Dick Gabriel on A Lot More Than Lisp

If you love programming, and especially if you love programming languages, there’s an episode of the Software Engineering Radio podcast that has a fantastic interview with Dick Gabriel, titled “Dick Gabriel on Lisp”. If you don’t know who Gabriel is, he’s arguably one of the more important programming language people around, is one of the founding fathers of XEmacs (neé Lucid Emacs), wrote the famous Worse is Better essay (along with a pretty cool book that I’ll personally recommend), and also gave one of the most surreal and brilliant keynotes that I’ve ever heard that received a standing ovation at HoPL III and OOPSLA.

The episode’s about fifty minutes long, and Gabriel talks about a lot more than just Lisp in the interview: among other things, he gives some major insight into the essence of object-oriented message-passing, how functions are objects and objects are functions, what continuations are, metacircularity, and the relationship between XML and S-expressions (and why XML is just a glorified half-assed version of Lisp). There’s also some great stories in the interview for computing historians: how the Common Lisp Object System was initially inspired by Scheme and the original Actor language (yep, “actors” as in “Erlang processes”), what AI research was like in the 1960s and ’70s, and the story of how John McCarthy and his students implemented the first Lisp interpreter in one night.

A wonderful interview, and well worth listening to if programming languages is your shindig.

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