Land of Lisp

by Wojciech Adam Koszek   ⋅   Mar 1, 2013   ⋅   Menlo Park, CA

This was the very first LISP book I've ever read. Helped me to get started with this weird bracket syntax and general language concepts. Worked fine for me -- the first time LISPer.

Full title “Land of Lisp: Learn to Program in Lisp, One Game at a Time!”

Book is quite unique: written by MD.

This time I picked something that I’ve never had a chance to study, which is LISP. Lots of storytelling is going on about impact of LISP on other computer technologies.

I was inspired to look at LISP due to several reasons, but mostly because of preaching of a friend of mine, who advised me to look at it, even from the purely historical reasons. Another reason was “Hackers and Painters” and Paul Graham’s advertising of this technology. Mr McCarthy contributions too were the motivating factor.

In LISP I’m seeing lots of ideas which I’m familiar with, and which I’m sure came from LISP–each time I’ll use Perl’s “map” or “grep” or custom “sort” comparators, I’ll be thinking about LISP.

Power of using lists for pretty much every single language element gave a nice perspective on what can be done with simplicity, and brought good memories of hacking Lua (I made Lua work in FreeBSD’s boot loader). Lua came to mind, since Lua is heavily based on arrays (tables).

Another great advantage which I saw is the possibility of returning 2 values (or rather: resolving to 2 values). This is something I greatly miss in C and I’d pay at least $9.99 to IEEE if they could make:

{ fd, error } = function("/path/to/file", O_OPERATION);


The whole concept of having data and code interleaved together bring Forth to my memories. I wish I had more insight into how exactly compilation of LISP to code/bytecode looks like and how the LISP internals were organized in the early days. This I think I’ll have to study from some other resource.

The thing that makes LISP be “OMG” technology is “loop” monster. Basically it looks like you need a periodic table similar to Perl’s operator table:

To be able to understand the whole thing.

The concept of functional programming I knew before due to classes in Java and my experience with Javascript. However in case of LISP we’re talking about functional programming pushed to a higher order than it’s present in the other 2 technologies.

The thing that is surprising me is that LISP hasn’t been picked as the technology for WWW programming. I only see advantages of:

		(b "Sample HTML table")
			(th (list "num" "column1" "column2"))
			(td (lisp "1", "sth1", "sth1"))
			(td (lisp "2", "sth2", "sth2"))
			(td (lisp "3", "sth3", "sth3"))

Thing, that I properly validate, before publishing. Something, that could have code and presentation mixed up, since otherwise it gets messy. Each time I’m looking at modern WWW technologies, no matter how great, it looks like it’s still all about taking content in a completely different format and mixing it with totally different code. This is ridiculous.

For completeness of my studies, I’m thinking about picking “ANSI Common LISP” by Paul Graham or Practical Common LISP by Peter Seibel, to be able to understand more about practical implications.

The thing I see already is that LISPy syntax isn’t too appealing to me, and productivity with all these brackets isn’t the highest.

However, for a completeness of your programming knowledge, I can highly recommend “Land of LISP”.

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About the author: I'm Wojciech Adam Koszek. I like software, business and design. Poland native. In Bay Area since 2010.   More about me