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The future of the Scheme standard

[ Subject changed to reflect change of topic. ]

   Date: Mon, 22 Apr 96 13:27:52 BST
   From: Jeff Dalton <jeff@aiai.ed.ac.uk>
   > Everybody please stop trying to read so much into my mention of the Emacs
   > Lisp condition system. 
   I was treating it as a possible way to represent conditions, along
   the way to make a more general point, namely that the rrrs authors
   would not be able to agree on how to represent conditions.

Ah, but the Authors are probably obsolete -- getting the Authors to agree
on things probably no longer matters except as an academic exercise.  Next
month the Implementors are going to meet and attempt to decide on what
-they- think should happen to the language.  They may fail to agree to
anything, but anything they -do- agree upon becomes an instant de facto
standard.  After all, they can implement the things they agree upon, and
they can prevent the Authors from ever agreeing to anything different!  (I
assume that enough of the major Scheme implementations will be represented
to make this plausible -- I haven't actually seen a list of the invitees, I
only know that they rejected my application to attend because I wasn't an

If they manage to agree to anything, it effectively kills the (already
sick) Authors process as a force for defining the language.  Note that my
attempt last month to get the workshop organizers to clarify that this
workshop was -not- an Authors meeting in disguise, elicited instead a
message that explicitly likened the workshop to the original Brandeis
meeting!  That's about as close as you can come to saying that they -are-
hoping to replace the Authors without actually coming right out and saying

The best that the rest of us can hope for is for the workshop participants
to agree to make all future changes to the language through the IEEE
standard.  Then the rest of us can get involved through that process.
(I.e. the best that can happen is for them to agree to what I would have
argued for, had I been invited!)  I suppose it would be some sort of moral
victory for them to simply endorse the Authors process, but that would
leave us stuck back where we started -- I can't imagine them doing that.

Personally, I wish it hadn't worked out this way.  I find it disappointing
that when it became apparent to all that the Authors process was not
working, the very first move made to fix the situation was to exclude
people like me from the discussion.

I'm not actually sure why we're having the discussion about condition
systems on this mailing list right now.  I don't know what other people's
motivations are, but I'm participating because I'm afraid that the workshop
might actually agree on a condition system next month.  If I don't pay
attention to the proposals being made here now, they might pick one that
contains some blunder that could have been nipped in the bud here.  (I know
that the workshop invitees are supposed to be having electronic discussions
of their own right now.  Aren't you all curious to know what they're
talking about?...)

I suppose this message is going to stimulate a lot of replies from people
who think I'm all wet.  All I can say is that I can think of all kinds of
reassurances and clarifications that could be made that would convince me
that this isn't really the final nail in the coffin for the Authors, but I
haven't heard any of them coming from any of the right places yet.