The feel of a LispM/List of running machines

Rainer Joswig
Thu, 1 May 1997 02:09:06 +0200

At 8:36 Uhr +0500 30.4.1997, DF@GLIDER.MACLAB.LONESTAR.ORG wrote:

>Draws 10 amps, dissipates ~3000 BTU, weighs 250 pounds.  (Approximate
>figures for a 3640).

A MacIvory is much faster and not so power hungry. My three boards are
not for sale. ;-) One runs an application using the CL-HTTP
web server.

>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).

Symbolics machines can be used via X-Windows (if you have
loaded the appropriate software). I just edited an
80 MB file on my office MacIvory (8 MW RAM / 110 MW swap)
from home (connected via ISDN and TCP/IP). MacX on my PowerBook
displays the Symbolics Screens nicely. 
You can use the Document Examiner via X.
Telnet to a Symbolics and say "Start X Screen internet|your.ip.num.ber".
It will ask if you want to use X-Windows over TCP (unless
it knows that already). Say yes and off you go.
The Symbolics special keys (like Select, Abort, Complete, Help, End, ...
are mapped to function keys on your X-Terminal).
Select-L will bring you to a Listener, Select-E to an editor, ...
Select-control-L will give you a new Listener, ...

There is a screen shot of my MacIvory displaying a Listener at:

See also screen shots of the Document Examiner:

>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?)

Hmm, the doc to have would be the ChineNual (Lisp Machine Manual).
Hamburg University has a copy. Don't know if it is (still)
available in electronic form.

I'll list some random things that I like on the Symbolics machines.

- Window System
 - runs native, Mac and X
 - supports local use and use over X at the same time
 - presentation system -> almost everything is mouse sensitive
 - easy switching between applications
 - good command line interface with multiple command tables
 - a window is called a frame
 - a frame layouter can create frames out of panes
 - supports color
 - screen shots
 - printing to PostScript

- file system
 - unlimited size of file names
 - versions of files
 - automatic delete of unneeded versions
 - can use Mac, NFS, FTP, as file systems
 - dataloss is very unusual
 - works across disks
 - arbitrary additional information about files

- objects everywhere

- good defsystem

- Networking
 - Generic Networking -> a lot of the protocols can be used
   over different transport protocol
  - triple:  service protocol medium, examples:
    FILE, NFS, UDP  use NFS over UDP for FILE access
    FILE, TCP, FTP  use FTP over TCP for FILE access
    FILE, NFILE, CHAOS  use NFILE over CHAOS for FILE access
    FILE, NFILE, TCP  use NFILE over TCP for FILE access

- Error handling
  - conditions all over the place
  - restarts everywhere -> an error happens -> what would you want to do?

- Thread safe CLOS

- Really Great GC
 - excellent VM integration
 - Areas

- Full size fixnums

- One Editor (not ten) -> Zmacs -> hundreds of really cool features

- Document Examiner
 - great for browsing documentation
 - execute examples in place

- Standard Applications
 - Telnet (client, server)
 - X (client, server)
 - NFS (client, server)
 - file browser
 - Name space (client, server), organizes users, machines, networks, ...
 - Mailer (client, server) (actually a cool system)
 - software installer
 - debugger
 - converse (talk)
 - peek (view system resources)
 - presentation inspector
 - inspector
 - Postscript engine
 - Development: incremental compilers for C, Pascal, Fortran, Prolog, Ada, ...
 - profiler

- most source was delivered with the machine

- biggest turn offs
 - much to complicated
 - wizard system
 - a lot of legacy code (flavors, Zeta Lisp, ...)
 - user interface not graphical enough
 - not really uptodate anymore , doesn't track newer standards
 - weak compiler (no tail recursion, ...)
 - incomplete documentation (while it is already very large)
 - single user
 - no real idea of security (no passwords, ...)
 - really expensive
 - unportable software
 - FEP filesystem vs. LMFS
 - installation to complicated

Rainer Joswig, Lavielle EDV Systemberatung GmbH & Co, Lotharstrasse 2b, D22041
Hamburg, Tel: +49 40 658088, Fax: +49 40 65808-202,
Email: , WWW: