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I like you analysis, and think it explains very well why EQUAL has the 
peculiar semantics that it now has.

How would you feel about extending EQUAL to descend defsturct structures
and T-type arrays?  it wouldn't mess up its utility for its original 
purpose, and would satisfy an enormous number of Lisp users.  Of course, 
EQUAL type hashtables would work with this new definition.

As we have often said, EQUALP went a little bit too far -- because of
ignoring representation type on numbers and character case in strings.
I think there should be an EQUALP type hashtable as long as there's
an EQUALP function; but a satisfactorily extended EQUAL function might
make it less of pressing issue.

-- JonL --