Geoffrey Knauth's Road to Lisp

I, Geoffrey S. Knauth, do solemnly offer these my responses to The Road to Lisp Survey:

When did you first try Lisp seriously, and which Lisp family member was it?
I've been using Emacs Lisp since the mid-1980s. I used other Lisps occasionally over the years.

What led you to try Lisp?
When, in 1999-2002, I saw the kind of sophisticated applications at BBN that Ken Anderson, Renu Bostwick and Rusty Bobrow built with JScheme, I saw that I would want to write much less C and much more Lisp in my future. I should have taken the bait back in 1980 when Harry Lewis at Harvard showed us how to build a Lisp interpreter in AM110, but I'm afraid I was just a foolish kid at that age.

Where did your road originate?
I've been a C programmer since 1977, and I've built a lot of C programs. I've built C++ and Java programs too. A mix of Java and functional languages is where I see my future, with C used only sparingly. I've used almost every language imaginable since 1975.

How far have you gotten in your study of Lisp?
I get the major points. At this point is just a matter of continuing practice and refinement, like taking piano lessons. You don't become a master overnight.

What do you think of Lisp so far?
I think it's wonderful. The Lisp folks I've met are brilliant. The only difficulty I've had is in convincing managers that Lisp should get more emphasis than Java in development. All my Lisp projects have to be on the side. I get the feeling that when managers look at Java, they think "commodity programmers," and when they look at Lisp programmers, they think "expensive talent." So to win in the battle for Lisp, we have to show convincingly the overwhelming power of Lisp. We have to show how much smaller Lisp programs can be, how much better they can perform, and the magical things they do that procedural programming languages do less well.

Switch Date 2002

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