Articulate Common Lisp

Dear Reader,

One of the key problems in onboarding developers to use modern Common Lisp is the vertical wall of difficulty. Things that are routinely problematic:

  • emacs use. Most people don’t use emacs.
  • Library creation. Putting together ASDF libraries and using them is a fairly horrid experience the first time.
  • Selection of Lisp implementation to use, along with an up-to-date discussion of pros and cons.
  • Putting together serious projects is not commonly discussed.

This site is dedicated to handling these problems. My goal is to put together an introduction/tutorial for practicing professionals and hobbyists from other languages. People who want to get started with Lisp beyond just typing into a REPL. Right now, it feels like this information is less disseminated and much less centralized than it otherwise might be. It’s not intended to be a HOWTO for Common Lisp. That’s been covered quite well. But it is intended to be a HOWTO on how to put together a Lisp environment.

Anyway, I’d like to collaborate with other people to make this a remarkably fine Lisp help site. Contributions are both accepted and welcome. It’s a wholly static site at this point in time – I don’t see a need for to have a dynamic backend. Perhaps/probably one of the code examples will be a webapp.

Happy Hacking,

Paul Nathan

P.S.: feel free to contact me for anything you like.

Challenging Clojure in Common Lisp

Clojure is a dialect of the Lisp programming language created by Rich Hickey [Clojure]. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Hickey created Clojure “because he wanted a modern Lisp for functional programming, symbiotic with the established Java platform, and designed for concurrency.[Clojure]. Since then, Clojure has gathered somewhat of a following in the functional programming community, the other chief contender for functional programming on the JVM being the Scala programming language. This blog will attempt to document my quest to achieve two of Mr. Hickey’s goals using straight-up Common Lisp: idiomatic functional programming & concurrency. Why am I doing this? I tried Clojure and was disheartened by two aspects of the language: lackluster performance and the constant resurfacing of the Java and the JVM in error messages and other aspects of working with Clojure. I know of ClojureScript and the ability to run it on Google V8, but I suppose I really wanted a non-hosted language where I can intuitively map abstractions to assembler code by calling something like (disassemble … ) on a simple function. I tried Scala and missed homoiconic macros. Somehow I could not shake the feeling that homoiconic macros were intimately tied to the very essence of functional programming. I was also puzzled by the suggestion that Lisp, in its current form, somehow lacked modernity. Popularity, yes, modernity I wasn’t sure of… We will add one twist to the story. With Lisp being a programmable programming language, I can surely re-engineer any design goals of Clojure using Common Lisp by way of macros — but the challenge here is to do without such an effort. Therefore there are two rules in this game: 1) I am not allowed to write the keyword “defmacro” 2) I must rely on stock libraries / frameworks. “Stock” will be defined as installable via Common Lisp’s package manager Quicklisp [QuickLisp]. The “long and short of it is” that I want the utility of Clojure with the performance of Common Lisp. As Dough Hoyte points out in the book Let Over Lambda [Let-Over-Lambda], Lisp is not precisely a functional programming language, not in the the sense that Haskell and ML are functional programming language. I aim to challenge that. In [Lisp-Converge-C++] we showed how to bring Lisp close to C in performance by matching the generated Assembler code.  In this blog we aim to “bring Lisp in line” with idiomatic functional programming concepts. With our two rules in mind, let us see how far we can travel on this road…

The Idea of Lisp

LISP. It conjures up visions of a bygone age of computers the size of refrigerators, ALL CAPS CODE, and parentheses. Oh! so many parentheses! So why is Object-Oriented Programming’s creator so enamored with the idea of Lisp? And what can he mean by a programming language being an idea anyway? Should I blame my Computer Science education for not teaching it to me?

Common Lisp

Part of what makes Lisp distinctive is that it is designed to evolve. As new abstractions become popular (object-oriented programming, for example), it always turns out to be easy to implement them in Lisp. Like DNA, such a language does not go out of style.

Paul Graham, ANSI Common Lisp

Roswell: a Lisp installer and launcher for major environment that just works

“Roswell started as a command line tool to install and manage Common Lisp implementations damn easily. It now has evolved into a fullstack environment for common lisp web development, testing, code sharing and app distribution which might push the CL community to a whole new level.

This software is still beta. Basic interfaces are fixed, we believe it works well on Unix-like platforms like Linux, Mac OS X and FreeBSD, but some parts are not implemented, not stable on other OSes yet.

Checkout issues list if you have interest in what’s lacking…”

State of the Common Lisp Ecosystem, 2015

“This is a description of the Common Lisp ecosystem, as of August 2015, from the perspective of a user and contributor.

The purpose of this article is both to give an overview of the ecosystem, and to help drive consolidation in each domain.

Each application domain has recommendations for consolidating that part of the ecosystem, and pointers for interesting future work…”