January 25th, 2008

Ancient history

Rainer Joswig posted a link to the net.lang.lisp Usenet archives, so I browsed around to see if I recognized any names. It was all a bunch of strangers, until I came across a fascinating rant by Olin Shivers. It's from 1986, when people were actively griping against lexical scoping in Common Lisp. The whole thing is great; here's the closing paragraph:

Look. I don't even like Common Lisp. The package system is a horrible solution to a real problem. I hate the idea of separate function/value spaces for variables. CL makes the classic lisp error of confusing symbols (a data type) with variables (a language level object). #' is a totally stupid idea. NIL should not be a list. The design was dragged down by the problem of Zetalisp compatibility. BUT. I'd much prefer to write in Common Lisp than old-style lisps like UCI Lisp, Interlisp, franz, or Maclisp. Jeez. At least it's powerful, lexically scoped, and designed in the eighties by people who had the benefit of hindsight. You can get some work done in Common Lisp.

I smell potential new taglines!

  • Common Lisp: Powerful, lexically scoped!
  • Common Lisp: You can get some work done in it!
  • Common Lisp: Designed in the eighties!