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Annotated Version of John McCarthy’s Paper on Lisp (fermatslibrary.com)
127 points by fermatslibrary on Nov 3, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 25 comments

Herbert Stoyan's historical work on early Lisp http://www.mcjones.org/dustydecks/archives/2010/07/29/185/ https://web.archive.org/web/20050617031004/http://www8.infor... is probably worth reading if one is seriously interested. (I haven't read much of it myself yet.) McCarthy praised Stoyan's work as better than his own 1979 HOPL paper ( http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/history/lisp/lisp.html ): "Stoyan's reading of the early LISP documents gives a more accurate picture than my own memories turned out to have given." http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/history/

(As a side-note, I'm pretty sure that the broken, Wayback-beating link to "Lisp references according to Miller" on McCarthy's page is to this http://www.ai.sri.com/~delacaze/alu-site/alu/table/Lisp-Hist... document by Kent Pitman and Brad Miller (see http://www.ai.sri.com/~delacaze/alu-site/alu/table/history.h... ).)

Beautiful, I often dig for lisp history but never heard of this.

Also, even though very subjective, I often conflat functional programming and lisp and recently found "some history of functional languages" by D.Turner which list the ml lineage nicely http://www-fp.cs.st-andrews.ac.uk/tifp/TFP2012/TFP_2012/Turn...

Dear fermatslibrary,

Every time I try to read an annotated paper on your site, I spent a full minute clicking the left margin and the paper, back and forth, trying to get a single view that shows all the annotations.

My monitor is huge and I like to read a whole document, top to bottom, by click-holding my scroll bar once and dragging (up and down) until I am done.

Hi daveloyall, Thanks for the feedback. We are probably going to release a new version of this interface in a few weeks. We are planning to have the sidebar always visible (once you click in a comment) and then update the comments while the user navigates the paper, so that you don't have to click in every comment.

Are the only ways to sign up (in order to contribute) either facebook or google?

Maybe the current setup wouldn't be so bad if not for the animation, which slides (jumps?) the document to the right every time I open an annotation.

Addendum: the animation is slow.

I do this too and then I eventually leave the site in frustration. I can't even see which pages have annotations until I explicitly close the sidebar. :(

I left because it brought up some modal popup wanting me to sign up for some mailing list.

Annoy-ware isn't appreciated.

The mailing list is quite good, it's one paper every week, and nothing else.

white-flame wasn't talking about the frequency or content of the mailing list. The annoying bit is the modal popup. Modal popups are rude.

I get a spam popup ad when I open this link. After closing it, when I click one "annotation" to be able to read it, it opens in a sidebar and all the others disappear. Closing the sidebar doesn't make them reappear. Reloading the page does, but as soon as I click on one inane annotation, all the others disappear again.

All in all, a very frustrating experience.

I recommend just downloading the original PDF instead: http://www-formal.stanford.edu/jmc/recursive.pdf

Then, you know you have the paper, and can share it with other people in the future, without some fly-by-night startup injecting spam popups or going under and invalidating the URL.

I was looking forward to reading insightful comments on this seminal paper. However I was disappointed by overall quality of the current annotations. Many are about how it translates to Clojure syntax (why not Common LISP or Scheme?). Others are trivialities like "apply and eval are the Maxwell's equations of lisp." I think fermatslibrary.com is a great idea, but this particular example does not do it justice.

My goal was to make the paper more approachable for people not comfortable with formal mathematics. I think the insight comes from understanding the paper directly.

Do you have an example of a comment, on this or another paper, that you found insightful?

I agree. The Clojure syntax comparisons are probably due to the popularity of that language, compared to Scheme or other Lisp dialects. Perhaps a comment section in addition to the annotations would provide more insightful discussions.

Yeah to many of us old timers, it feels strange when new FP afficionados only know about Clojure and Haskell like languages, without realising that we already were doing FP for a few generations even if the languages never became mainstream.

On the other hand, it is great that those people jump in with their new ideas and help the community go forward.

I had a chance to add the first few annotations. Happy to answer questions on the paper as best I can.

Paul Graham has a great take on this[1]. Someone should make a PDF from the postscript file and upload it somewhere.

[1] http://paulgraham.com/rootsoflisp.html

On a Mac, Safari converts the postscript to a PDF on the fly when you click on the postscript link in the article.

That's great!

Nice site.Good choices for papers.

The top border kind of smushes down on me sometimes. It would be nice if I could resize. Hm, and it doesn't seem to keep me logged in, so every time I connect it asks me to subscribe again.

Any chances that this nice tool will be open-sourced?

It would be really convenient to use it as an intra research group discussion on papers.

Hi md11235! We are thinking about allowing Fermat's Library to be used inside research groups as well. Shoot us an email with some more information about the use case you're envisioning so that we can set things up: team@fermatslibrary.com

It is a shame this work is relegated to mainly niche. Am i wrong for saying this?

Does Fermat's Library offer a printer-friendly version of the paper?

The paper is a classic. The annotations are rubbish.

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