Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs: 2nd Edition
This online ebook is a companion to the influential computer-science text Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, by Abelson, Sussman, and Sussman. Its purpose is to demonstrate the Web’s potential to be a channel for innovative support for textbook users. The material on this site is aimed at instructors using SICP as a course text, and at people using the book for self-study.
Our traffic with the subject matter of this book involves us with three foci of phenomena: the human mind, collections of computer programs, and the computer. Every computer program is a model, hatched in the mind, of a real or mental process. These processes, arising from human experience and thought, are huge in number, intricate in detail, and at any time only partially understood. They are modeled to our permanent satisfaction rarely by our computer programs. Thus even though our programs are carefully handcrafted discrete collections of symbols, mosaics of interlocking functions, they continually evolve: we change them as our perception of the model deepens, enlarges, generalizes until the model ultimately attains a metastable place within still another model with which we struggle. The source of the exhilaration associated with computer programming is the continual unfolding within the mind and on the computer of mechanisms expressed as programs and the explosion of perception they generate. If art interprets our dreams, the computer executes them in the guise of programs!
Lisp is a survivor, having been in use for about a quarter of a century. Among the active programming languages only Fortran has had a longer life. Both languages have supported the programming needs of important areas of application, Fortran for scientific and engineering computation and Lisp for artificial intelligence. These two areas continue to be important, and their programmers are so devoted to these two languages that Lisp and Fortran may well continue in active use for at least another quarter-century.
Note that this is a text about programming, unlike most Lisp books, which are used as a preparation for work in artificial intelligence. After all, the critical programming concerns of software engineering and artificial intelligence tend to coalesce as the systems under investigation become larger. This explains why there is such growing interest in Lisp outside of artificial intelligence.