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Re: Why lisp failed in the marketplace



>From           ok@goanna.cs.rmit.edu.au (Richard A. O'Keefe)
Organization   Comp Sci, RMIT University, Melbourne, Australia.
Date           24 Mar 1997 15:16:16 +1100
Newsgroups     comp.lang.lisp,comp.lang.scheme
Message-ID     <5h4v6g$kc7$1@goanna.cs.rmit.edu.au>
References     1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11



I note that Lucent's Inferno system is programmed in a language called
Limbo.
Now Limbo is a combination of
 - C syntax
 - with just a dash of Pascal
 - Occam-like channels
 - Algol-68-ish types and type checking
 - and Lisp.
For any type T, "list of T" is a type with operations like cons (spelled
::),
hd, tl, length.

Ok, so Limbo has compile-time strong typing (well, fairly firm, it's
structure equivalence rather than name equivalence, in order to handle
run-time loading issues).  Apart from that, the main thing that it is
lacking is

        closures.

Java is also missing closures, and Javascript, which uses run-time type
checking, is also missing closures.  I think the reason for this is that
they've all started from C and worked up rather than starting from Lisp
and working down, and genuinely don't understand how crippled a language
without decent closures looks.  (The old arguments against nested
functions in C have no validity in Limbo.)

Limbo is very carefully restricted so that plain old reference counting
works as a garbage collection method, and they even _promise_ immediate
reclamation when the last reference goes out of scope.

But basically, Limbo is astonishingly like what you'd get if a crazed
C programmer read a couple of books about CSP and Lisp implementation,
understood _some_ of what he was missing, and went for it.

Time will tell, but with *all* the mobile computing languages I know
(Java, Javascript, Limbo, Oberon) incorporating ideas from Lisp, I
don't think Lisp has failed in the marketplace of _ideas_.

-- 
Will maintain COBOL for money.
Richard A. O'Keefe; http://www.cs.rmit.edu.au/%7Eok; RMIT Comp.Sci.

inferno