Lets LISP like it's 1959 - talk by Kristoffer Gronlund

One of my favorite papers in computer science is the original LISP paper by John McCarthy. Written in 1959, it describes something mind-bending: The interpreter for a language in the language that it interprets. If you understand this paper, you understand how computation works.

A few years ago, I decided to implement the interpreter described in the paper, and this project turned out to be surprisingly popular. In this presentation, I’ll show how to implement the original LISP interpreter in C, and together we will marvel at its elegance.


Lisp machines were popular in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Since you can get a PDP 10 for the PI,
I expect them to be out soon for the PI as well. No need to emulate for a real lisp machine:)
Was not the PDP-6 designed for Lisp?

(Moderator note: transplanted from the BCPL thread where it looked out of place.)

It depends on what you call a “Lisp Machine”. The computers that were designed with that name at MIT were created as an alternative to the PDP-10 so that individual workstations could be used instead of time-sharing.

But the PDP-10 was indeed Lisp-friendly due to being able to store two addresses in a single word. The problem was that these addresses were too small (18 bits), so the new Lisp Machines had generous 24 bit addresses (that should be enough for everybody, right?).

1 Like