Jason (jcreed) wrote,
Jason
jcreed

Talk by J Strother Moore this morning about ACL2. I find it fascinating how some software projects have been very long-lived: ACL2 is one of them, dating from the late 80s in its current incarnation, and from the early 70s if you count its predecessor Nqthm. What is it about the other seemingly-immortal projects and systems in computer science? Things like unix and C and lisp and TeX: surely "Worse Is Better" cannot be the whole story, because lisp is held up as the epitome of the "MIT style" rather than the "New Jersey style" (that unix and C participate in) and I think arguably the design and implementation of TeX also represents at least some of the bullet points of the "do the right thing" spirit, e.g. Knuth's relentless bug-hunting.

"Worse is Better" is what distinguishes unix and C on the one hand from lisp and TeX on the other, but what distinguishes (unix, C, lisp, TeX) from everything else that's fallen by the wayside in the last few decades? Does Java participate in it? It certainly seems awfully hard to kill by now, but somehow we got to this historical point --- where the mass of mindshare and library inertia behind Java seems hard to quickly give up --- from the historical point where Java was just some fiddly little research language that nobody used.
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