Thursday, April 7, 2011

Common Lisp — Myths and Legends

Via Hacker News, I came across this interesting article about Common Lisp. As its name suggests, it discusses the myths that have grown up around Lisp and talks about Lisp's strengths and weaknesses. The article is by LispWorks so it can hardly be said to be a disinterested analysis but it is, I think, an honest and accurate accounting.

The article starts off by characterizing the types of projects for which Lisp is particularly well suited and follows up with some types of projects where Lisp might not make sense. We all know about Paul Graham's WYSIWYG editor for the Yahoo! Store and about ITA's use of Lisp (although ITA isn't mentioned specifically, the article does list airline scheduling among Lisp uses) but did you know that LispWorks is developing a realtime Lisp for use in AT&T's switched virtual circuit capabilities?

The next section is entitled What Does Lisp Offer Me?. It's a good run down of the standard Lisp capabilities, data types, compilers, and standard library. It also includes common (heh) Lisp add ons that, while not in the Common Lisp standard are usually provided.

The final section is entitled Myths About Lisp. This will be familiar ground to any Lisper but might help dispel some misconceptions held by management or engineers who haven't used Lisp.

The article is fairly short and well worth a read.

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