LispOS directly on hardware or on Unix kernel?

Rainer Joswig
Thu, 1 May 1997 10:59:59 +0200

>>Most of the "Unix" utilities are pretty useless, IMHO. I'd like
>>to get rid of Unix as much as possible. It is basically
>>a model of how one should not do it.
>You might not like how they work, but what they do often happens to be
>useful. Put a wrapper around them that you like and don't re-invent
>the wheel. Take for example gzip, TeX, ghostview, Netscape, and ten
>million other freely available Unix programs.

Those are "Unix" programs? People are users of those
on Macs and PCs.

I want to get rid of stuff like csh, sh, cp, tar, cpio, named,
sendmail, nfsd, ... and all it is built on.

>How long is it going to
>take for lisp people to re-implement all of them? Why do you even want
>to try?

Why would someone want a new OS? Much of the Unix stuff that is
concerned with reading random files in exotic formats and
generating other files in even more exotic formats will go

Replace the "files everywhere" metapher with "objects everywhere".
Genera demonstrates how to **integrate** software based
on access to objects and applying functions on them, rather
then piping text around.

>>>the apps I want. LispOS will be in a worse situation. Let's keep the
>>>ability to run UNIX and X programs.

For me the ability to run Windows and Mac programs would be much
more important. Unix is only a small fraction of the market.
Windows NT already happens to conquer parts of the server market.

>>I don't need that. If I want to run Unix, I can use one
>>of our Slowlaris machines. 
>Like 99% of the population I've only got one machine of my own, and I
>don't want to have to reboot every 5 minutes to do real work.

I have no solution for that. I don't really use Unix on my home machines.
What should *I* do? I would lose Photoshop, MCL,
Eudora, NewsWatcher, Acrobat Distiller, FirstClass,
Claris Organizer, Newton Toolkit, Pointcast, MSIE, ...

Cool commercial Lisp environments like Macintosh Common Lisp 4.1
and Lispworks for Windows 4.0.0 are to beat, too. I have them -
why should *I* use the Lisp OS?

>>I would like a machine without
>>the baggage of technology that was outdated ten or even
>>twenty years ago. 
>Neither do I, but back to reality for just a moment. There is hundreds
>of gigabytes of free software out on the internet. I don't want to cut
>myself off from all of it to use LispOS, unless there is a really
>compelling reason. I havn't yet heard a compelling reason, why we
>_need_ to cut ourselves off from it.

I don't want to be cut off from Mac, Newton, Windows NT either.

>Most people these days are talking of micro kernels that will be able
>to run Windows, Mac, OpenStep, Unix all at the one time. That is the
>way of the future.

Which has not been delivered yet. Why? Because it is extremely
complex to put a current OS on a Microkernel. Ask Apple.
They failed to deliver. Despite a legion of
developers. And despite of hundreds of millions of dollars.

> An environment that can run any and every software
>you can throw at it.

Pretty unrealistic. I can have Mac emulators on PCs, PC emulators
on Macs. Pretty much unusable for *real* work.

> A LispOS that can only run Lisp is burying itself
>in the sand.

On Genera they ran the X-Windows server. It was written in C.
On Genera they had TeX. It was *not* rewritten in Lisp.
Go figure. It was not perfect, not fast, but then - it
was ten years ago.

>>>And IF in 5 years time, LispOS is so successful that you don't need
>>>UNIX compatibility any more, well then you can purge it out.
>>Sigh, not earlier?
>If you can re-implement every useful UNIX thing I've got now in the
>next 6 months, then be my guest. Good luck!

I don't need Unix-compatibility (the ability to directly
run Unix software) on my Windows NT. Why would I need it
on LispOS?

What are the benefits of a Lisp OS when you are not using Lisp
software? That is Lisp applications?

Mail server in Lisp, Mail reader in Lisp, Webbrowser in Lisp,
vt100 emulator in Lisp, Editor in Lisp, ...

If we are talking about superior programming productivity, 
better abstractions, more stability, user friendliness,
extensibility, - then we have to deliver. *DELIVER*.
Not write mails and post news - actually write
lines of code - not another Lisp. Write applications
in Lisp. This is where it lacks. Demonstrate the usefulness
of Lisp. Don't use some random mail server - write one in Lisp
and make it available. Get a project from CL-HTTP
and make code public available. Just look at
and see the large amounts of cool Lisp stuff for
Macintosh Common Lisp. Get the source for the cool multimedia
development environment SK8 from Apple: .
Port it. Off you go.

Define a kind of "Hardware Abstraction Layer", port this stuff
(HAL + applications) to other Lisps (Genera, MCL, LispWorks, ACL, ...)
and it won't only run on the new OS.

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