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Lisp: Good news, bad news, how to win big

By Richard P. Gabriel


Lisp has done quite well over the last ten years: becoming nearly standardized, forming the basis of a commercial sector, achieving excellent performance, having good environments, able to deliver applications. Yet the Lisp community has failed to do as well as it could have. In this paper I look at the successes, the failures, and what to do next. The Lisp world is in great shape: Ten years ago there was no standard Lisp; the most standard Lisp was InterLisp, which ran on PDP-10’s and Xerox Lisp machines (some said it ran on Vaxes, but I think they exaggerated); the second most standard Lisp was MacLisp, which ran only on PDP-10’s, but under the three most popular operating systems for that machine; the third most standard Lisp was Portable Standard Lisp, which ran on many machines, but very few people wanted to use it; the fourth most standard Lisp was Zetalisp, which ran on two varieties of Lisp machine; and the fifth most standard Lisp was Scheme, which ran on a few different kinds of machine, but very few people wanted to use it. By today’s standards, each of these had poor or just barely acceptable performance, nonexistent or just barely satisfactory environments, nonexistent or poor integration with other languages and software, poor portability, poor acceptance, and poor commercial prospects

Year: 1990
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