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What is that -*- line for, anyway?

To add to what you have said historically speaking, orginally
it was easier for an editor to understand "-*-" rather than some
form such as (MODULE "name" :package "foo" :syntax "bar)
presumably because the "-*-" first showed up in the TECO implemented EMACS
editor on the PDP-10. Predating lispmachines of course (not by much,
so an ITS historian should check me on this).

Q: Who invented the file mode line in EMACS? 
Q: Who decided to extend this to the file attribute line syntax on the Lispm?

Later the "-*-" syntax was extended to require/allow such things as
#||-*- mode:lisp;
       package:(FOOBAR :USE (GLOBAL BAZ)
                       :SHADOW (CAR CDR CONS));
   -*- ||#

 From this it is obvious that our Mr. Lab Managers comment about "-*-"
being easier to parse "for your editor so that it need not actually
'read' lisp" is both ignorant and condescending. The stuff after the
":" must be parsed with READ.