depends on your goals:
if you're looking for a pure learning experience with plenty of time
on your hands, then lisp is the road to take - richer functionality
(meaning more terse code), better way of coding macros IMHO & faster.
if you're looking to get productive fairly quickly (good ide, web
server, batteries included), then plt scheme is a candidate.
this is coming from someone who's being casually doing lisp every so
often and by no means an amateur.
> I'm debating whether I should learn scheme or lisp.
You should definitely learn both if you can afford the time. They are
not redundant with one another, in spite of their superficial
Others divide up this space differently than I, but for most purposes,
I personally regard them as distinct langauges, not mere dialectal
variations, although plainly they are from what I would call the same
You will probably prefer to use one or the other in the end, but they
each have things to teach you. Even if you prefer to use neither, you
will use the things you learn from these languages in your future
thinking, becuase they will give you metaphors for thinking about
things that other languages do not.
> Why is lisp a better choice than scheme or viceversa?
I don't like words like "better" in the abstract--better is only a good
term when you know the purpose for which you're considering something.
Since the purpose is "for you", and I don't know you, I can't answer
in the form you're asking. But I'll offer some information anyway, from
which you may be able to find your own answer.
Both are fine languages. The choice seems to mostly be made by the
personal preferences of the programmer. Different personalities are
attracted to features of one or another.
Scheme is more of a single-paradigm language, appealing to people who
like to be told there's a single small core of stuff that they need to
learn and then they can compose what they need from that. Its design
has a strong focus on aesthetic and formalism. For many years, its
specification eschewed including detail information such as error
handling behavior, portability concerns, branch cuts, etc. because it
complicated an otherwise tidily small specification, although of late
this has finally begun to change. Overall, though, it's a sort of
Republican, nearly Libertarian, approach to language design that
assumes languages shouldn't do for people what they can do for
themselves. Scheme has tended to prefer a small language core with
additional functionality added as libraries. As an example, the
Scheme does not have a primitively defined object system, although
there are object systems you can load.
CL is a larger language that offers more out of the box, including
multiple programming paradigms, and a great deal of baggage the
purpose of which is to allow people who program in multiple paradigms
to interact gracefully with one another. CL's aesthetics were
subordinate in design to pragmatic decisions of various kinds. It has
a rich tradition of compromise in its design in order to accommodate a
varied community. It's a sort of Democrat / Great Society approach to
language design that assumes people are more concerned with getting
things done than with fussing over religious notions of finding the
single right way to do things, and in some ways makes a kind of art
form out the what some might see as the messy aspects of
multiculturalism, even to the point of providing specific language
features whose sole goal is to allow disagreeing communities to share
the same space without being at each others' throats. Common Lisp has
a heavily articulated object system (CLOS) and an elaborate
error-handling system, both of which are strongly integrated into the
It's EXTREMELY hard to make any comparison without risking being
accidentally critical of one or the other community. I have tried to
present both of these paragraphs in ways that show both perceived
positives and perceived negatives of both communities, not in order to
start a firestorm, but to give you a sense that each community has
things they are proud of and things that annoy the other. Looking at
the above paragraphs, I'd hope that most people will find that they see
a bit of truth in them and moreover that the users of the languages
understand that, even if I didn't correctly capture it, there really
is something of the general kind I'm describing at work in how the two
There are other ways to make the decisions, btw. Availability of good
texts is an example. There are good books available for both languages,
but on unrelated topics, so it's a bit apples and oranges there. I'm
sure others have opinions on that, so I'll stop here and will assume
others will take up the slack.
(Btw, some people make the decision on the basis of some particular
feature they need for some particular application. I assume that's
not your issue, though, since you seem to be learning speculatively.)
1st European Lisp Symposium (ELS'08)
> Others divide up this space differently than I, but for
> most purposes, I personally regard them as distinct
> langauges, not mere dialectal variations, although plainly
> they are from what I would call the same language family.
Are there dialects that you consider to be on or near the
border? Do you think of T as a Scheme rather than a Lisp?
The Common Scheme of Lisp is not bound to a certain Scheme, 'cause the
Common base is Common to all of Lisps.
Come-on, Lisp is the best Scheme to experience hacking.
It takes fewer letters to spell "lisp" than to spell "scheme". This can
save you much time in your life, depending of course on how often you type
However: some people prefer to write out "Common Lisp" in full, and that of
course takes more letters than just writing "Scheme". So, perhaps it depends
> Scheme is more of a single-paradigm language [...]
> Overall, though, it's a sort of Republican, nearly Libertarian, approach to
> language design that assumes languages shouldn't do for people what they
> can do for themselves.
> CL is a larger language that offers [...] multiple programming paradigms
> [...] It's a sort of Democrat / Great Society approach to language design
> that assumes people are more concerned with getting things done than with
> fussing over religious notions of finding the single right way to do
> things, and in some ways makes a kind of art form out the what some might
> see as the messy aspects of multiculturalism
I think your overall description of the two languages was on target and
helpful. And I appreciate the analogy you tried to make with US political
But I think that the political analogy doesn't really hold up. In some sense,
it seems to suggest that if you're the kind of person that prefers Republican
(or Libertarian!) real politicians or policies, then you probably prefer to
program in Scheme. And likewise, if you have fond feelings towards LBJ, then
you probably would prefer programming in Common Lisp.
I don't think those implications hold at all. And not just because an
individual may have different preferences as a voter/citizen than they do
as a programmer.
In particular, I would say that being "more concerned with getting things
done than with [...] finding the single right way to do things" may be a good
distinction between Scheme and CL, but is probably a poor way to distinguish
Republicans from Libertarians from Democrats.
(See, you were worried about igniting a "political" debate in comparing
Scheme with CL, but to simplify you brought in _real_ politics?! How could
that possibly be simpler? :-) )
Don Geddis http://don.geddis.org/ d...@geddis.org
It is possible for your mind to be so open that your brain falls out.
> I think your overall description of the two languages was on target
> and helpful. And I appreciate the analogy you tried to make with US
> political parties.
> But I think that the political analogy doesn't really hold up.
I thought the comparison was kind of funny given a pretty common view
around these parts (ireland, europe, fwiw) that the american
republicans and democrats are nigh-on indistinguishable far-right
corporate-welfare parties... perhaps just a bit like the way, to
someone far outside the general Lisp community, the oh-so-important
CL/Scheme differences just aren't particularly clear or relevant
compared to the gross similarities that make both recognisably "that
weird 'Lisp' thing" to them.
(Ireland has somewhat similar issues really - the two major parties are
pretty much indistinguishable mildly-right-of-european-centre split
along a historic civil war line, though our proportional representation
system at least means other folk get a look in, though not always
without selling out somewhat (cough Irish Green Party cough)).
Thank you, Kent! Your posts are one of the reasons why I keep reading
comp.lang.lisp so persistently :)
Ideally you should learn both (don't rush learning, take the time you
If this is your first Lisp like language or functional programming
language you should start with Scheme.
First read Kent Dybvig's _The Scheme Programming Language, 3rd
Edition_ and then read _The Little Schemer_. Do all of the problem in
TSPL, read it two or three times. It is a short, wonderful book; you
will be amazed at how much you learn with that book.
Get the concepts down quickly with Scheme, and go from there.
> On Apr 9, 9:13 pm, "rig...@gmail.com" <rig...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm debating whether I should learn scheme or lisp. Why is lisp a
>> better choice than scheme or viceversa?
> Ideally you should learn both (don't rush learning, take the time you
> If this is your first Lisp like language or functional programming
> language you should start with Scheme.
Assuming that you are familiar with other programming languages (and I
don't mean Haskel or Ocaml), I would propose the opposite. Common Lisp
provides great constructs to do non-functional programming so you can
express things the way you are used to expressing them. This gives you
time to get familiar with the syntax and coding style before trying to
learn new ways of expressing ideas. When learning something new, I
think it is best to first get practice using it on familiar programming
tasks. When you compare your code with good Lisp code (from this
newsgroup and other peoples source code), you will see what makes for
good Lisp programs. You might, like me, find the Lisp version cleaner,
and easier to adapt, refactor, and polish.
> First read Kent Dybvig's _The Scheme Programming Language, 3rd
> Edition_ and then read _The Little Schemer_. Do all of the problem in
> TSPL, read it two or three times. It is a short, wonderful book; you
> will be amazed at how much you learn with that book.
I have not read Kent Dybvig's book, but I found "The Little Schemer" one
of the worst (at least for me) programming books I've read. It focuses
on figuring out what code samples do. This is quite the opposite of
starting with what you want the program to do, and thinking about what
code you should use to implement it. Solving Scheme puzzles might be
fun for some, but I don't think it is the same skill as programming. I
suspect such books, and a highly theoretical (as opposed to practical)
approach to Scheme in some university courses are the prime reasons that
many people hate the language so much.
Don't get me wrong, I think Scheme is a great language for learning
theory, but if that is your only exposure to Scheme it can leave the
impression its the only thing it does.
I learned to apply functional programming techniques after I got
reasonably productive in Common Lisp. Scheme then showed itself to be
an elegant and powerful language.
> Get the concepts down quickly with Scheme, and go from there.
This may work if scheme is your first language, or you like solving
puzzles. Then again, if functional techniques are the only ones you
know, you are going to have a hard time learning most of the commonly
I know I have overstated my case, but this is comp.lang.lisp isn't it?
> Griff <gre...@gmail.com> writes:
>> On Apr 9, 9:13 pm, "rig...@gmail.com" <rig...@gmail.com> wrote:
>>> I'm debating whether I should learn scheme or lisp. Why is lisp a
>>> better choice than scheme or viceversa?
>> Ideally you should learn both (don't rush learning, take the time you
>> If this is your first Lisp like language or functional programming
>> language you should start with Scheme.
> Assuming that you are familiar with other programming languages (and I
> don't mean Haskel or Ocaml), I would propose the opposite. Common Lisp
> provides great constructs to do non-functional programming so you can
> express things the way you are used to expressing them.
I agree. An imperative programmer learning Scheme as their first Lisp is
probably going to get Lisp tangled up with functional programming,
rather than learning Lisp as a unique language and functional
programming as a great sanity-saving technique in any language. That's
where you get memes like "Lisp is a functional language" and
Me: Yeah, so I'm using Lisp to wri--
Them: Why would you want to use a functional language?