[its-hackers] acronym for MUDDLE

Jack Haverty jack at 3kitty.org
Sun Sep 26 19:26:41 CEST 2021

My recollection is that MUDDLE was never an acronym.   Too many 
letters.  Rather it was a parody of the name of the group - "Dynamic 
Modelling".   Instead of "Modelling", the small group working on what 
became MDL were "Muddling around", experimenting with language ideas, 
adopting techniques from LISP, and especially building tools to create 
an IDE instead of just a language.    I don't remember but I can believe 
that I probably wandered by CLR's office and asked "Whatcha doing?" and 
got "Just muddling around" as a response. It's the kind of thing I can 
easily imaging Dave Cressey (DC) would have said.  We all did a lot of 
muddling in DM, in hardware as well as software.

Lick's early papers presenting his vision of how computers should be 
used to augment human activity introduced the concept of "dynamic 
models", which I always assumed is where the group's name came from.   
So building tools was part of the charter, since they fit the definition 
of computers helping people (us hackers at DM).   The DM group name even 
changed as the focus of the funding agencies shifted.  E.g., at one 
point we were "Automatic Programming", when the government wanted us to 
figure out how to make it possible to develop software faster and 
cheaper.  But the PDP-10 was always called MIT-DM.

That was in contrast to Minsky's group working on Artificial 
Intelligence, whose focus was on having computers do what people did, 
rather than just "helping" humans do stuff.    So in DM, there was 
always the notion that a human was involved and the computer was 
assisting, whereas in AI the notion was that the computer should be able 
to operate on its own as an artificial intelligence.

There was another major effort called "CALICO", which may have been an 
acronym for something (CAre was part of it).  That was based entirely on 
PDP-10 assembler.   There was even a rudimentary implementation of a 
higher-level language built as part of CALICO, called "CHILL" which 
stood for Calico HIgh Level Language).   PDL would know more about 
that.   I believe it was part of the demonstration at the ARPANET setup 
for the ICCC '72 conference in Washington, DC, where attendees could use 
CHILL on MIT-DM by remote access from the ballroom.

MDL is still the best programming environment I encountered over 50 
years.   Today, Node Red comes pretty close to actually implementing 
Lick's vision of creating programs by "plugging together" program 
fragments from a large dictionary of pieces.  But it doesn't have the 
rich toolset for debugging and optimizing that MDL created.

/Jack Haverty
(MIT-DM 1970-1977)

On 9/26/21 12:29 AM, Lars Brinkhoff wrote:
> Rick Shiffman wrote:
>> If this doesn't make it to its-hackers, Lars you might want to forward
>> this to its-hackers
>> When I asked GFP ,BKD, and maybe CLR, what MUDDLE stud for. I was told
>> it wasn't an acronym when MUDDLE was created. People would walk by the
>> MUDDLE creators and ask what they doing. There reply Was "We are
>> muddling around". Chris correct me if I got this wrong.
>> The best acronym made up after the fact was "Mac Users Dynamic
>> Debugging List Evaluator"
> For MDL, Wikipedia offers these:
> Model Development Language
> MIT Design Language
> More Datatypes than Lisp (jokingly, I assume)

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