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E's History

See the overview for a map of the history.

The Actor Model by...

...Carl Hewitt, Henry Baker, Henry Lieberman, Will Clinger, Gul Agha and others while at MIT, is as foundational a model of computation as the Turing or Von Neumann models. It is a pure theory of object/capability computation and of asynchronous distributed Open System computation. At the Vat granularity, E is an Actor system.

The KeyKOS Operating System by...

...Norm Hardy, Charley Landau, Bill Frantz and others while at Key Logic, is an orthogonally persistent pure-capability system with a B3-secure architecture. (B3 is the highest technical category of military security.) KeyKOS seems to have done everything right. Over and over, when we ran into hard problems, the heuristic "Do what KeyKOS did" was our most reliable guide to workable solutions.

The Concurrent Prolog family of languages by...

...Ehud "Udi" Shapiro, Jacob Levy, Vijay Saraswat, Kazunori Ueda, Ken Kahn, and many others while at the Weizmann Institute, Xerox PARC, the Fifth Generation Project, and several other labs. These are like Actors, but use Logic Variables as their synchronization & communications construct instead of Actor mailboxes. This has advantages and disadvantages. (Strangely, the "logical" nature of these Horn-clause logic-programming languages made no contribution to E.)

The Joule language by...

...Dean Tribble, Mark Miller, Norm Hardy and others while at Agorics, is E's most direct and important ancestor. Joule's Channels combine the virtues of pure Actors with those of Logic Variables. This also results in Promise Pipelining, producing a vastly more efficient use of the network and a more understandable and flexible way to deal with the results of asynchronous requests.

Original-E by...

...Doug Barnes, Chip Morningstar, Danfuzz Bornstein, Gordie Freedman, Eric Messick and others while at ("Electric Communities" at the time), started by shoehorning Joule's elements into a Java base. For 25 years the Actor tradition assumed that in order to do concurrency control right, we had to give up sequentiality. While the invention of this deadlock-free alternative may have required this premise, once invented, E shows it coexists with sequential programming perfectly well, producing the first Actor language that's easy to learn.


In Original-E, built and went into Beta with EC-Habitats, a graphically-rich secure system of distributed social virtual realities. Actual deployment demontrated the value of the E model, but also taught us many lessons.

The birth of E by...

...Mark Miller, Bill Frantz, Jamie Fenton, Chip Morningstar, Doug Crockford, Danfuzz Bornstein, Bob Schumaker, Rob Kinnemont, Melora Svoboda and others while at E largely has the same goals as the Original-E, but takes these lessons into account. E's Promises are derived from Joule's Channels and from the Promise architecture of the Udanax system.

The Open E Project

Since spinning out of, the currently active contributors to E include Mark Miller, Marc Stiegler, Tyler Close, Bill Frantz, Ka Ping Yee, Chip Morningstar, Jonathan Shapiro, Norm Hardy, E. Dean Tribble, Zooko (Bryce Wilcox-O'Hearn), Terry Stanley, Kevin Reid, Alan Karp, David Hopwood, Steve Jenson, Hal Finney, David Wagner, Constantine Plotnikov, Ken Kahn, Vijay Saraswat, Jonathan Rees, and Darius Bacon.(As a spontaneous Bazaar-style open-source project, this category is necessarily fuzzy. If you would like your name added or removed from this list, please let me, the, know.)

Unless stated otherwise, all text on this page which is either unattributed or by Mark S. Miller is hereby placed in the public domain.
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