Programming for the Alto's Mesa

Paul McJones paul at
Tue Jun 21 14:31:34 CDT 2016

> I just looked in some boxes I haven't opened in decades. I have "Mesa
> Language Manual, Version 5.0, April 1979". If the people with the Alto
> need this, let me know.

It’s been scanned:

> ... Mesa was a hard-compiled language, but it had concurrency,
> monitors, co-routines ("ports", similar to Go channels), strong type
> safety, and a sane way to pass arrays around. ...

The designers of the concurrency mechanisms (Butler Lampson and Dave Redell) wrote an excellent paper, which can be downloaded from Lampson’s web site:

> Anyone here know or remember Mesa? I'd like to hear more about it.

Thanks to the foresight of Al Kossow and others, the Computer History Museum has a repository of Alto source code online, including the Mesa system and some applications such as the Laurel electronic mail client and the Grapevine distributed mail transport and name service. (The repository also includes a lot of BCPL and a small amount of Smalltalk.) The repository is here:

Probably better to start here:

Paul McJones

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