The feel of a LispM/List of running machines
Wed, 30 Apr 1997 08:36 -0500
Date: Wed, 30 Apr 1997 04:16 CDT
From: Martin Cracauer <email@example.com>
It seems we have a lot of old LispM users over here.
The idea of a Lisp OS we can run when we try to use inferior computers
attracts us like a lurid picture show attracts teenagers.
I think it would be a good thing if you could write a short
description of the LispM features you liked, what features turned out
to be useful in practice and what could be left out. Don't think that
is obvious, I bet even the former longtime LispM users have different
opinions here. Not to speak of the Interlisp folks.
I think one of the foremost LispM features is the debugger system. And
this also is an answer to something you asked in a different message re:
what can you do in a pure lisp system that you can't do with one running
under Unix? With a VLM running under Unix, you are completely hosed if
something in the Unix system breaks (a disturbingly frequent event!).
On a pure lisp system, if something goes wrong anywhere in the OS, even
in very low level parts, you get a Debugger from which you can most
likely fix the problem and proceed, or at very minimum get a clear idea
of what happened.
Unix's file system is a total loss. We need things like version
numbering, ACL's, two-level file deletion (delete/expunge), file-plists
for arbitrary user-defined properties, Don't-Delete flags, logical
pathnames, etc. Even more important than the above: robustness. All of
these and more are indispensible LispM features. (Yeah, I know my
earlier message derided the entire concept of "File systems", and I
believe it; but I also realize that what I advocate is in the future,
and we need to start simple).
I won't discuss all the hairy window system stuff, since CLIM handles
most of that adequately.
The who-line (mouse documentation, date/time, running process,
current syntax and package, process state, ->PROGRESS NOTES AREA<-, run
The ability to grab and mutilate -ANY- part of memory simply by knowing
its address -- so useful I defined a readmacro #@ to make it extra easy:
; grab the clock string from the wholine
"Wed 30 Apr 7:46:05"
I'm getting a little tired so I'll stop here. I think I covered some of
the really critical stuff though.
LMFS has tons of really cool features, but in practice it's fairly slow.
*NO* internal security (not a bug for the LispM, but would be a bug for
an OS intended for broad consumption, and especially a bug for an OS
intended for multiple simultaneous users).
Draws 10 amps, dissipates ~3000 BTU, weighs 250 pounds. (Approximate
figures for a 3640).
We need to focus this project some more. The whole discussion about
Unix-kernel based or pure LispOS shows that it is not clear what
features of LispM we really want.
We want something that can both replace Unix in a relatively short
development time, and be the ultimate system on stock hardware. These
are wildly diverging goals, but hopefully goal/1 will lead into goal/2
after the project has gained sufficient momentum. Somehow we need to
find a way to develop the system in such a way that after goal/1 is
attained it won't mind having unix ripped out from under it and a real
OS put it its place. Am I off-base here?
Also, it is probably a good thing if everyone here gets the change to
play with such a machine.
It would be a very good thing if everyone in the world had a chance to
play with a LispM. Maybe in a few years they'll have a chance at the
next best thing.
Maybe we should arrage a list of machines that can be seem and used?
My machines are available, for those in the North Texas area (or those
who don't mind a long drive). There are still dozens of universities
that have LispM's laying around (usually in deserted labs). I know MIT
still has half a dozen or so up at the AI Lab. I think a fair number of
interested people could get away with just walking in and sitting down
at one for awhile (this is how I got my first exposure to a LispM: a TI
Explorer at SMU, where I was not a student; I spent weeks with it and
noone ever harassed me or even talked to me).
To start, I'm in Hamburg/Germany and would welcome visitors to show
them how dark the lights get when I turn on my 3600 :-)
I have a spare Cypher drive and a cooling turbine for a 3600, but no
3600 to put them in. I also have a Hawley mouse with the old 3600-style
D-shell connector and a couple of wire-wrapped IO.2 boards. If you are
interested in the tape drive or the mouse, mail me. The turbine and
IO.2 boards are MINE ALL MINE! =)
I also have manual sets I could lean to people and maybe organize sets
to give away. Maybe someone could get through the hell of scanning
these in. I already found them to be very OCR-friendly :-)
Hmm, you might want to get SMBX's approval for something like scanning
in manuals. I've been wondering if they'd go for putting Release 6 into
the public domain (for non-commercial use), perhaps now is the time to
An alternative is to find the MIT LispM manuals and scan -those-
(assuming there aren't any hairy restrictions on them, which I think is
a reasonably safe assumption. Anyone know for sure?)
Ok, now I'm getting quite tired, so I'm stopping for real this time.