Old enough for a Real Language

Old fart posting…

Bill Clementson and Dave Roberts point out a thread on comp.lang.lisp that is
unearthing a thought provoking sample of people who only became fans of Lisp late in the life.

I made a commitment to Lisp when I was in my mid-30s. It was quite calculated. I’d written a huge amount of software in various languages by that point; including L* back in the 70s which had similar depth to Lisp. I had spent a few years suffering thru writing a big ugly Ada program and I’d become quite disillusioned with strong typing. It worked but it was so damn hard. Just to debug the damn thing I’d ended up writing a fun system in Prolog. Just to build the system we had writing lots of programs that in turn wrote the program that we would then compile and ship. The build cascades of that systems were neat, wonderfully adhoc. A little sed, a little m4, a little awk, a custom lex/yacc do hicky, etc. etc. Amazingly weird make files.

At about that point Guy Steel’s first version of the Common Lisp manual came out. The most elegantly written language specification I’ve ever read. Just chapter after chapter of language facilities that I’d had to build by hand again and again. All beautifully designed. It was clear that Lisp would just subsume all all the junk I’d had to write both before and after writing my Ada system.

So I went off and got myself a job at an AI company that managed to go down the tubes with great vigor.

But, I got to write some really fun software there. For example I wrote a system that would allow you declare what I called a data-structure-tour. You would sketch how to tour each individual data structure; usually next to it’s declaration. They you could then write statements that said things like “Tour e over X as a window-display doing redraw(e).” Man was that fun.

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