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frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair

Regular blog here, 'microblog' there

Many of my traditional blog post live on this site, but a great majority of my social-style posts can be found on my much-busier microbloging site at updates.passthejoe.net. It's busier because my BlogPoster "microblogging" script generates short, Twitter-style posts from the Linux or Windows (or anywhere you can run Ruby with too many Gems) command line, uploads them to the web server and send them out on my Twitter and Mastodon feeds.

I used to post to this blog via scripts and Unix/Linux utilities (curl and Unison) that helped me mirror the files locally and on the server. Since this site recently moved hosts, none of that is set up. I'm just using SFTP and SSH to write posts and manage the site.

Disqus comments are not live just yet because I'm not sure about what I'm going to do for the domain on this site. I'll probably restore the old domain at first just to have some continuity, but for now I like using the "free" domain from this site's new host, NearlyFreeSpeech.net.

Sun, 25 Feb 2018

The Symbolics Lisp Machine was a real thing

I came across this fascinating article from LispODROID, Ergonomics of the Symbolics Lisp Machine - Reflections on the Developer Productivity, about an actual computer where the systems software and applications are coded in Lisp, with the machine's primary use case appearing to be coding more things in Lisp.

Here's a picture of one model of the Symbolics Lisp Machine, which the article says was sold between 1981 and 1993:

A Symbolics Lisp Machine

Being somewhat fascinated by Lisps (including Scheme) and Clojure), I was interested.

A look at the Wikipedia page for Symbolics told me that while the company was headquartered in Cambridge and later Concord, Massachusetts, it made the Symbolics Lisp Machine in the San Fernando Valley community of Chatsworth, long known as a home to warehouses and manufacturing facilities. (Also pornography. But that's pretty much the whole Valley then and now, but especially then.) The Chatsworth facility closed in July 2005.

In the beginning, Symbolics Lisp Machines cost $70,000. Each. In 1980s money.

Among the other tidbits: Symbolics.com is the first-ever registered .com domain. (It might be the first domain name of any kind ever registered, but that seems like a harder claim to prove.)

Symbolics was born at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Lab, and a desire to keep the Lisp code away from another MIT-launched company, Lisp Machines Inc., led MIT's Richard Stallman to create the free software movement.

I guess more than anything I'm fascinated by computer systems that really went their own way in terms of conception, design and philosophy. You can code in Lisp today on pretty much any computer, but a Lisp Machine? That's something you don't here about today in our Unix/Windows/nothing-else world.

Some other links:

I reserve the right to add to this article.