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Ask Kent M. Pitman About Lisp, Scheme And More

timothy posted more than 12 years ago | from the by-special-reader-request dept.

Programming 353

Kent M. Pitman has been programming in Scheme and Lisp, and contributing to the design of those languages, for a long time -- 24 years. He was a technical contributor and an international representative for the ANSI subcommittee that standardized Common Lisp, and in that capacity directed the design of Lisp's error system. Scheme may be better known as a teaching language, but both Scheme and Lisp have applications (as any Emacs user knows) that go far beyond this. Now's your chance to ask him about the pros and cons of those two languages, circa 2001 A.D. Kent also has an interesting, ambivalent take on Free software that's worth noting in an atmosphere where complex issues are often oversimplified and radicalized. Since he's someone who's helped develop standards, this is perhaps a timely issue on which to probe his opinion. It's also a good time to get acquainted with things he's written, which might interest you just as much as his programming. (Soap opera parodies, anyone?) So suggest questions for Kent below (please, one per post) -- we'll pass along the highest-rated ones for him to answer, and Kent will get back soon with his answers.

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This (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420525)

is what like to call my FP, MOTHER FUCKERS

Re:This (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420540)

uh, thats what I like to call my FP, my excitement led to the loss of the "I"

Fuck ya'll.

Re:This (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420592)

I claim your fp as my own. Thanks.

- The AC Avenger

I like the way lil' boys feel!

Re:This (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420623)

I don't think so, nigger.

Why don't you make more productive use of your time and offer Kent pitman a rimjob?

Re:This (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420739)


- The AC Avenger

I like the way lil' boys feel!

My question, sir: (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420687)

Are you now or have you ever engaged in or supported terroristic activities against the United States of America?

-- Jo Jo McCarthy, jr.

Lisp becoming more used (1, Interesting)

zairius (54221) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420534)

As we move closer to having infinite memory and infinite processor speed do you see Lisp being used more in the mainstream?

John Casey

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0)

bliss (21836) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420549)

"As we move closer to having infinite memory and infinite processor speed do you see Lisp being used more in the mainstream? "

Uhhh apart from emacs where is lisp in high demand in the free software world?

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420565)

Lots of places. Sawfish for instance in the GNOME desktop.

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420559)

No way, Lisp is way outdated, and it isn't even a pure functional language. People will want to use Haskell [] , Erlang [] , or Goatsex [] instead.

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420639)

all haskell users use goatsex. It is included in the haskell standard library (the giver)

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420578)

Or, in other words, `do you accept that, because sloppy/inefficient coding is the future of software development, its only a matter of time before Visual Scheme becomes a disgusting reality?`

Re:Lisp becoming more used (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420616)

This was the kind of stupid asshole I was talking about, Kent.

I had to say it (3, Funny)

smileyy (11535) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420653)

We're no closer to having infinite memory and infinite processor speed than we were 40 years ago.

mmmm...a set of bits of cardinality aleph-null...

Re:Lisp becoming more used (2)

sharkey (16670) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420669)

Too bad "Infinite Justice" is likely to make it illegal to use all that memory and speed.

I must object! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420728)

Dear Sirs,

As someone pretnding to be a Muslim, I find that I must strenously object to the parent post [] !

As anyone whoe isn't a beknighted homicidal goober would surely know, the phrase "Infinite Justice" is highly offense to towel-headed camel-rapers everywhere. Only Allah can grant "Infinite Justice", and for mere mortals to bandy such terms around is highly arrogant!

Yours truly,
Col. A.J. Sandnigger
Bumfuk, Egypt []

Well, I never! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420813)

Dear Sirs,

I must voice my strong objection to people ripping of stale Monty Python sketches revolving around faked letters to the editor in a sad attempt to get cheap yuks.

We all know that the only way to reduce crime is to reduce the number of offences. Get it out in the open, I say! Who, at one time or another, hasn't set fire to a great public building? Lord knows I have.

Brig. Gen. John A. Biggboote, (Mrs.)
Bumwap-on-the-Thames, Sissyshire

adequacy (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420545)

adequacy []


TrollMan 5000 (454685) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420652)

Don't click on above link. It's worse than!!!


Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420667)

Indeed, I did enjoy the poll though...

Who is your favorite terrorist?

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed

Muhammad Atef

Osama bin Laden

Abdelkarim Hussein

Mohamed Al-Nasser

Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan

Abdul Rahman Yasin

Ahmad Rashad

Didn't Ahmad Rashad host 'NBA inside stuff' for a time?


Strom Thurmond (R-SC (310866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420680)

Rashad was a wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 70's / early 80's. He is married to Phylicia Rashad, who you might remember as Ms. Huxtable in the 80's incarnation of "The Cosby Show".

He would certainly be a front runner for my vote in that poll.


Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420769)

Mohammed Zahir Shah

Re:adequacy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420698)

Hey - just what the world needs - another site for morons to go on and on about how the world would be better if THEY were in charge. Is taken?

Summary? (-1)

Juan Epstein (238683) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420548)

I got confused after "Kent M. Pitman has..." Could somebody dumb it down a bit for me?

P.S. Cyborg_Monkey: Did you finally manage to gnaw off that ankle locator bracelet?

Re:Summary? (-1)

Strom Thurmond (R-SC (310866) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420560)

Ensign Wesley is coming to this website. Beware.

Re:Summary? (-1)

cyborg_monkey (150790) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420561)

Yes, gnaw is exactly what I did.

Re:Summary? (1, Informative)

bliss (21836) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420570)

he's a man who is influential in the programming language called lisp.

Re:Summary? (-1)

Juan Epstein (238683) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420681)

Thanks bliss! I'm sorry for making fun of your family behind your back the other day.

hi, my question is... (-1)

tealover (187148) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420569)

do you speak with a lisp?

thank you

Re:hi, my question is... (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420575)

I shpeak with a lishp.

(someone had to do it)

Re:hi, my question is... (0)

stevenbee (227371) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420717)

That'th not a lithp. Thith ith.

command on the left (0, Redundant)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420571)

I think LISP would be more readable and easier to transition to if the command was on the left side of the parenths instead of between.

How hard would it be to change the interpreter(s) for that?

Re:command on the left (4, Informative)

Jackster (55653) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420662)

The reason it in inside is it is then part of the list that is denoted by the parentheses, and can be more easily manipulated by a another scheme procedure reflectively. Reflection is the property that code can examine and change code at its same level of abstraction and run it. I saw an example where you could pass an expression like
(+ 2 (* x (/ x 3))) into a "derivative" method, which would examine that expression, MODIFY it, and return a completely valid new scheme method that was the actual mathematical derivative.

Very cool. The reason it could easily do this recursively is that the operators were bould with the arguments inside the same list.

Re:command on the left (1)

dirtyhippie (259852) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420714)

I'd be very surprised if it modified the original, but instead returned a new one. I suppose you didn't mean that though.

Re:command on the left (1)

Mark_pdx (466326) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420706)

Cadence did exactly this in SKILL (a proprietary version of LISP used in chip design CAD) and
it's absolutely awful. Your code and stack traces become completely unreadable. LISP only makes
sense like it is, with the operator inside the paren. You just need to program LISP long enough
until your brain "gets it", then you will be writing code very quickly....

Linux -- Not an executable? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420573)

If this is "off topic" please forgive me, but I need some advice.
I know that my subject for this bit of prose may be a bit brash, but
if you'll hear me out, I believe that what I'm about to say will make more
than a bit of sense assuming that you're a rational and thinking person.

I am a long time computer user, and I've experimented with many different
applications in my computing career. These include Word, Excel, Access,
Internet Explorer, etc... What I'm trying to get across here is that I'm no
novice when it comes to computer trickery. I'm new to this forum, and I keep
hearing this word Linux. I decided to do some investigation, and ended up
at a website called Some of you may have heard of it. After
fumbling around the seemingly endless slough of badly organized files, I did
manage to find a file mentioned on a recent article I saw here called
linux-2.4.11.tar.bz2. As I've always done in the past, I right-clicked on it
and saved it to my Windows desktop.

This is where I get confused. THIS FILE IS NOT AN EXECUTABLE! I tried double
clicking on it AGAIN and AGAIN, but it will not execute! It just keeps bringing
up this Open With box over and over again... How am I supposed to run this
wonderous program that I keep hearing all of this great stuff about if it won't
run? What kind of graphic is supposed to come up when it starts? I've used a
program called Netscape that some of you may have heard of, and it brings up
this wheel like you steer a boat with. Will I see something similar here? I
tried opening the file in Notepad.exe, but it said it was too big, and I needed
to use WordPad instead. I opened it in WordPad, and all this crazy stuff came
up. I know that this program is "open source", but if this is the stuff that
you programmers write in, then I wouldn't want to be your eye doctor. Anyway,
I want my Windows to stop crashing, so if some of you could tell me how to
use this program to do that, I would be really happy.


Re:Linux -- Not an executable? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420619)

What is the extension of the file you're trying to open? If it is something like .tgz, .tar.gz, or something similar then you need to download winzip to open it. If it is .rpm then you can't use it in Windows. If it is .iso then you can burn it to a cd-rom and boot the cd and the linux will come up after that.

Re:Linux -- Not an executable? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420657)

YHBT, YHL, HAND, you fucking anonymous FUCKTARD!!

Re:Linux -- Not an executable? (1)

raz16 (527561) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420628)

IMHO you have downloaded something for Linux, just another OS.

serious question (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420577)

why do all these fags and queers have lisps when they speak?

Is it a result of sucking too much cock??



serious answer (-1)

Fecal Troll Matter (445929) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420603)

Your mother is without a lisp, AC. She sure sucks MY cock too much.

Educational Languages? (2, Redundant)

FortKnox (169099) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420583)

Lisp and Scheme have long been viewed as just "Educational Languages". Do you see any future with the two languages in commercial software?

Re:Educational Languages? (1)

ezzewezza (84083) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420845)

commercial software like yahoo stores written in lisp?

Question for Mr. Pitman (-1)

TrollMan 5000 (454685) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420584)

Do you really talk with a lisp too, or just about LISP?

University Students (1)

akula1 (463239) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420587)

It seems that more and more universities are focusing only on C++/Java, even to the point of discouraging learning other languages. Do you see this as continuing trend? If so, how do you think this will shape the next generation of computer scientists?

Scheme in CS (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420599)

It seems many of the more popular CS programs in the world use Scheme as a teaching language. A lot of times, students complain about this, saying they'd prefer to learn about C or another language that is considered "apt for industry." I used to be like this too, but have now discovered the error of my thinking. How have you convinced others that while the latest programs might not be written in Scheme, that it is worth a student's time to learn Scheme. Many seem stuck to the point that if they won't use it outside of school, they shouldn't learn it. How can we convince them otherwise, to become scholarly citizens instead of drones?

Re:Scheme in CS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420715)

Why not learn C++, and OOD instead of scheme? Its in the industry, and it teaches them the theory they need to know.

I learned C++ and OOD in school, and have profitted because of it. Scheme would have been a waste of my time.

Re:Scheme in CS (0)

DeepMind (444458) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420754)

I've been studying Scheme in my CS class. However, it was a fork called "SWIT" (Scheme WIth Types, somewhat useless).

I didn't learn anything but enabling vim's bracket matching option :)

The previous year (and the next year as well), this class was dedicated to Prolog, which I think as being more useful and less boring.


Re:Scheme in CS (2, Informative)

Mark_pdx (466326) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420760)

Many EDA (electronic design CAD) tools use LISP variants. Cadence's SKILL, Avanti uses Scheme. It's 10X faster to write code than procedural languages, and the code is rock-solid (if you know what you're doing) because you can easily test the pieces as you build up your code. I spend 10X less time debugging LISP than procedural languages.

Even if you don't use it, any programmer should at least code enough lisp to understand how elegant programming can be. Become one with the stack. Witness the power of (mapcar It's a completely different kind of mindset than the procedural languages.

Oh Kent... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420600)

why sully yourself by doing an interview for these stupid assholes?

LISP on Windows (2, Interesting)

Multiple Sanchez (16336) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420608)

Does the relative absence of a good, free LISP interpreter for Windows ever give you pause?

Re:LISP on Windows (1)

eblake (148779) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420747)

You can run GNU emacs (or xemacs, if so inclined) on Windows. Pre-compiled binaries can be found here [] . Therefore, there ARE free LISP interpreters available for Windows, and all other platforms which emacs has been ported to.

A welcome alternative to Franz Allegro (1)

Multiple Sanchez (16336) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420800)

...which I've been suffering with for years. Am I the only one who finds their offerings [] to be clunky, quirky, and inefficient?

Re:A welcome alternative to Franz Allegro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420886)

Franz's compiler is simply beautiful. Where you got efficient from, I don't know, since I can frequently r0x0t gcc's s0x0rz with it.

Re:LISP on Windows (1)

Ehud (259882) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420765)

CLISP is alright. It doesn't compile to native code, but it's still very fast. It's at, I think.

Re:LISP on Windows (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420792)

Re:LISP on Windows (2)

hding (309275) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420826)

The right link for XAnalys is actually here [] (no 'i').

Where has Lisp been? (4, Interesting)

mikewelter (526625) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420612)

I've suggested to my employer that we use Lisp to generate some source code as a product of pattern matching. His response was "where has Lisp been for the last seven years?" He's right. No new books. No press. No interest. Do you see Lisp falling off the end of the earth?

24 years on LISP??? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420620)

This dude has got to be one sick SOB!!!

"Good" applications for Lisp (4, Interesting)

HyperbolicParabaloid (220184) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420624)

I'm a professional programmer, mostly Java, primarily in the financial services industry. I've recently become interested in Lisp (UPS delivered Graham's book yesterday).
It seems to me that Lisp would be useful in areas such as derivatives ananlysis, where people come up with a new exotic type of option every day. I'm still learning about Lisp, but it seems that it might provide more flexibility to handle this constant evolution.
Is that analysis accurate? What general types of problems is lisp best suited for?

general types of problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420819)

Well, judging from Emacs, it's really insanely great for creating huge, bloated, overkill applications that hog more system resources than sendmail taking it in the ass from a horde of Nigerian fraud spammers. I mean, come ON people! You're editing TEXT! PLAIN! ASCII! TEEEEEEEXT!

Lisp used in finance (2)

hding (309275) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420838)

I use Lisp for something similar in finance. So, yes, it does work for that.

Announcement (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420630)

I like the way lil' boys feel!

-- Kent M. Pitman
I am a raging homosexual with a lisp!

Educational vs. production languages (2)

thinmac (98095) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420634)

Lisp and scheme are both used in educational setting pretty commonly, but I don't know of any production projects (which isn't to say they don't exist) that use either language. Could you discuss the difference between what makes a good educational language and a good working language, specifically as to why it might be useful to learn in a language that you are unlikely to ever use in a work environment.

Re:Educational vs. production languages (1)

Publicus (415536) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420733)

I could be wrong, but I believe that Emacs is written in Lisp. I know that it contains its own Lisp interpreter for writing extensions. Does anyone know what language was used to develop Emacs?

Re:Educational vs. production languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420880)

too bad the source code for eamcs isn't available. If it was, you'd be able to answer the question yourself.

Re:Educational vs. production languages (1)

Ehud (259882) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420799)

Franz has a few listed on their webpage: here [] .

By the way: Apparently lots of people use Lisp (Common Lisp), but don't tell, because they consider it a competitive advantage, and would rather not that their competitors have the same advantage.

Re:Educational vs. production languages (1)

SamBeckett (96685) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420804)

Yahoo! Store is written in Common Lisp. It sold for $30 million a few years back.

Lisp as a Macro Language (2)

wiredog (43288) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420637)

Are there any programs other than Autocad and Emacs that use lisp as the macro language?

Re:Lisp as a Macro Language (2, Informative)

rgmoore (133276) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420671)

I can think of at least one other program that does: the Sawfish [] window manager that's now the default WM for GNOME.

Re:Lisp as a Macro Language (1)

dmelomed (148666) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420755)

Abuse the game from had it's levels written in Lisp. And it was an awesome game too.

List in Mathematics Programming (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420650)

Gregory Chaitin has a book called "the limits of mathematics." In it he claims that mathematicians should love Lisp because Lisp is basically set theory, and all mathematicians love set theory. I wholeheartedly agree with this, one only needs to look at Chaitin's Lisp programs to realize how quickly and succinctly one can arrive at astonishing incompleteness results in mathematics. So we know Lisp is great for stuff like this, really researhing a mathematical subject. Do you see Lisp continuing in this direction, showing and discovering theorems, or will it move into industry? Or has it moved into industry, and we just don't know it? Do the likes of NASA and JPL use Lisp and Scheme religiously? I would bet so.

Too damn hard (1)

HyperbolicParabaloid (220184) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420663)

There don't appear to be a lot of Lisp programming jobs out there right now. I suspect that is because there aren't many commercial Lisp projects, perhaps because there aren't many Lisp programmers....
If Lisp is so great, why is that so? Or, more positively, how do we overcome this bias against Lisp?

so Kent, how is your Lisp? (-1)

motherfuckin_spork (446610) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420676)

been going to speech therapy? albe to pronouce "silly sally sells seashells by the sea shore" yet?

at least you don't have that damned Elmer Fudd-like r/w l/w replacement... damn that's annoying...

Scheme as an inefficent language (-1)

DeepMind (444458) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420678)

I've been studying Scheme at schools, but I've still no girlfriend. Isn't that a design flaw of the language ?


Re:Scheme as an inefficent language (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420693)

No. You have no girlfriend because you do not follow the Way of the Spork, and also because you have a 1 inch dick, and because you smell bad. Any other questions?

just because he has a lisp (-1, Offtopic)

gonar (78767) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420692)

that's no reason to think he is scheming...

Re:just because he has a lisp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420879)

last time I ever post a joke as me. can't you fuckers tell the difference between a joke and a troll?

Future of Scheme? (2)

Larne (9283) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420729)

The IEEE spec has expired, I can't find any information about efforts towards r6rs, and not much seems to be happening on the SRFI front. On the other hand, there's an active Scheme community and dozens of implementions, and it seems more show up daily.

How do you reconcile these apparent contradictions, and where do you see Scheme going?

how are you camelfuckers? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420737)

all your ,,QUAEDA'' are belong to us !!!

The prerequisite FP question (4, Interesting)

Larne (9283) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420749)

What are your thoughts about Haskell, OCaml, and teh state of functional programming in general?

Re:The prerequisite FP question (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420846)

What are your thoughts about Haskell

You mean Colleen? I think she's YUMMY!

Although she can't act worth a damn.

Worse is better... (1)

PHAEDRU5 (213667) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420758)

I love Lisp, and "The Little Lisper" is one of my all time favorite computer books.

However, I think Lisp will never be more than a niche language, for reasons Richard P. Gabriel has made all too obvious. []

My question, for what it's worth, is "Why bother?"

Lisp - Scheme - ML (5, Interesting)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420762)

I know a lot of big academic (erstwhile) lisp shops, such as CMU, have transitioned away from lisp to ML [] and relatives [] . Some of the reasons we might give are:

- Sophisticated type systems, catching most bugs before your program is run, ensuring safety, etc.
- Much more efficient ( , partly due to compilation strategies using types
- Increased modularity and abstraction
- Pattern matching, (subjectively) more natural syntax

In fact, I'm one of those people. I've been scoffed at by lisp fans, but most had never used ML. But I have an open mind, so, in the face of more "modern" languages, what advantages do lisp and scheme offer? Do you think that these advantages are fundamentally impossible to achieve in a typed setting?

relative benefits of using Scheme and LISP? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420770)

Given that LISP and Scheme have traditionally been portrayed as research languages most suitable for AI work, and have not been accepted as widely as more traditionally structured languages such as C:

-What arguments would you give to convince programmers looking for easier ways to accomplish traditional computing tasks to use LISP or Scheme, mindful of the overhead required to learn LISP and Scheme and the lack of programmers who are intimately familiar with them?

For example, I start to develop an OpenSource text editor at SourceForge, and I choose Scheme. What advantages would I have over someone using a language such as Java or C++ that would outweigh the fact that I might not be able to find another developer who is familiar with Scheme?

-Do you feel that any work is being done at present to bring the two languages further into mainstream?

Thanks, I genuinely like both languages, and would like to seem them gain greater adoption by programmers et al.

Why learn lisp -- deeper reasons needed (3, Troll)

billr (71335) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420774)

I've read some interesting articles about lisp, and I'm interested in learning to some extent.

One problem though is that most people stop at saying that feature X (which no other language can do) is really great, and stop there. Never having used feature X, I don't have enough context to say, yes that will help me solve problems more easily.

For example, somebody claims that LISP is better because a lisp program can write code as it goes, or something like that. Having never had that as an option I can't see circumstances where I'd want to do that.

Could you please describe in some detail the top features of lisp and why they are GOOD THINGS?

Also, I promise to not make fun of parenthesis if you don't state that infix notation is one of the reasons that lisp is good. ;)

Re:Why learn lisp -- deeper reasons needed (1)

billr (71335) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420789)

Ha ha. prefix that is.

Overlooked practical aspects of Lisp (5, Interesting)

hding (309275) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420786)

Why do you think that people so often overlook many of the wonderful things in Common Lisp such as unwind-protect, the whole condition system (which you are of course closely associated with), and so on - things that make it very useful for day-to-day programming, and are there any such things that you'd particularly highlight, or conversely that you wish had become part of the standard but did not.

Incidentally, thank you for all of the insight so generously and regularly poured forth in comp.lang.lisp.

Good texts for learning Scheme? (5, Interesting)

drenehtsral (29789) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420787)

I have recently been working on learning Scheme in my spare time, with the eventual goal of writing a scheme based scripting system to run the guts of a massive adventure game/graphical mud sort of system, everything from environment simulation (predator/prey cycles, etc...) to 3d models (i.e. models will be geometry glued together by scripts so you could have trees that by a random seed and a growth level variable have grown over time and are unique to provide interresting landscape features). Scheme is appealing because it's simple, powerful, and adapts well to the idea of a threaded interpreter.
To further my goal of learning Scheme inside and out, i've been reading "The Little Schemer", as well as "Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs". Do you have any other recommendations for good Scheme programming texts?

New programming language ideas in Lisp? (4, Interesting)

cardhead (101762) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420791)

What I'm most intereseted in is not Lisp as a mainstream language, but rather Lisp as a research language. When people talk about the new things in programming languages these days, they talk about lazy evaluation, polymorphicly typed functional languages (e.g. Haskell). Since the ANSI spec, it seems as if Lisp has stagnated. CLOS gave us objects, but very little new has come down the pike since then. At one time, much of the new work in programing languages was done with Lisp. Now Lisp seems to be in the position of C: an excellent language that has aged out of the cutting edge. I guess my question is, is this a correct assessment, if so, should something be done about it and what should that be?


Lisp vs the world. (5, Interesting)

hjs (7974) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420798)

What do you see as the unique strengths and weaknesses of Lisp?

What strengths does it specifically have over other functional languages (such as ML), over structured languages (such as C, Algol, etc), over object oriented languages (such as C++, smalltalk, simula, etc), and over scripting languages (such as TCL, perl, etc)? Can these other languages or classes of languages be enhanced to include these strengths? If so, how, and if not, why?

What about weaknesses? What do you see as the weaknesses of Lisp, both in general and in comparison to the above classes of languages? Can these weaknesses be eliminated? If so, how and if not, why?

I mean strengths and weaknesses not only in the formal sense of the language itself, but also in terms of its usability in today's world. For example, difficulty in delivering binaries or lack of accessibility of system libraries from within common implementations of a language would be considered weaknesses.

First nontrivial program (4, Interesting)

quigonn (80360) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420806)

When you first learn a language, you often do toy programs for some time, until you know the most important features of the language. Then you should be able to try your skills out in a bigger application. Now I would like to know what program that was when you learned Lisp.

Scheme as an XML Translation Language (5, Interesting)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420808)

I've become fairly interested lately in using Scheme (probably mzscheme [] ) and the SXML [] package as a way to do arbitrary XML translations in my free time (if I had any).

From the looks of it, the ability to create a reflexive mapping between an arbitrary XML document and an interpretable programming language is too powerful to be ignored.

Do you think that in the future one of the primary roles of Scheme/Lisp is going to be in manipulation of XML documents, or is this going to be relegated as an academic curiostiy while the world struggles through parsing XML in Java?

Basis set for programming languages? (5, Interesting)

PseudonymousCoward (161283) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420840)

As a Scheme and Common Lisp programmer, I got excited when I heard that the Java Virtual Machine would have automatic memory allocation and garbage collection. I thought it would be possible to build Lispish languages to run on the JVM. The rate at which Kawa has been developed, to implement a near-Scheme on the JVM has been frustrating to me. I attribute this at least in part to the absence in the JVM of a construct equivalent to Scheme's continuations. Do you think it is feasible to establish a "basis set" of programming language concepts on which all programming languages could be built, so that the distinctions between C, Scheme, etc would be "merely" syntactic? If yes, please enumerate your candidate set.

My friend andrew has a lisp! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420862)

he wants a direct link to teh goatse man picture too! goatse in his mouth! NOW!

Which language?! (1)

jimdesu (4951) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420872)

Hi there,

I'm a serious c++ programmer, and I'm interested both in using c++ in a functional manner as well as learning a true functional language. I looked at lisp, and then at scheme, and lately I've been looking at Haskell. Unlike the Java/C/C++/C#/ObjC/Pascal/68K wars I've been seeing, I've never seen any good flamewars between the various camps in the functional community. Everyone's so busy liking everyone else, how does an outside like myself choose which language to learn? Which is "best"?

New ANSI Standard (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420878)

Will we see a new ANSI CL standard with all the pretty things which newly designed languages like JAVA have? I'm thinking of things like Net Libraries, Threads and Foreign Functions.

And what do you think of using a bytecode standard (like .net's CLR) in CL? It would open markets for commercial LISP applications, which is a niche I have worked for four years until I had to change (now doing Java). I know that some people from Franz Inc have ruled it definitively out in comp.lang.lisp some time ago because the type system and garbage collection is not good enough for LISP, but I have a dream...

Questions I've Come Across Learning Lisp (4, Interesting)

Jon Howard (247978) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420898)

I was recently (April) hired-on as webmaster at Franz [] , a commercial lisp company (we make Allegro Common Lisp [] ) which has introduced me to lisp in a very loud way. Since joining these guys (and gals), I've been thoroughly indoctrinated - with my full consent - because of my belief that as computing hardware progresses programming in more abstract languages will allow for more creative and effective use of the platform. Sure, coding assembler on a new super-duper petaflop chip will still be possible and less wasteful, but who would want to code a million lines of asm to save a few (or even a few thousand) operations out of a few billion, or trillion when it will only net a difference of nanoseconds in the end? I'm less interested in making super-fast programs than I am in making artistic and super-functional programs.

I'm not expressing the views of Franz, every member of the company has their own beliefs on what makes for great programming - which is one of the major reasons I find this place so fulfilling, everyone has complex reasons for their design considerations, and everyone communicates them (something I've grown to appreciate from working in too many places where this was definitely not the case), and consequently I've been exposed to quite a few different techniques of Lisp coding since my introduction half a year ago. I'm constantly amazed that so many different styles of programming can be expressed in the same language, it's capable of accomodating any logical thought process that can be converted to code - and I doubt many of you often use recursion in a logical way on a daily basis, but even that can be done efficiently in lisp.

I'm still very new to lisp, and I was never a serious programmer in the past, but I've always been accustomed to asking questions, and here are a few that I'd like some input on:

  • If you learned any other programming language, did you initially find the formalities of its structure to be a significant stumbling block to understanding the language as a whole? Was the same true of learning lisp?
  • How much time do you spend debugging non-lisp code? How much on lisp?
  • What language took you the most time to learn - was it your first?
  • What feature do you consider to be the most important for an abstract language to support efficiently - and which features have you found to be most poorly implemented in lisp distributions?

I'd love to hear about what people think sucks about lisp and needs improvement - or can't be improved, so far I haven't found anything that I could complain about, the most difficult thing for me has been managing all the documentation on a half-century old language in the process of learning it. I've begun to love working in lisp, but I suppose being surrounded by a group so full of passion for it has helped contribute to my bias - if I'm wrong, help snap me out of it with a good argument against using lisp. ;)

Lisp projects and success stories? (2, Redundant)

DeathBunny (24311) | more than 12 years ago | (#2420900)

Lisp doesn't seem to get the "mind share" and media attention that some programming languages (C, Java, Perl) do. You don't see a lot of books and articles about Lisp and, with the obvious exceptions of Emacs and Sawfish, most people would have trouble naming major applications written in Lisp.

Why do you think Lisp doesn't get mentioned more in the computer press?

Similarly, can you tell us about any major applications written in Lisp, or any great Lisp success stories?

my question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#2420904)

(what 'part (about (the lisp) syntax) (do you) like (the most) (?))
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