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Opening the Hood of a Word Processor (1984) [pdf] (worrydream.com)
85 points by happy-go-lucky on Feb 11, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

This was a very interesting read. For the past few months I've been thinking a lot about the possibility of a workstation operating system that operated like a Lisp machine (disclaimer: I never used a Lisp machine; Lisp machines were before my time) and promoted GUI software that could be composed of independent, interconnected parts (like Unix pipes for the GUI). Since S-expressions are functions, they can be composed just like how two Unix commands can be composed by pipes (one could think of a Unix command as a function). Then I discovered that Smalltalk implemented many of the things that I like about Lisp machines (for example, the debugging environment), and later I discovered that Apple worked on a component-based framework for GUI applications called OpenDoc. This led me to think: what if there were an operating system that was inspired by the Smalltalk-80 environment, had a REPL for command-line usage, and had an OpenDoc-like API for developing GUI apps.

While doing some more reading about this area, I stumbled across this wonderful comment originally posted as a response to Miguel de Icaza's 2012 article "What Killed the Linux Desktop) that was preserved on Hacker News (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13573373). To summarize, perhaps the Linux desktop would have been more competitive if it promoted an OpenDoc-style component-based GUI that fits with the Unix philosophy and is more amenable to the development patterns of free and open-source software, rather than trying to compete head-on against Windows and macOS by adopting Windows-esque and macOS-esque GUIs. This resonated with me.

I believe that despite the much discussed notion that desktop computing is waning in influence as smartphones and tablets became popular, there is still room for a workstation-quality operating system that allows us to flexibly customize our workflows, and that a Smalltalk or Lisp base combined with an OpenDoc-like API would be an excellent platform to facilitate such a platform. I would be very interested in working on such a project, but coming from a Unix systems software research background, I'm still familiarizing myself with the body of work on Smalltalk, Lisp machines, and OpenDoc.

> GUI software that could be composed of independent, interconnected parts (like Unix pipes for the GUI)

You should look into Plan9. I think it fits that description in some ways. (Disclaimer: I've never used Plan9 before)

@dang Is it possible to get Alan Kay’s attention on this topic? I am sure many interesting questions would be asked if Alan is available to answer some of them.

Don't know what you're seeing at that link, but it's blank (except for the standard HN layout) for me.

It's [dead]. If you want, you can set "showdead" to "yes" in your user settings to see links and comments that are [dead].

Can't see it either. Maybe it is his submission and he is shadowbanned.


Seems that way, check that with showdead on.

There was a problem with your account but it's fixed now.

In terms of linking to reposts, see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16344002 to avoid kerfuffles in the future.

Well, no comments there so it is pointless to link.

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