Lisp Primer

This text has been written to provide a quick introduction to the basic elements of Common Lisp for both experienced and novice programmers. It is not intended to be a comprehensive account of the language for, in our experience, it takes only a little introduction before most Lisp programmers are able to turn to Guy L. Steele, Jr.’s, Common Lisp: The Language (2nd Edition, Digital Press, 1990) or to the ANSI Common Lisp specifications for all their reference needs.


If you are familiar with another programming language, such as C, Pascal, or Fortran, you will be familiar with the concept of a compiler. A compiler is a program that takes a complete program written in one of these languages and turns it into a set of binary instructions that the computer can process. All major implemenations of Lisp provide a compiler, but unlike most languages, Lisp is also often used as an interpreted language. This means that you can start an interpreter which can process and respond directly to programs written in Lisp. Interacting with an interpreter makes easy interactive prototyping and debugging of programs possible. Once compiled, Lisp programs run just as fast and efficiently as well-written code in other standardly-compiled languages.

Table of Contents

  • LISt Processing
  • Defining Lisp functions
  • Recursion and Iteration
  • Programming Techniques
  • Simple Data Structures in Lisp
  • Input and Output
  • Functions, Lambda Expressions, and Macros

Book Details

Author(s): Colin Allen and Maneesh Dhagat.
Format(s): HTML
Link: Read online.

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