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[GJS: Backquote history]

Actually, it looks like it goes back farther than MDL...

  Date: 11 Mar 1984 1837-PST
  From: Gerald Jay Sussman <GJS at CIT-20.ARPA>
  To:   Kent M Pitman <KMP at MIT-MC.ARPA>
  Re:   Backquote history
  In-Reply-To: Your message of 11 March 1984 16:04-EST

  I remember a backquote-like idea being around when I was an undergraduate.
  Adolpho Guzman and ?MacIntosh had a language called CONVERT (embedded in
  Lisp) which had an un-quoting quotation FEXPR (These were the days before
  there was even "'" syntax.).  In addition, we had one in MicroPlanner, and
  in Conniver (gotten from Guzman's idea).  MUDDLE had the whole syntax
  reversed to make that work out neatly.

I notice that the source to the Maclisp TRACE package has a macro called
QU* and which allows you to say things like
 (QU* (... (EV ...) (EV* ...) ...))
where QU* is like "`", EV is like "," and "EV*" is like ",@". This may
be an example of the sort of "un-quoting quotation FEXPR" which GJS is
referring to.

For anyone interested in reading historical code, I recommend the functions
QU*, QU*1, and TRACE-1 (which uses QU*) in the file "MC: LSPSRC; TRACE >".
The file was last modified in 1981 and looks to have been "modernized" a
bit as it was modified, but most of its coding and even its grinding style
is much older. There is a modification history at the top of the file 
detailing the origins of the code therein.