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Chapter 32. Visual LISP > Understanding AutoLISP and Visual LISP

Understanding AutoLISP and Visual LISP

AutoLISP is a subset of the popular LISP programming language developed in the late fifties. LISP, which is an acronym for LISt Processing, is one of the few programming languages from that era still in active use today. Developed principally for use in Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications, LISP is still popular in the AI community. AutoLISP was first introduced into AutoCAD as its principle programming language with Release 2.18 in January 1986. It was chosen as the initial AutoCAD programming language for two important reasons: LISP structurally relies upon lists to contain its data types and most of CAD relies upon lists of coordinates or data that can be easily expressed in list form. Just as important, LISP, and AutoLISP by extension, is uniquely suited for the relatively unstructured design environment of CAD projects, which typically involve repeatedly applying different solution to the design process.

In the years since 1986, AutoLISP has become widely popular and well accepted as an easy-to-learn, easy-to-use customization language for use in AutoCAD. More than 1.25 million AutoCAD customers currently use AutoLISP either directly or through third-party applications integrated with AutoCAD. However, despite its popularity and adoption by the communities of AutoCAD users and developers, AutoLISP began to show some serious limitations as AutoCAD, and the machines on which it is run, improved in functionality and speed.


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