[Openmcl-devel] bad impressions to Lisp newbies

Dan Weinreb dlw at itasoftware.com
Sun Apr 26 05:21:11 PDT 2009

Alexander Repenning wrote:
> I can see that for some experienced Lisp users perhaps the command
> line or SLIME may be fine but this simply does not work to attract new
> programmers at any meaningful level. CS students are used to Visual
> Studio and Eclipse these days.
There is a Lisp plugin for Eclipse called "cusp", which talks to the same
Swank backend as SLIME does.  It basically works but could stand
a lot of improvement.  I would love to see someone do this; I'm sorry
I can't do it myself.
> They would not even call the CCL IDE an IDE. There is something to be
> said for a simple IDE such as the one MCL supported. I
> have successfully gotten students interested in that one but I have
> NEVER seen a student getting into Lisp via command line/SLIME kinds of
> interfaces. Even most browsers, e.g., Safari, have built in IDEs with
> JavaScript REPL, breakpoints, object inspectors.
> If an IDE a non-essential gimmick why do you even use SLIME? Why not
> program with punch cards. I am not even sure where all this back to
> the basics comes from. Certainly not from Lisp. Lisp actually invented
> many of the great IDE concepts. Remember the Symbolics? What is this
> race to the bottom all about?
Not to mention that Warren Teitelman, who can be said to have invented
the whole concept of the IDE, was doing it in Lisp (InterLisp).
>>> I go to the example folder and pick them randomly, really.
>> Your criticism of the state of the demos may be valid or not (I haven't
>> tried them), but I think you should have prepared your demo better.
> I could have shown a nice Lisp demo on my machine but that was not the
> point.
I have to say that I'm quite surprised that the demos were in such bad
given the extremely high quality of excellence I see every day from Clozure.
>> Lisp communities are small and most projects often don't have enough
>> man-power (and/or varied system environments exposure) to keep all
>> aspects of their software in good shape, so it should become second
>> nature to prepare and double-check a demo before showing it to someone.
> Ask yourself: WHY are the Lisp communities so small? It is because
> Lisp has gotten a bad reputation suggesting that it is hard to use. 
> It may be some work to fix a non working example to be sure but I
> would claim it is better to hide broken stuff from new users.
I agree very strongly with both of these points.  In the medium-run,
it's valuable
for Clozure and others to aim their products at beginners as well as at
high-powered experienced users.  We all have to try to increase the size
of the Lisp user community.

If anyone hasn't seen my Drupal blog/forum at ilc2009.scheming.org, it
is intended to discuss the future of Lisp, and deals with some of these
kinds of issues.  I'd be grateful for anyone's participation.

-- Dan
> alex
>>  Leslie
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> Prof. Alexander Repenning
> University of Colorado
> Computer Science Department
> Boulder, CO 80309-430
> vCard: http://www.cs.colorado.edu/~ralex/AlexanderRepenning.vcf
> <http://www.cs.colorado.edu/%7Eralex/AlexanderRepenning.vcf>
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