Archive for October, 2011

McCarthy’s recipe for a programming language

October 31, 2011

On October 23, 2011 John McCarthy died. He is remembered as the inventor of Lisp, for contributions to the theory of computation, and for contributions to artificial intelligence. In this essay I argue that he did more than inventing Lisp; even more than originating the concept of high-level programming: he showed to those willing to see it a recipeĀ for designing high-level languages. I support my argument by turning the clock back to 1950 and imagining how McCarthy’s recipe could have been followed at that point in time. By taking this unusual point of view I hope to bring out more clearly McCarthy’s contribution to programming languages. (more…)