Grok all the things

grok (v): to understand (something) intuitively.


🙄  Cynics & grumps

Ah, Scheme. The minimalistic Lisp dialect that time forgot. But somehow, it persists. What is it about this language that - like the proverbial cockroach of the programming world - has managed to survive, even if it's pushed off into a dusty corner? Let's take a little jaunt down memory lane and explore the world of parentheses and recursion that is Scheme.

Scheme was born in 1975 when Guy L. Steele and Gerald Jay Sussman decided that Lisp needed a fresh coat of paint. Because who wants a mature and feature-rich language when you can have a stripped-down, overly simplified version? And thus, Scheme was conceived, ready to leave its mark on the world of computer science.

One of Scheme's most notable features is its simplicity. But don't be fooled! The language's terseness leads to some delightful obfuscation, as its syntax consists almost entirely of parentheses, symbols, and a few choice keywords. Take a look at this lovely example:

(define (factorial n)
  (if (<= n 1)
      (* n (factorial (- n 1)))))

Ah, yes. Beautifully succinct, isn't it? You can almost smell the functional programming purity wafting off the screen.

Despite being called simplistic, Scheme actually possesses an incredibly rich and expressive macro system that allows you to create your own syntax - because who doesn't want to make their code even harder to understand and maintain? Additionally, some brave souls have proven that it's possible to create entire domain-specific languages within Scheme just by building up layers of macros. Because everyone loves reinventing the wheel in their own special way.

Let's talk about recursion. Scheme has fully embraced the "recursion or bust" mentality. Instead of providing explicit looping mechanisms like for or while loops, Scheme relies heavily on recursion as its primary means of iteration. After all, you can never have too much recursion or too many stack overflows, right? If you're a fan of blowing through your available memory but producing elegant code, Scheme has you covered.

Now you may be asking yourself, "Why would anyone willingly subject themselves to this arcane language riddled with parentheses and recursion?" And that's a fantastic question. Scheme has been widely used in both academia and research, as its functional programming nature lends itself well to the mathematical and theoretical concepts prevalent in these fields. It also serves as an excellent tool for teaching proper programming techniques, masquerading as a simple language while secretly luring unsuspecting students into the world of functional programming.

It's important to remember that Scheme is more than just a language with weird syntax and an affinity for recursion. It's a nostalgic reminder of the days when computer science was a truly adventurous and experimental field. Scheme carries on its shoulders the spirit of pioneers like Steele and Sussman who dared to explore the boundaries of programming languages.

Or maybe it's just an elegantly designed programming language that reminds us not to take ourselves too seriously. Even if it does require a syntax that would make any sane person question their life choices.

In conclusion, Scheme is like that eccentric old relative who shows up at every family gathering, warbling on about the good old days of punch cards and vacuum tubes. They may be a bit odd, surrounded by a sea of parentheses, and hung up on recursion, but they've lived through some fascinating times and have stories to tell. Embrace the peculiarities of Scheme and dive into the world of functional programming - just remember to keep counting those parentheses! is a collection of articles on a variety of technology and programming articles assembled by James Padolsey. Enjoy! And please share! And if you feel like you can donate here so I can create more free content for you.