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Re: What is a lightweight language

On Wednesday, December 12, 2001, at 05:44 PM, Paul Graham wrote:

> Mike raised this question at LL1. The answer is OS
> connectivity and libraries, esp. string libraries.  People
> need those to write actual programs. Common Lisp and Scheme
> don't have them.  (Maybe some implementation thereof does,
> but the standards don't).
> For a big project like Viaweb, esp. when you have
> competitors snapping at your heels, it can be a win
> to use these more powerful languages.  But for smaller
> problems (and all problems start small) the best libraries
> win.
> [...]
> Lisp has a lot of latent power though.  The hypothesis of
> Arc is that all you have to do is add OS connectivity
> and the usual libraries to Lisp and you have a butt-kicking
> language.  (You may in fact get what Perl and Python become
> as t approaches infinity, modulo syntax.)
> [...]

This makes a lot of sense, but there *are* Lisps that have these 
kind of practical libraries in the core...PLT Scheme, Rep, and 
Guile all spring to mind, without really thinking hard. On the 
other hand, when Java was first released, it had a pretty miserable 
set of string-processing libraries, and very little in the way of 
system integration beyond basic byte-streams and JNI. Sun kept 
pushing it to businesses, though, and the libraries gradually 

I think the "killer app" argument works here, too, even if it's 
just an artifact of hype. To "average" programmers, Lisp is a 
language for AI, not for modern application development. Perl's 
high-visibility win has been CGI (despite the fact that CGI scripts 
can be written in almost any modern language), Python has Zope and 
great support for beginning programmers (again, not necessarily 
unique except in perception), and Java has J2EE and XML libraries 

So, if you're not going to dispose with the perceived dominance of 
any of these languages, what is the niche that Arc (or any new push 
to popularize Lisp) is going to fill? Can you really predict it, or 
is it just a matter of dumb luck to be in the right place, six 
months before (or a better-marketed) than the "also-rans"?

Lennon Day-Reynolds