[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: In defence of jd (was: A Dylan implemented on Common Lisp)

In article <D583EE.6rM@rheged.dircon.co.uk> simon@rheged.dircon.co.uk (Simon Brooke) writes:
>In article <D53J7v.9oB@sybase.com>, Lee Schumacher <schumach@sybase.com> wrote:
>>In article <D5345w.3xC@cogsci.ed.ac.uk>, jeff@aiai.ed.ac.uk (Jeff
>>Dalton) writes:
>(much excised)
>>|> Note that Scott Fahlman was one of the designers of Common Lisp
>>|> and had plenty of opportunities to eliminate any irritations that
>>|> irritated him.
>>I'm sorry, but you have no standing to criticize Fahlman here.  First of
>>all, CL was largely design by commitee, and no one had any absolute power
>>over it.  

Sure, but some people had considerable influence.  There are large
archives of e-mail, btw.  It's possible to look and see what positions
various people took and what irritations they tried to eliminate.
Scott was reasonably happy with Common Lisp and defended it for a
long time.  The CMU group in general was not known for complaining
about irritations.

>>   Secondly, if anyone did have that power it was Guy Steele, who
>>wrote the manual, and not Scott.  Thirdly, Scott has devoted years of his
>>life to cmu cl, which is one of the most complete and robust lisps ever
>>seen and is free to all.  

But it's now unsupported.

>>Have you made even 1% of that contribution
>>to lisp world ?  I don't think so. 

No one needs "standing" in order to make a point.  

It happens to be my view that Dylan has become a catalyst of sorts
for Lisp criticism and that it can be very damaging when some of the
people best able to defend Lisp seem to be attacking Lisp and Common Lisp
instead.  That the CMU group has switched from Common Lisp to Dylan
is in itself very damaging.  I'm not planning to suppress this view
just because some people will attack me for it.

I haven't seen the original of this article, evidently by Lee
Schumacher, so I don't know what else he may have said.  If anything,
Lee Schumacher underestimates Scott Fahlman's contributions. 
For instance, SPICE Lisp (the Lisp that with a new compiler and
other changes became CMU CL) provided much of the source code
used in a number of early CL implementations, whose existence
was one of the factors that gave CL some credibility.  (I have,
FWIW, been an enthusiastic user of both SPICE Lisp and CMU CL.)

But this makes his criticisms of Common Lisp more damaging than
if they'd come from someone else.  And these days, people often
say and think "Lisp" when what they're saying is actually true
only of Common Lisp or, indeed, only of certain CL implementations.

So this kind of criticism tends to damage Lisp as a whole, and
especially when it -- presumably unintentionally -- reinforces the
misinformation about CL that's posted from time to time, the damage
can be fairly great.

Now, Scott was one of the Common Lisp "Gang of 5".  He was also in
X3J13.  He was clearly one of the major figures in the development
of Common Lisp.  And he was one of the chief defenders of Common
Lisp.  Consider, for instance, his reaction to the Gabriel and Brooks
critique of Common Lisp (delivered at the 1984 ACM L&FP conference),
and his arguments against subsets (one of the ways people tried to
tame the size of Common Lisp).

He may well feel -- for good reasons -- that CL contains many
irritations.  I'd have to agree, so some extent, since I composed a
list of CL "pitfalls" that was merged into the Comp.lang.lisp FAQ. 
He may well feel -- again for good reasons -- that it's better to start
again without so much historical baggage.  And again I'd have to
agree, to an extent, since I've been involved in some efforts to start
over (e.g. EuLisp).

But my attitude towards Common Lisp has been fairly constant.  I
used to me more critical than Scott Fahlman, even though I've
spent much of my time defending CL.   I have complained, for
instance, about the large size of implementations, which sometimes
seemed to require larger machines than the ones I had, while Scott 
defended them.  (CMU CL is, btw, an excellent, but very-large-footprint
implementation.)  Now he seems to be more critical than I am,
and the difference between us seems to be greater.

-- jd