Lisp and dinosaurs


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I really like Philip Greenspun’s contributions to the developer’s community and Internet world at large. His posts are usually witty and have about them a sharp vision that is quite rare to find.

Here is a post I liked about LISP. It is not really concerning Plone, but I think it concerns us as seekers of beauty and simplicity in our project.

From "Lisp diehards = Holocaust deniers"

Hmm… it seems that the “Java = SUV of programming languages” posting has stirred up a bit of controversy over at Slashdot and right here on this server. Some people read it as a personal endorsement of PHP, VB, and other semi-baked programming languages. Actually my personal preference is a much darker, uglier, and more shameful secret: Common Lisp, CLOS, plus an ML-like type inferencing compiler/error checker (with some things done in a sublanguage with Haskell semantics and Lisp syntax). Common Lisp dates from around 1982 and ML from 1984.

I try to keep this preference concealed from young people who’ve been raised on a diet of C, Java, C#, Perl, etc. They just wouldn’t find it credible that 20-year-old systems and ideas are actually better than the latest and greatest from Microsoft and Sun.

Imagine my delight in running into a friend yesterday. She’s a 23-year-old graduate student in computer science at Harvard. Conversation rolled around to programming tools. Unprompted she said “What I think would be best is Common Lisp Object System with a modern type system”. I was stunned. I thought it was only dinosaurs like me that clung to Lisp.

I had a second ephiphany for the week… Believing that Lisp circa 1982 plus some mid-1980s ML tricks thrown in is better than all of the new programming tools (C#, Java) that have been built since then is sort of like being a Holocaust denier.

It is also interesting to read the numerous comments to that post:

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/philg/2003/09/22/lisp-diehards-holocaust-deniers/


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