Hackers and Painters: Big ideas from the computer age by Paul Graham
This was another book that I just happened to pick up in Cambridge Public Library. I’d obviously heard of Paul Graham in my Lisp programming past. His Viaweb company, which was eventually sold to Yahoo, used Common Lisp as the underlying technology which gave his start-up an advantage over the other players in the web store area.
This book is a very interesting collection of essays on a number of subjects. There are obviously some essays on Common Lisp, and why the language is so great. Graham lists the ideas that make a language great, and then shows how many other languages only have a subset of these features. Lisp, even though it dates so far back, has many features that are only fairly recently making their way into more mainstream languages, and still has a few features that haven’t yet migrated across. For example, lexical closures took a while to make it into the C# language, and features like LINQ rely on compiler source-to-source transforms without giving the ability for the user to define some features as macros for themselves.
There are many essays on lots of disparate subjects. Why the school system is failing nerds, why start-ups are more effective at getting products to market and loads of other thought-provoking pieces. All of the essays are really easy to read and it’s hard to put the book down.