|Volume 1: No. 14|
Aaron Sloman (firstname.lastname@example.org) sent me a blurb about his Poplog AI development environment. It doesn't compile to the fastest code, but has a lot of flexibility and uses less memory than most Common LISPs. It is being used for teaching, research, and software development in the UK, Europe, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia, etc., and was the main development environment for several of the big Alvey projects in the UK.
Poplog includes incremental compilers for PROLOG, Common LISP, Pop-11, and Standard ML, plus an EMACS-like screen editor, utilities, OOP libraries, expert system utilities, and an X Windows interface with widget sets and asynchronous callbacks. Programs written in C, Fortran, Pascal, etc., can be dynamically linked and unlinked. There are hundreds of online help, teach, and reference files and a large collection of utility and demonstration sources, as well as a library of contributed public- domain programs.
Pop-11 is a LISP-like language with a richer, more readable syntax -- somewhat like Pascal. (There's a review of the Alphapop Mac-based subset in Byte, May 1988, and an introduction to Pop-11 is included in Mike Sharples' AI/CogSci textbook Computers and Thought, MIT Press, 1989.) ML is used by computer scientists and software engineers for teaching and research.
Tools for developing portable, incremental compilers are included. All languages compile to a common virtual machine language, so porting requires only a new "back end." Libraries can be reused without translation because the languages share data structures. Poplog currently runs on VAX (VMS/Ultrix/Bsd Unix), Sun3, Sun386i, Sun4(SPARC), SPARCstation, Solbourne, etc., HP 9000 300 (M680x0) series workstations with HPUX, Sequent Symmetry with Dynix, DECstation and DECservers running Ultrix, MIPS servers and workstations running MIPS Unix, and Silicon Graphics (with MIPS processor). Some capabilities are available for Apollo with Bsd Unix, the Mac II running A/UX, and 80x86-based PCs running Unix.
Aaron suspects there's still a huge potential market for an AI language like Pop-11 because of its convenience for rapid prototyping and its familiarity and readability compared with LISP. Most of the established AI community are not interested, but businesses have found traditional AI tools and languages wanting in flexibility, size, embedability, and cost. Different application areas need their own special-purpose tools: the general toolkits tend to be too big and ineffective. There are still companies developing and using AI techniques, but merging them with software engineering and aiming more to amplify human intelligence than build machine intelligence.
Poplog is a fully supported commercial product. For more information, contact Colin Shearer at ISL (colins%integ.uucp @cs.qmw.ac.uk). Robin Popplestone (email@example.com) handles U.S. and Canadian distribution, with 85% discount to academics. Steve Knight (firstname.lastname@example.org) at HP-UK runs an active Poplog e-mail forum and the Poplog User Group (PLUG).