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Well, Fitch's message looks like a declaration of war. They want to
design a non-Common Lisp themselves at their meetings in France and get
this adopted as "ISO Lisp" -- presumably the one and only ISO Lisp.
I guess we'd better think hard about our options:
1. We could try to join them. Maybe if we all pull together, we can
design something that we would all like better than Common Lisp. There
certainly are a lot of things that could be improved in a careful
redesign. Of course, the Europeans would be in control, there are some
flaming theorists in the group, and they'd feel compelled to change some
things just to assert their ownership. So maybe it wouldn't come out so
well after all. In any event, I can't see the big U.S. companies
embracing the idea that they have to spend another year putting in
changes in order to make the EuLisp people happy.
2. We could propose to the EuLisp people that they do their Lisp, we do
ours, and that we get ISO to bless them both: ISO EuLisp and ISO Common
Lisp. This is the model I thought everyone would follow, back when
EuLisp was going to be something very small and/or very clean. They
could have their nice little Lisp to write papers about, and we could
have our big ugly Lisp to do real work in. But now that ISO is
competing for the same turf, I wonder whether going for two different
standards in the same area is feasible. In any event, the Europeans may
not be in a mood to accept such a compromise, judging from their desire
to grab the name "ISO Lisp".
3. If there is to be only one ISO Lisp, we could fight to make it Common
Lisp (as defined by us), rather than EuLisp. Unfortunately, I think
we're outgunned. They've got representatives from several European
countries, while we've got only the U.S. and probably Japan. Maybe we
could round up a few others, but it looks grim; so could they. I think
that if the European manufacturers had anything to say about it, they
might go with Common Lisp so as not to be out of step with the rest of
the world, but I gather that these random academics are the ones who
control their countries' standards groups.
4. If we can't win in ISO, perhaps we can get ANSI to back Common Lisp
regardless of what the rest of the world does. I believe Bob Mathis
mentioned a few such cases, but also said that they get quite messy. I
suppose we might also consider other standards organizations like IEEE,
since we have now started down this road.
5. Or, we can do what we were planning on doing prior to Boston: set up
some sort of organization completely separate from ISO and let ISO go
off and do whatever totally irrelevant and silly thing the Europeans
want them to do.
Ideas? I guess my choice would be to try for 2, and if we are rebuffed
to explore the feasibility of 3 and 4. If they both look like lost
causes, we should lose no time in moving on to 5.
Sigh! I really thought that when Xerox and IBM came over we had patched
up all of the Lisp world that mattered, but it didn't occur to me that
the LeLisp and Cambridge Lisp people, with a combined user community of
maybe 50 people, might have such an influence.
- From: Daniel L. Weinreb <DLW@SCRC-QUABBIN.ARPA>