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Re: Industry versus academia

On Monday 24 February 2003 08:27 pm, Sundar Narasimhan wrote:
> If you want to gain mind/market share, you have to drive platform
> standards, and you can't drive platform standards if you attempt to
> solve just one or two problems better than anyone else (even 100x
> better does NOT matter!).

The book "Computer Wars: The Fall of IBM and the Future of Global
Technology" by Ferguson and Morris (obligatory, too-long URL follows)

explores this incredibly important point in detail.  Basically, if you
own the standard, you can stay in business.  If you're chasing the
standard, you're dead.  All other considerations (e.g., technical
excellence) are irrelevant.

While it may be old news to you all, I found it concisely explained a
lot of computer history that I had previously (lacking any clearly
understood dynamics) chalked up to the General Perversity of the

> I therefore would venture that the so-called "advanced" languages are
> not so advanced after all.. if they force you back to "assembler days"
> to solve these other problems that they view as peripheral to their
> mission. And frankly -- I think we have enough new languages as it
> is.. why not just take Common Lisp and *fix* it! (Assembling the
> original Common Lisp standards drivers and calling it CL2 -- or Lisp++
> would be a great start).

It seems that all the "non-standard" languages, in order to achieve
more widespread acceptance, must spend a lot of effort making FFI
interfaces to the dominant "assembler languages" (C, C++) of the day.
JNI, UFFI, Boost Python, and the various SWIG back-ends all spring to

Is this because of the Law of Increasing Returns (you want to be able
to leverage the vast number of libraries written in the dominant
language)?  Is it because one is subtly pressured to by the
C-language-centric Unix/Windows OS?  Is it self-inflicted due to the
phenomenon that Sundar mentioned?

To relate these two threads (platform standards and the need for
"assembler"), are we better to try and:

(1) chase the standard language we don't "own" by attacking the
    FFI/assembler problem head-on, or

(2) come up with a different platform that we "owned?"  E.g., Sun's
    late, lamented, JavaOS; open source JOS (Java Operating System);
    PerlOS (I kid you not, try googling for it), Return of the Son of
    the Lisp Machine; etc.


==== John Morrison
==== MAK Technologies Inc.
==== 185 Alewife Brook Parkway, Cambridge, MA 02138
==== http://www.mak.com/
==== vox:617-876-8085 x115
==== fax:617-876-9208
==== jm@mak.com