Episode 18 closed part III of my Adventures. I have not exhausted
everything there is to say about functional programming. Actually,
there is much more that could be written on the subject. However, the
third cycle was conceived just as a detour from the main topic of this
series, i.e. macros.
In part II I have just scratched the surface of what
macros are and can do. The next cycle of Adventures, i.e part IV,
will be entirely devoted to the most
sophisticated aspects of macros. I will show typical patterns
of macro programming, examples of advanced macros, as well as
the issue of (breaking) hygiene.
[UPDATE: after some thinking, I have changed my mind. Part IV
will describe the R6RS module system and I will come back to macros
in part V. The reason is I want to write portable macros and in
order to do so a discussion of the module system is essential.]
Part IV will not begin immediately, since I have to finish
various Python-related papers first, so there will be a little pause. The
pause should give you enough time to digest part III.
I see that part III was little commented (except for the remarks of
Elizabeth Wiethoff, hi Elizabeth! ;) I hope I have not lost all of my
readers! I know that this is not an easy series and requires some
effort. I would like some feedback, though. Are you still reading the
series? Is it going well and would you rather prefer a change of
direction or style?
Notice that by design the series is not too much
practically-minded, since it focuses on the features that
make Scheme Scheme, and that are missing in other languages.
I could write a Practical Scheme series, explaining things like
how you interact with the file system, with a database, how to use
a GUI toolkit and such, but then you would not learn much about
Scheme: this kind of tasks are more or less the same in any language.
I am also curious about what the background of my readers is. The series
is not really intended for Schemers (they should know already everything!)
but for curious programmers with experience in other languages, say
dynamic languages such as Perl, Python, Ruby or functional languages
such as ML, Haskell, and somewhat Scala. I am not sure how readable
the series is for people with experience only in Java or C++.
Some feedback would be welcome!
A reader asked me if there was a PDF version of the Adventures, intended
from printing. Now, there is! ;)
I have generate a single PDF file for the first eighteen Adventures;
the content is exactly the same of the Artima posts, with a nice
table of contents in front. You can download it from here:
I have yet to fix the pictures, to spell check the whole text, and to
review it from start to end. You will likely find small errors: in such
a case, you are welcome to send me a note.
The PDF is generated by using Python technology, i.e. Sphinx, since
all the Adventures are written as Scheme files with a big docstring
in reStructuredText format. There are Scheme tools for literate
programming and or documentation extraction (a Google search will
find a few of them), but I have chosen Sphinx for three reasons:
- I already knew reStructuredText and everything I have written in
the last 6+ years is in that format;
- Artima recognizes reStructuredText, so it was a path of minimal resistance;
- Sphinx is both very powerful and standard, in the sense that the official
Python documentation is generated via Sphinx and basically all famous
Python projects are switching to Sphinx, so it has thousands of users.
Notice that for nearly two decades (till last year) the Python documentation
has been generated from Perl, so I see nothing wrong in generating Scheme
documentation from Python ;)
If you prefer HTML over PDF, or if you want to leverage on the powerful
search capabilities of Sphinx, you can browse the HTML documentation here:
When I started writing my Adventures I would have never imaged that
the project would have grown to the current size. Originally, I just
wanted to write a couple of introductory articles about Scheme: they
became the first three Adventures and were written years ago (in
Italian). Then, on Christmas 2007, I had a revelation about
syntax-case macros and I decided that it was worthwhile documenting
Since the Italian Stacktrace site had just started, I came out with the
idea of the Adventures: the first one was published in February, the 5th
2008. I expected to write a few articles on
the subject and to be done with it, but after eleven episodes,
I realized that there was still much more to say.
So the series migrated to the English language on Artima,
in September, the 18th 2008.
At this moment I have written 18
episodes and I feel that I am more or less halfway through my task.
I think that the series will keep going for at least other six months and
that it will become of book size at the end. The PDF is already over
one hundred pages. I do not think the series will even become a best
seller, since it is probably appealing only to a restricted public,
but I never wanted to become famous, and in any case this series
has a gigantic public with compared to the public I was used
to, when writing Physics papers ;)
That's all. Keep following, and remember that the best of this series
is yet to be seen!