Books of Note

Practical Common
LispThe best intro to start your journey. Excellent coverage of CLOS.

ANSI Common
LispAnother great starting point with a different focus.

Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence
ProgrammingA superb set of Lisp examples. Not just for the AI crowd.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Bay Area Lispniks, Boston, and Interactive Programming Environments 

I went to my first Bay Area Lispniks meeting on Sunday in Berkeley. We had a nice lunch at Priya, an Indian restaurant on San Pablo street, just off University. I rode BART up from Fremont, where I live, and did the 15-minute walk from the station to the restaurant. On the BART ride, I had Boston blasting on my Sony MD player and was reading Interactive Programming Environments, an old book that has a bunch of interesting papers on Lisp, including one by Greenblatt, Knight, Holloway, Moon, and Weinreb about the original MIT Lisp Machine that complements very well the MIT CADR research report. I figured the Boston was appropriate since Tom Scholz went to MIT.

The book is old, copyright 1984, but contains a whole bunch of interesting papers on various programming environments, particularly Lisp environments like Interlisp and the Lisp Machine. Where the MIT CADR report stays pretty low level, describing the micro-architecture of the machine, the Lisp Machine paper in the book describes more of the high-level stuff. Tayssir John Gabbour recommended the book to me a few weeks ago, pointing out that you can get it used on Amazon for almost nothing. I paid $3.95 + $3.49 shipping & handling. Not a bad deal for 600 pages of largely Lisp history. Note that this book was written long before the AI winter, so the outlook is very positive on Lisp and the other various environments described.

Anyway, after the BART ride and walk, I ended up at Priya, found the guys, and everybody started chatting. About 10 or 12 people attended. I was one of the new guys, of which there were a couple more. I had the good fortune to end up sitting between Peter Seibel and Carl Shapiro. We talked a bit about Peter's book, which seems to be coming along surely, if slowly. Carl is working on a Win32 port of CMUCL and had some interesting stories to tell about the seedy underbelly of CMUCL. Let's just say that there is a bunch of code in the runtime that makes some very interesting assumptions about the overall OS architecture on which it is running. Most of the time, those assumptions hold true on Unix-like machines, but Win32 does some things quite a bit differently. Needless to say, Carl seems to be making good progress. We ended up discussing Win32 register calling conventions for quite a while, too. I had to strain back to my Win32 programming days.

At one point, Peter Seibel made the comment that he thought spam would make email all but unusable and that started a lively discussion that lasted for most of the meal. Each end of the long table started indepedent debates. Rob Warnock had some interesting stories about battling spammers and dealing with the clueless people at Network Solutions about DNS issues.

After a couple of hours of good fun, people started to drift off and I trudged back to the BART station, where it was more blaring Boston and reading about Lisp machines. Overall, a very fun time. Needless to say, this is my first face-to-face encounter with a bunch of people who are into Lisp. I was really impressed by the caliber of people who showed up. Everybody was really smart and had some fun stories to go along with things. Opinions were flowing freely. I'm really looking forward to next time.


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