mal - Make a Lisp
1. Mal is a Clojure inspired Lisp interpreter
2. Mal is a learning tool
Each implementation of mal is separated into 11 incremental, self-contained (and testable) steps that demonstrate core concepts of Lisp. The last step is capable of self-hosting (running the mal implementation of mal). See the make-a-lisp process guide.
The make-a-lisp steps are:
Each make-a-lisp step has an associated architectural diagram. That elements that are new for that step are highlighted in red. Here is the final diagram for step A:
If you are interested in creating a mal implementation (or just interested in using mal for something), you are welcome to to join our Discord or join #mal on libera.chat. In addition to the make-a-lisp process guide there is also a mal/make-a-lisp FAQ where I attempt to answer some common questions.
3. Mal is implemented in 87 languages (93 different implementations and 115 runtime modes)
Mal was presented publicly for the first time in a lightning talk at Clojure West 2014 (unfortunately there is no video). See examples/clojurewest2014.mal for the presentation that was given at the conference (yes, the presentation is a mal program).
The simplest way to run any given implementation is to use docker. Every implementation has a docker image pre-built with language dependencies installed. You can launch the REPL using a convenient target in the top level Makefile (where IMPL is the implementation directory name and stepX is the step to run):
make DOCKERIZE=1 "repl^IMPL^stepX" # OR stepA is the default step: make DOCKERIZE=1 "repl^IMPL"
The following implementations are maintained as separate projects:
- by Tim Morgan
- by vi - using Pest grammar, not using typical Mal infrastructure (cargo-ized steps and built-in converted tests).
- by Ali Mohammad Pur - The Q implementation works fine but it requires a proprietary manual download that can't be Dockerized (or integrated into the mal CI pipeline) so for now it remains a separate project.
Other mal Projects
- malc - Mal (Make A Lisp) compiler. Compiles a Mal program to LLVM assembly language, then binary.
- malcc - malcc is an incremental compiler implementation for the Mal language. It uses the Tiny C Compiler as the compiler backend and has full support for the Mal language, including macros, tail-call elimination, and even run-time eval. "I Built a Lisp Compiler" post about the process.
- frock - Clojure-flavoured PHP. Uses mal/php to run programs.
- flk - A LISP that runs wherever Bash is
- glisp - Self-bootstrapping graphic design tool on Lisp. Live Demo
The Ada implementation was developed with GNAT 4.9 on debian. It also compiles unchanged on windows if you have windows versions of git, GNAT and (optionally) make. There are no external dependencies (readline not implemented).
cd impls/ada make ./stepX_YYY
The second Ada implementation was developed with GNAT 8 and links with the GNU readline library.
cd impls/ada make ./stepX_YYY
The GNU awk implementation of mal has been tested with GNU awk 4.1.1.
cd impls/gawk gawk -O -f stepX_YYY.awk
cd impls/bash bash stepX_YYY.sh
BASIC (C64 and QBasic)
The BASIC implementation uses a preprocessor that can generate BASIC code that is compatible with both C64 BASIC (CBM v2) and QBasic. The C64 mode has been tested with cbmbasic (the patched version is currently required to fix issues with line input) and the QBasic mode has been tested with qb64.
Generate C64 code and run it using cbmbasic:
cd impls/basic make stepX_YYY.bas STEP=stepX_YYY ./run
Generate QBasic code and load it into qb64:
cd impls/basic make MODE=qbasic stepX_YYY.bas ./qb64 stepX_YYY.bas
Thanks to Steven Syrek for the original inspiration for this implementation.
BBC BASIC V
The BBC BASIC V implementation can run in the Brandy interpreter:
cd impls/bbc-basic brandy -quit stepX_YYY.bbc
Or in ARM BBC BASIC V under RISC OS 3 or later:
*Dir bbc-basic.riscos *Run setup *Run stepX_YYY
The C implementation of mal requires the following libraries (lib and header packages): glib, libffi6, libgc, and either the libedit or GNU readline library.
cd impls/c make ./stepX_YYY
The second C implementation of mal requires the following libraries (lib and header packages): libedit, libgc, libdl, and libffi.
cd impls/c.2 make ./stepX_YYY
The C++ implementation of mal requires g++-4.9 or clang++-3.5 and
a readline compatible library to build. See the
cd impls/cpp make # OR make CXX=clang++-3.5 ./stepX_YYY
The C# implementation of mal has been tested on Linux using the Mono C# compiler (mcs) and the Mono runtime (version 126.96.36.199). Both are required to build and run the C# implementation.
cd impls/cs make mono ./stepX_YYY.exe
The ChucK implementation has been tested with ChucK 188.8.131.52.
cd impls/chuck ./run
For the most part the Clojure implementation requires Clojure 1.5, however, to pass all tests, Clojure 1.8.0-RC4 is required.
cd impls/clojure lein with-profile +stepX trampoline run
sudo npm install -g coffee-script cd impls/coffee coffee ./stepX_YYY
The implementation has been tested with SBCL, CCL, CMUCL, GNU CLISP, ECL and Allegro CL on Ubuntu 16.04 and Ubuntu 12.04, see the README for more details. Provided you have the dependencies mentioned installed, do the following to run the implementation
cd impls/common-lisp make ./run
The Crystal implementation of mal has been tested with Crystal 0.26.1.
cd impls/crystal crystal run ./stepX_YYY.cr # OR make # needed to run tests ./stepX_YYY
The D implementation of mal was tested with GDC 4.8. It requires the GNU readline library.
cd impls/d make ./stepX_YYY
The Dart implementation has been tested with Dart 1.20.
cd impls/dart dart ./stepX_YYY
The Emacs Lisp implementation of mal has been tested with Emacs 24.3
and 24.5. While there is very basic readline editing (
C-c cancels the process), it is recommended to use
cd impls/elisp emacs -Q --batch --load stepX_YYY.el # with full readline support rlwrap emacs -Q --batch --load stepX_YYY.el
The Elixir implementation of mal has been tested with Elixir 1.0.5.
cd impls/elixir mix stepX_YYY # Or with readline/line editing functionality: iex -S mix stepX_YYY
The Elm implementation of mal has been tested with Elm 0.18.0
cd impls/elm make stepX_YYY.js STEP=stepX_YYY ./run
cd impls/erlang make # OR MAL_STEP=stepX_YYY rebar compile escriptize # build individual step ./stepX_YYY
ES6 (ECMAScript 2015)
cd impls/es6 make node build/stepX_YYY.js
The F# implementation of mal has been tested on Linux using the Mono F# compiler (fsharpc) and the Mono runtime (version 3.12.1). The mono C# compiler (mcs) is also necessary to compile the readline dependency. All are required to build and run the F# implementation.
cd impls/fsharp make mono ./stepX_YYY.exe
The Factor implementation of mal has been tested with Factor 0.97 (factorcode.org).
cd impls/factor FACTOR_ROOTS=. factor -run=stepX_YYY
The Fantom implementation of mal has been tested with Fantom 1.0.70.
cd impls/fantom make lib/fan/stepX_YYY.pod STEP=stepX_YYY ./run
The Fennel implementation of mal has been tested with Fennel version 0.9.1 on Lua 5.4.
cd impls/fennel fennel ./stepX_YYY.fnl
cd impls/forth gforth stepX_YYY.fs
GNU Guile 2.1+
cd impls/guile guile -L ./ stepX_YYY.scm
The Smalltalk implementation of mal has been tested with GNU Smalltalk 3.2.91.
cd impls/gnu-smalltalk ./run
The Go implementation of mal requires that go is installed on on the path. The implementation has been tested with Go 1.3.1.
cd impls/go make ./stepX_YYY
The Groovy implementation of mal requires Groovy to run and has been tested with Groovy 1.8.6.
cd impls/groovy make groovy ./stepX_YYY.groovy
The Haskell implementation requires the ghc compiler version 7.10.1 or later and also the Haskell parsec and readline (or editline) packages.
cd impls/haskell make ./stepX_YYY
The Hy implementation of mal has been tested with Hy 0.13.0.
cd impls/hy ./stepX_YYY.hy
The Io implementation of mal has been tested with Io version 20110905.
cd impls/io io ./stepX_YYY.io
The Janet implementation of mal has been tested with Janet version 1.12.2.
cd impls/janet janet ./stepX_YYY.janet
The Java implementation of mal requires maven2 to build.
cd impls/java mvn compile mvn -quiet exec:java -Dexec.mainClass=mal.stepX_YYY # OR mvn -quiet exec:java -Dexec.mainClass=mal.stepX_YYY -Dexec.args="CMDLINE_ARGS"
Java, using Truffle for GraalVM
This Java implementation will run on OpenJDK, but can run as much as 30x faster on GraalVM thanks to the Truffle framework. It's been tested with OpenJDK 11, GraalVM CE 20.1.0, and GraalVM CE 21.1.0.
cd impls/java-truffle ./gradlew build STEP=stepX_YYY ./run
cd impls/js npm install node stepX_YYY.js
The Julia implementation of mal requires Julia 0.4.
cd impls/julia julia stepX_YYY.jl
Tested against version 1.6, with a lot of cheating in the IO department
cd impls/jq STEP=stepA_YYY ./run # with Debug DEBUG=true STEP=stepA_YYY ./run
The Kotlin implementation of mal has been tested with Kotlin 1.0.
cd impls/kotlin make java -jar stepX_YYY.jar
The LiveScript implementation of mal has been tested with LiveScript 1.5.
cd impls/livescript make node_modules/.bin/lsc stepX_YYY.ls
The Logo implementation of mal has been tested with UCBLogo 6.0.
cd impls/logo logo stepX_YYY.lg
The Lua implementation of mal has been tested with Lua 5.3.5 The implementation requires luarocks to be installed.
cd impls/lua make # to build and link linenoise.so and rex_pcre.so ./stepX_YYY.lua
Running the mal implementation of mal involves running stepA of one of the other implementations and passing the mal step to run as a command line argument.
cd impls/IMPL IMPL_STEPA_CMD ../mal/stepX_YYY.mal
GNU Make 3.81
cd impls/make make -f stepX_YYY.mk
The NASM implementation of mal is written for x86-64 Linux, and has been tested with Linux 3.16.0-4-amd64 and NASM version 2.11.05.
cd impls/nasm make ./stepX_YYY
The Nim implementation of mal has been tested with Nim 1.0.4.
cd impls/nim make # OR nimble build ./stepX_YYY
The Object Pascal implementation of mal has been built and tested on Linux using the Free Pascal compiler version 2.6.2 and 2.6.4.
cd impls/objpascal make ./stepX_YYY
The Objective C implementation of mal has been built and tested on Linux using clang/LLVM 3.6. It has also been built and tested on OS X using XCode 7.
cd impls/objc make ./stepX_YYY
cd impls/ocaml make ./stepX_YYY
MATLAB (GNU Octave and MATLAB)
The MatLab implementation has been tested with GNU Octave 4.2.1. It has also been tested with MATLAB version R2014a on Linux. Note that MATLAB is a commercial product.
cd impls/matlab ./stepX_YYY octave -q --no-gui --no-history --eval "stepX_YYY();quit;" matlab -nodisplay -nosplash -nodesktop -nojvm -r "stepX_YYY();quit;" # OR with command line arguments octave -q --no-gui --no-history --eval "stepX_YYY('arg1','arg2');quit;" matlab -nodisplay -nosplash -nodesktop -nojvm -r "stepX_YYY('arg1','arg2');quit;"
cd impls/miniMAL # Download miniMAL and dependencies npm install export PATH=`pwd`/node_modules/minimal-lisp/:$PATH # Now run mal implementation in miniMAL miniMAL ./stepX_YYY
The Perl 5 implementation should work with perl 5.19.3 and later.
For readline line editing support, install Term::ReadLine::Perl or Term::ReadLine::Gnu from CPAN.
cd impls/perl perl stepX_YYY.pl
The Perl 6 implementation was tested on Rakudo Perl 6 2016.04.
cd impls/perl6 perl6 stepX_YYY.pl
The PHP implementation of mal requires the php command line interface to run.
cd impls/php php stepX_YYY.php
The Picolisp implementation requires libreadline and Picolisp 3.1.11 or later.
cd impls/picolisp ./run
The Pike implementation was tested on Pike 8.0.
cd impls/pike pike stepX_YYY.pike
PL/pgSQL (PostgreSQL SQL Procedural Language)
The PL/pgSQL implementation of mal requires a running PostgreSQL server (the "kanaka/mal-test-plpgsql" docker image automatically starts a PostgreSQL server). The implementation connects to the PostgreSQL server and create a database named "mal" to store tables and stored procedures. The wrapper script uses the psql command to connect to the server and defaults to the user "postgres" but this can be overridden with the PSQL_USER environment variable. A password can be specified using the PGPASSWORD environment variable. The implementation has been tested with PostgreSQL 9.4.
cd impls/plpgsql ./wrap.sh stepX_YYY.sql # OR PSQL_USER=myuser PGPASSWORD=mypass ./wrap.sh stepX_YYY.sql
PL/SQL (Oracle SQL Procedural Language)
The PL/SQL implementation of mal requires a running Oracle DB server (the "kanaka/mal-test-plsql" docker image automatically starts an Oracle Express server). The implementation connects to the Oracle server to create types, tables and stored procedures. The default SQL*Plus logon value (username/password@connect_identifier) is "system/oracle" but this can be overridden with the ORACLE_LOGON environment variable. The implementation has been tested with Oracle Express Edition 11g Release 2. Note that any SQL*Plus connection warnings (user password expiration, etc) will interfere with the ability of the wrapper script to communicate with the DB.
cd impls/plsql ./wrap.sh stepX_YYY.sql # OR ORACLE_LOGON=myuser/mypass@ORCL ./wrap.sh stepX_YYY.sql
PostScript Level 2/3
The PostScript implementation of mal requires Ghostscript to run. It has been tested with Ghostscript 9.10.
cd impls/ps gs -q -dNODISPLAY -I./ stepX_YYY.ps
The PowerShell implementation of mal requires the PowerShell script language. It has been tested with PowerShell 6.0.0 Alpha 9 on Linux.
cd impls/powershell powershell ./stepX_YYY.ps1
The Prolog implementation uses some constructs specific to SWI-Prolog, includes readline support and has been tested on Debian GNU/Linux with version 8.2.1.
cd impls/prolog swipl stepX_YYY
The PureScript implementation requires the spago compiler version 0.20.2.
cd impls/purs make node ./stepX_YYY.js
Python (2.X and 3.X)
cd impls/python python stepX_YYY.py
The second Python implementation makes heavy use of type annotations and uses the Arpeggio parser library.
# Recommended: do these steps in a Python virtual environment. pip3 install Arpeggio==1.9.0 python3 stepX_YYY.py
cd impls/rpython make # this takes a very long time ./stepX_YYY
The R implementation of mal requires R (r-base-core) to run.
cd impls/r make libs # to download and build rdyncall Rscript stepX_YYY.r
The Racket implementation of mal requires the Racket compiler/interpreter to run.
cd impls/racket ./stepX_YYY.rkt
The Rexx implementation of mal has been tested with Regina Rexx 3.6.
cd impls/rexx make rexx -a ./stepX_YYY.rexxpp
cd impls/ruby ruby stepX_YYY.rb
A second Ruby implementation with the following goals:
- No global variables
- No modification (monkey-patching) of core Ruby classes
- Modularized into the
cd impls/ruby.2 ruby stepX_YYY.rb
The rust implementation of mal requires the rust compiler and build tool (cargo) to build.
cd impls/rust cargo run --release --bin stepX_YYY
Install scala and sbt (http://www.scala-sbt.org/0.13/tutorial/Installing-sbt-on-Linux.html):
cd impls/scala sbt 'run-main stepX_YYY' # OR sbt compile scala -classpath target/scala*/classes stepX_YYY
The Scheme implementation of MAL has been tested with Chibi-Scheme
0.10, Kawa 3.1.1, Gauche 0.9.6, CHICKEN 5.1.0, Sagittarius 0.9.7,
Cyclone 0.32.0 (Git version) and Foment 0.4 (Git version). You should
be able to get it running on other conforming R7RS implementations
after figuring out how libraries are loaded and adjusting the
run script accordingly.
cd impls/scheme # chibi scheme_MODE=chibi ./run # kawa make kawa scheme_MODE=kawa ./run # gauche scheme_MODE=gauche ./run # chicken make chicken scheme_MODE=chicken ./run # sagittarius scheme_MODE=sagittarius ./run # cyclone make cyclone scheme_MODE=cyclone ./run # foment scheme_MODE=foment ./run
The Skew implementation of mal has been tested with Skew 0.7.42.
cd impls/skew make node stepX_YYY.js
Standard ML (Poly/ML, MLton, Moscow ML)
The Standard ML implementation of mal requires an SML97 implementation. The Makefile supports Poly/ML, MLton, Moscow ML, and has been tested with Poly/ML 5.8.1, MLton 20210117, and Moscow ML version 2.10.
cd impls/sml # Poly/ML make sml_MODE=polyml ./stepX_YYY # MLton make sml_MODE=mlton ./stepX_YYY # Moscow ML make sml_MODE=mosml ./stepX_YYY
The Swift implementation of mal requires the Swift 2.0 compiler (XCode 7.0) to build. Older versions will not work due to changes in the language and standard library.
cd impls/swift make ./stepX_YYY
The Swift 3 implementation of mal requires the Swift 3.0 compiler. It has been tested with Swift 3 Preview 3.
cd impls/swift3 make ./stepX_YYY
The Swift 4 implementation of mal requires the Swift 4.0 compiler. It has been tested with Swift 4.2.3 release.
cd impls/swift4 make ./stepX_YYY
The Swift 5 implementation of mal requires the Swift 5.0 compiler. It has been tested with Swift 5.1.1 release.
cd impls/swift5 swift run stepX_YYY
The Tcl implementation of mal requires Tcl 8.6 to run. For readline line editing support, install tclreadline.
cd impls/tcl tclsh ./stepX_YYY.tcl
The TypeScript implementation of mal requires the TypeScript 2.2 compiler. It has been tested with Node.js v6.
cd impls/ts make node ./stepX_YYY.js
The Vala implementation of mal has been tested with the Vala 0.40.8
compiler. You will need to install
cd impls/vala make ./stepX_YYY
The VHDL implementation of mal has been tested with GHDL 0.29.
cd impls/vhdl make ./run_vhdl.sh ./stepX_YYY
The Vimscript implementation of mal requires Vim 8.0 to run.
cd impls/vimscript ./run_vimscript.sh ./stepX_YYY.vim
The VB.NET implementation of mal has been tested on Linux using the Mono VB compiler (vbnc) and the Mono runtime (version 184.108.40.206). Both are required to build and run the VB.NET implementation.
cd impls/vb make mono ./stepX_YYY.exe
cd impls/wasm # node make wasm_MODE=node ./run.js ./stepX_YYY.wasm # wasmtime make wasm_MODE=wasmtime wasmtime --dir=./ --dir=../ --dir=/ ./stepX_YYY.wasm # wasmer make wasm_MODE=wasmer wasmer run --dir=./ --dir=../ --dir=/ ./stepX_YYY.wasm # lucet make wasm_MODE=lucet lucet-wasi --dir=./:./ --dir=../:../ --dir=/:/ ./stepX_YYY.so # wax make wasm_MODE=wax wax ./stepX_YYY.wasm # wace make wasm_MODE=wace_libc wace ./stepX_YYY.wasm # warpy make wasm_MODE=warpy warpy --argv --memory-pages 256 ./stepX_YYY.wasm
The XSLT implementation of mal is written with XSLT 3 and tested on Saxon 220.127.116.11 Home Edition.
cd impls/xslt STEP=stepX_YY ./run
The Wren implementation of mal was tested on Wren 0.2.0.
cd impls/wren wren ./stepX_YYY.wren
The Yorick implementation of mal was tested on Yorick 2.2.04.
cd impls/yorick yorick -batch ./stepX_YYY.i
The Zig implementation of mal was tested on Zig 0.5.
cd impls/zig zig build stepX_YYY
The top level Makefile has a number of useful targets to assist with
implementation development and testing. The
help target provides
a list of the targets and options:
The are almost 800 generic functional tests (for all implementations)
tests/ directory. Each step has a corresponding test file
containing tests specific to that step. The
runtest.py test harness
launches a Mal step implementation and then feeds the tests one at
a time to the implementation and compares the output/return value to
the expected output/return value.
- To run all the tests across all implementations (be prepared to wait):
- To run all tests against a single implementation:
make "test^IMPL" # e.g. make "test^clojure" make "test^js"
- To run tests for a single step against all implementations:
make "test^stepX" # e.g. make "test^step2" make "test^step7"
- To run tests for a specific step against a single implementation:
make "test^IMPL^stepX" # e.g make "test^ruby^step3" make "test^ps^step4"
Self-hosted functional tests
- To run the functional tests in self-hosted mode, you specify
malas the test implementation and use the
make MAL_IMPL=IMPL "test^mal^step2" # e.g. make "test^mal^step2" # js is default make MAL_IMPL=ruby "test^mal^step2" make MAL_IMPL=python "test^mal^step2"
Starting the REPL
- To start the REPL of an implementation in a specific step:
make "repl^IMPL^stepX" # e.g make "repl^ruby^step3" make "repl^ps^step4"
- If you omit the step, then
make "repl^IMPL" # e.g make "repl^ruby" make "repl^ps"
- To start the REPL of the self-hosted implementation, specify
malas the REPL implementation and use the
make MAL_IMPL=IMPL "repl^mal^stepX" # e.g. make "repl^mal^step2" # js is default make MAL_IMPL=ruby "repl^mal^step2" make MAL_IMPL=python "repl^mal"
Warning: These performance tests are neither statistically valid nor comprehensive; runtime performance is a not a primary goal of mal. If you draw any serious conclusions from these performance tests, then please contact me about some amazing oceanfront property in Kansas that I'm willing to sell you for cheap.
- To run performance tests against a single implementation:
make "perf^IMPL" # e.g. make "perf^js"
- To run performance tests against all implementations:
Generating language statistics
- To report line and byte statistics for a single implementation:
make "stats^IMPL" # e.g. make "stats^js"
Every implementation directory contains a Dockerfile to create a docker image containing all the dependencies for that implementation. In addition, the top-level Makefile contains support for running the tests target (and perf, stats, repl, etc) within a docker container for that implementation by passing "DOCKERIZE=1" on the make command line. For example:
make DOCKERIZE=1 "test^js^step3"
Existing implementations already have docker images built and pushed to the docker registry. However, if you wish to build or rebuild a docker image locally, the toplevel Makefile provides a rule for building docker images:
- Docker images are named "kanaka/mal-test-IMPL"
- JVM-based language implementations (Groovy, Java, Clojure, Scala):
you will probably need to run this command once manually
make DOCKERIZE=1 "repl^IMPL"before you can run tests because runtime dependencies need to be downloaded to avoid the tests timing out. These dependencies are downloaded to dot-files in the /mal directory so they will persist between runs.
Mal (make-a-lisp) is licensed under the MPL 2.0 (Mozilla Public License 2.0). See LICENSE.txt for more details.