NCITS/J13 01-001

NCITS/J13 Annual Report

covering July 2000 through April 2001

NCITS/J13: Programming Language Common LISP

Document Number:  NCITS/J13 01-001
Date: 22 April 2001
Project: 574-M
Reply To: Steve M. Haflich, J13 Chair
Franz Inc.
1995 University Avenue
Berkeley CA 94704
Phone: (510)548-3600
Fax: (510)548-8253

NCITS/J13 has developed the ANS for programming language Common Lisp (X3.226-1994). It now maintains that standard and is considering future revisions and extension.

1. Executive Summary

J13 has problems that must be addressed. The superficial problems are twofold: First, membership has fallen severely. Second, the position of IR remains vacant.

The Chair is still checking the status of J13 members. Membership was stable at eleven in 1999 and 2000, but 2001 paid renwals may have falled as low as three. This is insufficient even to maintain a quorum. The Chair is aware of several members who declined to bear continued membership costs while the committee has no active projects. However, the Chair believes the failure of others to renew is the result of address, organizational, or representative changes causing renewal notices to go astray, or errors of record keeping, or just member inattention. There have been changes of representation as well as company spinoffs and reorganizations that apparently were not reflected in NCITS records. The Chair needs to address these things and rattle some member cages, but other crises have temporarily delayed giving it the necessary attention. The Chair believes that a safe quorum will be reestablished, but of course this cannot be guaranteed.

J13 continues with no active projects. There was one meeting during 2000, conducted by electronic online chat. Members present continue to express vague interest in new standards work; however, there is no single particular nucleus project around which to engage, and no specific proposals have been presented to the committee. This could change at any time, of course, but the Chair no longer expects any new work items to materialize very soon.

J13 discussed the prospect of entering Maintenance Status, and agreed that the Chair should issue a letter ballot. Some members supported the notion (Why pay dues while not doing anything?) but surprisingly, the majority still spoke favorably (but only abstractly) about the possibility of new projects. The letter ballot has not yet been called, but will be after the immediate membership issues are resolved.

While there has been no progress towards new projects, there is unanimous sentiment supporting for the 1994 ANS. No one considers it irrelevant or unimportant.

In part this situation reflects the current state of the industry. While development projects continue, they typically are proprietary, or if not, do not have wide intra-community involvement. It is likely that any new J13 project will arise only after one or another of these reaches a stage of development and breadth of adoption that standardization would be advantageous. At present, language areas that are at that stable stage are effectively no longer under active development, while areas under active development are not yet ready.

As a side note, the increase of membership fee from $600 to $800 probably didn't have much impact on the current membership situation. Members who decided not to renew would probably have decided the same had the fees not increased; It likely only made the decision easier for those individual members paying out of personal funds.

On the matter of IR, the position remained unfilled after two calls for volunteer. There is, conveniently, no known international business pending or expected, so the matter is not urgent. If J13 enters Maintenance Status, the Chair is permitted by SD-2 to serve as IR. If J13 does not enter Maintenance Status, there is some precendent for allowing the Chair to fill the position when there is not significant international activity.

2. Projects

a. Project Number and Title
574 - M

Programming Language Common Lisp

b. Project Milestones
Milestone 8 (Publication) was completed in 1994.
The standard was reaffirmed in 1999.
c. Project Description
Development and maintenance of X3.226-1994, the American National Standard for Information Technology -- Programming Language Lisp.
d. Publications During Past Year
e. Statement of Progress
J13 has no active projects, other than periodic review of 574-M.

3. Committee Activities

a. Previous Year's Meetings
Dec 20, 2000, by electronic chat.
b. Next Year's Planned Meetings

A placeholder meeting was tentatively scheduled for January 26, 2000, but was not conducted as there had been no forward progress on materials for that meeting. Assuming the quorum issue can be resolved, the chair intends to call another electronic meeting to review the current situation, to satisfy the yearly meeting requirement, to review the Maintenance Status recommendation vote, and solicit any new business to come before the committee.

Consideration of further meetings is a standing agenda item.

c. Officers -- NCITS/J13
Chair: Steven M. Haflich 
(address above)
Vice Chair: (vacant)
IR: vacant since September 2000
Secretary: (rotates ad hoc)
Technical Editor: Kent M. Pitman
Vocabulary Representative:  (vacant)
Librarian: (vacant -- performed by chair)

d. Membership

(see Appendix M below)
e. Liaison Activities
The IR is liaison to SC22/WG16 which has been inactive since completion of ISO/IEC 13816:1997 - Programming Language ISLISP. No need for IR activity is anticipated in the foreseeable future.
f. Administrative Matters of Note

The J13 Chair first needs to get on top of the membership question. Assuming a safe quorum is established, J13 should then call a vote to enter Maintenance Status. The committee can then safely monitor industry developments in case and until some appropriate new work item materializes.

The IR term ended September, 2000. Two calls for volunteers produced no respondents. One member contacted the chair privately expressing tentative interest, but there was no conclusion. There is currently no international activity underway.

If the committee enters Maintenance Status, the Chair can fulfill the position of IR in accordance with SD-2. If the committee for some reason declines to enter Maintenance Status, and if no member expresses interest in the IR position, the Chair will recommend that NCITS allow the Chair to exercise the position, considering that no particular international business is expected.

g. Procedural Matters of Note

J13 recently conducted a regular meeting by online electronic chat. Some members expressed reservations before the meeting, but members present generally deemed the venue to be successul. This meeting, however, included no voting or other formal business beyond the usual rote parliamentary mechanics.

The Chair observes that electronic chat meetings progress at glacial speed, but this can be a plus in that the meeting feels generally relaxed. Running a chat meeting is in many ways easier than a phone meeting, and shares its advantage of eliminating travel. The meeting should not even try to maintain the fiction that members will not engage other activities (conversations, phone calls, fetching coffee, etc.) during the meeting while awaiting others to type. It causes no disruption to the meeting, and the immediately-visible written record of the recent chat means that no member ever misses anything through momentary inattention as so often happens at physical meetings.

J13 will continue to use electronic chat for some meetings, and the Chair would recommend its use to other subgroups.

h. Recommendations
i. Market Impact

Common Lisp remains a language of choice for high-end engineering and artificial intelligence applications. The positive features of the language have not decayed significantly with age, and (unlike during the AI boom of the 1980's) Lisp systems no longer require expensive, high-end hardware. The Lisp market remains stable.

As evidenced by the frequency and vehemence with which it is cited and discussed in forums such as comp.lang.lisp, the 1994 ANS remains an important work that will continue to be the standard reference for the Common Lisp community. The errors, ambiguities, and other defects in the standard are objectively few. However, the continued lack of standardization for language features areas of system interface (e.g. sockets, threading, I18N and localization, and programming-language interoperability) is unfortunate, as these have become increasingly important in recent years.

Growth continues in the use of Lisp in Web applications, including but not limited to intelligent servers for dynamic content and intelligent data mining applications. In addition to the applications themselves, the technology substrates need for Web applications are also under active development within the community. However, there does not seem to be much community feeling at this time that new standards are needed. The active developers seem to feel (correctly or incorrectly) that they are better without additional constraints at this time. Perhaps this will change as technologies mature, merge, and stabilize.

4. Anticipated Projects

The technical contents of the ANS for Common Lisp were essentially completed by X3J13 in the early 1990's. The ANS has proven successful and is enthusiastically accepted by the Lisp community. Reopening the entire 1400-page ANS for revision is considered too large a task for present resources. Fortunately, the changes to the existing ANS likely required to support continued language developments are likely to be minor or can be accomplished without any change to the ANS at all.

Despite the best of intentions and genuine interest in standardizing areas of current development, no project proposals have been generated. The Chair does not forsee any to be immediately forthcoming. The people doing the work are too busy to be distracted, and de facto agreement about the content of new standards has not yet been reached. It may be that new projects will arise when development areas (e.g. in Web programming) settle down. J13 meanwhile can only watch and wait.

5. Future Trends in Area of Standardization

Areas which might especially warrant standardization within the next few years include libraries and interfaces supporting Web Programming. Internationalization, Localization, Database Interface, and Language Interoperability.

Attachment 1: Committee Projects: X3/SD-4 Data

The current SD-4 data as revised 03/07/01 is correct.  It is included here for reference:

J13/SC22/WG16 Common LISP
   (Revised 03/07/01 )
 NCITS Project: 574 - M
Standard Designation: X3.226:1994 [R1999]

 Title: Programming Language Common Lisp

Related International Development

 ISO/IEC Doc.: IS 13816:1997
 JTC 1 Project: 22.23

Attachment 2: Internal Procedures:

J13 has no special Internal Procedures; Attachment 2 is omitted.

Attachment 3: Financial Statement:

J13 operates without collecting funds from members; Attachment 3 is omitted.

Attachment M: NCITS/ J13 Organizational Membership (04/20/01)

The roster of active members is under review. There is apparent confusion over some address updates, organizational changes, and change of representative. The chair will do a complete review of membership, poke those who intend to remain active but who have not yet renewed, and make the revised list available as an amendment. See the Executive Summary above.