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Jon L. White collection on Common Lisp
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access Restrictions
  • Publication Rights
  • Preferred Citation
  • Immediate Source of Acquisition
  • Biographical/Historical Note
  • Scope and Content of the Collection
  • Arrangement
  • Related Collections at CHM

  • Title: Jon L. White collection
    Identifier/Call Number: X6823.2013
    Contributing Institution: Computer History Museum
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 8.75 Linear feet, 7 record cartons
    Date (bulk): Bulk, 1978-1995
    Date (inclusive): 1963-2012
    Abstract: The Jon L. White collection on Common Lisp contains material relating to the development and standardization of the programming language Common Lisp and, more generally, the Lisp family of programming languages. Records date from 1963 to 2012, with the bulk of the material ranging from 1978 to 1995, when White was working at MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center), Lucid, and Harlequin Group. Throughout many of these positions, White was serving on the X3J13 Committee to formalize a Common Lisp standard, which aimed to combine and standardize many previous dialects of Lisp. This collection consists of conference proceedings, manuals, X3J13 Committee correspondence and meeting minutes, notebooks, technical papers, and periodicals documenting White’s work in all of these roles. Other dialects of Lisp--especially MAClisp--are also major focuses of the collection. White also collected significant amounts of material on object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, garbage collection memory management, and floating-point arithmetic in his various computer programming roles.
    Languages: The collection is predominantly in English, with some French and Japanese.
    creator: Jon L., White

    Access Restrictions

    The collection is open for research.

    Publication Rights

    The Computer History Museum (CHM) can only claim physical ownership of the collection. Users are responsible for satisfying any claims of the copyright holder. Requests for copying and permission to publish, quote, or reproduce any portion of the Computer History Museum’s collection must be obtained jointly from both the copyright holder (if applicable) and the Computer History Museum as owner of the material.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of Item], [Date], Jon L. White collection on Common Lisp, Lot X6823.2013, Box [#], Folder [#], Catalog [#], Computer History Museum.

    Immediate Source of Acquisition

    Gift of Jon L. White, 2012.

    Biographical/Historical Note

    Jon L. White was involved in the development of the programming language Common Lisp, a standardized and enhanced version of MIT’s MAClisp, both of which are dialects of Lisp. He also chaired Lisp conferences, edited Lisp periodicals, and sat on the board of the Association of Lisp Users. In addition to his contributions to Lisp development, White was also involved with compilers, garbage collection, and higher-level memory management. He earned a bachelor's degree in mathematics from Carnegie-Mellon University and a master’s degree in applied mathematics from Harvard University.
    Lisp was first implemented in 1958 at MIT and was frequently used for artificial intelligence research purposes. In the late 1960s, MIT’s Project MAC developed the Lisp dialect MAClisp. White joined MIT’s Artificial Intelligence Laboratory in 1969, where he began developing Lisp systems and compilers. He led the later development of MAClisp, wrote and maintained the MAClisp compiler, and led the creation of NIL, an implementation of Lisp that ran on stock hardware as opposed to Lisp-specific machines. In 1977, White took a one-year leave of absence from MIT to work on Lisp/370 at IBM's Watson Research Center.
    By 1980, there were many discrete dialects of Lisp, and a committee was convened to develop one standardized successor dialect. White was on this committee, and the group ultimately developed Common Lisp. White was also involved with X3J13, the technical committee formed in 1986 to standardize Common Lisp under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). He was the chair of the X3J13 Iteration Subcommittee, which standardized Common Lisp’s Loop and Iterate macros.
    White left MIT in the early 1980s to work on product development for another Lisp dialect, Interlisp, at Xerox PARC. In 1985, he joined Lucid to develop Common Lisp systems, and then worked on Lisp projects at Harlequin. After Harlequin, White worked briefly for NASA Ames Research Center, and then at CommerceOne.

    Scope and Content of the Collection

    The Jon L. White collection on Common Lisp contains material collected and created by White during his work with the programming language, Lisp, and one of its most widely used dialects, Common Lisp. The records span 1963 through 2012 with the bulk of the collection ranging from 1978 to 1995. One focus of the collection is the X3J13 Committee’s work in standardizing Common Lisp under ANSI. This collection holds X3J13’s meeting minutes, correspondence between members, presentation material, drafts of papers, and voting ballots on committee issues -- with a specific focus on the Iteration Subcommittee. Books, manuals, and technical reports documenting Common Lisp and the Common Lisp Object System (CLOS) supplement the material relating to X3J13. Other records in this collection relate to the Lisp family of programming languages more generally, with conference proceedings, academic technical papers, and other publications documenting the development and use of Lisp and its dialects (other than Common Lisp). Much of this part of the collection came out of MIT’s Project MAC and the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. Material of interest in the MIT material relate to MAClisp, Lisp programming for the PDP-6, SCHEME, and LAMBDA. The last part of this collection covers other topics relating to programming, such as object-oriented programming, garbage collection memory management, artificial intelligence, floating-point arithmetic, standardization, and compilers. Object-oriented programming is an especially prevalent topic, with significant amounts of material from ACM’s OOPSLA (Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages & Applications) Conference and the periodical OOPS Messenger published by ACM’s SIGPLAN.


    The collection is arranged into 3 series:
    Series 1, Common Lisp records, 1980-2012, bulk 1985-1995
    Series 2, Lisp records, 1963-2001, bulk 1978-1994
    Series 3, Object-oriented programming, artificial intelligence, and other records, 1972-2001

    Related Collections at CHM

    Herbert Stoyan collection on LISP programming, Lot X5687.2010.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    COMMON LISP (Computer program language)
    Computer programming
    Garbage collection (Computer science)
    Object-oriented programming (Computer science)