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Autoload properties and stuff
- To: JLK at MIT-MC, RWK at MIT-MC, GSB at MIT-MC, REES at MIT-MC, BUG-LISP at MIT-MC
- Subject: Autoload properties and stuff
- From: Kent M. Pitman <KMP at MIT-MC>
- Date: Thu, 1 May 80 17:18:00 GMT
- Original-date: 1 May 1980 13:18-EDT
Hey, can I inject a couple of points here? (Too late, by the time you send
in your 'no' reply, I'll already have sent this) ... I think it's fine to
decide that something is useful but even if a large number of people use it
I'm not sure if that should be the sole criterion for acceptance. There are
issues of style coherence and other things like that that have to be taken
(1) What should be primitive?
(a) Is making something autoload the same as making it primitive?
Yes. It's a statement on the part of the implementors that if
something goes wrong with it (barring commitments to NIL projects
and silly things like that) that they will take a look at it.
It's an implicit endorsement of the construct (how many times have
you heard some novice say (eg, when you tell him not to use FEXPR's)
``But if I shouldn't use it then why is it in the language?''
(b) Why shouldn't LOOP be primitive?
I believe that infix keywords have no place in primitive Lisp.
People that want to have such things can do so. Putting them on
on public directories so that others don't recreate the wheel if
that's what they really want is also ok. But putting them in the
language is just a violation of Lisp style. If people want infix-like
primitives, let them use Algol or CGol.
I don't believe in pretending that code is English. It gets you
into bugs where you look at the code and can't figure out what's
wrong with it because you're locked in a mode thinking that the
wording is right so what is the matter? This doesn't always happen.
It just can happen. It can happen to novices more than us and they're
the ones most apt to use it because it will look simplest. And I
think that's bad. I would rather teach them to get used to DO. I don't
think that there is anything at all conceptually inelegant about the
way DO does any of its things.
(2) Why does the word LOOP not want to get locked down?
I think we need to be careful about locking down namespaces to things that
are not really primitive. If I ever want to use the word LOOP as a name,
I will be stuck with redefining a system function (macro). I'll probably
feel forced to pick another name. I think it's a bad idea for Lisp to lock
down really common words for special-purpose applications. I resented the
introduction of IF because I (like many others) had an incompatible use
with the one that became standard; but I agree that it was a reasonable
thing to have done anyway, because I think the IF notion which was
introduced had sufficient generality that it was likely to be useful to
everyone in the long run. People like to write programs that use short,
mnemonic names. If you take all useful short names and make them do system
things, then people start having to write code with long hairy names. I'm
sure the LOOP implementors would feel the same if I showed them some of
my LOOP macros and suggested that my stuff become standard. They would, I
should hope, become indignant that they should have to give up their claim
to such a nice name for the sake of system compatibility.
I'd almost advocate not allowing English words to become Lisp builtins
if no other short English synonyms for those words were going to be left
for the user... (only half serious, but if you think hard you can probably
extract what I really mean from the statement.)