John McCarthy, inventor of LISP programming language and Artificial Intelligence pioneer, passed away Monday. McCarthy was 84.
In a sense much of today's computing revolution can be traced back to McCarthy's fertile laboratory at Stanford.
It was here that Alan Kay, then a researcher, was inspired by the beauty of LISP and went on to build Smalltalk. It was Smalltalk that Steve Jobs saw and was convinced that the future of computing is in GUI.
Paul Graham, the Y-Combinator guy would not have built his Viaweb, sell it to Yahoo and become an angel investor. Graham built Viaweb using LISP. If you want to read how LISP made a difference to Viaweb, read this beatiful piece here.
Without LISP, there wouldn't have been Scheme, a dialect which was used to teach freshman programming at MIT by Gerald Sussman and Harold Abelson. Their textbook, Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs is a legend.
Without LISP Autocad wouldn't have had the most elegant scripting engine - AutoLisp.
LISP was the foundation for Prolog which in turn inspired a programming language called Erlang that powered large telephone exchanges made by Ericsson.
The list goes on. While the world emraced Lisp, McCarthy was busy researching AI. Late in his life, he was trying to build a successor to LISP called Elephant, which is now in open source.
McCarthy joins the legions of great minds that shaped the modern world. He was the recipient of Turing Award in 1971.
John McCarthy, R.I.P.
(Pic credit: Wikicommons)
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