Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language? 
Author Message
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Hello all you LISP experts.
        I learned LISP about 25 years ago and used it intensely
for about 2 years. I had to convert the project to another
language because LISP of 1970 was simply too slow. It was
very expensive to run so slowly on a main frame.
        Decades passed. Now we have cheap workstations. I've
also been hearing that LISP is now acceptably fast. SO,
like Rip Van Winkle I come back to LISP, only to find that
LISP is still not a mainstream language. This has certain
bad consequences.
1. The compilers, having fewer users per product, are more
likely to have bugs in them then compilers of fortran,
Cobol or (is this a dirty word?) C++.
2. It's harder to find LISP programmers available for six
months or two years. In a mainstream language this is no
problem.
         My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
Universities? What's wrong?


Mon, 03 Jul 1995 13:51:40 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?


Quote:

>   Hello all you LISP experts.
>           I learned LISP about 25 years ago and used it intensely
>   for about 2 years. I had to convert the project to another
>   language because LISP of 1970 was simply too slow. It was
>   very expensive to run so slowly on a main frame.
>           Decades passed. Now we have cheap workstations. I've
>   also been hearing that LISP is now acceptably fast. SO,
>   like Rip Van Winkle I come back to LISP, only to find that
>   LISP is still not a mainstream language. This has certain
>   bad consequences.
>   1. The compilers, having fewer users per product, are more
>   likely to have bugs in them then compilers of Fortran,
>   Cobol or (is this a dirty word?) C++.
>   2. It's harder to find LISP programmers available for six
>   months or two years. In a mainstream language this is no
>   problem.
>            My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
>   all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
>   Universities? What's wrong?

I used to think the answer to you question was complex, but now I think that
it is simple. I call it "C sickness". For Lisp to become mainstream it has
to be small, fast and hardened. C is mainstream.  All of the technological
ingredients for Lisp to be as small, fast and hard as C are here. All that
is required at this point is desire. However, that desire is deferred by
complacency with C. C is not as good as Lisp but it is good enough. The
world has to keep rolling along. Only if people have the desire to use Lisp
as a mainstream language will it happen. Programmers will be zombies until
it does.
--
Bill Vrotney
BAH/Advanced Decision Systems


Mon, 03 Jul 1995 17:36:40 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Quote:

>     My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
>all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
>Universities? What's wrong?

I believe that two difficulties have kept Lisp out of the mainstream. You
have already mentioned the first reason: for a long time to
run Lisp well required a Lisp machine, a very expensive proposition. In
fact, this remains the best way to run Lisp, but no longer such an
expensive proposition.

The second obstacle involves marketing. Lisp grew up in AI Labs, and
generally people still associate it with AI. For instance, if you examine
the marketing approach of Symbolics, you will see that they still
emphasize AI, even though the history of the company amply demonstrates
that this strategy loses big. It loses because no one does AI outside of
a few AI labs! People reason that if their problem doesn't involve AI,
then they can't benefit from Lisp. Nothing could be further from the
truth. We have been using Lisp machine technology for 6 years in the
domain of continuous systems simulation. Although Flavors and Genera form
the
foundation of our work, we employ no techniques that would be recognized
as AI. Yet we could never have accomplished what we did in any other
operating system. It remains, I believe, the finest program
development environment you can get; it certainly makes anything I've
ever seen in Unix look pathetic.

The point is that Lisp ranks top as a general purpose programming
language. C doesn't even come close; C against Lisp looks like Bobby
Riggs playing against Billy Jean King. But until people stop thinking,
"Lisp => AI", Lisp will remain outside the mainstream.

Tim Larkin
Federal Nutrition Laboratory
Tower Road
Ithaca, New York

607-255-7008



Mon, 03 Jul 1995 22:29:09 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Quote:

>it is simple. I call it "C sickness". For Lisp to become mainstream it has
>to be small, fast and hardened. C is mainstream.  All of the technological
>ingredients for Lisp to be as small, fast and hard as C are here.

It also helps that for the longest time, C was "free" with every Un*x
system.  I think that factor added immensely to both the C programmer
pool and to the C complacency you mentioned.


Laboratory for Perceptual Robotics              wa2ifi
University of Massachusetts at Amherst          Amherst, MA 01003



Tue, 04 Jul 1995 08:45:37 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

|>    My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
|> all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
|> Universities? What's wrong?

I think syntax and readability have a lot to do with it.  Functional
notation puts off many people; they find it natural for short
expressions, but confusing for larger ones.  Notation is extremely
important in mathematical communication, and the usual conventions of
infix operators, omitting parentheses, operations indicated by position
(superscripts for exponentiation, juxtaposition for multiplication),
and no doubt others, were introduced for good reasons and are of great
value.  I have experienced many occasions where some proof was praised as
elegant, a significant improvement, etc., and where the key step was
devising a better notation.  Lisp notation is simple and provides a
clear semantics, but for these very reasons is unable to provide much
syntactic flexibility or "information-hiding" (sweeping necessary but
picayune details into the background so they don't obscure the main
points).

Of course, C is almost as good for producing unreadable programs as APL,
and in the hands of a skilled obfuscator, can match the worst that Lisp
can do.  But I do think that people's first impression when confronted
with some moderately complex textbook example programs will be that C is
more readable than Lisp.

John Doner
Math. Dept., UCSB



Sat, 08 Jul 1995 00:11:38 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

    Date: Mon, 18 Jan 1993 11:11 EST


    |>        My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
    |> all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
    |> Universities? What's wrong?

    I think syntax and readability have a lot to do with it.  Functional
    notation puts off many people; they find it natural for short
    expressions, but confusing for larger ones.  Notation is extremely
    important in mathematical communication, and the usual conventions of
    infix operators, omitting parentheses, operations indicated by position
    (superscripts for exponentiation, juxtaposition for multiplication),
    and no doubt others, were introduced for good reasons and are of great
    value.  I have experienced many occasions where some proof was praised as
    elegant, a significant improvement, etc., and where the key step was
    devising a better notation.  Lisp notation is simple and provides a
    clear semantics, but for these very reasons is unable to provide much
    syntactic flexibility or "information-hiding" (sweeping necessary but
    picayune details into the background so they don't obscure the main
    points).

Surely you jest.  Lisp macros provide an extremely powerful tool for
syntaxtic flexibility, extensibility, and information hiding.  Nothing
in C (or just about any other language) even comes close to this.

    Of course, C is almost as good for producing unreadable programs as APL,
    and in the hands of a skilled obfuscator, can match the worst that Lisp
    can do.  But I do think that people's first impression when confronted
    with some moderately complex textbook example programs will be that C is
    more readable than Lisp.

Funny, the following looks OK to me:

 (with-database (db "employees")
   (with-transaction (db)
     (for-each ((e employee) (:where (> (employee-salary) salary)))
       ... do something ...)))

Well, I guess it could be better -- I really would rather have this:

 (defmacro map-over-employees-exceeding-salary ((database salary) &body body)
   `(with-database (db ,database)
      (with-transaction (db)
        (for-each ((e employee) (:where (> (employee-salary) ,salary)))

and then use this:

 (map-over-employees-exceeding-salary ("employees" 50000.0)
   ... do something ...)

I doubt that many non-Lisp programmers can so easily extend their
language to include the new MAP-OVER-EMPLOYEES-EXCEEDING-SALARY form.



Sat, 08 Jul 1995 00:48:06 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?
The students that I come into contact with hit the nail on the head
the other day when asked this question. There is no "Borland Turbo
Lisp Compiler" for the IBM PC computer, as "God intended it to
be" (640K or less). Some bright folks should develop a free
Lisp compiler and give it away. They could develop an aftermarket
book that would serve to generate royalties and just rewards for
that effort.

Languages are popular due to the base of popular support, born
by students and hobbiest. Look at the tremendous impact Pascal
received with the virtually free P-Code compiler - its transformation
into a Hobbiest tool on CPM systems. C was a late commer rising
to popularity with the introduction of an affordable Lattice
compiler. I mention the Turbo Prolog tools too. Affordable Prolog
with a usable user interface.

Almost all Lispers that I am in casual contact with know about
Xlisp by David Michael Betz, but really want a compiler.

I feel that before Lisp becomes a real tool in the real world
it must pass the rights of initiation of being a fairly real
tool in the hobbist market place. How about it Academia? Give
us a freebie and write us a book.

--Wayne

--

Wayne Green      NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research)
FL2-1042         (303) 497-8540  FAX (303) 497-8520



Sat, 08 Jul 1995 03:42:16 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Quote:


>|>        My question is, why after these decades, is Lisp, with
>|> all its power and elegance, basically still confined to AI people in
>|> Universities? What's wrong?
>I think syntax and readability have a lot to do with it.  Functional
>notation puts off many people; they find it natural for short
>expressions, but confusing for larger ones.  Notation is extremely
>important in mathematical communication, and the usual conventions of
>infix operators, omitting parentheses, operations indicated by position
>(superscripts for exponentiation, juxtaposition for multiplication),
>and no doubt others, were introduced for good reasons and are of great
>value.  I have experienced many occasions where some proof was praised as
>elegant, a significant improvement, etc., and where the key step was
>devising a better notation.  Lisp notation is simple and provides a
>clear semantics, but for these very reasons is unable to provide much
>syntactic flexibility or "information-hiding" (sweeping necessary but
>picayune details into the background so they don't obscure the main
>points).

I wonder, if it is possible, to change the synatx of LISP without
loosing it's advantages.

From the dylan-faq:

Quote:
> * Is Apple planning to specify an alternate syntax for Dylan?
>  Yes.  We recognize that many people prefer an algebraic syntax, and
>   we plan to create and document such a syntax for Dylan.

How will they do that?

--
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%



Sat, 08 Jul 1995 20:29:52 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?
|> I feel that before Lisp becomes a real tool in the real world
|> it must pass the rights of initiation of being a fairly real
|> tool in the hobbist market place. How about it Academia? Give
|> us a freebie and write us a book.

How about Gambit Scheme?  MacGambit is free, and you get all the source code.
O.k., it isn't Common Lisp, but it is a Lisp dialect, and probably more suited
to hobbyist needs anyway.

John Doner
Math. Dept., UCSB



Sat, 08 Jul 1995 05:42:39 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Concerning "Turbo Lisp", there are a couple of near Lisps's (subsets
of Common Lisp) that are available for PC's

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW OF THESE PRODUCTS, JUST A POINTER FOR THOSE
WHO MIGHT WANT TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THEM ON THEIR OWN.

Software Engineer (PC, Windows 3.1)

around $350 retail I believe, BIG educational discount available

Star Saphire Lisp (PC)
contact: Sapiens Software phone:(408) 425 0905
around $100 retail I believe, I think an educatinal site license
or some such is available.

Also there is a Full Common Lisp available from Franz called
PC\CL (PC, Windows 3.1)
$595 retail I think, haven't discussed educational pricing with them
contact: Franz Inc. phone: (510) 548 3600

A year or so ago there was a comparison of Lisps's in AI/Expert which
was a godd source of info at the time, but the PC Lisp market
has really changed, and matured in the last year or two. Also, Software
Engineer was not in that review, and PC\CL wasn't available yet.

If you really want to know about the latest news in the Lisp
development world, come to the Lisp User's and Vendor's Conference
(LUV-93) later this year. FOr information, contact:

        LUV-93
        c/o An Event to Remember
        P.O. Box 294
        Malvern, PA 19355-0294

        (215) 651-2990


                        Yes, that last part was the commercial,

                                        Thomas
--

Thomas Pole



Sun, 09 Jul 1995 01:55:32 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

   I think syntax and readability have a lot to do with it.

surely it wouldn't be difficult to include in the cl standard an
"infix" or "math" form, approximately as follows.  then you'd have the
best of both worlds, wouldn't you?

        (infix "2 + 3x * x^123 / (6y + sin(z))")

lisp can also use a good pattern matching facility and a little speed
and memory paring so that people are not tempted by perl, don't you
think?

it's scandalous that lisp languishes while horrible, horrible
languages thrive.  it gives the lie to such notions as creativity and
competence in the wider computer field that this phenomenon is not
limited to rare classes of applications.
--
i'm open to comparing research career notes with other cogsci/cogneuro people.



Sun, 09 Jul 1995 04:18:05 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

   surely it wouldn't be difficult to include in the cl standard an
   "infix" or "math" form, approximately as follows.  then you'd have the
   best of both worlds, wouldn't you?

           (infix "2 + 3x * x^123 / (6y + sin(z))")

   lisp can also use a good pattern matching facility and a little speed
   and memory paring so that people are not tempted by perl, don't you
   think?

i doubt it should go into the standard... but i think it would be easy enough
to take one of the yacc sort of programs in the lisp resource archive and add
something like lex to it and make something that creates new readmacros, to
read whatever will fit the lex-yacc model.  have several by indexing them
to some symbol, then you could say things like

#!infix( 2 + 3*x^123 / (6*y + sin(z)) )

which still looks a little horrid, i suppose.

i've been thinking about doing this for a while, but i don't have the time
for neat tinkering like that :-(
--
Hume Smith                                    My name is little Bongo


                                              Except for made-up words like "flong-go"



Sun, 09 Jul 1995 06:01:54 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?
Tom missed one in his list of PC Lisps:

Medley (PC)

I think the price is $495, but I'm not positive, so check.
Phone: (800)-228-5325. Binary-compatible on all architectures,
from PC to Alpha...

...arun
ps. Yeah, I'm biased.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Arun Welch
Lisp Systems Programmer, Lab for AI Research, Ohio State University



Sun, 09 Jul 1995 09:37:09 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

Quote:

>surely it wouldn't be difficult to include in the cl standard an
>"infix" or "math" form....

Symbolics Common Lisp already has such a feature, a reader macro defined

the actual dispatching character, escape. The major difficulty it poses
for me arises from the parsing of symbol names that include the hyphen.
The macro wants to interpret foo-bar as (- foo bar), so you need to write
foo\-bar.

Nonetheless, I rarely use this, unless transcribing a highly complex,
infix
formula. Prefix notation takes a bit of getting used to, but it possesses
its own charm.

Tim Larkin
Federal Nutrition Laboratory
Tower Road
Ithaca, New York

607-255-7008



Sun, 09 Jul 1995 23:48:53 GMT  
 Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

:
:    I think syntax and readability have a lot to do with it.
:
: surely it wouldn't be difficult to include in the cl standard an
: "infix" or "math" form, approximately as follows.  then you'd have the
: best of both worlds, wouldn't you?
:
:       (infix "2 + 3x * x^123 / (6y + sin(z))")
:
: lisp can also use a good pattern matching facility and a little speed
: and memory paring so that people are not tempted by perl, don't you
: think?

I think you're trying to put a bandaid on a bleeding stump, but then
I'm known to be prejudiced in the matter.

Anyway, on to bearding the lion...

: it's scandalous that lisp languishes while horrible, horrible
: languages thrive.  it gives the lie to such notions as creativity and
: competence in the wider computer field that this phenomenon is not
: limited to rare classes of applications.

The obvious answer is almost TOO obvious.  People prefer "horrible" languages.

I believe in the waterbed theory of linguistics.  If you push down
here, it pops up there.  The design of Lisp pushed down so {*filter*} the
morphology that it bulges out everywhere else.  Lisp is your classical
Turing Tarpit.  If expressivity only measures what's possible, Lisp is
wonderful.  If it measures what's easy to say and understand, Lisp gets
a big yawn from most folks.  You don't take your dinner every night and
put it in a blender.  Why should I program in a language that has the
same bland taste all the way through?  I want my salad to taste like
salad, my carrots to taste like carrots, and my turkeyburger to taste
like veal cordon bleu.  :-)

Please reply in Lisp, not English.  It's so much more expressive...

Larry Wall



Mon, 10 Jul 1995 02:12:44 GMT  
 
 [ 362 post ]  Go to page: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] [22] [23] [24] [25]

 Relevant Pages 

1. Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?

2. WHY ISN'T LISP A MAINSTREAM LANGUAGE

3. Symbolics Chapter 11 (was Re: Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?)

4. SCM Wishlist (Was: Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?)

5. GCs (was: Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?)

6. GCs (was: Why Isn't Lisp a Mainstream Language?)

7. Why isn't Haskell mainstream?---A newbie's view

8. Why isn't Haskell mainstream?

9. Why isn't Haskell mainstream?

10. EXAMPLE: Why isn't LISP a mastream language

11. Why aren't functional languages mainstream?

12. But Smalltalk isn't mainstream - response

 

 
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software