[Openmcl-devel] The M1 port and the future of CCL

peter p2.edoc at gmail.com
Fri Nov 24 01:58:19 PST 2023

Having no offspring, if I won the lottery, I'd use the money to make some
entity that could fund CCL such that it could chase after fickle OSX
indefinitely (IDE included). And make a statue to Gary B.
- Peter

On Wed, Nov 22, 2023 at 7:35 PM Ron Garret <ron at flownet.com> wrote:

> Tim McNerny and I had a long discussion on the future of CCL this morning
> and I wanted to write up some of the things we talked about and solicit
> feedback from the community.
> I have been using CCL since the first C stood for Coral.  My first CCL ran
> on a Mac Plus with 1 MB of RAM and an 800k floppy drive.  That was nearly
> 30 years ago, and I've been using it more or less continuously ever since,
> both in professional setting and for my personal projects.  I have a lot
> invested in it.
> For me personally, there are three main sources of value in CCL:
> 1.  The IDE and MacOS integration.  When it first came out, CCL blew
> everything else out of the water, and IMHO it's still the best available.
> I really like having an editor that is well integrated into the Mac UI/UX
> that I can customize in CL rather than elisp, and I really like being able
> to develop native Mac applications interactively using the ObjC bridge and
> Cocoa integration.
> 2.  Seamless and reliable migration to production environments.  I can run
> the exact same code in a Linux production environment as on my Mac
> development machine.  That allows me to have very high confidence that
> things will Just Work when I push production code.  CCL is also
> rock-solid.  I run server processes in CCL that run for months without
> needing any attention.
> 3.  The compiler is blazingly fast, and the code it produces is plenty
> fast enough for my needs.  On the rare occasions when I need peak
> performance, I'll write some C code and call it via the FFI.  And on very,
> very rare occasions I can actually tweak the compiler if I really need to.
> The problem, of course, is that the Mac environment is and always has been
> a moving target.  CCL successfully made the transition from MC68k to PPC to
> x86 to x86-64, and now we're facing ARM64.  Unfortunately, the processor
> architecture is not the only thing that is moving this time.  The MacOS
> architecture is also undergoing significant changes away from its unix
> roots and becoming more like iOS.  AFAICT the writing is on the wall for
> Objective C.  Swift is the future on Macs.  And more generally, Apple as a
> company just doesn't value stability, and never has.
> This is not necessarily a bad thing.  Apple's willingness to jettison old
> standards is one of the things that allows them to stay at the cutting
> edge.  I really like my M1 Macbook Air.  More importantly, my wife likes
> her M1 Macbook Air.  I can't see her switching over to Linux, and being on
> the same environment as she is on has significant advantages when it comes
> time to put on my domestic tech support hat.
> So on the one hand, I would really love to see CCL continue to be a viable
> development environment for me.  On the other hand, I'm really starting to
> wonder whether it's really worth the effort.  Even if we manage to port the
> compiler and kernel to the M1, the ObjC bridge and IDE will probably need
> some significant additional work, and some day we will probably need a
> Swift bridge.  And God only knows what will happen in ten years.  For a
> system that has been useful for 30 years, that is a time horizon that
> matters.
> All of which has led to wonder if a better long-term solution for me might
> be to go to a different CL implementation.  I've tried SBCL and ECL on the
> M1 and both seem to work quite well, though I have not leaned very hard on
> either one.  ECL is particularly attractive because it generates C code, so
> porting it to a new processor architecture is a lot easier than a native
> compiler.  That is potentially a big win if one's goal is long-term
> stability.
> I'm putting this out there because CCL is still at a crossroads.  Is it
> really worth trying to keep it alive?  Is there a bit enough user community
> to make it worthwhile?  What does that community want?  I would love to see
> CCL continue, but it's far from clear that porting it is the path of least
> resistance to my own personal goals.  It might be better for me to use ECL
> or SBCL and Emacs/Slime, or maybe try to port Hemlock directly to one of
> those implementations, maybe work on an ECL/Swift bridge, or something like
> that.
> I'm very much hoping that the answer will turn out to be that yes, it's
> worth keeping CCL alive.  But at the moment it is not clear to me, and it's
> particularly unclear whether just porting the compiler will be useful by
> itself without bringing the rest of the system along as well.
> Thoughts?
> rg
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