historical clarification

Francois-Rene Rideau fare@tunes.org
Tue, 16 Jan 2001 01:11:11 +0100

Dear Richard,
   thanks a lot for your reply.

> No reverse engineering was involved.  I wrote simply code to implement
> these specifications.  Reading a spec is NOT reverse engineering.
Oops. My mistake.

> [Code written in] Lisp Machine Lisp. [Ran] Only on Lisp machines.
> The CADR is the name of the model of Lisp machine that was in use at
> the time.  All the Lisp Machines which existed at the time were CADRs.
Thanks for these details. Do you know about documentation for these systems?
I'll dig into MIT AI lab archives...

>     As I understand it, the MIT owned that code, and let LMI use it;
>     did LMI eventually buy it and turn it into proprietary software?
> I don't think so, but I am not sure what happened later.

>     Does this code still exist for peruse, somewhere?
> I don't know.
Last time I contacted people at MIT, I had no answer,
but maybe I wasn't precise enough.

>     When exactly did these events happen, and for how long?
> Symbolics issued its ultimatum on March 16, 1982, which is known as
> Microwave Day because my first reaction was to disconnect their
> microwave link.  (By coincidence, it was my birthday.)  The war began
> when Greenblatt and I decided to resist the occupation of the AI Lab
> by Symbolics.
Ahem. Are these events documented somewhere?
What was the contents of the ultimatum? What was the occupation?
Did Greenblatt actually decide to found LMI afterwards,
or were those things already in preparation?
At the time, what were the legal stances of Symbolics, the MIT, LMI, you,
and other Lisp hackers, about the distribution of Lisp Machine code?
[BTW, I wish you a happy un-birthday.]

>     How did they impact the eventual birth of GNU, both politically
>     (free software vs proprietary software)
> Symbolics's destruction of my community created the situation in which
> GNU was necessary.  My success in fighting Symbolics gave me the
> technical confidence that I could eventually develop GNU, and the
> determination necessary to launch the project.
If you feel it was a success, what factors made you switch
to such a completely different system as UNIX?
Do you feel my .signature (below) is correct?

Today, what do you (technically) miss most about those LISP systems?
What do you (technically) miss less about these systems?
What recommendations would you make to free software LISP hackers?

> 					    and technically (C vs LISP)?
> There was very little influence.  GNU is Unix-compatible.
There seems to have been some vague influence, with elisp being part of
GNU Emacs, with GCC internals being remindful of a LISPy constraint solver,
with the GNU recommendations of "no arbitrary limits".
I supposed there could also have been some reverse-influence,
with your avoiding in GNU things that you learnt from LISP experience
were bad?

In any case, I realize that the choice of UNIX and C was very political,
and little technical, UNIX being somewhat technically inferior in many
ways, but also the mostest community-maker thanks to its having the least
proprietary license. I'm not sure how much you realized at the time
(or if you agree today) about the natural link between those two facts
(UNIX having been for some time the "least proprietary" and its having
gathered a somewhat large user-base). Maybe somehow GNU kept the free UNIX
tradition alive where it would eventually have been killed, too, by the
movement of its licenses toward a more and more proprietary model.

>     PS: did the FSF make an official stance against the new tax on blank
>     media that was recently voted in France?
> This is the first I hard of it.  It's too bad nobody talked with me
> BEFORE the decision.
I don't know if it has actually been voted yet or at all, but a minister
has proudly announced it as if it were something that will be done and for
which no discussion is necessary. I thought you would have been told by
your more permanent FSF correspondants from april.org, and I encourage you
to contact them ASAP.

Yours freely,

[ François-René ÐVB Rideau | Reflection&Cybernethics | http://fare.tunes.org ]
[  TUNES project for a Free Reflective Computing System  | http://tunes.org  ]
The LISP community lost the celestial mandate the day Symbolics hired out
most MIT AI hackers to make a proprietary system, with utter despise for
those not able or willing to purchase expensive licenses only valid on their
very expensive specialized hardware. What was an cooperative hacker community
fragmented into a bunch of uncooperating vendors; LISP thus lost most of its
user base, and began withering as surely as would a tree most of whose roots
were severed. As says my mother, LISP hackers were punished for their greed
and their arrogance.