Required Reading (was Re: Who needs XHTML Namespace?)

David Brownell david-b at
Wed Sep 1 20:25:10 BST 1999

I don't think I saw any URL for the reading that's required:

And there are other copies too, some with dates that I suspect may be
more accurate.  Section 2.1 is the "worse is better" that's so often
taken out of context.  It really is a classic -- read it!

"Steven R. Newcomb" wrote:
> My money's on the MIT approach.  The New Jersey approach was right
> only briefly ...

I'll disagree, for all the reasons in that paper!  :-)

Don't be misled by some of the labels that were applied.  It's unfair
in a major way to characterize the "MIT approach" as "the right thing",
or to accept the "worse is better" labeling without understanding
the biases that were being explicated by that paper.

A more balanced characterization is "overengineering" (or perhaps
even "academic research") versus "making tradeoffs for simplicity".
Or, as it was expressed in that paper, the "big complex system"
(MIT approach) versus the "diamond-like jewel" (New Jersey).

Remember, you need to understand that the author of that piece was
from the MIT crowd and was trying to explain to that group just what
had gone wrong.  What made the LISP community lose so thoroughly to
the UNIX/C community -- just as it seemed victory was in reach?

Somehow he neglected to mention some fairly major issues (LISP needed
expensive hardware, vs off-the-shelf UNIX boxen; and also, many people
have an illogical aversion to parenthesis :-), though he did tease
out some more subtle issues tied to the way UNIX/C prioritized
simplicity and usability (== adoptability).

- Dave

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