Books of Note

Practical Common
LispThe best intro to start your journey. Excellent coverage of CLOS.

ANSI Common
LispAnother great starting point with a different focus.

Paradigms of Artificial Intelligence
ProgrammingA superb set of Lisp examples. Not just for the AI crowd.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Lisp stereotypes 

I finally ended up having the standard conversation about Lisp stereotypes the other day. Typically, when people find out that I program things in Lisp, they either say "that's cool" in an I-don't-really-get-it-but-I'll-say-it's-cool-to-be-courteous sort of way, or their eyes glaze over and they just don't get it at all.

This time, I was setting up a demo for a company that I'm consulting for. We did the demo for a group of people in a VC's office. The demo didn't involve Lisp at all, but one of the VCs, an otherwise very intelligent guy who I like a lot, was looking over my shoulder when he noticed that I had an Emacs window open with some Lisp code in it than I had been hacking on previously. He said, "Hey, that looks like Lisp!" I told him that it was and he replied, "Really? A marketing guy hacking Lisp? Why would you want to do THAT?" I said that Lisp was the most amazing programming language ever created, with features that still aren't available in any other mainstream language. He mumbled something about Lisp being dead since 1985 and then said, "Sheesh, I remember programming in Lisp back in my undergrad days. It's all interpreted, without a compiler, and all those parenthesis! Yikes!" I did one of those slow counts to 10 before I replied that Lisp has had compiler support since the 1960s and that modern editors now make all the parenthesis a virtue, not a vice. I still don't think he quite believed me (I think I got more techie cred from the fact that I was running Emacs than from the Lisp code contained within it), but at least I had the conversation.

This morning I was out to breakfast with this same VC and somebody from another company. Somehow, the conversation turned to Lisp, with him razzing me about it again. He turned to the guy from the other company who chimed in with, "Yea, Lisp is really cool." Ha! Made my day. ;-)


I have a strange feeling of deja vu reading your post.

In future, just tell them "it's the only language that lets you place an entire program into a variable, pass the variable to another program (on another computer) which can then run the program while it's still inside the variable"

(am finding lisp ideal for grid computing)

If you ever see them again, insist again; my guess they will be more receptive.

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