EMACS First? (Was: Benevolent Dictatorship)

Will Hartung vfr750@netcom.com
Fri, 20 Mar 1998 11:49:48 -0800 (PST)

(Rainer, I accidently R)eplied this to you and not the list...)

Rainer wrote:

> <about Emacs>
> Erik Naggum is interested in porting Emacs to Common Lisp
> (starting with ACL) using CLIM. This could be a killer application -
> which also could be the user interface central for a LispOS.
> His motivation is to get rid of Emacs Lisp and its implementation.
> A decent version of Common Lisp would be a better base for an
> editor (which might not be big - just look at MCL).

How does one, as a USER, distinguish that one is running on any
specific OS?

How many folks here log in to their X-Terminals, Windows, or terminal
sessions, and immediatly fire up a screen encompassing EMACS window,
and rarely, if ever, leave it?

I'm not a fluent EMACS user...Heck, I'm not even a conversational
EMACS user. I stumble about in it and keep banging my head on sharp

What are the consequences of starting from the top of the LispOS
environment and working down towards a kernel versus starting from the
kernel up?

When Linux was being developed, once they started to get a kernel
functional, their next primary step was to get GCC compiled and
running on that kernel. Once they had GCC running, they started
working on EMACS and BASH. Once those were accomplished, the
floodgates opened and they started heaping and porting the gigs of
C-source available from GNU and BSD to recreate their UNIX

If LispOS was able to get a kernel up and bootable, then what? The
Lisp community doesn't really have access to the source base that the
UNIX community does.

However, how does ones LispOS experience appear to anyone,
sans the kernel hackers, different than if someone went into Linux,
and crafted the inittab to launch nothing but <Lisp system de jour>,
for example the current iteration of ACL that Franz is kindly loaning

Wouldn't that be "exciting" for most people? What if you turned on
your computer, it whirred and buzzed, and up popped an Emacs display
with a Lisp listener?

Isn't that the fantasy of the first step?

How will a first generation LispOS be more efficient than an EMACS
built in to an ACL image on top of a Linux kernel?

How long were GCC and EMACS around before Linux? How about the GNU
file utilities? How much of the evnironment of what we now know as
Linux was there BEFORE a kernel was even started or imagined?

And how much of that does the Lisp community have to leverage a LispOS
kernel once it appears?

You want to bootstrap this project from "how abouts" and "what ifs"
and "if only" to "Wow!" "Cool!" "Hey, check this out", then I think
porting EMACS to CL is the first step. EMACS is the kernel of an
exciting LispOS environment that most folks would be happy with,
inittially, and would bring a LOT of applications with it.

Lisp is the King of incremental development. Get EMACS into CL, and
running in an image of SOME kind (ACL is just handy right now, though
it isn't as portable because of licensing) is an enabler. But, CL is CL
is CL (knock on wood), once EMACS and its minions have been ported, it
provides a target and goal for CMUCL or whatever to run toward.

"You want your environment to be cool? You gotta run EMACS-CL well."
Make EMACS-CL the "Flight Simulator" of early "PC Compatibles".

No GUI, no OOFS, none of those. Not yet. 

But LispOS needs a "bootstrap" monitor, and EMACS is probably the best
candidate for such a monitor. Since 90% of the folks on this list are
NOT OS or Kernel or Persistent Store or File systems hackers, getting
this monitor up gives everyone an environment that can accelerate this
whole process while the propeller beanie headed crowd huddle in their
damp basements forging a kernel to support the juggernaut that is being
formed one S-expression at a time.


Will Hartung