Re: 3.99.3

From: Perry E. Metzger <>
Date: Mon, 05 Oct 1998 15:05:32 -0400

Christopher Oliver writes:
> "Perry E. Metzger" <> writes:
> > I don't care *which* scheme gets pushed hardest, so long as the good
> > talent all starts hacking on and improving *it*. There aren't enough
> > of us to be able to support the Scheme of the Week phenomenon.
> Here, I completely disagree. If you look carefully, you find that
> each Scheme centers around one or two seminal thinkers in language
> design whether that be Jonathan Rees, Matthias Felleisen, Christian
> Queinnec or some other.

No slight meant to the developers, but who would those "seminal
thinkers" be in the cases of Guile, STk and Elk (three of the
versions I'm most interested in, because of their goals).

> These folk have definite ideas where they
> want to see things go. There is even division in the ranks of to
> R?RS group as I found when I discussed the print representation of
> the language with Kent Pitman. I do not believe resolving these
> things by political fiat is any way to promote this. Until there is
> a clear idea of technical correctness at a broad scale, homogeneity
> is a curse rather than a blessing. Were we unable to hack Lisp
> before CLTL or the ANSI draft?

The problem here is this: Lisp is dead. By that, I mean that its
"mindshare" is slipping. Ditto for scheme, although scheme is perhaps
somewhat more alive.

While we sit about looking for the "perfect" implementation of the
"perfect" scheme, people have to get work done, so the invent Perl,
and Java, and TCL, and the result is that tasks that scheme would be
perfect for are done by languages that are hardly as solid and
clean. By the time scheme becomes "perfect" and "technically correct
on the broad scale" twenty years hence, no one will care in the least.

Now, I'm not opposed to academics and researchers studying scheme
implementation issues by building fifty or even a thousand
interpreters provided they are learning something. What I am against
is the notion that the scheme community can meaningfully survive
without real implementations in use. By that, I mean that while we sit
around and note, as mathematicians do, "There exists a language scheme
for which it is possible to build a wonderful implementation that
everyone on earth would want to use", others, like the folks involved
with Java and Perl and Python, are out trying to solve the problems of
their actual users and do something -- the result of which is that
although we are assured it is "possible" to build a beautiful scheme
system that compiles fast, runs wonderfully, and would eliminate the
need for Perl or Java, we have yet to see one.

Everyone goes off into their own corner, assured that since we have
proofs of concept for the wonderous compilers and interpreters, we
need not actually bother creating useable ones for real world
needs. Everyone who isn't an academic goes off and writes their own
Perfect Scheme Interpreter, and thus we get twenty of them competing
for users and implementation development. The result is, of course,
that almost no one has heard of STk, very few have heard of Guile, and
monstrosities like Perl continue to grow like fungii.

If the scheme community finally wants to win, it is going to have to
accept the fact that inventing the perfect language is uninteresting
if it has no users, and that it might be better to help your neighbor
improve performance by a factor of two than to produce a fiftieth
scheme interpreter to be placed on the scheme repository FTP site and

Received on Mon Oct 05 1998 - 21:06:14 CEST

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