NCITS/J13 99-006

NCITS/J13 Annual Report

covering June 1996 through June 1999

NCITS/J13: Programming Language Common LISP


Document Number:  NCITS/J13 99-006
Date: 5 July 1999
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

NICITS/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

Prior to the current year NCITS/J13 had essentially ceased functioning.  Its last yearly report was filed in 1996, and the last meeting was in July 1996.  However, with appointment of a new chair at the end of 1998 the TC has resumed activity:

Membership, which had declined to four members, has now regrown to eleven voting members in good standing.

J13 held a meeting in May 1999, and future meetings are scheduled for July and October.

The required 30-day letter ballot was held on recommendation for 5-year reaffirmation of the ANS.  The vote concluded June 14 and was 11:0 in favor of recommending reaffirmation.

J13 has begun consideration of future standards work with the possibility of proposing one or more new project  plans for revisions or amendments.

2. Projects

a. Project Number and Title
574  - M

Programming Language Common Lisp

b. Project Milestones
Milestone 8 (Publication) was completed in 1994.
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
On June 14 1999 J13 completed a 30-day letter ballot on its recommendation re the 5-year reaffirmation of X3.226-1994.  The vote was unanimous (11:0) in favor of reaffirmation, with all eligible members voting.  The recommendation was been communicated to the Secretariat as NCITS/J13 99-003.

J13 is now contemplating continued work on programming language Common Lisp.  Discussions are ongoing electronically by mailing list and at periodic J13 meetings.  A number of areas of interest for future standards work have emerged from committee members and from the larger Common Lisp community.  These are discussed below under (4) Anticipated Projects.

3. Committee Activities (Repeat for each X3 Subgroup See Page 1)

a. Previous Year's Meetings
May 6, 1999, at Franz Inc. in Berkeley, CA, and by teleconference from seven separate sites in the U.S. and Great Britain.

Prior to this meeting, J13 had not met since July 1996.

b. Next Year's Planned Meetings
The next meeting is scheduled for July 27, 1999, by teleconference.

Subsequent meeting tentatively scheduled for October, 1999, in conjunction with the Lisp User's Group annual meeting, Oct 10-13, 1999, in San Francisco, CA.

Consideration of further meetings is a standing agenda item.

c. Officers -- NCITS/J13
Chair: Steven M. Haflich (address above)
Vice Chair: (vacant)
IR: Kent M. Pitman
One Vista Circle
Arlington, MA 02474
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 remains liaison to SC22/WG16 which has been inactive since completion of ISO/IEC 13816:1997 - Programming Language ISLISP.
f. Administrative Matters of Note
J13 had  essentially ceased to function from 1996 through 1998, despite never having voted to enter Maintenance TC status as per SD-2  3.11.  NCITS has allowed the TC a lot of slack, and for this the TC is thankful.  J13 has in 1999 resumed a normal schedule of meetings and  other operational functions.  In particular, it has has begun considering possible Project Proposals for new work items in our area.

J13  intends itself to remain in normal TC status and assumes that NCITS is in agreement.  If NCITS feels it should consider this question formally, J13 would request it to do so.  However, the Chair does not anticipate that this would be be necessary.

g. Procedural Matters of Note
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 aged without significant decay, and (unlike during the AI boom of the 1980's)  Lisp systems no longer require expensive, high-end systems.  Both development and delivery system requirements are quite similar to other languages.

The present voting membership of J13 breaks down as follows:

Two members represent major language vendors.
Seven members represente commercial and noncommercial users.
Two members are individuals.
A rather larger number of inviduals participate in the J13 mailing list (x3j13@ai-sri-com), monitoring the technical discussions there and making valuable contributions contributions.  In addition to the two major commercial vendor who are J13 members, there are several smaller commercial and non-commercial Common Lisp language providors who monitor standards activity and who would be expected to respond to any future J13 drafts.

J13 has not undertaken direct surveys, but the apparent reaction from the community is that the 1994 ANS is an important, useful, and quality work that will continue to be the standard reference for the Common Lisp community.  It is frequently cited in public discussion forums such as comp.lang.lisp.  The errors, ambiguities, and other defects in the standard are objectively few.  However, the standard does not standardize certain language features that many feel should now logically be included; nor does the 1994 language adequately address areas of system interface (e.g. sockets, threading) that have become increasingly important to applications in recent years.

J13 is aware of the the danger of premature standardization, and will likeley proceed slowly, drafting proposals for amendments based on experience with completed, working implementations rather than on mere notions how an new elements of the standard might be devised of whole cloth during the standardization process.  While this approach might seem unambitious, it is likely sufficient to maintain the interest of the user community.  J13 sees the excitement of ongoing language development as an important byproduct of TC activity.

4. Anticipated Projects

The contents of the ANS for Common Lisp were finalized by X3J13 in deliberations essentially completed by the early 1990's.  Several language areas considered during that drafting round were rejected at that time as "not yet ready for standardization."  While the 1994 ANS has proven successful and is enthusiastically accepted by the Lisp community, there is growing sentiment that some of these areas could and should now be reopened for possible new standards work.

In addition, various areas of language capability and library interface have become important through the ongoing evolution in computing (e.g. Web interface, persistent databases).  There is also sentiment that J13 should address some of these areas.

J13 is nonetheless aware that reopening the entire 1400-page ANS for revision would likely create too large a task for present resources.  Fortunately, the changes to the existing ANS likely required to support these new areas are mostly minor, and some extensions could be accomplished without change to the ANS and issued as optional extensions.  Although the TC has not yet explicitly addressed the issue,  the scenario (expected by the Chair is that the TC sometime in the next year will submit to NCITS one or more Project Proposals for new work to result in Amendments to X3.226-1994 in the sense of SD-2

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

J13 operates without collecting funds from members; Attachment 3 is omitted.  It may become necessary to collect reimbursement for teleconference expenses of future meetings, but the TC has not yet discussed its preferences on this issue.  There is no expectation that funds for any other purposes will be necessary.

5. Future Trends in Area of Standardization

(The following are the ruminations by the chair and have not been vetted by J13.)

Lisp implementations have existed on widely varied platforms, from special-purpose `Lisp Machines' to stock Unix boxes to PCs of various kinds.  The varied environments of these platforms, coupled with a language tendency to define functionality which would in smaller languages normally be deligated to system libraries, made impractical specification important aspects of system interface in the 1994 ANS.  Some of these areas may be addressed in upcoming J13 work, but since these primarily address connecting to existing libraries and system interfaces, there is as yet no obvious need to coordinate with other standards groups.

J13 is aware of ongoing activity in OMG towards standardizing a Common Lisp binding for CORBA.  Individual J13 members are participating in this effort, the draft binding appears to have been accepted by the CORBA community, and the process is well along.  It has not yet been necessary for J13 to coordinate with or take a formal position in this activity.

Persistent object databases are one area of particular interest to at least a substantial subset of J13 membership and the wider Lisp community.  The field of object databases is still fractured and suffers from proprietary interfaces.  There is apparent interest in addressing this within the Lisp community, and if the wider programming community does the same, liaison by J13 might be desirable.

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

The current SD-4 data as revised 5/26/99 is correct.  It is included here for completeness:
                                Common LISP
 (Revised 05/26/99 )
 NCITS Project:          574  - M

Standard Designation: X3.226:1994   []

 Title:       Programming Language Common Lisp

Related International Development

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

Attachment M.  NCITS/ J13 Organizational Membership

06/28/99 (agrees with NCITS Secretariat list of 05/20/99)

Charles R. Fry
Caelum Research Corporation
Mail Stop 269-1
NASA Ames Research Center
Moffett Field CA 94035-1000


Eric Dahlman
Computer Science Department
Colorado State University
Fort Collins, CO 80523-1873
Steven M. Haflich
1995 University Avenue  Suite 275
Berkeley CA 94704
Fax: 510-548-8253
Andy Sizer
Harlequin Inc
Barrington Hall, Barrington, Cambridge CB2 5RG, UK
John C. Mallery
Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
545 Technology Square, NE43-807, Cambridge, MA 02139-4301 USA
Eric Lee Peterson
MITRE Corporation
234 South Fraley Blvd.
Suite 100
Dumfries, VA 22026
Kim Barrett
20 Murray Hill Rd
Malden, MA 02148
Kent M Pitman
One Vista Circle
Arlington, MA 02474
Shannon Spires
M/S 0455
Sandia National Labs
P.O. Box 5800
Albuquerque, NM 87185
Mark Stickel
333 Ravenswood Avenue
Menlo Park, CA 94025
Tim Bradshaw
TFEB.ORG Limited
6 East Hermitage Place, Edinburgh EH6 8AA, Scotland