Wednesday, November 14, 2007
A couple years ago, I exchanged email with Dan Weinreb about Lisp machines. Dan was one of the founders of Symbolics and wrote the Emacs variant on the Symbolics machines. During our email exchange, I asked Dan about some of the statements and writings of Richard Stallman with respect to Symbolics and Richard's characterization of Symbolics as one of the bad guys in the Lisp machine competition with LMI. This was interesting to me because the Symbolics vs. LMI competition figures prominently in RMS's reasoning to create GNU and the whole concept of Free Software.
Of course, there is always another side to the story, and Dan definitely disagreed with Richard's characterization of the situation. Having interacted with both Dan and Richard, I tend to believe Dan's version more than Richard's. But that's just my opinion. I told Dan that I thought he should document his version of events because the only side of the tale that was being told up until that point was Richard's, and without any evidence to the contrary, his side was being accepted as gospel.
At the time, Dan basically said that he just didn't feel like it. He was tired of the whole thing and just wanted to let Symbolics rest in peace. Having founded an unsuccessful startup myself, I know exactly where he is coming from. The last thing you want to do is relive things by going through the act of documenting history. Dan told me that he would probably document things at some point, but not at that moment.
Well, I'm pleased to report that Dan has started a new blog and one of his first postings was his version of the Symbolics vs. LMI competition. It directly refutes some of RMS's assertions and provides a good counterbalance to this controversy. I'm glad that Dan published his side of the story. Who you believe, well that's up to you. If you're an RMS fanboy, Dan's account of things is unlikely to change your mind. But at least history will record that there were two sides to the story.
As an aside, I'm glad Dan has started blogging in general. He struck me as a very smart cookie and I'll definitely be adding his RSS feed to my list. Whether he blogs often or not, I'm sure I'll be the better for reading his words.
Hat tip to Xach for noticing Dan's blog.
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