Friday, November 09, 2001

I enjoyed reading this interview with Lisp guy Kent Pitman. He argues nicely that the complaint that some people have about lisp being too large is misguided:
"Why not make the language smaller so it requires less work to implement?" is a query you hear a lot from the outside, and even from members of the Scheme community. The answer from the Common Lisp community amounts to this: Programs are written all the time, but implementations are written much more rarely. What the implementation does not do is left for the user. The more hard work the language does, the less hard work programs do. In effect, the thesis of Common Lisp is that bigger languages make for smaller sentences in the language. (To see that there is at least some intuitive basis for this, think about how long a novel like Gone With the Wind is in English, then try to imagine whether the same novel re-expressed in Esperanto would be longer or shorter.)

If a language offers only what a programmer could implement overnight, it gives its programmers not much of a leg up on their final application. Many members of the Scheme community boast that they have written a Scheme implementation, while many Common Lisp programmers have not.

I also liked the question from slashdot reader kfogel which begins:
For myself and a number of friends, Lisp/Scheme programming has for too long been a kind of mystical Eden, fading in our memories, from which we have been mostly banished in our professional lives. But we can still recall how it felt to work in a language able to shape itself to any pattern our minds might ask: coding was more interesting and more expressive, and the rate of increasing returns over time was tremendous, because fine-grained -- almost continuous -- abstraction was in the nature of the language. Life was just more fun, frankly.
Pitman liked that, too. His reply begins:
First, let me say that I really appreciate the poetic description you offer in the first paragraph above. I very much think that captures how I and others think about the experience of using Lisp.
This was only part one of the interview. I look forward to reading the rest soon.

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