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1 point by Pauan 2297 days ago | link | parent

"then push (and subsequently pop -- the interpreter holds a stack of environments representing runtime frames)"

Uh oh, my warning bells went off. If I were you, I'd put some unit tests that verify that closures work properly. In particular, this might very well break in bullet (though I won't know without testing it):

  (def foo (x)
    (fn () x))

  ((foo 4)) -> 4

"They are expanded at runtime, and the result of the expansion is then evaluated in the lexical environment of the call site. That means you can use macros in higher-order functions; they truly are first class."

Ewww, runtime macros. I do not like. They combine all the awfulness of macros[1] without any of the benefits of fexprs[1], while also giving up the only benefit macros have[1]. The worst of all worlds, in my opinion.


"My intention had been to double back and fix the discrepancy with "real" lisps by doing the standard initial macroexpand traversal of the AST before evaluating."

Good. I think Lisps should either embrace macros (warts and non-first-classness included), or embrace fexprs and dump macros since they're not needed and just get in the way. Naturally, I'm in favor of fexprs unless speed is critical, and even then I'd prefer to just make the interpreter faster rather than dump the elegance of fexprs.


"I've just got to try these fexpr style macros; the idea of just controlling evaluation of operands, but otherwise being just like a regular function is very appealing."

It sure is! An example of a very beautiful Lisp that uses fexprs at its very core is Kernel (though it calls them operatives and uses the $vau form to create them):

There are other Lisps that use fexprs (or at least things similar to fexprs) as well, such as Picolisp and newLISP (which erroneously calls them macros), but I'm especially fond of Kernel (for many reasons), but in part due to its static (lexical) scope.


* [1]: I'm only slightly exaggerating... but in all seriousness, first-classness is only one of the (multiple) benefits of fexprs, and even with first-class macros, you still need to worry about hygiene, which is basically a non-issue in Kernel (that is to say, in Kernel, hygiene is so incredibly easy to achieve that it naturally happens, because the language is so incredibly well designed, so I consider this a mostly "solved problem" in Kernel).

Plus, I suspect if you're basically macro-expanding macros at runtime, you'd actually get slightly faster speed with fexprs (not that speed is a huge issue, but it can be an issue, depending on what you want to do, so I mention it for completeness and because I have a personal interest in making powerful things go fast).

As far as I can tell, the only real benefit of macros is that they're always preprocessed, so they only need to macro-expand once. That is also why they're non-first-class.

I suppose a minor benefit is it allows you to treat macros as basically a template facility, but I find that benefit to be dubious at best, especially since it's so easy to use templating facilities in fexpr (or define your own).

Another minor benefit is that you can macro-expand a macro to do things like code walkers, but... I feel that should be part of a debugger/inspection suite or something.


Just to make sure you don't feel like I'm railing on you: it seems to me that you were unaware of fexprs when you designed bullet, hence why bullet has macros rather than fexprs. That's totally fine, I understand. I'm mentioning all these things not only for your benefit, but also anybody else who might stumble along and read this post.

2 points by seertaak 2297 days ago | link

> In particular, this might very well break in bullet

It works:

    func foo (x): fn () x
    print ((foo 4)) // prints 4
I explained incorrectly: the interpreter env stack is basically a stack of bindings representing both "true" locals (i.e. locals on JVM) and environments representing lexical scopes. The latter are held for instance by functions, macros, modules explicitly, and also get implicitly created as required in e.g. looping primitives.

I'll reply to your other points tomorrow morning! (basically, I agree :))


1 point by Pauan 2297 days ago | link

Nice! So lexical environments do form a proper tree and persist even after the outer function has returned? If so, then that shouldn't be a problem.