Everything sux

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

[ST+LISP] Problems with lisp and STrc

Stimulated from this

Python is growing. It added stuff. It will remove some, one day, I hope.

Even perl continued adding stuff for decades. Now with perl6 they will have almost everything ever thought in computer science, but IIUC basically it boils down to few concepts: objects and hygienic macros. They added and removed.

Ruby, which is a newer language, has been almost the same for ten years (It was lispish and smalltalkish from the beginning, but I think first-class class variables were added).
In version 2.0 it will change somehow, anyway. It will had some better method wrapping, maybe namespaces, and simplify other things.

But lisp and ST remained (mostly) the same. in the last 20 years.
And guess what? They did not succeed.
They just survived till now, with a small clique of people that love 'em.
C++ succeded, being that crappy mess that it is, COBOL did, and Java did.

Sure, I like ST+Lisp, I know CMUCL is faster than gcc, I know that VW is soooo much better than Eclipse, I know that "pure oo", "aop", "mmd" were ideas predated decades ago in ST & Lisp.

Yet they did not succeed.

This must force someone to reflect on why.
It relates to being so strange.
It relates to being so isolated from the rest of the world.
It relates to being too advanced for the '7o.

And in the end it relates to their very essence: Lisp and ST are so freaking mind twisting that people do not want to use them.
"wait I want!"
Sure you do, but not many people.
And they are this way because they need to be this way. This is how they predated AOP and so on.

But people want simplicity. I mean, if ST used a standard if: it would have been much more easy to understand. If there were no funny punctuation everywhere, too. If CommonLisp did not have stuff like rplacd or nconc. If variables used a more standard declaration.

Actually people want normality. They want to write
a and (b or c)
(and a (or b c))

And obviously they don't want to write:
Object subclass: #Foo
class Foo

is so much more obvious.

What's wrong with little less purity? Nothing.
You can change things, if you're not strongly thight to a committee approved standard.
And you can anyway, see i ST, namespaces , the Morph interface in Squeak or Pollock in VW.

There are no bonus points for being the same language for 100 years. You name python decorators. They did not added a feature to the language. They took a common idiom and put it in a nice form, because people want this.
ST and Lisp answered lots of questions, just not what people were asking.

ST+Lisp are still evolving imo. StrongTalk, Self, Slate, F-Script are there for ST. Not to mention the Traits paper,
Squeak's peculiarities, VW ones etc.
Goo, every Scheme's RFI, Arc and so on are meant to evolve Lisp.
The fact that the standards for SmallTalk-80 and CommonLisp do not evolve is unrelated


  • Thanks for the comment on my blog. Fortunately, you're one of the few anonymous commenters who identifies himself, but still I couldn't find a way to email you.

    Basically, I'm just starting to learn about this stuff. I try to hack basic Lisp once in a while, but I still can't do advanced meta-programming tricks.

    What does "figo" mean?

    Please email me at "commenter at optimizelife dot com"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 9, 2004 at 12:55 AM  

  • Whether Lisp "wins" or "loses" at a particular point in time doesn't really matter to me, as long as it doesn't stop being used completely. Even in the mid 90s there were Lisp jobs. Now I hear about Lisp everywhere - even this blog (I just found it right now because I was searching for the LL1 videos). Guess what - I go to Gustavo's blog, and the top entry is about Lisp too! It's some kind of fashion come-back or something. All this exposure is bound to generate at least some more Lisp installations, and this time there doesn't look to be anything stopping it like with the AI winter and step-down to PCs in the late 80s/early 90s. Crazy!

    Vladimir Sedach

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at September 9, 2004 at 6:38 PM  

  • Surely I don't want lisp to lose (and neither ST).
    I just want them to evolve and I've great expectations from Arc.

    Also, consider that Lisp (and ST) did change, just think of the change from dynamic to lexical scope. I think that they're not yet perfect.

    Oh, about LL1 videos, the only one I know is at
    Ruby, though, not lisp.
    But, well, Paul Graham says in his new book that if you showed Ruby to hackers in 1975, and said it was a dialect of Lisp with some syntax added, no one would argue otherwise.

    I'd like to know if you find the videos, anyway :)

    By Blogger verbat, at September 10, 2004 at 7:57 AM  

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