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Thoughts on Common LISP?

programming lisp language

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#1 alexjlim

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Posted 10 June 2014 - 08:14 AM

I'm curious - do we have any programmers here who use LISP? I'm teaching myself how to program and I'm pretty sure that this is the language I want to code with. It would be great if you could share some personal experiences - pros,cons, etc. FYI: I don't anticipate using this in my professional career - just want to make some cool stuff on the side :)


Also, if you use a language that you think is better than LISP, I would love to hear why as well!

#2 platypus

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Posted 10 June 2014 - 08:51 AM

Python should be useful for everybody and for almost any purpose.

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#3 metacognitive

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Posted 06 September 2014 - 08:11 AM

I would strongly discourage you from starting with LISP as a beginner.  IMO you run a risk of burning yourself out when starting that way.  LISP requires a very heavy conceptual 'working set' to use effectively - you need to have a strong grasp of functional paradigms, which are pretty heavy stuff to someone who is just starting programming.  LISP is better suited for exploring once you already have a strong grasp of programming.  After enough time, your mind will naturally begin to probe at the structure and elegance of code -- to wonder if there's something more powerful out there to express the patterns and ideas that you are beginning to see emerge.  If you keep at it long enough, you'll inevitably thirst for more.  That's when it's time to pick up LISP (or other functional language)!


I second the sentiment that Python is a fantastic language to start with.  It's simple and clean enough to get moving quickly -- you can have cool stuff up-and-running in a week, if not a single day, with Python.  But it's by no means a beginner's language; it's useful across the full spectrum of skill levels.  Even domains that don't use Python for products still often use it in the pipeline - for automating tasks, metaprogramming, etc.  Even programmers like myself who operate primarily in other languages can still gain a lot by having Python in their set of tools.  I would honestly and confidently say that Python is the most practical language that you can learn today for applications programming.  If your primary interest is web coding, you will of course want to start elsewhere (probably Javascript, but I have zero web programming experience, so I can't say that one confidently).


Where to go next really depends on your domain of interest.  C++ is still ubiquitous in applications programming, so it's always going to be a strong choice for career programmers.  It will also start introducing you to more advanced concepts like dynamic dispatch ('virtual') and parametric code ('templates') that Python sort of dodges by virtue of being dynamic and duck-typed.  It's also a much better choice for computationally-intense programs.


Anyway, I won't dwell too much on other languages since you said your primary interest is just to make some cool stuff.  If that's the case and you're not interested in making a career out of it (hey, keep an open mind...programming can and will steal your heart ;)  ), then my answer would remain an unequivocal: learn Python today.  And since I'm a graphics programmer, I'll just throw this little plug in here: once you get rolling, you should really pick up a graphics library like pygame or pyglet.  There's nothing more cool or fun than making pretty stuff appear on a screen  :happy:


Have fun  ;)

Edited by metacognitive, 06 September 2014 - 08:37 AM.

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