Contents page

Index (83KB)


LISP: [from `LISt Processing language', but mythically from
   `Lots of Irritating Superfluous Parentheses'] n. AI's mother
   tongue, a language based on the ideas of (a) variable-length lists
   and trees as fundamental data types, and (b) the interpretation of
   code as data and vice-versa.  Invented by John McCarthy at MIT in
   the late 1950s, it is actually older than any other HLL still
   in use except FORTRAN.  Accordingly, it has undergone considerable
   adaptive radiation over the years; modern variants are quite
   different in detail from the original LISP 1.5.  The dominant HLL
   among hackers until the early 1980s, LISP now shares the throne
   with C.  See languages of choice.

All LISP functions and programs are expressions that return values; this, together with the high memory utilization of LISPs, gave rise to Alan Perlis's famous quip (itself a take on an Oscar Wilde quote) that "LISP programmers know the value of everything and the cost of nothing".

One significant application for LISP has been as a proof by example that most newer languages, such as COBOL and Ada, are full of unnecessary crocks. When the Right Thing has already been done once, there is no justification for bogosity in newer languages.