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Re: Flavors, Symbolics, and MIT
- To: Richard Pavelle <RP%SCRC-TENEX@MIT-MC>
- Subject: Re: Flavors, Symbolics, and MIT
- From: Lars.Ericson@CMU-CS-A
- Date: Fri, 24 Feb 84 16:03:00 GMT
- Cc: Dave.Touretzky@CMU-CS-A, Jeff.Shrager@CMU-CS-A, franz-friends@Berkeley
- In-reply-to: <8402241026.AA10856@UCB-VAX.ARPA>
- Original-date: 24 Feb 84 1103 EST (Friday)
Macsyma was funded by public money throughout its entire development.
Macsyma services were provided free to all takers, as long as MIT was
getting money from Uncle Sam to do so, and as long as a PDP-10 running
ITS was the only machine which could provide such service. During this
period of time, anybody could FTP Macsyma to their site, and no one was
hassled for doing so (why bother? it wouldn't run...).
With the advent of a DECSYSTEM-20 implementation, and Fateman's VAX/Franz
version, and with the consequent decline in the rationale of funding
the MC machine as the sole provider of Macsyma services, MIT decided
unilaterally and post-facto to license Macsyma.
There are two schools of thought on this issue. One is that the Government
should encourage such licensing and enterprenuerial development, because
it ultimately results in the spread of the product to a larger industrial
community than is usually the case with an academically-maintained product.
The other school says that what is paid for by the people should be the
property of the people, and not the property of MIT, Symbolics, or
Arthur D. Little, Inc. (inventor, by the way, of Cap'N Crunch and artificial
bannana flavoring). It is clear that the licensing act was for commercial
advantage, and not to maintain control over the sources for, say, further
academic refinement, because it seems fairly clear that the original
impetus of the Macsyma development qua Macsyma is over with.
There is a positive side to all this, which is that it may cause people
to look more seriously at things other-than-MIT, such as REDUCE, SMP,
whatever Fateman will cook up, and, yes Virginia, even Franz LISP. The
controversy and sharply reduced academic availability ($500/CPU is simply
an obnoxious hassle for people who would like to try something out
occasionally, but do not have a continuous need for something), combined
with the increased availability at low cost of machines equal in power
to a PDP-10 running ITS, will stimulate further research outside of MIT.
Furthermore, it will now become routine for people doing research who
would like their results to be available to the public at no cost, to
carefully stipulate in their grant and contract proposals that that be
the ultimate disposition of the research product.
-- Lars Ericson