LISP is a general-purpose programming language that can be used for almost any application or software program. It is one of the oldest programming languages still in use today, with the first version being developed in 1958.
Up until recently, LISP was considered by many to be an esoteric or specialist language and was not widely used outside of artificial intelligence and computer science research. This article explains everything you need to know about LISP as a programming language, including its history, characteristics, variants, common uses, and modern implementations.
What is LISP?
LISP stands for “list processing”, which has nothing to do with actual lists or list processing. Instead, it is a programming language that is based on linked lists, which are one of the simplest and most general data structures. A linked list is a sequence of data items where each item has a link to the next item.
When you first learn about linked lists, they are usually in the context of storing data, like a list of names in a contacts list, or a list of cities on a trip itinerary. But you can also think of a linked list as a sequence of instructions, which makes it a perfect fit for a programming language. LISP is an example of a “functional programming language”, which means that it’s designed around the idea that every program should be seen as a sequence of steps that transform some input data into transformed output data.
History of LISP Programming Language
LISP was developed in 1958 by John McCarthy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) as a language for artificial intelligence research. It was the first language to be fully implemented on a computer. The language was originally called “Prolog”, after the logic-based programming language created by Alonzo Church around the same time. It was later renamed “LISt Processing” after complaints from the Swiss Logic Laboratory that the acronym Prolog was already taken.
The first implementation of LISP was written for the IBM 704 computer, which at the time was one of the most advanced computers in the world. LISP’s main contribution to programming language design was to show that it was possible to implement a language in a computer, rather than having to interpret the language as a human would.
Characteristics of the LISP Programming Language
LISP was one of the first programming languages to be fully implemented on a computer, and it was a pioneering language in many ways. It was one of the first to be created with a focus on functional programming, which is the idea that programs should be thought of as a sequence of steps that transform some input data into transformed output data.
LISP also had one of the first examples of a “read-Evaluate-Print-Loop” or REPL environment for writing and testing code. This is a development environment where the user types code into a console and the computer immediately evaluates it, prints the result, and waits for the user to type the next line of code. This environment is now standard in almost all programming languages.
Why use a LISP programming language?
LISP was groundbreaking in its early days because it was one of the first programming languages to be fully implemented on a computer. Today, LISP is still widely used in artificial intelligence research, as well as in many niche industries like life sciences, financial services, and other industries with complex data modeling problems. LISP is also a great programming language for beginners, as it is one of the oldest programming languages still widely taught in computer science courses.
The Future of LISP
Although LISP is relatively simple, it is also limited in what it can do. If modern languages are unable to scale to meet the demands of large software projects, it is possible that LISP can be used to build a more complex software solution, much like how it was used in the early days of artificial intelligence research.
LISP stands for “List Processing” and is a general-purpose programming language. It is one of the oldest programming languages still in use today, with the first version being developed in 1958. LISP is a functional programming language, and is still widely used in artificial intelligence research and niche industries like life sciences, financial services, and other industries with complex data modeling problems.