Why don't people like lisp?
jrm at ccs.neu.edu
Fri Oct 17 19:23:07 CEST 2003
"Terry Reedy" <tjreedy at udel.edu> writes:
[some opinions and questions about Lisp Machines]
I'm going to take the questions out of order. I'm also leaving the
crosspost in because this is an immediate response to a Pythonista.
> I wonder about another technical issue: intercompatibility. Did all
> the LMI companies adopt the same version of Lisp so an outside
> Lisper could write one program and sell it to run on all?
As a first-order approximation, there really was only one Lisp machine
company: Symbolics. Xerox, Lisp Machine Inc. and TI were minor players
in the market.
Nevertheless, the effort to create a common Lisp specification that
would be portable across all lisp implementations produced ....
Common Lisp. This was in the early 80's while the industry was still
> The premise of this question is that there actually was a lisp-machine
> industry (LMI) to be killed. My memory is that is was stillborn and
> that the promoters never presented a *convincing* value proposition to
> enough potentional customers to really get it off the ground.
The first principle of marketing is this: the minimum number of
customers needed is one. The Lisp machine customers were typically
large, wealthy companies with a significant investment in research
like petrochemical companies and defense contractors. The Lisp
machine was originally developed as an alternative to the `heavy
metal' of a mainframe, and thus was quite attractive to these
companies. They were quite convinced of the value. The problem was
that they didn't *stay* convinced.
> How many people, Lispers included, are going to buy, for instance,
> an advanced, technically excellent, hydrogen fuel cell car, complete
> with in-garage hydrogen generator unit, for, say $200,000.
Very few. But consider the Ford Motor Company. They have spent
millions of dollars to `buy' exactly that. There are successful
companies whose entire customer base is Ford.
The Lisp industry was small, no doubt about it, but there was (for
a while) enough of an industry to support a company.
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