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LISt Processing

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    nature: list processing language

    history: LISP (LISt Processing) was created n 1958 and released in 1960 by John McCarthy of MIT. LISP is the second oldest programming language still in common use. LISP was intended for writing artificial intelligence programs.

    LISP 1.5 was released in 1959.

    LISP 2 was released in 1966.

    “LISP is a computer programming language. The acronym stands for “list processing” language. Like other popular computer languages, there are a number of dialects, including Common LISP and SCHEME.” —Language Finger, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana.

    “Interest in artificial intelligence first surfaced in the mid 1950. Linguistics, psychology, and mathematics were only some areas of application for AI. Linguists were concerned with natural language processing, while psychologists were interested in modeling human information and retrieval. Mathematicians were more interested in automating the theorem proving process. The common need among all of these applications was a method to allow computers to process symbolic data in lists.

    “IBM was one of the first companies interested in AI in the 1950s. At the same time, the FORTRAN project was still going on. Because of the high cost associated with producing the first FORTRAN compiler, they decided to include the list processing functionality into FORTRAN. The FORTRAN List Processing Language (FLPL) was designed and implemented as an extention to FORTRAN.

    “In 1958 John McCarthy took a summer position at the IBM Information Research Department. He was hired to create a set of requirements for doing symbolic computation. The first attempt at this was differentiation of algebraic expressions. This initial experiment produced a list of of language requirements, most notably was recursion and conditional expressions. At the time, not even FORTRAN (the only high-level language in existance) had these functions.

    “It was at the 1956 Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence that John McCarthy first developed the basics behind Lisp. His motivation was to develop a list processing language for Artificial Intelligence. By 1965 the primary dialect of Lisp was created (version 1.5). By 1970 special-purpose computers known as Lisp Machines, were designed to run Lisp programs. 1980 was the year that object-oriented concepts were integrated into the language. By 1986, the X3J13 group formed to produce a draft for ANSI Common Lisp standard. Finally in 1992, X3J13 group published the American National Standard for Common Lisp.” —Neal Ziring, The Language Guide, University of Michigan

Hello World example

(print "Hello World".)

significant features

    “Some of the more significant features of the language are listed below:” —Neal Ziring, The Language Guide, University of Michigan

  • Atoms & Lists - Lisp uses two different types of data structures, atoms and lists.
  • Atoms are similar to identifiers, but can also be numeric constants
  • Lists can be lists of atoms, lists, or any combination of the two
  • Functional Programming Style - all computation is performed by applying functions to arguments. Variable declarations are rarely used.
  • Uniform Representation of Data and Code - example: the list (A B C D)
    • a list of four elements (interpreted as data)
    • is the application of the function named A to the three parameters B, C, and D (interpreted as code)
  • Reliance on Recursion - a strong reliance on recursion has allowed Lisp to be successful in many areas, including Artificial Intelligence.
  • Garbage Collection - Lisp has built-in garbage collection, so programmers do not need to explicitly free dynamically allocated memory. is used in more than 300 colleges and universities around the world

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    Last Updated: October 11, 2007

    Created: October 7, 2007

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