William Bland
Another response 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 had taught myself BASIC and C, and then (at the tender age of 12 years), LISP (PC-LISP). I enjoyed re-implementing ELIZA and writing a Lisp interpreter in Lisp. But everyone seemed to be saying that Lisp was a dying language, so I gave up for a while and learned C++ and Java.

Fast-forward to 2002 (I was then 27 years old), and I got made redundant from my C++ programming job. I'm about to start a new job now (August 2003), but I've been hacking away in my (copious) spare time since losing my last job. Since nobody's been paying me to program, I decided that I would use the tools of my own choosing (not Java or C++). I bought a copy of SICP and taught myself Scheme. It made me remember what a joy Lisp languages are to use, and I hope one day I'll get paid to write in Scheme or Common Lisp.

At the moment I'm working on Schemix, which is an unlikely embedding of Scheme in the Linux kernel. It's a lot of fun!

Switch Date 2002

What led you to try Lisp?

The first time, when I was 12 year old, I had learned BASIC and C but was finding them pretty useless for doing things like re-implementing ELIZA. A few old books I borrowed from the library suggested Lisp might be the way to go.

The second time, aged 27, I was no longer forced to use C++ at work (since I no longer had any work!). Having fond memories of PC-LISP, and seeing that Lisp had not died out like people said it would, I decided to use Scheme for my spare-time projects.

Rtl AI

If you were trying Lisp out of unhappiness with another language, what was that other language and what did you not like about it, or what were you hoping to find different in Lisp?

First class functions are one of the biggest things for me personally, as is the uniform syntax. I now shudder at the thought of using a language that doesn't have these. Of course other things like garbage collection, bignums, etc. mean I'll never be happy with C++ again (not that I was ever very happy using it in the first place!).

How far have you gotten in your study of Lisp? I know, that is hard to measure)

Not far enough. I feel confident with most of SICP. I know a lot about implementation issues from my work on Schemix. I'd like to learn Common Lisp at some point, but from where I'm standing it's still too big and intimidating!

What do you think of Lisp so far?

If I ever use another language again, it will either be as a back-end to some kind of Lisp system, or it won't be by choice (unfortunately the latter is pretty likely!).