3. History

Figure 1. ECL's family tree

ECL's family tree

The ECL project is an implementation of the Common-Lisp language inherits from many other previous projects, as shown in Figure 1. The oldest ancestor is the Kyoto Common Lisp, an implementation developed at the the Research Institute for Mathematical Sciences, Kyoto University KCL. This implementation was developed partially in C and partially in Common Lisp itself and featured a lisp to C translator.

The KCL implementation remained a propietary project for some time. During this time, William F. Schelter improved KCL in several areas and developed Austin Kyoto Common-Lisp (AKCL). However, those changes had to be distributed as patches over the propietary KCL implementation and it was not until much later that both KCL and AKCL became freely available and gave rise to the GNU Common Lisp project, GCL.

Around the 90's, Giusseppe Attardi worked on the KCL and AKCL code basis to produce an implementation of Common Lisp that could be embedded in other C programs ECL. The result was an implementation sometimes known as ECL and sometimes as ECoLisp, which achieved rather good compliance to the informal specification of the language in CLTL2, and which run on a rather big number of platforms.

The ECL project stagnated a little bit in the coming years. In particular, certain dependencies such as object binary formats, word sizes and some C quirks made it difficult to port it to new platforms. Furthermore, ECL was not compliant with the ANSI specification, a goal that other Common Lisps were struggling to achieve.

This is where the ECLS or ECL-Spain project began. Juanjo García-Ripoll took the ECoLisp sources and worked on them, with some immediate goals in mind: increase portability, make the code 64-bit clean, make it able to build itself from scratch, without other implementation of Common Lisp and restore the ability to link ECL with other C programs.

Those goals were rather quickly achieved. ECL became ported to a number of platforms and with the years also compatibility with the ANSI specification became a more important goal. At some point the fork ECLS, with agreement of Prof. Attardi, took over the original ECL implementation and it became what it is nowadays, a community project.

In 2013 once again project got unmaintained. In 2015 Daniel Kochmański took position of maintainer with consent of Juanjo García-Ripoll.

The ECL project owes a lot to different people who have contributed in many different aspects, from pointing out bugs and incompatibilities of ECL with other programs and specifications, to actually solving these bugs and porting ECL to new platforms.

Current development of ECL is still driven by Daniel Kochmański with main focus on improving ANSI compliance and compapibility with Common Lisp libraries ecosystem, fixing bugs, improving speed and protability. The project homepage is located at https://common-lisp.net/project/ecl/, and there are pointers to all project resources like mailing list and main repository.