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Presentation: The Evolution of Lisp


In this presentation recorded at OOPSLA 2008, Guy L. Steele Jr. and Richard P. Gabriel reenact their presentation called “The Evolution of Lisp” which took place during ACM History of Languages Conference in 1993.

Watch: The Evolution of Lisp (43 min.)

Steele and Gabriel present how Lisp developed over the years. They wrote a paper on Lips’ evolution (PDF) which represents the basis for their presentation. They came up with the following chart which made people laugh both in 1993 and in 2008:



     Black arrows – direct relationships between various Lisp implementations

     Magenta arrows – represent a significant influence on Lisp implementations

     Red rectangles - various LISP implementations

     Green ovals – languages specifications for languages that do not belong to the Lisp family, but were included because of their influence on the language

     Blue ovals – languages specifications within the Lisp family

     Cyan rectangles – official standards projects (ANSI, ISO)

The presentation covers the evolution of the main Lisp families, LISP 1.5, MacLisp, IBM Lisp, Interlisp, and continues with machines used to run Lisp, the development of Common Lisp, Scheme Extended Family, the influence of OO, Lambda Calculus and FORTRAN on Lisp, and figures who played a major role in developing the language.

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Community comments

  • Richard Gabriel

    by Alex Miller,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    If you're interested in seeing Richard Gabriel speak, he'll be doing a keynote (as will Rich Hickey) at the upcoming Clojure/West conference in San Jose March 16-17th, 2012.

  • Disappointing Video

    by Richard Eng,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    I have to say, I did not find the video satisfactory. First of all, why is it such poor resolution? High Definition had been available for many years before OOPSLA 2008. They couldn't afford a better video camera?

    Second, who was the videographer? They didn't seem very skilled. The projection screen wasn't always in view and I'm sure we missed some details. Camera work was very poor.

    Third, an encore of a 1993 presentation seemed lazy. They couldn't have produced something more up-to-date? Nothing significant happened between 1993 and 2008?

    As a celebration of 50 years of Lisp, I found this insipid. Lisp deserves better.

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