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What to do next
- To: fahlman at cmuc
- Subject: What to do next
- From: dlw at SCRC-TENEX, benson at SCRC-TENEX
- Date: Thu, 18 Aug 1983 15:54:00 -0000
- Cc: common-lisp at su-ai
Scott, I appreciated your summary of pending issues in Common Lisp, and
I certainly think we should proceed to work on these things. However, I
think that the "next things to do", after we get out the initial real
Common Lisp manual, are:
(1) Create a Common Lisp Virtual Machine specification, and gather a
body of public domain Lisp code which, when loaded into a proto-Lisp
that meets the spec, produces a complete Common Lisp interpreter that
meets the full language spec. (This doesn't address the portable
(2) Establish an official Common Lisp subset, suitable for
implementation on 16-bit microcomputers such as the 68000 and the 8088.
I understand that Gabriel is interested in 68000 implementations, and I
am trying to interest Bob Rorscharch (who implemented IQLISP, which is
an IBM PC implementation of a UCILISP subset) in converting his product
into a Common Lisp implementation.
There are a lot of problems with subsetting. You can't leave out
multiple values, beacuse several primitives return multiple values and
you don't want to omit all of these primitives (and you don't want to
discourage the addition of new primitives that return multiple values,
in future versions of Common Lisp). You can't leave out packages, at
least not entirely, because keywords are essential to many functions.
And many things, if removed, would have to be replaced by something
significantly less clean. We'd ideally like to remove things that (a)
can be removed without creating the need for an unclean simpler
substitute, and (b) aren't used by the rest of the system. In other
words, we have to find modular chunks to break off. And, of course,
any problem that works in the subset has to work and do exactly the
same thing in full Common Lisp, unless the program has some error
(in the "it is an error" sense). The decision as to what goes
in and what goes out should be made in light of the fact that
an implementation might be heavily into "autoloading".
Complex numbers can easily be omitted.
The requirement for all the floating point precisions can be
omitted. Of course, Common Lisp is flexiable in this regard anyway.
Rational numbers could be left out. They aren't hard, per se, but
they're just another thing to do. The "/" function on two integers
would have to signal an error.
Packages could be trimmed down to only be a feature that supplies
keywords; most of the package system might be removable.
Lexical scoping might possibly be removable. You could remove support
for LABELS, FLET, and MACROLET. You can't remove internal functions
entirely (i.e. MAPCAR of a lambda-expression can't be removed) but they
might have some restrictions on them.
Adjustable arrays could be removed. Fill pointers could go too,
although it's not clear that it's worth it. In the extreme, you could
only have simple arrays. You could even remove multi-D arrays
entirely, or only 1-D and 2-D.
Several functions look like they might be big, and aren't really
required. Some candidates: COERCE, TYPE-OF, the hard version
of DEFSETF (whatever you call it), LOOP,
TYPEP and SUBTYPEP are hard to do, but it's hard to see how
to get rid of the typing system! SUBTYPEP itself might go.
Multiple values would be a great thing to get rid of in the subset, but
there are the Common Lisp primitives that use multiple values. Perhaps
we should add new primitives that return these second values only, for
the benefit of the subset, or something.
Catch, throw, and unwind-protect could be removed, although they're
sure hard to live without.
Lots of numeric stuff is non-critical: GCD, LCM, CONJUGATE, the
exponentials and trascendentals, rationalize, byte manipulation, random
The sequence functions are a lot of work and take a lot of room in your
machine. It would be nice to do something about this. Unfortunately,
simply omitting all the sequence functions takes away valuable basic
functionality such as MEMQ. Perhaps the subset could leave out some of
the keywords, like :test and :test-not and :from-end.
Hash tables are not strictly necessary, although the system itself
are likely to want to use some kind of hash tables somewhere,
maybe not the user-visible ones.
Maybe some of the defstruct options could be omitted, though I don't
think that getting rid of defstruct entirely would be acceptable.
Some of the make-xxx-stream functions are unnecessary.
Some of the hairy reader syntax is not strictly necessary. The circular
structure stuff and load-time evaluation are the main candidates.
The stuff to allow manipulation of readtables is not strictly necessary,
or could be partially restricted.
Some of the hairy format options could be omitted. I won't go into
detail on this.
Some of the hairy OPEN options could go, although I'd hate to be the one
to decide which options are the non-critical ones. Also some of the
file operations (rename, delete, attribute manipulation) could go.
The debugging tools might be optional although probably they just
get autoloaded anyway.