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Other resources for the history of LISP

by Paul McJones last modified 2017-01-03 22:29


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LISP in education and research

  • Günther Görz. Die Verwendung von LISP an wissenschaftlichen Rechenzentren in der BRD. IAB Nr. 63, Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg Rechenzentrum, Dezember 1976. PDF

    This is a report of a survey on the use of LISP in scientific computing centers in Germany as of 1976.

  • Jerome Chailloux. 1978. The use of LISP at computer centers in Western Germany. Lisp Bulletin, Issue 2, (July 1978), 10-13. ACM DL PDF at ArtInfo-MusInfo

    "A summary of G. GÖRZ 'Die Verwendung von LISP an wissenschaft-lichen Rechenzentren in der BRD', IAB Nr 63, Universität Erlangen-nürnberg, Rechenzentrum, Dez. 76."

  • Vaughan Pratt. LISP - An Amicus Curiae Brief. Memo to Ad Hoc Committee on Educational Computing Resources, Massachussetts Institute of Technology, January 10, 1977, 35 pages. PDF

    "To the complexity of building a single interface between people, machines, and problems, which has made this brief so long."




Papers and books about the history of LISP

  • John McCarthy. History of Lisp. Proceedings of the first ACM SIGPLAN conference on history of programming languages, ACM DL Online at Stanford ; appears in: R. Wexelblat, editor. History of Programming Languages. ACM Monograph Series, Academic Press, 1981.
  • John McCarthy. LISP – notes on its past and future. Proceedings of the 1980 ACM conference on LISP and functional programming, Stanford University, California, pages v-viii. ACM DL Online at
  • Herbert Stoyan. Lisp History. LISP Bulletin #3, December 1979, pages 44-55. ACM DL PDF at
  • Herbert Stoyan. LISP-Anwendungsgebiete, Grundbegriffe, Geschichte [LISP Application, Basic Concepts, History]. [In German.] Akademie Verlag, Berlin 1980. Portions appear online at
    • 1. Einführung in die LISP-Programmierung HTML
    • 2. Anwendungsgebiete von LISP. HTML
    • 3. Charakteristische Bestandteile der Begriffswelt von LISP. HTML
    • 4. Die Geschichte der Programmiersprache LISP [The History of the LISP Programming Language]. HTML

      Covers the original development and then the spread of Lisp via other implementations around the world.

    • 5. Beschreibung wichtiger LISP-Systeme. HTML
    • Bibliography. (Updated through 1988.) HTML
  • Herbert Stoyan. Lisp History. Online at via Internet Archive
  • Stanley T. Shebs. Implementing Primitive Datatypes for Higher Level Languages. Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Utah, 1988. PDF
  • Chapter 2 (Review of Data Structure Designs) summarizes some 51 implementations of Lisp, from LISP I to SIOD Scheme (as well as a variety of other languages).

  • Kent M. Pitman, editor. History. Section 1.1.2, ANSI Common Lisp. Online at
  • Guy L. Steele, Jr. and Richard P. Gabriel. The evolution of Lisp. Proceedings of the second ACM SIGPLAN conference on History of programming languages, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1993, pages 231-270.
  • Arthur Norman. Thirty Years of Lisp Support for REDUCE. In Proceedings of the A3L 2005, April 3-6, Passau, Germany Conference in Honor of the 60th Birthday of Volker Weispfenning, Books on Demand.
  • Frans J. Faase. The origin of CAR and CDR in LISP. Web site. Summarizes a thread on alt.folklore.computers with email follow-ups; includes contributions by Steve Russell, Alan Kotok, and Peter Samson, circa 2005. Online at
  • C. Herzeel, editor. Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Lisp (Nashville, Tennessee, October 20 - 20, 2008). LISP50. ACM, New York, NY.
    • Richard P. Gabriel and Guy L. Steele. A pattern of language evolution. ACM DL
    • JonL White and Nickieben Bourbaki. From massively monster machines to microchips: forces affecting Lisp language design for five decades. ACM DL
    • Herbert Stoyan. Lisp 50 years ago. ACM DL
    • Warren Teitelman. History of Interlisp. ACM DL
    • Kent M. Pitman. Common Lisp: the untold story. ACM DL
    • William D. Clinger. Scheme@33. ACM DL
  • David Walden and Raymond Nickerson, editors. A Culture of Innovation: Insider Accounts of Computing and Life at BBN. Waterside Publishing, East Sandwich, MA, 2011, 559 pages. Online at

    The book discusses BBN-LISP (Interlisp), the Tenex operating system, and much more.


Biographies, interviews and oral histories

  • William Aspray, interviewer. Oral History of John McCarthy. OH 156. 2 March 1989, Palo Alto, California. Charles Babbage Institute, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. Online at
  • Joel Moses. My Life, 1995, 339 pages. PDF at
  • Gardner Hendrie, interviewer. Oral History of Richard Greenblatt. Recorded January 12, 2005 in Boston, Massachusetts. Computer History Museum. Online at
  • Thomas Haigh, interviewer. Oral History of Phyllis Fox. Recorded June 7 and 8, 2005 in Short Hills, New Jersey. Discussion of Lisp project starts on page 28. Online at
  • Arthur Norberg, interviewer. Oral History of Paul Abrahams. October 15, 16, and 17, 2007, Deerfield, MA. ACM DL
  • Al Kossow, interviewer. Oral History of Steve Russell. August 9, 2008, Mountain View, CA. Computer History Museum. Online at
  • Celebration of John McCarthy's accomplishments. Stanford University, March 25, 2012. Videos and text at


Lisp periodicals

  • LISP Bulletin. Volume 1.
  • Lisp Pointers. Edited by Mary S. Van Deusen (Volumes I - V) and Jon L. White (Volumes VI - VIII). ACM DL
    • Volumes I and II (April-May 1987 - January-June 1989). "Community-supported" with free subscriptions and sponsorship by IBM, INRIA, Xerox PARC, MCC, Texas Instruments, Digital Equipment Corporation, Mitre Corporation, ACM SIGPLAN, Sun Microsystems, and Lucid, Inc.
    • Volume III Issue 1 (July 1989) through Volume VIII Issue 2 (May-August 1995). Technical publication of ACM SIGPLAN.
    "During the very successful 'Lisp Conference' at MIT in 1986 (> 600 attendees) Mary van Deusen approached me and described a rather simple plan for starting up a journal and getting it escalated up into SIGPLAN's repertoire of newsletters. Using my connections with the Lisp vendors (who supplied the money on a rotating basis) and also with a wide circle of Lisp 'literati' who would write papers (some effectively even became columnists) we had an instant 'hit' in the first year." [JonL White, personal communication to Paul McJones, 8/27/2008]
  • Lisp and Symbolic Computation, 1988 - 1998. Online at SpringerLink Bibliography at DoCIS


Archival collections

  • Edmund C. Berkeley Papers, 1928-1988, Charles Babbage Institute, CBI 50. Finding aid at
    • #20:LISP, 1964-1970. (Box 4, folders 45-68; Box 5, folders 1-57; Box 6, folders 1-56; Box 7, folders 1-4) [notes from Dan Bobrow class, articles, memos, correspondence and computer printouts on LISP and Miniature LISP (LIMP) Primer development by ECB and Mike Levin]
    • #24: LISP thesaurus, 1968. (Box 7, folder 7) [notes, report segment; approximately 35 pages];
    • #240: LISP thesaurus and maintenance project, 1967-1968. (Box 48, folders 5-13) [drafts, correspondence, computer printouts, notes, and mailing lists; approximately 600 pages]
  • Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming, Computer History Museum, Lot X5687.2010. 105 linear feet, 160 boxes. Finding at CHM
  • Archives of various LISP-related email lists. Online at



  • John McCarthy, black&white photograph, date unknown (late 1950s?), from collection of Herbert Stoyan. Online at
  • Six participants in the 1960 Algol conference in Paris. The picture was taken at the 1978 ACM conference on the history of programming languages. Top row: John McCarthy, Fritz Bauer, Joe Wegstein. Bottom row: John Backus, Peter Naur, Alan Perlis. Online at
  • John McCarthy, black&white photograph, date unknown (contemporary). Online at
  • John McCarthy, color photograph, date unknown. Online at
  • John McCarthy, color photograph by Bart Nagel for Time Digital, date unknown. Online at
  • Bernard Greenberg teaching LISP at Cambridge Information Systems Laboratory, late 1970s. Online at
  • Larry Masinter, Danny Bobrow, Sanjay Mittal, and Mark Stefik demonstrating Interlisp-D features, color photographs, early 1980s. Online at via Internet Archive
  • Speakers at the 2002 International Lisp Conference in San Francisco. Online




Related resources

  • MIT Artificial Intelligence Memos.
  • Stanford University Computer Science Technical Reports, 1963-1968. PUB markup
  • Les Earnest, Editor. Final Report : The First Ten years of Artificial Intelligence Research at Stanford. Stanford University, Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Memo AIM-228, Computer Science Department Report No. STAN-CS-74-409, July 1973. Online at via Internet Archive
  • Mark Kantrowitz. CMU Artificial Intelligence Repository. Web site, last updated February 13, 1995. Online at

    See for example: lang/lisp/impl/ and lang/others

  • Herbert Stoyan. Lisp History. Web site; includes Bibliography and History sections cited above. Online at via Internet Archive

    "Herbert Stoyan studied Mathematics at the Technical University Dresden, receiving his PhD in 1970. He joined the AI group of Egbert Lehmann at Robotron and learned Lisp. When a computer was available - but no Lisp1.5 manual - he used the 1964 book of Berkeley and Bobrow to implement Lisp. This system, with a compiler added in 1972, was the basis for all AI work in Eastern Germany. In 1977 he began his studies in the history of Lisp, and published a book about the concepts and history of Lisp in 1979. In 1981 he moved to Western Germany and started a career as university teacher. By 1986 he had become Professor of Information Sciences at the University of Konstanz (Constance), in 1989 Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies in Darmstadt, and in 1990 Professor of Artificial Intelligence of the University of Erlangen. Beginning in 1992 he focused on knowledge acquisition. His group in Erlangen developed several assistant systems for knowledge acquisition and used these in projects for knowledge based systems and knowledge management systems in industrial applications. With the development of the WWW he created a historical site for people of nobility, and wrote a translator for a heraldic language into Postscript in Scheme. He wrote a two-volume book about Programming in Artificial Intelligence which contains pretty much Lisp code. The book describes several programming languages with diverse execution models (problem solvers, provers, pattern matcher, relational algebra handler, object-based systems etc.)" [Herbert Stoyan biography, Invited speakers, International Lisp Conference, 2007]

  • Tim Shoppa. PDP-10 Software Archives. TOPS-10 and TOPS-20 software from Digital Equipment Corporation, the DECUS user group, M.I.T., and other sources. Includes operating systems, utilities, programming languages, and applications.
  • Bruce Guenther Baumgart. Archive of the first Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory derived from its final backup tapes.
    Includes many documents, source code, and a reenactment of the 1974 version of the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory timesharing system.
  • Living Computers: Museum + Lab. A portal into the Paul Allen collection of Digital Equipment Corporation mainframes and minicomputers. Includes XKL Toad-2 System (PDP-10 clone) running the Tops-20 v7.1 operating system with MacLisp. Accounts available for the public. Online at


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