or did they


At least early products of major Lisp Machines vendors were
descendants of the CADR machine developed at MIT.
Paolo
--
Paolo Amoroso <am*****@mclink .it>
Jul 18 '05 #48
"Terry Reedy" <tj*****@udel.e du> wrote in message news:<DL******* *************@c omcast.com>...
Someone wrote:
>It is still a question of heated debate what actually killed the lisp>machine industry.

The premise of this question is that there actually was a lisp-machine
industry (LMI) to be killed. My memory is that is was stillborn and
that the promoters never presented a *convincing* value proposition to
enough potentional customers to really get it off the ground.


Revenues of Symbolics in 1986 were in the range of about 100 million
dollars. This was probably the peak time.
Never having seen one, or read an independent description, I cannot
confirm or 'dipsute' this. But taking this as given, there is the
overlooked matter of price. How many people, Lispers included, are
going to buy, for instance, an advanced, technically excellent,
hydrogen fuel cell car, complete with in-garage hydrogen generator
unit, for, say $200,000.
Customers were defence industries, research labs, animation companies,
etc.

A machine usable for 3d animation from Symbolics was well in the
$100,000 range. Each 3d software module might have been around
$25,000 - remember that was in years 1985 - 1990.

From then prices went down. The mainstream workstation business model
switched rapidly (to Unix workstations) and Symbolics could not
adopt (and successful) fast enough. They tried by:
- selling a half-assed PC-based solution
- selling VME cards for SUNs
- selling NuBUS cards for Mac II
- and finally selling an emulator for their OS running on DEC Alphas
I believe these are disputable. The American broadcast industry
switched to color displays in the 50s-60s. Around 1980 there were
game consoles (specialized computers) and small 'general purpose'
computers that piggybacked on color televisions. TV game consoles
thrive today while general PC color computing switched (mid80s) to
computer monitors with the higher resolution needed for text. It was
their use with PCs that brought the price down to where anyone could
buy one.
Sure, but Symbolics could do 3d animations in full HDTV qualitiy
in 1987 (or earlier?). I've seen animations by Sony or Smarties
done on Lisp machines. Several TV stations did their broadcast
quality logo animations on Lisp machines. The animations
for the ground breaking TRON movie were done on Lisp machines.
Etc.
Did lisp machines really have guis before Xerox and Apple?
Xerox was producing Lisp machines, too. Of course they
had graphical user interfaces - they were developed at
about the same time as the Smalltalk machines of Xerox.
So, they did not have it before Xerox - they were Xerox. ;-)

MIT Lisp machines had megabit b&w displays with
mouse driven GUIs before the 80s, IIRC. In mid 1980
they switched to a new revolutionary object-oriented graphics
system (Dynamic Windows).
Did lisp machine companies make laser printers before other companies
like HP made them for anyone to use? If so, what did they price them
at?


Symbolics was just reselling Laser printers. The Symbolics OS
could output to Postscript somewhen in mid 1980s - the Concordia
system was a software for book/manual production and could
produce large scale hypertext documents (the Symbolics manual set
had almost 10000 pages) - printing to postscript.

Xerox had of course connected their Lisp machines to their
laser printers.

More stuff on: http://kogs-www.informatik.uni-hambu...symbolics.html

Remember, most of that is HISTORY.
Jul 18 '05 #49
Joe Marshall wrote:
... The Lisp machine customers were typically
large, wealthy companies with a significant investment in research
like petrochemical companies and defense contractors. The Lisp
machine was originally developed as an alternative to the `heavy
metal' of a mainframe, and thus was quite attractive to these
companies. They were quite convinced of the value. The problem was
that they didn't *stay* convinced.
How many people, Lispers included, are going to buy, for instance,
an advanced, technically excellent, hydrogen fuel cell car, complete
with in-garage hydrogen generator unit, for, say $200,000.


Maybe that was part of the problem: all of the Lisp installed base lived
on an expensive platform (unless compared with big iron). When the AI
projects did not deliver, there waa no grass roots safety net to fall
back on and Lisp disappeared from radar in a wink.

This time Lisp is growing slowly, with an early adopter here and an
early adopter there. And this time Lisp requires /no/ special hardware.
And there is a standard so there is no fragmentation. Except of course
that the first thing anyone does after learning Lisp is start a project
to create a new version of Lisp. :)

--

clinisys, inc
http://www.tilton-technology.com/
---------------------------------------------------------------
"[If anyone really has healing powers,] I would like to call
them about my knees."
-- Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama
Jul 18 '05 #50

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