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Boston Lisp Meeting: Thursday 2012-06-28 Kalman Reti on Symbolics Lisp Machines

A Boston Lisp Meeting will take place on Thursday, June 28th 2012 at 1800 at MIT 32-D463 (Star conference room). Kalman Reti will speak about Symbolics Lisp Machines.

Additionally, we will have two Lightning Talks. Speakers to be announced.

1 Kalman Reti on Symbolics Lisp Machines

Kalman Reti will talk about some of the history of the Lisp machine and some features of the Symbolics Lisp machines that were unique, including both hardware and software features. He'll discuss how the Alpha emulator works and Brad Parker's hack to make it run on 64bit modern machines. Finally he'll demonstrate Genera running on his laptop.

Kalman Reti worked for Symbolics from 1982 through 1992, mostly on VLSI tools for Ivory but also writing low-level device support (e.g. a LMFS recovery utility, R/W optical drive support, LZW compressor, etc.) The last few years of that were spent doing customer consulting. After being laid off when Symbolics went into chapter 11, Kalman worked for Apple in Cambridge, first on MCL and later, after MCL was sold to Digitool, on Dylan. Kalman was hired after that by Symbolics Technology, Inc., who had acquired the assets of Symbolics from the bankruptcy court, to work on further productizing the emulator for the Alpha. This was used by John Mallery at MIT to run his document distribution system for the White House during the Clinton presidency. When the owners of that venture decided that a financial company had no business owning a computer company, a private individual bought the assets and Kalman spent 4 years as a "captive consultant" for him. Since 2002, when he ran out of money, I've worked for Ab Initio (doing nothing with lisp except emacs hacks).

2 Lightning Talks

At every meeting, before the main talk, there are two slots for strictly timed 5-minute "Lightning Talks" each followed by 2 minutes for questions and answers.

The slots for next meeting are still open. Step up and come talk about your pet project! Contact me at fare at

3 Time and Location

The Lisp Meeting will take place on Thursday, June 28th 2012 at 1800 (6pm) at MIT 32-D463 (Star conference room).

The Star conference room, MIT 32-D463 on the fourth floor of the Ray and Maria Stata Center, 32 Vassar St, Cambridge MA 02139. NB: there are two sets of elevators, you want to use those on the south-western side, further away from Main St.

MIT map:

Google map:,+Vassar+Street,+Cambridge,+MA

Many thanks go to Professor Gerald J. Sussman for arranging for the room, and to MIT for welcoming us.

4 Dinner

We don't have any sponsors to offer us dinner, but we're big boys and can provide for ourselves. Before we start the conference, we'll organize a big pizza order, where those who want can chip in; after the conference is when we'll eat it.

5 More about the Meeting

We are resuming the Boston Lisp Meeting after a hyatus of over a year and a half.

We're always looking for more speakers. The call for speakers and all the other details are at: Volunteers to give Lightning Talks are also sought.

For more information, see our web site For posts related to the Boston Lisp meetings in general, follow this link: or subscribe to our RSS feed:

Please forward this information to people you think would be interested. Please accept my apologies for your receiving this message multiple times. My apologies if this announce gets posted to a list where it shouldn't, or fails to get posted to a list where it should. Feedback welcome by private email reply to fare at


Nice. (possible-p (publish-talk-transcript kalman-reti)) for some third world countries... :)
I've seen Kalman did a video capture of screen.

Presentation was very nice, btw.
Is there a video or slide set of Kalman Reti's talk?
Says Kalman:

Sorry it took so long, but when I played the raw video all the
question were totally inaudible, so there were long gaps
which it would be pointless to include.

The editing which went into this primarily removed those gaps; I also
changed the beginning to a static picture of the
first slide. During the actual talk I was flipping through desktops
on the laptop to get to the first slide, then inadvertently
moved ahead and then back again. (I considered doing even more
extensive editing to get rid of "umm"s and "and"s,
but refrained.)

I experimented with hosting the video on Shutterfly and Youtube; in
both cases the reduced resolution made the screen
harder (though perhaps not impossible) to read. You can access the
youtube one via Google drive at

if you want to check it out.

I intend to do a more complete and scripted demo-only video in the
near future (without the missteps that happened during
the talk).
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November 2014



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