Computer Science Fundamentals (CS153 2004S)

Symbolic Values in Scheme

While your initial exercises in Scheme have been numeric, Scheme is not limited to numerical computation, but can also operate on pure symbols.

Scheme's ancestor, Lisp, was originally developed to aid in experiments in artificial intelligence. At the time, a leading theory suggested that intelligence emphasizes symbolic manipulation. Hence, it is sensible that Lisp and Scheme include symbols as a basic type. Evidence also shows that many programs most appropriately work on abstract symbolic value.

When we want to refer to something as a value involved in a computation, rather than as the name of some other value, we put an apostrophe (usually pronounced quote) in front of it. In effect, by quoting the symbol, we're telling Scheme to take it literally and without further interpretation or evaluation:

> 'sample
sample

Note that you can quote many different things. You can even quote Scheme expressions.

> '(+ 2 3)
(+ 2 3)

Although you can use quote in a variety of ways, I prefer that you limit your use to quoting symbolic values, at least for the first few weeks of class. My experience shows that those who quote lists early in the course careers end up with confusing results later in the course.

 

History

Wednesday, 4 September 2002 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

Tuesday, 21 January 2003 [Samuel A. Rebelsky]

 

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Samuel A. Rebelsky, rebelsky@grinnell.edu