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How To Learn Lisp (pchristensen.com)
34 points by muriithi on Mar 4, 2008 | hide | past | web | favorite | 11 comments

For everyone (like me) who doesn't know lisp or functional programming yet, I'm gunna have to heavily endorse this (http://www.defmacro.org/ramblings/fp.html) link that the "How To Learn Lisp" article gave. It's the first article that's helped me make sense of all the proselytizing going around about functional programming and continuations and currying and stuff. What it is, why it's useful, and how it's used... all laid out so I could understand it.

It's just a straight up must read.

Thanks, it's in the list (although towards the end, maybe I should have put that first).

"Probably because there’s no free version online and it’s a pricey book. I got it for myself for Christmas and it’s well worth the price. It’s half AI book, half tutorial on Lisp programming and Lisp style. It’s a good read with lots of example programs written in good Lisp Style."

I'm sad he described PAIP this way. To me, PAIP isn't even so much about Lisp or AI as it is about how god damn awesome Peter Norvig is. I think my programming became much better after I studied his style.

Bottom line, PAIP makes you a better programmer even if you never intend to use Lisp for anything.

You should learn enough Lisp to read PAIP, in other words.

I bought it for myself because none of my family members understood what the heck I was talking about when I said I wanted Peter Norvig for Christmas! I've never enjoyed reading a textbook so much as PAIP and I try to plug it whenever I get a chance. Do you mind if I quote you on my blog?

I've read a few books now that are recommended for beginners to Lisp. Someone in the comments of pchristensen's blog recommended the book 'Common Lisp: A Gentle Introduction to Symbolic Computation'. I flicked through the first few chapters and for what it's worth it seems pretty good. Also 'Successful Lisp' is pretty good too.

Common Lisp: A Gentle Introduction to Symbolic Computation: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~dst/LispBook/

Successful Lisp: http://psg.com/~dlamkins/Site/sl.html

why is everyone complaining about Emacs? I was also stubborn at first and refused to learn Emacs because it was 'strange' and 'difficult'.

I used Eclipse and CUSP, it's alright. It could really help you get started. But I wish I had learned Emacs earlier. The only thing I will continue to use Eclipse for is Java programming (which thankfully I don't do much of these days).

In the article, I was writing to myself circa 2006, who didn't know anything about anything when it came to Lisp (the whole environment, not just the language). I put off learning emacs for a long time not because it was strange or difficult but because "who cares?". Once I read some things about how emacs was powerful, that it is a good investment, that it's the best editor period for plaintext (most of this came from Yegge), I decided that Emacs fingers were something valuable that I wanted to have now and 10 years from now, and I was willing to work for them. I wrote my cheatsheet and my SLIME screencast reference to try and lower the perceived cost of learning emacs for other potential users. Hopefully better understanding of its power and lower cost of adoption will help more new devs give Emacs a fair shake.

Because emacs is the more powerful long term option, I will continue to make it my primary recommendation. I'll recommend Cusp/Eclipse to those that just don't care about emacs (now or later)

I guess I should have been more specific in my comment, I was primarily addressing the commenters to your posts that kept arguing for why new lispers should be pointed to Eclipse/CUSP instead of Emacs.

Some people think it's not worth the trouble of learning Emacs, at least not while they're tasting Lisp. If more people had a positive experience while using Lisp, maybe more people would use it. When weighing the costs and benefits of using Lisp, I've never heard anyone say the benefit wasn't great, just that the cost was too high. Costs could include anything from lacking libraries, having to look for libraries, having to use Emacs, no standard implementation, etc. Some people might prefer Eclipse, who knows.

I think they made enough good points that my new policy will be to recommend Emacs, but mention Cusp as an alternative.

Sounds like a fine policy. I'm curious what the numbers of people that learned Lisp in Eclipse will be 5 years from now.

Probably very low. Until the entire environment gets easier, I think most people that successfully learn Lisp will be the most dedicated to it, and if they're that dedicated then they'll want a more powerful editor.

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