The Pitmanual
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MACLISP Manual Comes To The Web

by Kent M. Pitman

Internet, December 16, 2007—The Revised Maclisp Manual, originally published in hardcopy at MIT in 1983 as the Saturday Evening Edition, is now available on the web as the Sunday Morning Edition.

Nicknamed The Pitmanual, The Revised Maclisp Manual describes the programming language MACLISP, which ran on the DEC PDP-10 and Honeywell 6180/6880. This newly-updated Sunday Morning Edition features many editorial corrections, an enhanced hypertext index, and a Common Lisp Conversion guide that offers advice on upgrading old MACLISP programs to run in Common Lisp.

Click here to see an index.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) About MACLISP

Q. Why is the language called MACLISP? Does it run on the Macintosh?

A. MACLISP was developed at and named in honor of MIT's Project MAC, later known as the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science (LCS), which eventually became part of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). Project MAC was named for its conceptual relationship with “Multiple Access Computers” and “Machine-Aided Cognition”. Founded in 1963, more than two decades before the 1984 rollout of Apple Macintosh computers, Project MAC had nothing to do with the Apple "Mac". And neither did MACLISP.

Q. What did MACLISP run on?

A. MACLISP ran on the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) PDP-10 series (DEC10 and DEC20) machines under various operating systems, and on the Honeywell 6180/6880 under Multics.

Q. Why is this document called the Revised Maclisp manual?

A. The original of this document was called The Revised Maclisp Manual. It was preceded by another document, David A. Moon's Maclisp Manual, informally and affectionately referred to by the lisp community at MIT as the Moonual. The Moonual served as an important reference when creating this document, but this document was substantially different in presentational style, content, and scope. It has always bothered me when a newer document takes the name of an earlier document; it feels like historical revisionism. So I gave this document a slightly different name to allow Moon's older document to continue to be named unambiguously. It was George J. Carrette who insisted that The Revised Maclisp Manual needed a cute little shorthand name like the Moonual, and who started calling it The Pitmanual.

Q. How do The Pitmanual and the Moonual differ?

A. The Moonual had focused heavily on Multics Maclisp, while The Pitmanual was heavily oriented toward the PDP-10. The many differences between these machines and their associated operating systems reflected themselves as quite visible differences between the dialects that ran on the two machines. Also, because a number of years had passed between the writing of these two manuals, The Pitmanual was able to capture descriptions of a lot of that. The introduction of “New I/O” and the emergence of “Software File Arrays” (SFAs) are highly visible examples. And, finally, the manuals differ in personality. The Pitmanual presents not just technical data, but also offers (carefully separated) stylistic advice, something that was in short supply especially at that time.

Q. Why was the 1983 hardcopy edition called the Saturday Evening Edition, and why did the web version appear as the Sunday Morning Edition?

A. Names for successive drafts of the Revised Maclisp Manual were based on the idea of a one-week calendar (starting Monday) measuring progress toward completion. (Of course, the actual work took several years, so this was just a metaphor.) The Midweek Edition, for example was the draft that was thought to be half-done. As the week crept on, version names varied by day of week and time of day, leading up to a final edition that was intended to be the Sunday Morning Edition, complete with funnies. But, ultimately, there wasn't time to arrange that level of detailing for the print edition, and I needed to just push it out the door. So I decided to send it to press as the Saturday Evening Edition, reserving to myself the hope of finishing it properly some day. After more than two decades, this web edition finally completes my original vision for the document as it was intended to be, with all the bells and whistles; as such, this first web edition gets the long-reserved designation of Sunday Morning Edition.

In This Issue

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12
Chapter 13
Chapter 14
Chapter 15
Chapter 16
Chapter 17
Chapter 18
Chapter 19
Chapter 20
Chapter 21
Chapter 22
Chapter 23
Chapter 24
Chapter 25
Chapter 26
Common Lisp Conversion
Function Details
Meta Index
Master Index
Front Matter
Sunday Morning Credits
Legal Notices


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The Revised Maclisp Manual (Sunday Morning Edition)
Published Sunday, December 16, 2007 06:17am EST, and updated Sunday, July 6, 2008.
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