Lisp machines

This page is intended as a catalog of web-accessible information about Lisp Machines. Please submit your comments and links. Before you submit a link, do check the meta-pointers. This page is the product of your suggestions for incremental improvement; I no longer have the time to keep it up-to-date all by myself. I especially want to acknowledge Daniel Weinreb and Brian Mastenbrook for their comments.

Image from Markus Fix. Read his blog.



These are some websites that have a lot of Lisp Machine related content.

The CONS and the CADR

In the beginning there was the AI lab, which mostly ran general purpose PDP-10 minicomputers with the Maclisp implementation of Lisp. Their story has been told elsewhere; here, I will just say that they developed the original CONS Lisp Machine as well as the CADR. The CADR technology was subsequently licensed to Symbolics and to Lisp Machine, Inc. (LMI). The period during which the Lisp Machine was a publicly funded AI lab project is particularly interesting, because there are detailed documents available that cover not only user-level documentation, but also design considerations.

Lisp Machine, Inc.

LMI maintained very close relations with the AI lab; it is often hard to say whether a document comes out of LMI or MIT, and some LMI stuff might be found among the CADR documentation. After selling CADRs for a while, LMI developed the Lambda. Just before they folded, they built the K-machine, which was quite radically different from the original Knight Machine in that it was based on the "RISC" philosophy of microprocessor design.

Symbolics, Inc.

Of the two companies that the Lispm technology was licensed to, Symbolics was the most succesful. The fact that some of the following documents are patents is quite typical of Symbolics. Many interesting innovations came out of Symbolics, most notably in the areas of GUIs and graphics.

The Exploder

The Texas Instruments (TI) Explorer and MicroExplorer are derived from the LMI machines.

Interlisp Machines

These mostly came out of Xerox, although I think they have also been sold by Siemens. I know relatively little about them; the following links are courtesy of Brian Mastenbrook, who wrote: "I saw your excellent Lisp Machines resource page off of lemonodor, and I don't see anything about the Xerox InterLisp machines at all. These machines have been kind of forgotten over the past decade, due to the (nil) market favor of InterLisp; however, they spawned many important things, not the least being CLOS and PCL. InterLisp-D ran as one system on the Dorado series of Xerox workstations, which were sold re-labled as the 1108. These machines also hosted the famous Xerox Office Environment and the Smalltalk environment. The following papers and links should be a good addition to your collection..."

Other Lisp Machines

In this section I can't claim too much expertise; there have been a large number of Lisp machine designs not derived from the Knight architecture. Undoubtedly, some of them were brilliant, and as time goes on I would love to extend this section with more information. If you know of any information on the web about these machines, please feel free to contribute. (This holds for documents on other types of Lisp machines too, by the way.)

Rise and Fall of the Lisp Machine

A lot has been written about the rise and fall of Lisp, the Lisp Machine and Symbolics. These are some of the pages you may want to refer to. Some of them are at best tangential, but may be useful in trying to understand the social and business aspects of the Lisp Machine era.

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