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MacLISP's Floating point
- To: JONL at MIT-MC
- Subject: MacLISP's Floating point
- From: Mark L. Miller <MILLER at MIT-AI>
- Date: Wed, 24 Sep 80 03:27:00 GMT
- Cc: KEN at MIT-AI, GJS at MIT-AI, PHW at MIT-AI, TBlocker at BBNA, MMiller at BBNA, ben at MIT-ML, BUG-LISP at MIT-MC, BRoberts at BBNC
- Original-date: 23 September 1980 23:27-EDT
Please see my comments on the **'d item below ...
Date: 9 SEP 1980 0225-EDT
From: JONL at MIT-MC (Jon L White)
Date: 8 September 1980 14:03-EDT
From: Benjamin Kuipers <BEN at MIT-ML>
TOPS-10 MACLISP still has the problem of using KA-10
floating point instructions, which must be software
simulated on the Tufts KL-10. Are there any plans to
Not that I know of. Several other people have complained about
this -- especially Ken Kahn who is trying to use MacLISP on a
Swedish TOPS-10 that apparently doesn't support much in hte way of
** compatibility -- but there's just not a lot of "steam" here on our
** side to maintain the TOPS-10 version. Hopefully, some combination
** of TOPS-10 MacLISP users could delve into these things? (the
CMUA crew, and maybe someone from Tufts?).
I hate to criticize, since I know everyone there as friends and know that
they do the best that they can, given human time limitations. Moreover,
the result of years of software development work has been freely
distributed, and for this we should all be grateful. But this situation,
which I will describe as "The Inferiority of MacLisp Support on non-I.T.S.
Systems" is a very serious problem for MacLisp AND THUS (if you believe, as
I do, that it represents the future whereas InterLisp represents the past)
FOR THE AI COMMUNITY AT LARGE.
The documentation situation is equally embarrassing for MacLisp advocates.
Byron and I, here at TI, have tried hard to "sell" MacLisp, but due to
better documentation and 20X support, INTERLISP may win here in the end.
("Hopefully you users will do it" is, unrealistic outside of the university
setting -- although we ARE TRYING to bootleg some Tops-20 improvements to
MacLisp, like cursorpos and such.) This is particularly sad since we are
trying to buy (indeed may be within days of ordering) LISPM's. Those of
you who have only lived in the I.T.S. world cannot appreciate just how
inferior MacLisp is on other operating systems, relative to its state on
I.T.S. Given the number of sites running I.T.S. (!) this seems a bit
parochial, even if understandable from the MIT point of view.
I don't know what the right answer is, or how to improve the situation.
But ignoring it doesn't help.
One possible solution might be to propagate I.T.S. along with Emacs and
MacLisp. What is the legal status of this? Can any site with a 10/20
choose to run that instead (not just universities or just MIT)? Who would
I ask, to get a tape? What special hardware configurations, if any, would
be required? What about updates? Would it mean no further support from
either DEC or maintenance houses when things crash? SUPPOSE WE BOUGHT ALL
FUTURE 10/20-class MACHINES FROM FOONLY, INC., INSTEAD OF DEC? Could THEY
supply I.T.S., and will they help out when an I.T.S.-based machine crashes?
Or, is there any chance that M.I.T. will move over to Tops-20 release N,
after most of the good features of I.T.S. get stolen by DEC? The version
from CMU, with multi-forking and PCL commands, release 4, is pretty nice;
in some ways nicer (certainly friendlier to learn) than I.T.S. Mostly what
it lacks is operating system level display support -- each application
(like Emacs) must reinvent the wheel.
Please accept these comments as constructive feedback. For now, we will
continue to try to improve the Tops-20 user environment; we may even
attempt a manual on the scale of the recent UCI document. On the other
hand, this task seems so ominous for a new group that we may well have to
go over to INTERLISP in order to get some things running to show off to
management. At the end of the year, we can't just say "we wrote a manual
for LISP and fixed some bugs specific to the Tops-20 version of our
If you have other suggestions, they'd be welcome.