Cooking with Lisp

Another blog about Lisp, the world's greatest programming language.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Finally got my Lisp Machine!

(Thanks to Bill, who showed me how to change the post date!)

Last Tuesday (May 25th), David Schmidt of Symbolics personally delivered my Symbolics XL1200. We got it set up and then I treated David to a nice dinner at one of our nicer cowboy steakhouses.

The machine itself is awesome. I've never used one before, so I am totally at ground zero on this. I've been using it steadily since then. Here's my initial reactions:

It's bigger than I was prepared for. The pictures I've seen of the XL1200 on the web did not mentally prepare me for how big it was going to be.

It's a lot louder than I was prepared for, even with the warnings from Rainer Joswig and Markus Fix. I was going to place the unit in our family room, where our TV is, so I can hack and be with the family during the evening, but when the fans rev up, it is quite a roar. I've decided to place it in a corner in our kitchen and run the cables into our family room. Fortunately, the Symbolics hardware was meant to be deployed that way. You can have the console up to 200 feet from the system unit.

It's fast enough to be useful. In fact, it's a lot faster than I was expecting. A very pleasant suprise. Rainer's movies give a pretty good indication of the speed that I have with my unit, not suprising, since the XL1200 and MacIvory III have the same chip. This leads me to think that 10 years ago or more, these machines must have seemed wicked fast. I feel that it will be quite comfortable to do real development with it.

The keyboard is a delight. It's the "slim" style keyboard (here's a picture). It's quite solid. The keys have a great feel to them. Not at all like the mushy keboards of today. I love having the extra set of paren keys and rubout to the left. I do have to get used to the control keys being next to the space bar, as on all of the keyboards I'm used to, that is where alt (or meta) goes, and the control keys are way over.

The mouse is your average, 10 year old Logitech 3 button mouse with rubber ball inside. I don't really use the mouse that much, most everything is programmed to be very fluid with the keyboard, so there's little need to move your hand away from the keyboard. Since there is command completion almost everything, even asking the document examiner to display topics is very easy with the keyboard.

The online documentation. Wow! The documentation is simply superb. Definitely hats off to the designers of Document Examiner and to the writers of the wonderful documentation. It is very well written, easy to understand, and extremely hyperlinked with itself. Searches within the documentation are very fast. The first set of documents is specifically geared towards newbies and I really appreciate that. Lots of examples and exercises for learning how to use the machine and how to program with it. I feel that I will be able to be very proficient after going through this material.

The edit / run cycle. Very fast and fluid. There's keystrokes for loading just the changed definitions (of either the current buffer or all buffers). This makes it very convenient to just blast through editing and testing in the repl.

All in all, I am very, very pleased with my decision to purchase one. Definitely no regrets, and I'm a lot happier than if I had purchased something else, like a Powerbook or other laptop, like I was contemplating.


At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see that Symbolics is selling some more Symbolics machines. I've bought two so far, a MacIvory II and a 3620. They can be found at:

I'm an amateur to the lisp programming world and the lisp machines as well, but I do feel pretty comfortable in Genera. I've used emacs for a long time and that has helped a lot. Anyone know where I can find a NXP 1000?

Best regards,


At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also just picked up my 3620 from Symbolics... it's not as cool as the 1200, but it's MINE! :)

I'll have a web page up soon detailing my experiences...

Mark Davidson

At 9:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You lucky, lucky bastard :^)

OK, this comment is two years post-article, but still, I'm quite jealous. If I had large sums of cash to throw down, I'd definitely want to buy from David Schmidt.

I contacted him around the same time you made this post, actually, inquiring about the current state of the Symbolics assets, but I didn't make any purchases.

How has your LispM held up over the years? Do you still use it?


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