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RIP, Erik Naggum

Erik Naggum was the first person I killfiled in GNUS. His style was sometimes shockingly blunt and aggressive. After a while, though, I realized I was missing out, and I came to treasure the information and insight in his messages.

I learned yesterday that Erik died. I'm sorry to hear it; I occasionally contacted him to clarify or expand on some technical matter he wrote about in the past, and he was always helpful. I thought I would just be able to do that whenever I wanted, but now it's too late.

His death has, not surprisingly, led some people to go through the same initial experience I had, seeing some blunt and shocking language and wondering why anyone would care about its author. Here are some links that I hope show a small part of Erik's contributions to knowledge.

I think a newcomer would benefit from reading two in particular:

Here are the rest, taken from my bookmarks:


Unix solutions vs. Lisp solutions for the same problems

A lengthy explanation of types as they relate to CL

How much use of CLOS?

Programming in Lisp, delivering in some other language

A cute read macro dispatch scheme

Lazy-loading with SLOT-UNBOUND

Using CHANGE-CLASS for object "deletion"

"Unix quality" vs "Lisp quality", with sockets as an example

"if you can't outperform C in CL, you're too good at C. " (see the whole thread for details)

Alist vs. plist

What Lisp could take from C

Destructors, finalizers, weak pointers

Kitchen hygiene compared to Lisp hygiene

Design patterns for Lisp


An introduction, written just two months ago

The Long, Painful History of Time

The oil industry in Norway is really big

The "Norwegian Dream" (vs the American Dream) is to win the lottery

"most everything worth doing is associated with effort and some pain"

"Western culture is favorable to mediocre people and hostile to smart ones"

Core ideas behind SGML and XML

Feedback loops of lisp, reward, punishment, psychotic environments

"the market does not in fact lead anything or anywhere"

"Just let other people have their desires and needs. Do not let them affect yours."

The purpose of a newsgroup

"Which is the best car? How do you choose?"

"One general concept of the free exchange of information on the Net is that people are equals in principle and that their differences are the nothing more than accidents of time."

Learning new things

"How come people with the most misguided political ideas believe revolution is the answer and people with reasonable political ideas manage to succeed in slowly transforming their society to their liking? Please think about it."

"If you have to subordinate your defense of truth or what you believe in to who else believes it, I seriously suggest you rethink your value system."

A tribute to Yuri Rabinsky

Adapting emacs for rapid prose editing

"It is a really bad idea to believe that one can learn to get it right from doing it wrong many times."

The purpose of higher education

Erik's computer-oriented biography

Books in Erik's library


A bibop-style memory management scheme

"people seem unable to get over the fact that they no longer want to use a language and just move on to something better"



Wow, sounds like a fascinating guy. I've never come across him directly but after reading some quotes of his I've definitely had him quoted to me :)

Goodbye Erik

Erik attracted me to comp.lang.lisp. Every time I had a programming problem or wondered about something computer related his posts invariably ended up at the top of the results list after a DejaNews or Gougle Groups search.

They were almost always guaranteed to be a good read. Either a thorough technical explanation or a wrecking ball breaking down someone's ego which got in the way of their understanding of the issue at hand.

I have never been at the wrong end of his stick but then I didn't post much. I'm not sure it would have been a bad thing though.


Great post

Great post. This (http://groups.google.com/group/comp.lang.lisp/msg/e76870aa4e465fab) is another post from him I liked a lot.
This makes me very sad.

Maybe you'd like to link http://naggum.no/lugm-time.html as well: It is my favourite article written by him (that I know, still have to crawl all the links you provided), and it's probably the one that he is most well-known for, outside CL-using circles.
Thank you, I've updated the links to include it.
Damn. I already missed him when he left cll, and now we will miss him forevermore.

His post were almost always very worthy of reading, even when flaming somebody to a crisp...

Time to mirror his files :-(


His files

We (a number of his closer friends) are making arrangements with his family to ensure that Erik's electronic legacy will be handled in a proper way and stay on the 'net.


Re: His files

I think this is important. Thanks for doing this.
Never knew him, but impressed. My condolences.

Thanks for the thoughts and the links

Hi Xach,
Very sad. Thanks so much for posting the links to his conversations. I think I remember reading one or two of Erik's posts on comp.lang.lisp, but I didn't know him at all.

Posting these links is a great memorial. From a quick look over a few of the links, his intelligence and insight is easily seen.

I liked his idea of not complaining about the environment you're in and simply using lisp to solve a non-lisp environments mundane problems. I'm kind of trying to do that with an SQL tool I'm playing with. After reading the article, I was inspired anew.

Thanks very much.
Very sad.