I, Chris Perkins, do solemnly offer these my responses to The Road to Lisp Survey:

When did you first try Lisp (meaning here and throughout the survey "any member of the Lisp family") seriously, and which Lisp family member was it? I started using Common Lisp after Paul Grahams article "Beating the Averages" appeared on slashdot in 2001.

What led you to try Lisp?
Sometime over the years I picked up the prejudice that Lisp was a special purpose language for academics and AI, and years ago a quick peek at CTLT1 while standing in line at a bookstore cemented that view; Lisp code didn't look like any programming language I knew thus it must not be any programming language I would want. But for two or three years leading up to reading that Paul Graham article I had been developing a document containing hundreds of ideas I'd had for an ideal language and/or an ideal programming environment. Most of these came out of frustration from using C/C++ and Java. Since 1996 a buddy and I had been building our own little software business. Being small is often a great advantage, but sometimes there were projects we just couldn't undertake - we were just two guys. So I was on the lookout for leverage. We started using Java for this very reason; two guys can get a lot more done in Java than two guys in C++, especially if you need to deploy on multiple platforms, etc. Needless to say, Paul Graham's article resonated with me. After reading it I had to find out if what he was saying was true. And, through a long still-underway learning process I would have to say that yes, it is absolutely true. Lisp is the best programming language ever devised. Nearly every language wish that was in my wishlist is in Lisp (or made irrelevant by Lisp) and each has been better designed and more thoughtfully integrated than I could have ever done myself. And since the language itself is also a compiler and debugger many of the features of my ideal programming IDE are now pointless.

How far have you gotten in your study of Lisp? (I know, that is hard to measure)
I have written a lot of little utilities in it and use it for all sorts of things now. Increasingly I find that I think in Lisp and that I approach problems "in the Lisp way" instead of my old C/C++/Java way. But, at the time of this writing, I've only been using it for 2 years and I haven't written any professional deliverable product in it yet. (But I did automate a good portion of our sales processing with a tool built in Lisp).

What do you think of Lisp so far?

  • Lisp Rocks
  • Making an analogy in the context of George Orwell's 1984: As English is to NewSpeak, so is Lisp to C.
  • I wish the vendors would standardize FFI, interfaces to TCP, HTTP, etc.,
  • I find Lisp to be very expressive and with it a programmer can apply a lot of leverage.

Switch Date 2001 RtL Paul Graham Seek and Ye Shall Find