[erlang-questions] Question about erlang history at Ericsson

Francesco Cesarini (Erlang Training and Consulting) francesco@REDACTED
Tue Jan 13 16:48:21 CET 2009

One of the things which is not obvious from this thread are the 
iterative cycles Erlang went through when it was invented. The CS lab 
first spent a few years prototyping telecom applications with existing 
languages (1985). Conclusion was that many had great features, but no 
one language encompassed them all... So they decided to invent their 
own,  spending a few years prototyping telecom applications fine tuning 
the language in every iteration.  When they felt comfortable with it, 
they got the first external users to evaluate it (1987). And from there, 
it had even more iterations (in the process, resulting in Mike Williams 
writing the first C based virtual machine in 1991). A year after the the 
first C based VM came out (The first one was in Prolog), a very small 
group of developers started using it to build the mobility server 
(1992), a product which went live two years later (1994). Feedback from 
support issues and further development after the system started selling 
was once again fed back to the CS lab, who in 1995 added new features 
such as distribution, records, macros, include files, funs and lists 
comprehensions. With this level of maturity, the language was now ready 
to be used in larger systems and the  AXD301 and  ANX projects became 
reality (1995) . In conjunction with them, the CS lab jump started the 
OTP project after merging it with a lightweight version of it called 
BOS. OTP R1 was released in 1996.

So to say that the technology was unproven is not 100% correct. Maybe it 
was not proven in large scale projects, but it certainly was proven and 
validated in commercial products Ericsson was selling. This was more 
than other languages [which may not be named] who have 9 lives and a 
marketing department with generous funds behind them. By 1995, Erlang 
Systems (They did Training & Consulting) with a staff of about 25 
employees dedicated to supporting Ericsson projects. The OTP department, 
as they are usually called, was also created around that time to support 
the development of Erlang itself.

More info is also available in the paper wirtten for HOPL: 

Francesco (Feeling old but nostalgic :-) )

Ed Korsberg wrote:
> I am new to this Erlang forum so please excuse any 'newbe' errors on 
> my part.
> I recently learned of the power of Erlang while attending a conference 
> and while I find the technology
> of the Erlang language interesting, I am really curious how Ericsson 
> engineering and management had the
> courage to produce a real revenue generating product on a radical 
> previously unproven design.
> Many companies have internal engineering resources to create 
> innovative research projects but it is
> rare for these research projects to make the transition to shipping 
> products complete with all the quality
> control and field support required.
> I would be curious to learn how Ericsson managed this transition from 
> an internal R&D development to
> a real shipping product.
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