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This mini forum is intended to provide a simple means of discussion about the Scientific Computer  SYMBOLICS 3600 computer. If you want to share your own experience or memories, or add relevant information about this system: post a message!

  Click Here to add a message in the forum


Sunday 27th August 2017
Allan Dobbins (United States)

I used Symbolics LISPMs in the latter half of 80s to early 90s. They were far ahead of anything else. Many programmers felt that they were about an order of magnitude more productive on these compared to the alternatives at the time. The geniuses who designed the LISPMs (originally a prototype in the MIT AI lab) created a completely integrated environment in which the same keyboard shortcuts were available everywhere. The compiler was amazing: one could do incremental compiles e.g. just recompile the function you had just added or changed without recompiling the whole, possibly very large program. Of course you had to do a global recompile from time to time. We had two head systems $ color graphics on one monitor, and the Zmacs editor, etc on the other monitor. I could change my program easily without reloading, linking, etc. by using the incremental compilation capability. I''ve never experienced anything close since. Thirty years ago! Some may find this hard to believe, but others who used these systems can verify. In the mid-90s we created a weak imitation on Silicon Graphics computers $ a large C++ program with OpenGL and OpenInventor and the Guile scripting language on top that allowed one to do a lot of things dynamically with the underlying 3D graphics. Not as flexible though. I maintain that in some respects the Symbolics LISPMS represent a pinnacle of computer engineering that has never been equaled.

Wednesday 5th September 2012
Christian Berger

Actually in 2002 the CCC had a talk on Lisp machines.

Apparently on those the RAM was just cache for the disk. They didn''t have a file system as such, but used the LISP memory management for that.

Apparently the web server of the white house ran on a LISP machine during the Clinton era.

Saturday 30th July 2011

Yes, Symbolics later created NUBUS add in cards that worked with 68K macintosh Quadras called the Macivory, Macivory II, and Macivory III.

If you want to pick one up for yourself you can email Note that they''re pretty pricey.

Here''s a screenshot of a macivory:

Sunday 16th January 2011

I saw one of them in very high end graphics/animation design company. It was happily showing 1080P uncompressed 3D animations in 1993 or so. Trust me, consider yourself lucky if you haven''t seen one as it would really shake your impression of later "breakthrough" systems. :)

Wednesday 6th October 2010

The Symbolics machines are, in my opinion, the most ambitious computing platforms of their time so far. If you would like to see what they were capable of, please go to you tube and search "mind''s eye breaking the ice" (without the quotation marks).

Monday 28th March 2005
kwa (us)

Didn't symbolics later build this onto a NuBus card that fit into a Mac II?

Sunday 2nd May 2004
Qbasic DUDE (US)

Wow! This thing has amazing graphics even for 1990
and it was made in '83!
I wish there were screenshots though

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