Some comments on LispOS/LispVM/SmalltalkVM/misc

Alaric B. Williams
Mon, 28 Apr 1997 21:16:34 +0000

On 28 Apr 97 at 0:19, wrote:

> Fare Rideau has a number of interesting questions and ideas concerning a LispVM -- some of which
> served to reroute some of my thinking. (By the way, the TUNES project is fascinating -- putting these
> concepts under the LispOS would be awesome, assuming it all reaches expectations.)

Come take a peek at "", then; the
language side (ARGOT) is still in turmoil, but the large-scale
paradigm (ARGON) is settling down nicely!
> However, I believe the low level of the Smalltalk VM as it was first presented as a defacto standard has
> been the source of many of the practical problems that have followed the language system to this day. Any
> simplistic low level VM is going to give us problems in performance, access to underlying OSs, extension to 
> encompass new functionality, and in general inertia when we see we *really* need to change it -- Java is 
> basically stuck with that pitiful excuse for a VM from now on, with minor backward compatible updates.

I'd really like to prise some specific information from the Taos
people at Tao Systems. Their "portable assembler" makes a lot of
claims about efficiency. I'd be interested to know HOW! My own
research has led me to abstract Register Transfer Languages, where
each instruction takes N input register names or constants, and
N output register names or "ignore this output" markers. Registers
are like variables, and get allocated to REAL registers as the
compiler (assembler?) sees fit, etc.

> However, for now I think that we should concentrate on the creation of the "true" LispOS -- or DynamicOS
> (probably a better commercial name) -- using the Utah Flux OS toolkit to do the grungy bits - probably with
> an assortment of Linux drivers added to the mix. As the design develops and insight is gained we can then
> define something of the sort used in Juice (Oberon is not a dynamic language after all), and we can pay attention to
> support of other languages then also.

Agreed. First things first. Give only passing thought to the future,
so we leave the right doors open, rather than sitting worrying and
never getting anywhere!

> If you want to compile Java in the LispOS environment however -- I would have nothing against compiling Java 
> to the eventual LispVM/DynamicVM or extending it a bit to help with that - but we don't need no stinking Java bytecodes
> <g> in "our" LispVM. This could be a real plus actually -- if Java compiled to the LispVM roars compared
> to Java compiled to the standard Java bytecodes and JavaVM, that would be just dandy! And it would be
> a real and general incentive to move the LispVM out into the real world.

You BET. Good thinking, that man. Have a banana :-)

Alaric B. Williams (

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