May 30th, 2012

Ancient Lisp history on TV

From some comp.lang.lisp spelunking, a particular author stood out a bit:
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
From: (Raymond Chen)
Subject: Re: SeaQuest/DSV
Message-ID: <>
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 1993 18:12:11 GMT
References: <>

In article <> (Barry Margolin) writes:
>Did anyone notice that when Lucas was cracking into his first system [...]
>many of the displays were in Lisp?

I happened to have taped this episode for later viewing, so I paid close
attention to the Lisp stuff.  Here's what I was able to get.

        [... top of screen ...]
           (APPEND ! (REVERSE !) !))
        (DEFUN FAIL/ROME (!)                    ; this line is unclear
          (REVERSE ! (REVERSE 2) 2))            ; this line is unclear
        (DEFUN F-TO-C (F)
          (- (/ (* (- F 40) 5) 9) 40))          ; sic!
        (DEFUN C-TO-F (C)
          (- (/ (* (+ C 40) 5) 9) 40))          ; sic!
        [...end of screen...]

Now, I'm willing to give whoever did these screens the benefit of the
doubt and assume that the errors in F-TO-C and C-TO-F are the result of
my VCR rather than actual errors in the function.  (Though I feel quite
confident that the "5" and"9" are definitely backwards in C-TO-F.)

I'm pretty sure that FAIL/ROME is wrongly transcribed, but it's the
best I can make out on my VCR.  (Hey, I recorded it at low speed, okay?
I didn't expect there to be HIDDEN MESSAGES or anything.)

Later, as Lucas tries to sanitize the Brazilian elections, the info box
next to map of Brazil fills up with


the remainder of the line is cut off by the edge of the screen.

I find it an interesting stylistic point that ! is used as a variable name.
Is this common?
Raymond Chen (

        Money, but with a capital `M'.  That's not a mortgage on your
        house, or even Apple Computer buying Microsoft.
                        -- Martin Clemens, SeaQuest

Disclaimer: (don't blame me, the lawyers forced me to put this in)
        The views expressed in this message are my own and in no way reflect
        the views of Microsoft Corporation

It is, as far as I can tell, his only post there.