Software Blog Archive - Dec 2015

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12/27/2015 - Some thoughts on Lisp


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Some thoughts on Lisp
Sunday, December 27th, 2015
17:12:56 GMT

I'm still unsure about whether all the claims about the Lisp programming language being incredibly great, and more powerful, flexible, and overall better than any other language are really true or not.

But, hopefully I'll find out, now that I have GNU Common Lisp and newLISP to play with, in addition to the GNU Emacs editor.

Some Emacs Lisp code is very readable. For example, the command (beginning-of-line), which moves your cursor to the beginning of the line. :-)

But with much other Emacs Lisp code, I wasn't sure at first if I found Bash or Emacs Lisp more confusing and indecipherable. Fortunately, working on multifiles-apmod.el helped me get increasingly used to Emacs Lisp, and I definitely at least like it more than Bash now.

For me, Lisp is a lot more readable and understandable when I use my preferred indentation style rather than the confusing styles I've seen everywhere else.

I really appreciate that Lisp doesn't care what formatting I use. One of the reasons I'm never going to be able to tolerate the Python programming language is because of Python's strict enforcement of some quite irritating rules about formatting.

I usually am pretty consistent with my indentation style, but sometimes for boring but necessary lines of code I don't really need to read to follow what's going on, I like to indent them more deeply just as a signal that those lines are extra-boring and can be ignored. I doubt Python would let me do that.

Reputedly, Lisp is so flexible that you can create your own languages in it, and redefine the Lisp language itself.

So, I wonder if it might actually be possible to make Lisp understand the remarkably English-like Inform 7 or HyperTalk?

Computers are some of the most powerful, useful tools ever created, and I think it's very regrettable that the unnecessary abstruseness of so many programming languages thwarts many intelligent people from doing much of anything with their computers.

People shouldn't have to be technical wizards to be able to put their computers to more use.

It's 2015, and by now there ought to be a really great successor to HyperCard (which was originally released in 1987, according to Wikipedia).

I recently found out that Paul Graham's book On Lisp is legally available for download from his website, for free:

On Lisp, by Paul Graham

Not just a sample, the entire book!!

I haven't read most of it yet, but I assume it will be a great book. I really like his nice, clear writing style, and even back when I was primarily a Windows XP user years ago, I found his articles on Lisp so intriguing that I downloaded Lisp in Windows.

Though back then, I quickly gave up, or just drifted away from it due to being so preoccupied with my PHP projects, and having no idea how to make Lisp do anything as interesting as what I could already do with PHP, or anything interesting at all.

But now that I have so much more programming experience, and switched to Linux (in 2011), and recently managed to customize my Emacs setup so nicely that it has become my favorite editor... hopefully now I have a better chance of being able to figure out Lisp.

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