VAX Common Lisp

Rich Alderson RichA at
Fri Nov 4 13:58:52 CDT 2016

From: Ian S. King
Sent: Friday, November 04, 2016 8:54 AM

> On Fri, Nov 4, 2016 at 4:10 AM, <aswood at> wrote:

>> any idea where to get VAX Common Lisp?

> ISTR when I installed it on the VAX-11/780-5 at Living Computer Museum, I
> got it either from the hobbyist distribution or from the freeware
> collection at HP.  I know I didn't jump through any special hoops to get
> it.  In fact, I had both Common Lisp and 'Standard' Lisp installed.

Ooooh.  Standard Lisp.  Portable Standard Lisp (which is most probably what Ian
installed) was the first Lisp I learned after reading Weissman's _LISP 1.5
Primer_.  We installed it at the University of Chicago Computation Center as
part of making available the REDUCE symbolic mathematics package.  (IIRC, that
was on the Amdahl 470 under SVS, rather than on the DEC-20.)  That got me
interested in Lisp as a language, and I began hunting down all the different
implementations I could find.

The original Standard Lisp was an evalquote implementation--top-level loop is
the equivalent of

    (print (apply (read) (read)))

rather than an eval implementation with a REPL

    (print (eval (read)))

Portable Standard Lisp is an eval dialect, and contributed to the definition
of Common Lisp.  In addition, it provided an Algol-like alternative syntax not
unlike McCarthy's LISP 2 (the algebraic notation used in McCarthy et al. and
which McCarthy used to teach Lisp programming at Stanford until he retired).

Funniest thing is that we were having a Lisp programming discussion at the
museum just this morning, entirely unrelated to this ClassicCmp thread!


Rich Alderson
Vintage Computing Sr. Systems Engineer
Living Computers: Museum + Labs
2245 1st Avenue S
Seattle, WA 98134

mailto:RichA at

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