At the time of Franz Lisp's creation, the Macsyma computer algebra system ran principally on a DEC PDP-10. This computer's limited address space caused difficulties. Attempted remedies included ports of Maclisp to Multics or Lisp Machines, but even if successful these would only be solutions for MIT as these machines were expensive and not commonly available. Franz Lisp was the first example of a framework where large Lisp programs could be run outside the Lisp Machine environment—at the time, Macsyma was considered a very large program. After being ported to Franz Lisp, Macsyma was distributed to about 50 sites under a license restricted by MIT's interest in making Macsyma proprietary. The VAX Macsyma that ran on Franz Lisp was called Vaxima. When Symbolics Inc. bought the commercial rights to Macsyma from MIT to sell along with its Lisp Machines, it eventually was compelled to sell Macsyma also on DEC VAX and Sun Microsystems computers, paying royalties to the University of California for the use of Franz Lisp.

Other Lisp implementations for the VAX were MIT's NIL (never completely functional), University of Utah's Portable Standard Lisp, DEC's VAX Lisp, Xerox's Interlisp-VAX and Le Lisp.

In 1982 the port of Franz Lisp to the Motorola 68000 processor was started. In particular, it was ported to a prototype Sun-1 made by Sun Microsystems, which ran a variant of Berkeley UNIX called SunOS. In 1986, at Purdue University, Franz Lisp was ported to the CCI Power 6/32 platform (code named "Tahoe").

The major contributors to Franz Lisp at UC Berkeley were John K. Foderaro, Keith Sklower and Kevin Layer.

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Franz Lisp Branch
Preceded by
Franz Lisp Followed by
Common Lisp