Apple Dylan Eulogy¶

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2024-05-10 09:00:03

Apple Dylan was an amazing development environment: the most sophisticated and highly leveraging environment that I’ve ever seen, before or since, with the second place position belonging to Apple’s NewtonScript. (I’m told a Lisp Machine might be comparable, but I’ve never seen one).

Unfortunately, it was ahead of its time: it required what was then a considerable amount of memory (20 megabytes or more), was fairly crash-prone and somewhat incomplete, and was unfortunately quite slow. (On a 68040-based Quadra 800, or a 68030-based PowerBook Duo, more than “quite” slow – it was agonizing, and I consider myself to be a very patient guy).

The IDE did very ambitious things, and did them well enough to prove the concept, but using it for real work was very difficult. It is not quite clear to me why it was so slow. I’m told that MCL is not slow, but perhaps the demands that the Dylan TR placed on it were a little much for it; I sometimes found myself staring at the “GC” cursor for many minutes at a time.

I contributed what testing I could (within the limits of my patience) and also submitted a small program to draw fractals based on string-rewriting L-systems. Even with my poor knowledge of Lisp and poor choice of algorithms, it performed decently, indicating to me that Dylan could be compiled to reasonably efficient code, if not extremely efficient.

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