Subscribe: Dusty Decks
Preview: Dusty Decks

Dusty Decks: Preserving historic software

by Paul McJones

Last Build Date: Thu, 01 Feb 2018 20:59:41 +0000


The LISP 2 Project

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 03:18:00 +0000

“The LISP 2 Project” appears in the October-December 2017 issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing (open access). I first heard about LISP 2 around 1971, from a 1966 conference paper included in the reading for a U.C. Berkeley seminar on advanced programming languages. The goal of LISP 2 was to combine the strengths of numerically-oriented languages such as ALGOL and … Continue reading "The LISP 2 Project"

Lowell Hawkinson, 1943 – 2018

Thu, 01 Feb 2018 03:14:43 +0000

Lowell Hawkinson passed away at the age of 74 on December 28, 2017 as a result of an accident. Lowell was a pioneer in LISP implementation and artificial intelligence. He co-founded Gensym Corporation in 1986 and served as its CEO through 2006. This obituary gives more details of his life and accomplishments. I first got in touch … Continue reading "Lowell Hawkinson, 1943 – 2018"

In Search of the Original Fortran Compiler

Sat, 15 Jul 2017 03:17:19 +0000

“In Search of the Original Fortran Compiler” appears in the April-June 2017 issue of IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. If that link doesn’t work, you can read my final submitted version here. I wrote the article to chronicle the search I began in late 2003 to find the source code for the original … Continue reading "In Search of the Original Fortran Compiler"

Miscellaneous Lisp updates

Fri, 06 Jan 2017 17:48:57 +0000

Recently I made some long-delayed updates to History of LISP.  In the Lisp I/1.5 for IBM 704, 709, 7090 section, I added links to the excellent work by Andru Livisi (here) and Dave Pitts (here) for running LISP on emulators. In the Other Lisp 1.5 implementations, I added a mention of LISP 1.5 for IBM M44. The M44 was an experimental machine … Continue reading "Miscellaneous Lisp updates"

New Japanese edition of Elements of Programming

Sat, 02 Jan 2016 00:31:38 +0000

The original Japanese translation of Elements of Programming went out of print. But Yoshiki Shibata, the translator, proposed to Tokyo Denki University Press that they publish a new edition, and they agreed. It is available via, and joins the English, Russian, Chinese, and Korean editions. We wrote a special preface for this edition: To … Continue reading "New Japanese edition of Elements of Programming"

Harold V. McIntosh, 1929-2015

Wed, 02 Dec 2015 23:09:59 +0000

Update 1/5/2017: For more on McIntosh’s professional career, see these obituaries at Physics Today and Journal of Cellular Automata. Harold V. McIntosh died November 30, 2015 in Puebla, Mexico. He was an American mathematician who became interested in what is now known as computer algebra to solve problems in physics, leading to his early adoption of … Continue reading "Harold V. McIntosh, 1929-2015"

L. Peter Deutsch’s PIVOT program verification system

Thu, 14 May 2015 20:55:04 +0000

PIVOT, the program verification system written in BBN-Lisp by L. Peter Deutsch and described in his PhD thesis, “An interactive program verifier” is a recent addition to the Software Preservation Group web site. Deutsch is a computer scientist who made important contributions to interactive implementations of Lisp and Smalltalk. While he was in high school, … Continue reading "L. Peter Deutsch’s PIVOT program verification system"

Oral history of Bjarne Stroustrup

Tue, 07 Apr 2015 01:27:23 +0000

Update 5/14/2015: Here is a short video that was made for the Fellow Award Ceremony. Update 4/9/2015: A video of the interview is now available. It’s searchable via the synchronized transcript. In February I had the honor of conducting an oral history of Bjarne Stroustrup for the Computer History Museum, on the occasion of his … Continue reading "Oral history of Bjarne Stroustrup"

Xerox Alto file server archive

Fri, 24 Oct 2014 19:41:40 +0000

It’s been almost a year since I posted to this blog, but I haven’t been completely inactive. This week, as part of its Software Gems: The Computer History Museum Historical Source Code Series, the Computer History Museum released a set of files archived in the 1970s and early 1980s from the Xerox Alto file servers … Continue reading "Xerox Alto file server archive"

Dr. John E. L. Peck, 1918-2013

Thu, 21 Nov 2013 01:52:45 +0000

Dr. John E. L. Peck, whose work on ALGOL 68 was described in a recent post, passed away on November 6, 2013. His family has provided this obituary: John, born August 14, 1918 in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, passed away peacefully with his family by his side on November 6, 2013. He is predeceased by his … Continue reading "Dr. John E. L. Peck, 1918-2013"

ALGOL 68: Implementation and more

Sat, 24 Aug 2013 23:41:30 +0000

John E. L. Peck joined the ALGOL 68 design project in 1966, was a coauthor of the report, edited the proceedings of the 1970 Munich implementation conference, hosted meetings that laid the foundations for the revised report, and chaired IFIP Working Group 2.1 from 1975 to 1978. Recently his son Edward Peck contacted me to … Continue reading "ALGOL 68: Implementation and more"

Korean edition of Elements of Programming

Thu, 14 Feb 2013 23:09:14 +0000

In addition to the English, Japanese, Russian, and Chinese editions, Elements of Programming is now available in a Korean edition published by Pearson Education Korea and available from Kyobo Book Centre. Five editions, five scripts. P.S. I can’t find a listing for the book at; I will update this post and our book website … Continue reading "Korean edition of Elements of Programming"

Algol 68: Informal Introduction and more

Mon, 24 Sep 2012 01:54:56 +0000

Several years ago I began an archival collection for the Algol family of programming languages: Algol 58 (originally known as the International Algorithmic Language), Algol 60, and Algol 68. I began looking for implementations of Algol 58 and Algol 60. Since then I’ve also found information (including, in some cases, source code), for many Algol … Continue reading "Algol 68: Informal Introduction and more"

50th Anniversary of LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual

Thu, 30 Aug 2012 03:10:10 +0000

I just noticed that August 17 was the 50th anniversary of the LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual by John McCarthy, Paul W. Abrahams, Daniel J. Edwards, Timothy P. Hart, and Michael I. Levin. On that day in 1962 it was published as a bound report of the Computation Center and Research Laboratory of Electronics of the … Continue reading "50th Anniversary of LISP 1.5 Programmer’s Manual"

Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT

Fri, 06 Jul 2012 16:19:50 +0000

In today’s wired world, people will start experimenting with an interesting new programming language shortly after it appears on a hosting service. But things took longer in the early days of Lisp. McCarthy’s famous paper[1] on Lisp was presented at a conference in May 1959 and published in CACM in April 1960, by which time … Continue reading "Harold V. McIntosh and his students: Lisp escapes MIT"

Remembering Jim Gray

Fri, 18 May 2012 17:07:47 +0000

Jim Gray’s professional contributions to the theory and practice of transactions, databases, and scientific applications of large databases, coupled with his teaching, mentoring, and warm friendships made a tremendous impact on the world. When he failed to return from sailing his 40-foot sloop Tenacious around the Farallon Islands on January 28, 2007, it was a … Continue reading "Remembering Jim Gray"

The First International LISP Conference (1963)

Mon, 23 Apr 2012 23:44:36 +0000

If you thought the 1980 LISP Conference was the first Lisp conference, you were wrong. The 1980 conference was organized by Ruth E. Davis and John R. Allen and was held at Stanford University, with sponsorship by Stanford, Santa Clara University, and The LISP Company. It led to the biennial ACM-sponsored Lisp and Functional Programming … Continue reading "The First International LISP Conference (1963)"

Chinese translation of Elements of Programming

Sat, 18 Feb 2012 00:05:30 +0000

In addition to the English, Japanese, and Russian editions, Elements of Programming is now available in a Chinese edition translated by Professor Qiu Zongyan (裘宗燕) of Peking University and published by China Machine Press. It’s interesting that every translation has been in a different script.

More ALGOL history papers

Tue, 03 Jan 2012 03:13:30 +0000

As the ALGOL programming language enters its sixth decade, its interest to historians seems to be increasing. I’ve recently added additional citations to the “Papers on the history of ALGOL” section of the History of ALGOL web site: Edgar G. Daylight. From Mathematical Logic to Programming-Language Semantics — a Discussion with Tony Hoare. Journal of … Continue reading "More ALGOL history papers"

Herbert Stoyan Collection finding aid and catalog online at CHM

Thu, 17 Nov 2011 04:47:16 +0000

In July 2010 I wrote about the collection of Lisp and artificial intelligence documents that Herbert Stoyan donated to the Computer History Museum. Today I’m glad to be able to announce that the finding aid is online at CHM and the Online Archive of California. Additionally, more detailed descriptions about the items in the collection … Continue reading "Herbert Stoyan Collection finding aid and catalog online at CHM"