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Elnode and the history of Lisp

A story with fewer beards than you might think

With some jumping around

this guy invents a language

John McCarthy ./jmcbw.jpg

it’s 1958 for God’s sake

it’s so exciting and powerful

Richard Greenblatt ./2-4.Greenblatt-Richard_Knight.1978.L02645385.MIT.lg.jpg


they decide to build a computer around it

the Knight machine ./453px-LISP_machine.jpg

this guy hates having his life ruined by the business

Richard Stallman ./stallman-1.jpg

meanwhile these guys invent UNIX

Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie ./Ken_n_dennis.jpg

UNIX runs on cheap commodity hardware

Ken and Dennis at a PDP-11 ./unix-machine.jpg

this guy and a bunch of other guys standardize Lisp

Richard Gabriel ./rpg.jpg


this guy uses CommonLisp to make the first web shop and get rich

Paul Graham ./paul.graham.jpg

this guy is so upset by what’s happened to hackers he starts the GNU project

Richard Stallman ./stallman-4.jpg

Stallman hopes to use Emacs from this guy

James Gosling ./james-gosling.jpg

but Gosling first agrees and then sells the code to someone else

Stallman is forced to write a Lisp version

Symbolics sells loads of Lisp Machines to Government and Big Business

Symbolics Lisp Machine ./303px-Symbolics3640_Modified.JPG

Genera, the most advanced operating environment ever

genera restore screen ./restore-distribution.gif

but soon this guy and his college chums

Scott McNealy ./mcnealy.jpg

make this “worse” better than Lisp Machines

Sun Workstation open ./746px-Sun100U_Cardcage.jpg

one of the Lisp Machine companies survives to employ this guy

Jamie Zawinski ./jamie.jpg

who goes on to make this

Netscape Navigator ~/work/elnode-talk/Netscape_3_.png

which implements a riff on ideas in Lisp by this guy


Sir Tim Berners Lee ./400px-Tim_Berners-Lee_closeup.jpg

and includes a language which was changed from Lisp in a weekend by this guy

Brendan Eich ./BEich.jpg

this is gosling shitting on lisp AGAIN

his language has such hype they have to call the new language “javascript”

meanwhile this guy has built a movement around GNU

Richard Stallman ./stallman-5.jpg

this guy has made a kernel for it

Linus Torvalds ./torvalds_linus.jpg

no one uses Lisp anymore but they do use Emacs

Mark Zuckerberg ./mark_zuckerberg.jpg

meanwhile this guy users EmacsLisp as inspiration for Ruby

Yukihiro Matsumoto ./matz.jpg

Ruby becomes crazy popular because of this guy’s Rails web thing

DHH ./heinemeier.jpg

and this guy’s insistance that it be easy for people

_why? ./why.jpg

the web has lots of scaling problems, this guy thinks Lisp is the answer

Rich Hickey ./richhickey.jpg

this guy finally steps down as Emacs maintainer

Richard Stallman ./stallman-6.jpg

Lisp starts getting popular again, as if the old guard are compost

John McCarthy ./jmcbw.jpg

this guy invents an xml beater based on a language based on lisp

Doug Crockford ./crockford.png


some guy gets a Gazillion $ on KickStarter for pitching Emacs

Light Table ./lighttabletable.png

no one notices

relatedly this guy invents a new way of doing web, exploiting latency

Ryan Dahl ./dahl.jpg

finally this guy makes EmacsLisp do the same thing node.js does

Nic Ferrier ./nicferrier.jpg


Emacs achieves hipster nirvana

Hipster ./hipster.jpg