Scheme Lisp and Failure

By Xah Lee. Date:

Someone wrote:

How do you explain that something as inferior as Python beat Lisp in the market place despite starting 40 years later.

On , Rainer Joswig wrote:

The same way like VHS “beat” the film formats for home videos. The same way it will be “beaten”.

Wishful thinking tech geeking idiots always think that. It's a psychological defense mechanism. When you are the loser, you enjoin fancy adages to comfort yourself. Thus, Mac people, lisp people, and unix people when it comes to Microsoft, always quote the same old VHS vs Beta.

In my life experience and interest on this issue in the past 5 years, i found that, the world is basically pretty fair, all things considered. Successful are successful not because they are devious. Successful people, or products, in any industry, may it be computing, singer, musics, software, business … , are due to reasonable causes, social and or technical. For example, the mundane hard working, good price/performance ratio, good advertising, talent, and with perhaps a little what we'd have to call fortuity.

Scheme Lisp, has become more obscure because it wasn't that great in the first place. Scheme grew upon a myth that it being elegant, and this cult largely came from the fact when lisps are all bewildering industrial langs in the 1980s, Scheme is the one that comes with a design to reduce lisps's ugliness. Since, the word “elegance” stuck with Scheme.

As a illustration, the following 2 tech aspects we can see Scheme's problem: (1) the cons business. (2) no namespace/library mechanism.

In the 1990s or before, these 2 reasons are not sufficient to kill it, since other langs isn't much better in these areas, and much worse in general. But today, starting about after 2000s, with proliferation of langs and tools, Scheme isn't fit to compete for popularity.

Is the World All Copying Lisp?

Peter Keller wrote:

Then why are most modern languages evolving towards all of the functionality of functional languages? Things like lexical closure, higher order functions, garbage collection, etc, are commonplace in your “accepted and modern” languages these days.

You as a Scheme Lisp fan, perceives that the world is all copying you.

Mac fans, perceive that Windows is all copying Mac, even today.

More realistically, the world didn't just copy you. Lisp is one of the early languages, and in our opinion, a good one, containing many good ideas. However, just because many lisp's ideas are common in many of today's lang, you can't say that the world is copying lisp. For example, automatic memory management, list datatype, are natural ideas that would naturally come into being with increased computer hardware power and progress of computer science.

In late 1990s, when Perl (aka Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister) is raging, it is common to see here debates about whether Perl is a lisp. Quite idiotic. When XML is raging in early 2000s, lisper fanatics think that the world finally understood sexp, but did a lousy job in copying. What a idiocy. Today, especially like few years ago Ruby (aka Matz Lisp) is raging with its Rail, you see people discussing with subject lines like Is Ruby Lisp Done Right? Very stupid.

It's the magic of wishful thinking at work.

On the other hand, many of today's lang's features are not in lisp.

Also, there's functional langs the likes of Mathematica, ML/OCaml/F#, Haskell, erlang, Oz … and getting more popular today. Some of these have roots in the 1980s. Lisps, in comparison to these, don't seem to have a dick. Of course, the hardcore lispers look at these askance, thinking that they are seeing some oddity of outer space that has little earthy bearings; the same way imperative coding monkeys look at lisp — something they don't understand and ignore.

Also, lisp's macros, a feature that gets lispers much ado about nothing. In Mathematica (b ~1989), the whole language can be considered as a extended lisp macros system. When i learned about lisp's macros while practical coding elisp, i find lisp macros are rather so trivial, painful to use, and laughable. In fact, i never use it, never see a need to use it. But you see lisp fanatics getting giddy about macros all day, like Hasklers idiots drivel about monads all day. All day, day and night. Macros! Monads!

Give it another 20 years and full macro systems will be common place as well. Why does this diffusion happen?

LOL. (LOL = Laughing Out Loud.) Dream on.

In 20 years, bots will code for you, and meat brains would have embedded silicon chips, and quantum computing would be reasonable too! I'm not too sure Common Lisp, Scheme Lisp, Emacs Lisp, would still exist. LOL.

Because languages like Scheme are “crucible” languages. People explore the language in their implementations and then the knowledge of what works and what doesn't gets disseminated throughout the relatively small culture of language/compiler designers. Syntax isn't what drives a language forward, any reasonable one will do just fine.

Is this the “syntax is not important” adage? This is another idiotic myth, popular among sophomoric computer language geekers, counting some book writers.

Syntax, is the MOST important aspect of a computer language! Witness lisp's nested parens. Without it, lisp wouldn't have developed its characteristics and features.