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Thanks for your note.  This is certainly an issue I would like to explore
at some length, since we're currently trying to decide just what our
graphical user-interface strategy should be for CMU Common Lisp.

I think that if your goal is to make CLIM a widely accepted standard for
Lisp based graphics, it is a very good move to make a public-domain version
available.  As you know, we have been working pretty hard to make a decent
public-domain Common Lisp available, and to us CLIM looks like a threat.
If it catches on as a standard, and if it is too complex (or too
well-protected legally) to be cloned, then we and our users are faced with
a nasty set of alternatives:

1. Go our own way, and split the Lisp world into incompatible camps as far
as user-interface tools are concerned -- just the kind of split we can't
afford right now, given the alarming rate of defections to languages like

2. Invest a LOT of time and effort trying to clone what you've done.  A big
waste of valuable time and effort that should be going into improving other
aspects of our Lisp.

3. Tell all our users that if they want any graphics on top of our free
Lisp, they should go pay you guys a pile of money to license CLIM (assuming
someone does the port).  And even if they do that, they probably get no
sources, so the educational value of having an open Common Lisp around is
somewhat diminished.

Because of this, we and a lot of others have been hoping that CLIM would
fail to become a widely-used standard, and we've been doing what we can to
provide attractive alternatives.  This has nothing to do with the technical
quality of CLIM -- in fact, I know very little about it -- but is just a
result of its restricted availability.

A public-domain CLIM would remove all of these problems, and let the system
compete with the other alternatives on its technical merits.  What we need
to explore is how this can be done without destroying your business.  I
don't know a lot about ILA, but my impression is that CLIM is your only
major product and that your income is mostly in the form of license fees
from Lucid, Franz, and other large vendors.  Would a public-domain CLIM
destroy this, or enhance it by funneling more users into the system and
creating a demand for more support and extensions?  Would the big companies
continue to deal with you, or would they just grab the public-domain
version and run?  Or did you have in mind a public-domain version that is
crippled in some way?

I would like to understand what your thinking is here and see if we can
come up with a solution that will be beneficial for us, for you, and for
the Lisp vendors.

Once we understand what everyone is trying to achieve here, then we can
begin to look at the more technical issues:

1. We need to learn more about CLIM.  Could you send us a set of manuals?
Three or four would be even better, if they're not huge, so that we can all
learn about this in parallel.

2. You have identified CLOS as a potential problem.  Are the problems with
missing functionality, performance, or both?  Rob has already updated our
system to use the latest version of PCL -- this will probably go into some
near-future release.  His next major project is to do a native CLOS for CMU
CL, tightly integrated with the Python compiler for best possible
performance.  But this might take six months or more.  It's possible that
we could fix specific performance problems sooner than that, once we know
what is needed.

3. I'm not sure what other problems we might have to fix -- we'll need to
discuss that with you.  We've got CLX up, of course, and also a good
call-out to C code.  What other non-standard facilities are needed?

Scott Fahlman

P.S. I'm not sure exactly who I am talking to here.  What is your position
in ILA, and who is "york"?