Re: RFC 373 and Unicode

From: D. V. Henkel-Wallace (
Date: Sat Aug 21 1999 - 09:56:14 EDT

At 21:05 19-08-99 -0700, Juliusz Chroboczek wrote:
For people not familiar with the author's name, here's a few notes.
I'm speaking from memory, so I may get the details wrong.

Since discussion on this mailing list is veering off topic in a number of
interesting directions, I hope I am not actively increasing the S:N ratio...

JMC is still active, but you have some errors in your memory (as do we all!).

He didn't head to Stanford until the mid '60s. He and Marvin Minsky
founded the AI lab at MIT, and it was there that Lisp was first developed,
first on the IBM 701 (by JMC, in the '50s, before the founding of the AI
lab and maybe before Project MAC), later on the PDP-1, then -6 and -10 (the
design of which latter two was influenced by the needs of the AI lab, by
the way). The significance of the PDP-10 to this mailing list is that its
bytes had variable length (the 8-bit byte "standard" hadn't yet been rammed
through by the IBM 370) so a lot more experimentation went on in characters
and other representational issues. I have routinely written PDP-10
programs dealing with characters of 6, 7 and 9 bits.

Garbage collection was invented by Marvin in '63; I have a copy of the
(hardcopy) Project MAC memo, or perhaps it was one of the first AI Lab
technical notes, in which he discusses this. It's also about three pages
long -- things were different in those days!

The interactive programming idea came from Project MAC (or perhaps Project
MAC came from this idea) and I believe was Corbató's idea. From there
(CTSS) came (in reaction) ITS, and more significantly Multics, which
ultimately begat Unix.

I think the real significance of this for the Unicode mailing list is that
all significant development is the result of much joint work, an admixture
of some inspiration from various key people with tons of had work by many
many (including those same people and others). Oh yea, and that many of
these projects have pretty long timescales. You cite that garbage
collection took 30 years to impinge on mainstream computing. Well we have,
what, 7000 years of work on writing already...


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