Subject: Re: Why is Lisp inactive compared to Perl et al?
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1995/05/01
Newsgroups: comp.lang.lisp
Message-ID: <>

[Bill Hunter]

|   (Open invitation to be flamed, but it's an honest question ...)
|   If you keep an eye on the comp.lang groups, you'll find many articles
|   on Perl and TCL, for example, and next to none on Lisp.  For example, I
|   haven't kept up with News for the last few days, but my comp.lang.perl
|   has 338 unread entries, comp.lang.tcl has 171, and comp.lang.lisp has
|   15.  Why is this?  Is is that these newer languages have more problems
|   to solve and require more discussion, or is that Lisp, for whatever
|   reasons, is not being used very much.

where did you get the idea that USENET is representative of anything other
than USENET?  please note that both perl and tcl are net.creations, so you
should expect massive discussions on the net on these languages.  besides,
they are obviously broken, and anyone can come up with semi-reasonable
suggestions for fixes.  since they are also obviously useful, many people
will run up against their limitations while still enthused about what can
be done in either language, spurring discussions and more or less helpful
advice from others who have problems.  the obviously broken/obviously
useful scheme may not explain everything in computerdom, but I find its
explanatory power to be somewhat disconcerting.

reading the comp.lang.c and c++ groups, I get the impression that these
languages are perceived as "necessary" by people who wouldn't know a clue
from a bug.  is that a measure of success?

I'm not denying that you have a point, yours just isn't the only conclusion
that can be drawn from the available data.  I don't even think yours is
relevant outside of USENET.

|   Whatever the reasons, a language that embeds four decades worth of
|   solutions to problems is languishing while people jump aboard new
|   languages only to gradually rediscover the problems.

welcome to mankind.  I have good friends here at the U of Oslo who think
that Lisp gives them "cobol fingers", despite the fact that a raw character
count of their C programs compared to my Lisp functions indicate the exact
opposite, and similarly for their perl scripts, although the margin is much
smaller with perl.  the notion seems to be: "if you can't run it from the
command line, it ain't worth it".

all we need to do (he said, knowingly) is to make a hell of a Unix shell
that has the simple and easy access to the underlying system that perl and
a plethora of Unix "utilities" afford.  perl sucks, and everybody knows it
does, but it's just incrementally better than writing C, sed, awk, etc,
code to solve small problems.  Lisp isn't only incrementally better, it's
lightyears ahead, and then people think they will have to make a big
investment to get there, which is false.  anyway, this is why I think Dylan
went for its infix syntax.

|   So I'll ask it again: what would it take to make Lisp into a contender?
|   Maybe we can do something about it given that corporate America is
|   finally waking up to the fact that the COBOL era has ended and the
|   successor language is not yet identified.

all we know is that it isn't C++ or the current crop of "new" languages.
lots can be said against COBOL, and is, but it is a _stable_ language.
ironically, Common Lisp just recently became an ANSI standard.  I think
this will spur more involvement and interest, but it's hard to predict such
things.  who would have predicted that a technical loser like the WWW
should overtake FTP in packet count on the NSFNET backbone?

sufficiently advanced political correctness is indistinguishable from sarcasm