Monday, December 1, 2008

LISP history from Olin Shivers

It may have seemed like I was bagging on BodyNet in a previous post. In fact, I was impressed by the paper when I first read it (a few years after it came out, I think), and I'm still favorably impressed. Getting the details of the future somewhat wrong fifteen years before the fact is still pretty good work.

Shivers has done quite a bit of other outstanding work, most of which will be incomprehensible unless you're a LISP-head or other such programming language geek. His History of T is probably in that category as well, and it has pretty much nothing to do with my theme of "figuring out the web as I go along", but so what? It's a fascinating account for a sometime LISP-head PL-geek and I reserve the right to drop stuff like this in from time to time.

I'm also hoping the piece is still interesting if you replace unitelligible phrases like "lexical scope" and "removing a cons cell from the free list" with "peanut butter". What's left is a bunch of now well-respected researchers in their early days, bouncing around the finest institutions in the US with stops in Silicon Valley and elsewhere, leaving significant discoveries in their wake.

And a lot of peanut butter.

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