I haven't read Gabriel's book; but I was drawn to your remarks. You
> might be of interest.
> 〈Lisp Celebrities and Computing History from Worse Is
> Lisp Celebrities and Computing History from Worse Is Better
> Xah Lee, 2011-07-24
> I just discovered the identies of 2 semi-fictional character in lisp
> There's a infamous article, known as Worse is Better. Very popular in
> the 1990s, and still so among lisp circles. The article is:
> The Rise of “Worse is Better” (1991) By Richard P Gabriel. @
> In the article, there's this passage:
> Two famous people, one from MIT and another from Berkeley (but
> working on Unix) once met to discuss operating system issues. The
> person from MIT was knowledgeable about ITS (the MIT AI Lab operating
> system) and had been reading the Unix sources. He was interested in
> how Unix solved the PC loser-ing problem. The PC loser-ing problem
> occurs when a user program invokes a system routine to perform a
> lengthy operation that might have significant state, such as IO
> buffers. If an interrupt occurs during the operation, the state of the
> user program must be saved. Because the invocation of the system
> routine is usually a single instruction, the PC of the user program
> does not adequately capture the state of the process. The system
> routine must either back out or press forward. The right thing is to
> back out and restore the user program PC to the instruction that
> invoked the system routine so that resumption of the user program
> after the interrupt, for example, re-enters the system routine. It is
> called PC loser-ing because the PC is being coerced into loser mode,
> where loser is the affectionate name for user at MIT.
> The MIT guy did not see any code that handled this case and asked
> the New Jersey guy how the problem was handled. The New Jersey guy
> said that the Unix folks were aware of the problem, but the solution
> was for the system routine to always finish, but sometimes an error
> code would be returned that signaled that the system routine had
> failed to complete its action. A correct user program, then, had to
> check the error code to determine whether to simply try the system
> routine again. The MIT guy did not like this solution because it was
> not the right thing.
> The New Jersey guy said that the Unix solution was right because
> the design philosophy of Unix was simplicity and that the right thing
> was too complex. Besides, programmers could easily insert this extra
> test and loop. The MIT guy pointed out that the implementation was
> simple but the interface to the functionality was complex. The New
> Jersey guy said that the right tradeoff has been selected in Unix --
> namely, implementation simplicity was more important than interface
> I discovered, that the MIT guy is Daniel Weinreb, and the New Jersey
> guy is Bill Joy.
> I discovered this from Daniel's blog. The “Worse is Better” idea and
> the future of Lisp (2009-06-07) By Daniel Weinreb. @ Source
> The Worse Is Better is a characterization of software success. It is a
> seminal article, and in my opinion one of the best essay on the topic.
> See also: The Nature of the Unix Philosophy.
> When you look at computing history, many well-known figures had
> various connections. Daniel and Gabriel are both from the lisp circle.
> There are many blogs i've written in the past involving these
> programing celebrities from my diggings of computing history,
> especially involving lisp, emacs, unix. Following is a summary.
> • I do a lot provocative writings. Around 2000, one time Richard P
> Gabriel made some posts to comp.lang.lisp, and i criticized one of his
> post about software engineering. He politely asked what's my opinion.
> See: What and Why of Math. (this is the period when i was reading
> comp.lang.lisp mostly for Erik Naggum's posts. See: Death of a Troll —
> My Memory of Erik Naggum ◇ Why do I Rant In comp.lang.lisp? )
> • My review of Richard Gabriel's 1996 book. It's quite scathing. Book
> Review: Patterns of Software.
> • Sometimes in 2007, lisp cons cropped up again in comp.lang.lisp. I
> usually attack it to no ends. Daniel kindly asked what's my objection
> to lisp's cons. Here's my reply among other meandering rants on lisp's
> cons: Lisp's List Problem. See also: Programing Language: The Glory of
> Lisp's cons.
> • Bill Joy, is a founder of Sun Microsystems, and is the author of vi.
> (See: Emergency vi (vi tutorial)) In 2000, he wrote a popular essay
> titled “Why the future doesn't need us”. I wrote a blog about it:
> Futuristic Calamity.
> For how vi's keys began, in particular the H J K L keys for cursor
> movement, see: Keyboard Hardware's Influence on Keyboard Shortcut
> In GNU Emacs Manual, it began thus:
> Emacs is the extensible, customizable, self-documenting real-time
> display editor. This is the Sixteenth edition of the GNU Emacs Manual,
> updated for Emacs version 23.3.
> Wonder why it calls itself “real-time display editor”? Why “real-
> time”? Why “display”? And how vi's “modal” operation came to be? See
> bottom of: GNU Emacs and Xemacs Schism, by Ben Wing.
> • Both Daniel and Gabriel are emacs users, of course, and it is a
> major cause of RSI. Daniel has mentioned how emacs's keys began, to a
> article i posted in a newsgroup post. Search for “daniel” in: Why
> Emacs's Keyboard Shortcuts Are Painful.
> • In discussing how emacs keybinding came to be, Daniel mentioned Guy
> Steele (most famous for being the co-inventor of Scheme Lisp.). See:
> Guy Steele on Parallel Programing: Get rid of cons!.
> • Jamie W Zawinski (JWZ) is hired by Gabriel to work in his company
> Lucid Inc, and one of the product is a IDE based on emacs, which
> eventually became XEmacs when the company disbanded. It was JWZ who's
> responsible for spreading the article Worse Is Better. (Since the
> beginning of the web (~1994), the most popular website that hosted the
> “Worse Is Better” article is JWZ's website. Only till ~2007 that
> Gabriel started to have a website and hosted his own article.).
> Most of today's programers might have heard of Jamie, if you've heard
> one of them at all. He's the star back in Netscape days (1990s). He's
> one of the more provocative types and writes non-stop. There are
> plenty articles in mainstream media written about him. Richard
> Stallman, blames Jamie as the one who cause the emacs vs xemacs
> schism. Both Jamie and Stallman suffered severe RSI due to emacs.
> Celebrity Programers with RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury)
> Internet History, Netscape, Dot Com, Code Rush
> GNU Emacs and Xemacs Schism, by Ben Wing
I think perhaps you are conflating 'successful' and 'good' here. It
looks as if Richard is talking about the former and your remarks are
directed to the latter.
OFF TOPIC: it is my understanding that PL/I has flown, to a certain extent.
I know the language to a certain extent, and I don't dislike it. It is
somewhat of a fashion thing to criticize the PL/I. Like wearing miniskirts
simply because everyone else does. (The quintessential example of a
PS. and one more note: Xah Lee wrote very well about the history of
LISP/AI/functional programming, to my opinion.