Hi Andreas

>no need to be sorry, we like to help
That's very kind of you. Thank you and your message looks very helpful
It'll take me a while to digest it but I will come back re it.
For now...most of my programming has been in Powerbasic though I have done
some C++, Perl and Tcl so...yes {} == scoping to me.

Best Regards

On 9 December 2016 at 23:27, <andr...@itship.ch> wrote:

> Hi dean
> No worries, no need to be sorry, we like to help :-)
> Here a more lengthy and maybe easier explanation, though not simpler...
> Feedback appreciated.
> >From which languages are you coming from?
> It looks to me like you view lisp brackets ( ) similar to curly brackets {
> } in C/C++/C#/Java/..., where { }  is doing scoping.
> While they appear similar at first, they don't really have much in common.
> Brackets in lisp are also used for grouping and nesting, but on a much more
> basic level.
> Lets leave brackets aside first and have a look at the basic types of
> picolisp. When you grokked this, you will grok brackets.
> Picolisp has three strongly typed types:
> 1) Number - represent a signed integral (integer) value of arbitrary size
> In text form (as in source code) they are just plain written as numbers:
> 123
> Whenever there is a number within picolisp source code (without any
> "quotes" around it), its automatically detected as a numeric integer value.
> 2) Symbol - has a value, and optionally a name and an arbitrary number of
> properties (also might have none)
> If you're new to lisp, coming from a C-style language, then this is
> probably the weirdest and most complex data type to understand.
> At minimum a symbol has a value, but the value can be anything - maybe it
> helps to think of it as a reference/pointer to some other value, e.g. a
> number, another symbol, or a list.
> Most times, a symbol has also a name - think of it like the name of a
> variable in other languages.
> Additionally a symbol can have none, one or multiple properties - which
> again consists of a name and a value.
> (This makes symbols looking a bit like OOP classes in other languages, but
> the symbol type alone is not really a class or object, though the picolisp
> OOP classes are based on symbols).
> Symbol is a very powerful and wildly diversely used type.
> And there are actually kind of 4 different (sub-)types of symbols, which
> differ a bit in behaviour and usage context, but the description above is
> true for all of them.
> Whenever there is a string within picolisp source code (without any
> "quotes" around it), its automatically detected as a symbol.
> strings with "quotes" around it are actually also symbols, in picolisp we
> call them "transient symbols" because they live in a transient scope, what
> this means exactly you can look up later on, for the moment think of them
> as a symbol used to represent a character string.
> ATOMS: The Number and Symbol types are called atoms, because they don't
> consist of other types.
> Check out the function (atom): http://software-lab.de/doc/refA.html#atom
> So, now we have 2 of the 3 picolisp base data types. Now lets look at the
> third data type, the one which is not an atom.
> 3) List - a sequence of one or more cells (cons pairs), holding numbers,
> symbols, or cons pairs.
> Simply said, a list is a grouping of values, wherein each value can be a
> number, a symbol, or also another list.
> In the picolisp source code, a list is surrounded by ( ) brackets (lisp
> users usually call them parens, not brackets, I guess this is  short for
> parenthesis).
> Technically every ( ) in the picolisp source code denotes a list, but
> attention: not every ( ) in the code results in a list variable. Just keep
> carry on, you will understand the meaning of this when you finished the
> next section about evaluation below...
> Two parens in source code, which only contain one or multiple Numbers, is
> automatically detected as a list value: (1 2 3 55)
> A list value which contains other stuff, needs to be prefixed with ' (this
> is the quote-macro of picolisp): (symbol 2 3 this is a list) <- yep, this
> is a list containing the Numbers 2 and 3, and the Symbols "symbol", "this",
> "is", "a" and "list"
> This are the three basic types of picolisp. Everything else in picolisp is
> made up from those types! Everything!
> (and those are made up of cells, a cell is basically a single piece of
> memory in picolisp runtime).
> This is the other fundamental topic to understand, evaluation, turning
> input into output, the essence of software.
> Evaluation is a big topic in other programming languages too, but maybe
> the exact process is a bit more hidden and implicit than in lisp languages.
> REPL stands for READ - EVALUATE - PRINT -LOOP, and this is exactly what
> the picolisp runtime does.
> 1) read the source code -> build a structure in memory which is an exact
> binary representation of the textual representation of the program, which
> is the source code.
> 2) evaluate -> turning input into output according to a certain set of
> rules
> 3) print -> print the result on the screen (or maybe not, for example: a
> pure server program talking over a network connection to a client program)
> 4) loop -> repeat again with step 1), until the program is exited by
> calling (bye) or is shut down by the OS
> When you start picolisp without any arguments (invoking pil or pil +), you
> end up in the REPL.
> When you enter something and press return, the steps of the REPL are
> followed through.
> Values of type Number are always evaluated as themselves, meaning 123 ->
> returns 123.
> Symbols return their value, or return the special Symbol NIL if they don't
> have a value:
> : A -> NIL
> : (setq A 123)
> :  A -> 123
> Transient symbols, the special case of symbols with "quotes" around them,
> return their name, unless they have a value:
> : "Switzerland" -> "Switzerland"
> : (setq "Switzerland" "Schweiz") # set value of Symbol "Switzerland" to
> the german word
> : "Switzerland" -> "Schweiz"
> And now comes the magic...
> Lists in source code, so everything with parens (around it), are evaluated
> as function calls!
> Because functions are represented as list data type...
> Examples:
> (print "Schwitzerland") -> this means: call the function print and give
> it, as an argument, whatever "Switzerland" evaluates to (so this could be
> "Switzerland" or "Schweiz", see the evaluation of transient symbols as
> explained just above)
> (if (= 1 1) "true" "false") -> this means: call the function if and give
> it, as arguments, this other elements contained in this list
> Normally, all arguments to a function are evaluated before executing the
> function!
> Some functions are special (so called fexpr, short for f-expressions,
> historically for "user defined special form")
> The function if behaves like a fexpr (albeit to be exact, its not user
> defined but hardcoded in picolisp runtime)
> if:
> evaluate the first argument,
> if its non-NIL, evaluate and return the second argument,
> otherwise (if the second argument evaluated to NIL) evaluate all other
> arguments (except the second argument) and return the result of the
> evaluation of the last argument
> Step by step:
> 1) (if (= 1 2) "true" (prinl "bla") "false") -> oh we should evaluate the
> first argument, to find out what we need to do
> 2) (if NIL "true" (prinl "bla") "false") -> well, (= 1 2) evaluates to the
> Symbol NIL, so lets skip the evaluation of the second argument and evaluate
> all others
> 3) (prinl "bla") -> oh, a nested evaluation, ok lets evaluate the
> transient Symbol "bla", which results in "bla", and execute prinl on that
> value
> 4) ok, back in the if, what next? -> evaluate "false" -> easy, result is
> "false" -> ok, this was the last argument to if, lets return this value ->
> "false"
> Lets see how a function is defined/created:
> (de hello-world ()
>    (prinl "hi world") )
> Ha, this is again a list in the source code! Containing the symbol "de",
> the symbol "hello-world", an empty list (empty lists evaluate to NIL), and
> another list.
> How is this evaluated? As a call to the built-in function "de", which is
> also kinda a fexpr, taking all its argument as input without evaluation.
> "de" then creates a new symbol with the name "hello-world" and the value
> as a list which looks like this: (() (prinl "hi world")) -> so the value is
> a list which contains an empty list plus a list with two symbols in it

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