3D Graphics Formats and Social Causes in Computer Languages

By Xah Lee. Date:

On Jan 23, 12:32 pm, Thant Tessman wrote:

I've been thinking about graphics file formats on and off for many years
now. Somewhere along the way I figured out that people were thinking
about the problem from the wrong point of view.


The language is described here:


The SML 'reference' implementation is available here:



Although I do have some experience with XML, I'm no expert. What am I
missing? What is the use of XML for these kinds of things buying people?

I scanned your doc and read your message, but i don't quite understand your idea clearly. It appears to me, you Data Language (DL) is just a lean version of XML. (as one way to put it)

here's some thought about this topic …

things that happen in the industry or academia has a strong, not neglect-able social causes. It might be obvious, that some language X, protocols Y, etc, is clearly technically superior, yet nobody seems to thought of it, invented it, or use it, while the industry and everyone is using or talking about Z and its variants. If one puts social aspects into this equation, many such mystery dissolves.

if i understand your case correctly… note that the concept of XML was due to the popularity of HTML, and was born as a effort to cleaned up HTML, when HTML hit the world big time with once known as World Wide Web in the 1990s. (HTML itself is borne out of SGML, which is quite complex) Once XML with its regularity of syntax came into broad awareness among tech people, large number of ideas and movement happened… you have a bunch of XML related technologies (RSS, XSLT, the whole Ajax related protocols, too many to list)

few years ago, it was popularly thought among lisp fanatics, that the world finally got the sexp idea and copied lisp to have XML. But lisp syntax is not regular. XML is. (and Mathematica is.) Once you have a pure uniform syntax that can trivially parsed, the ideas of the its power spread and lots of tech based on it comes into being, as we see with the case of XML. (note that the many tech development derived from XML happened similarly to Mathematica since 1996 with Mathematica 3)

For details on this, the implication and consequences of a regular syntax, see: Fundamental Problems of Lisp .

Now, given XML, we notice that it is EXTREMELY verbose. Verbose to the point that in puts significant burden to even machines. One wonders, that XML could simply have a lisp like syntax. For example:

  <link rel="alternate" href="xyz"/>

could simply be:

 (title a)
 (id b)
 (updated 2009-01-24T20:39:02-08:00)
 (summary c…)
 (link rel:alternate href:xyz)

this would be clearly superior. (any tech problem, such as easy conflict of data string with the delimiter, can be easily mended by several ways. (For example, [ JSON ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSON ], due to JavaScript and XML influence, is a format similar to the above))

However, consider the social and historical factor, things just happened the way they happened. In retrospect, one can always spot lots flaws that seems obvious.

In regard to your idea, i think similar reason apply. Sure, your DL may be superior. The world doesn't know about it, and probably doesn't need it. Unless, perhaps you started a movement, and if successful, than perhaps all future graphics data will be in DL, and you write a page of history.

On the subject of graphics format… here's some of my grievances. I always hated OpenGL. The incomprehensible, low level, hardware based, speed oriented, C unix style type of shit. I wanted a high level graphics lang.

Around 1995, Apple tried to do something about it. The result is [ QuickDraw3D ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QuickDraw3D ] .

and subsequently, SGI, HP, Microsoft followed with: [ Fahrenheit graphics API ] [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fahrenheit_graphics_API ] .

for complex social reasons (Apple was in the verge of bankruptcy; fighting among the corporations) history be what it is, these fall off the planet earth. We are stuck with the faaking “free and OpenSoure” OpenGL garbage, and DirectX low level faak.

You might also be interested in:

The above is originally posted to comp.lang.functional newsgroup. @ Source groups.google.com