Re: Lisp, the secret weapon.

From: James Hong (
Date: Sat Apr 28 2001 - 17:11:21 PDT

Is lisp still taught in undergrad CS programs? I heard that at Berkeley,
they switched the first CS class from using lisp to java. Maybe the reason
viaweb was so fast in execution had nothing to do with being done in Lisp,
but rather it might have been because all the people who knew lisp well
enough also happened to be stellar programmers from MIT.

The problem with using lisp is that regardless of whether it is a "superior
language", it's not efficient to use unless you can hire enough people to
program in it, and that supply is surely limited.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeff Bone" <>
To: "Lisa Dusseault" <>
Cc: <>
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2001 4:03 PM
Subject: Re: Lisp, the secret weapon.

> Lisa Dusseault wrote:
> > Lisp may make better programmers, but that doesn't necessarily mean it
> > better programs.
> >
> > To take an example from Shaolin Wooden Man (I love martial arts movies,
> > particularly Jackie Chan), you can become a better fighter by walking
> > in lead shoes & carrying water up stairs in buckets with holes that make
> > run to get to the top before all the water runs out. But when the
> > ends, you lose those restraints and take the best tools you have, and
> > strength or technique you've built up is there for you.
> I think this analogy is very broken. Lisp doesn't make better programmers
> artificially handicapping them and forcing them to work around / through
> handicaps; rather, just the opposite. It provides an extremely cogent
> high-level language environment for doing programming in the most abstract
> possible. It teaches programmers to think abstractly about problems and
> task of programming itself.
> When I think about algorithms, I tend to think in something like Scheme
> some more overt ZF / ZFC set theory thrown in. I really believe Lisp /
> is the best tool out there for algorithm design, and certainly the best
> general metaprogramming tasks. Unf., it's *never* the best choice for a
> commercial endeavor, for entirely nontechnical reasons. James' Ariba
comment is
> sadly par for the course... I've been involved in three projects where
> initial work was done in a Lisp but which were forced to migrate to C/C++
> business reasons. Seen many, many others. The general attitude among
> technology marketers, investors, and so on seems to be that if you're
writing in
> a Lisp, you're doing a "science fair project" rather than building a
> jb

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