Bill Birch's Road to Lisp
I, Bill Birch, do solemnly offer these my responses to The Road to Lisp Survey:

When did you first try Lisp seriously, and which Lisp family member was it?
I first purchased a Lisp interpreter for the Sinclair QL in about 1986. This was a port of Acorn Lisp for the BBC-B Microcomputer to the QL.

What led you to try Lisp?
A collegue showed me a Lisp interpreter.... Initially I viewed Lisp as a structured macro-processor, but soon I realised it was much more.

Where did your road originate?
Well I was a heavy user of character based macro-processors for code generation (e.g. GPM, m4). I found them great but excrutiating to debug and to write code with any structure. There had to be a better way, and then I was introduced to Lisp...a programmer's koan.

How far have you gotten in your study of Lisp?
Soon after I stumbled into Lisp I decided to write my own. I found a paper which made it look simple ( Timothy P. Hart and Thomas G. Evans, "Notes on Implementing Lisp for the M-460 Computer", in "THE PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE Lisp: Its Operation and Applications", Information International Inc. March 1964. )

Ever since then I have spent more time hacking C and C++ inside my interpreter than writing good Lisp code. (Greenspun's Tenth Rule of Programming: "Any sufficiently complicated C or Fortran program contains an ad-hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden, slow implementation of half of Common Lisp." Which accurately sums up my interpeter.) In doing so I have studied a lot of material and learned huge amounts about Lisp. In hindsight I wish I had spent more time coding in someone elses Lisp. However I should like to add the following maxim:
"Even an ad-hoc, informally-specified, bug-ridden,
slow implementation of half of Common Lisp
is better than most other languages."

In my own Lisp I write demo web apps bring to life proposals for work collegues. Because I'm using Lisp, it's easy to hack-a-demo in my lunch breaks. In the past I've used Lisp to solve problems for collegues which have been 'too difficult' in ordinary languages. I guess I'm like many Lisp users - we use Lisp in the background to support production but Lisp never gets used in frontline production applications.

What do you think of Lisp so far?
I just wish that the CL implementations available would do everything I want to do for free. Decent Lisp costs big bucks. Therefore I keep adding to my own Lisp interpreter. It now has an embedded web server, Lisp Server Pages, SQL database, XML parser etc.. so I can write web apps.

The Lisp literature and its community are usually years ahead of the pack. Most language features I have ever seen are already in Lisp. Lisp allows me to play with ideas so quickly. Lisp continues to do it for me. Yes!

Please delete all but one of these cross-referencing tags: Switch Date 1980s
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