Success Stories

Success Stories

The intelligent control system of IWRS (Integrated Water-Recovery System), part of which is written in Lisp, is used in NASA's Advanced Life Support System.

Remote Agent Experiment (RAX)
In May 1998 a software system was given command of a spacecraft for the first time in history. The RAX system was written in Common Lisp and flew on the Deep Space 1 technology demonstration spacecraft directed to an asteroid. RAX planned and executed mission activities based on high-level goals, and it was also able to detect, diagnose and fix simulated failures. It was co-winner of NASA's 1999 Software of the Year award.

Yahoo! Store
Viaweb, one of the most popular e-commerce sites, was started in 1995(?) and bought by Yahoo! for over $50(?) million in 1998. It is now known as Yahoo! Store. Its online store editor was written in Common Lisp. Paul Graham, one of Viaweb's founders, explains the advantages Lisp gave his company over competitors in the paper "Beating the Averages", and provides some technical details in "Lisp in Web-Based Applications". Later versions were rewritten in C++ and perl (a good example of Greenspun's Tenth Rule of Programming).

The K2 system at Nextra
Nextra is Norway's largest ISP, with a 70% market share in the Norwegian dialup market, and subsidiaries in Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Slovakia, UK, Austria and several other European countries. Nextra's core system for billing and customer service is, for the most part, written in Common Lisp and has proved to be very stable, flexible, scalable, and efficient. The powers of Common Lisp and CLOS reduced the implementation efforts and ensured flexibility. More information can be found in Espen Vestre's paper "The K2 System: Lisp at the Core of the ISP Business".

Visual Lisp for AutoCAD
Basis Software originally from Moskau, Russia sold their "Vital Lisp" system, an IDE with editor, compiler, debugger and project manager, based on the proprietary L++ lisp system which emulates the dynamic AutoLISP language, back in 1997 to Autodesk. They give it now for free to all AutoCAD users. Visual Lisp was a big success for their authors (probably similar to Paul Graham, but we have no numbers) and is the most widely used lisp system.

ITA Software
Here, Carl de Marcken of ITA Software talks about using Lisp for building a very demanding application, the QPX low fare search engine, as used by most of the major U.S. airlines, Orbitz, Bing!, Hotwire, and many other. As Paul Graham puts it, "It is a case study in cheap Linux/Intel, NT/Intel and Hpux boxes replacing mainframes, and also the use of Lisp and other languages in a server-based app." (only Linux/amd64/sbcl in use at this time)

Square USA
In Shooting a Moving Target, Shiro Kawai describes using lisp in a toolset for tracking the production database of the computer generated film, Final Fantasy. Another article, Tracking Assets in the Production of 'Final Fantasy : The Spirits Within', is an update of the "Shooting" paper, a kind of post-mortem of the experience.

Kenneth Dickey used XP (extreme programming) techniques with Lisp to achieve "the best code quality and the lowest development cost I have seen in 20 years of commercial software development".

Algorithm Software Engineering Services
Algorithm uses CL for custom software and knowledge systems. They have created lisp software for the successful projects:
  • GIPSY for electrical network design
  • CORAPS for power plant fuel reshuffling
  • OPA knowledge based disaster response system
  • IATOS generates configuration instructions
They also contribute free software and promote the evolutionary prototype methodology.

OpConsole (operations monitoring software, written for SoftwareRun)
At SoftwareRun, there was a need for an "operator console" software that was easy to use and gave good feedback on the current status of all software systems running. Since the available choices were either very expensive, did vastly more than needed or just didn't mesh well with the existing per-machine status-checking processes, it was decided to write a GUI-based status displayer. The main two reasons it was implemented in lisp was "rapid prototyping" and "can be upgraded run-time". This was seen as important by everyone involved.

OpConsole can currently be down-loaded from here.

The Regex Coach
"The Regex Coach" is a freeware application for Windows and Linux which can be used to test regular expressions interactively. It is based on the Common Lisp regular expression library CL-PPCRE and was built with Xanalys LispWorks. "The Regex Coach" got some very positive reviews and is, e.g., recommended in the ChangeLog of Opera 7 as well as the PHP online documentation. The program is currently (September 2003) downloaded about 5,000 times per month.
More success stories can be found on Franz's site and on Xanalys' site.