Subject: Re: Java vs lisp (was: Re: Prolog vs. Lisp)
From: Erik Naggum <>
Date: 1997/04/19
Message-ID: <>

* Henry Baker
| The problem with standards is that they take a previously 'open' system
| and 'close' it.  Perhaps this isn't an essential characteristic of
| standards, but this has been the experience of standardization in the
| past.

this statement puzzled me for a while.  then I realized that the problem is
that standardization is entirely unrelated to this process.  the history of
any evolving technology is one of closing.  what standardization does is to
force this closing to take place in stricter ways than the randomness of
the market.

| Standards are usually promulgated by customers in collusion with the 2nd,
| 3rd, and 4th vendors in a market.

this joke betrays your lack of experience with standardization more than
anything else.  these silly conspiracy theories have no grounds in fact,
and look like you are grasping for ways to communicate your emotional
response to standardization to others through sufficiently vile examples.

| The most obvious examples of standards which have outlived their
| usefulness for decades or more are the NTSC television standards and the
| 2-prong electrical plug standard.

I'm not sure of precisely what these two are supposed to be examples, but
you may find it instructive to consider something quite different from
standardization as the cause of the recalcitrance to switch over to better
technology: the installed base.  standards cannot make demands on the
installed base without solid support from all the vendors.  if they don't
get it, maybe it's not a good idea to change for the sake of change?

you seem to be railing against a society in growth in general, and have
targeted standardization only because it seems the less informed in your
audience will believe it to be the cause of the ills you describe.  the ill
is not standardization, the ill is the way human beings strive to protect
their investments in time over time.  the symptom you attack is one that is
very good at protecting such investments: if you think standards are evil,
you should not argue against standards, you should argue against the need
to protect investments of the past.  you should ask people to abandon their
homes and jobs and go look for something better, because their current
homes and jobs are certainly no match for your dreams of what life could be

the world is not perfect.  it won't be.  however, standardization aims to
make it less imperfect than it would be without the consensus that the
standardization process aims to get.  of course, standards are not perfect,
either.  some of them downright _stink_.  but you cannot sit on your fat
ass and cry about standardization "closing previously open systems" and do
nothing about it.  get up there and get involved!

you have argued so strongly against standardization that I challenge you to
provide a viable alternative.  surely you must have _something_ to offer.

I'm no longer young enough to know everything.