The key insights on how to introduce lexical scoping into a Lisp dialect were popularized in Sussman and Steele's 1975 Lambda Paper, "Scheme: An Interpreter for Extended Lambda Calculus", where they adopted the concept of the lexical closure (on page 21), which had been described in an AI Memo in 1970 by Joel Moses, who attributed the idea to Peter J. Landin.
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Up to the R5RS standard, the standard comment in Scheme was a semicolon, which makes the rest of the line invisible to Scheme. Numerous implementations have supported alternative conventions permitting comments to extend for more than a single line, and the R6RS standard permits two of them: an entire s-expression may be turned into a comment (or "commented out") by preceding it with #; (introduced in SRFI 62) and a multiline comment or "block comment" may be produced by surrounding text with #| and |#.
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Scheme's input and output is based on the port datatype. (R5RS sec 6.6) R5RS defines two default ports, accessible with the procedures current-input-port and current-output-port, which correspond to the Unix notions of standard input and standard output. Most implementations also provide current-error-port. Redirection of input and standard output is supported in the standard, by standard procedures such as with-input-from-file and with-output-to-file. Most implementations provide string ports with similar redirection capabilities, enabling many normal input-output operations to be performed on string buffers instead of files, using procedures described in SRFI 6. The R6RS standard specifies much more sophisticated and capable port procedures and many new types of port.
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In the R5RS standard, Scheme implementations are not required to implement the whole numerical tower, but they must implement "a coherent subset consistent with both the purposes of the implementation and the spirit of the Scheme language" (R5RS sec. 6.2.3). The new R6RS standard does require implementation of the whole tower, and "exact integer objects and exact rational number objects of practically unlimited size and precision, and to implement certain procedures...so they always return exact results when given exact arguments" (R6RS sec. 3.4, sec. 11.7.1).
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The Scheme language is standardized in the official IEEE standard and a de facto standard called the Revisedn Report on the Algorithmic Language Scheme (RnRS). The most widely implemented standard is R5RS (1998); a new standard, R6RS, was ratified in 2007. Scheme has a diverse user base due to its compactness and elegance, but its minimalist philosophy has also caused wide divergence between practical implementations, so much that the Scheme Steering Committee calls it "the world's most unportable programming language" and "a family of dialects" rather than a single language.
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1550s, "figure of speech," from Medieval Latin schema "shape, figure, form, appearance; figure of speech; posture in dancing," from Greek skhema (genitive skhematos) "figure, appearance, the nature of a thing," related to skhein "to get," and ekhein "to have," from PIE root *segh- "to hold, to hold in one's power, to have" (cf. Sanskrit sahate "he masters, overcomes," sahah "power, victory;" Avestan hazah "power, victory;" Greek ekhein "to have, hold;" Gothic sigis, Old High German sigu, Old Norse sigr, Old English sige "victory").
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^ Joel Moses (June 1970), The Function of FUNCTION in LISP, or Why the FUNARG Problem Should Be Called the Environment Problem, hdl:1721.1/5854, AI Memo 199, A useful metaphor for the difference between FUNCTION and QUOTE in LISP is to think of QUOTE as a porous or an open covering of the function since free variables escape to the current environment. FUNCTION acts as a closed or nonporous covering (hence the term "closure" used by Landin). Thus we talk of "open" Lambda expressions (functions in LISP are usually Lambda expressions) and "closed" Lambda expressions. [...] My interest in the environment problem began while Landin, who had a deep understanding of the problem, visited MIT during 1966-67. I then realized the correspondence between the FUNARG lists which are the results of the evaluation of "closed" Lambda expressions in LISP and ISWIM's Lambda Closures.
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Most Lisps specify an order of evaluation for procedure arguments. Scheme does not. Order of evaluation—including the order in which the expression in the operator position is evaluated—may be chosen by an implementation on a call-by-call basis, and the only constraint is that "the effect of any concurrent evaluation of the operator and operand expressions is constrained to be consistent with some sequential order of evaluation." (R5RS sec. 4.1.3)
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Scheme started in the 1970s as an attempt to understand Carl Hewitt's Actor model, for which purpose Steele and Sussman wrote a "tiny Lisp interpreter" using Maclisp and then "added mechanisms for creating actors and sending messages". Scheme was originally called "Schemer", in the tradition of other Lisp-derived languages such as Planner or Conniver. The current name resulted from the authors' use of the ITS operating system, which limited filenames to two components of at most six characters each. Currently, "Schemer" is commonly used to refer to a Scheme programmer.
Implementations of the hygienic macro system, also called syntax-rules, are required to respect the lexical scoping of the rest of the language. This is assured by special naming and scoping rules for macro expansion and avoids common programming errors that can occur in the macro systems of other programming languages. R6RS specifies a more sophisticated transformation system, syntax-case, which has been available as a language extension to R5RS Scheme for some time.
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In 1998, Sussman and Steele remarked that the minimalism of Scheme was not a conscious design goal, but rather the unintended outcome of the design process. "We were actually trying to build something complicated and discovered, serendipitously, that we had accidentally designed something that met all our goals but was much simpler than we had intended....we realized that the lambda calculus—a small, simple formalism—could serve as the core of a powerful and expressive programming language."
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R5RS resolves this confusion by specifying three procedures that return environments and providing a procedure eval that takes an s-expression and an environment and evaluates the expression in the environment provided. (R5RS sec. 6.5) R6RS extends this by providing a procedure called environment by which the programmer can specify exactly which objects to import into the evaluation environment.
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The R5RS standard specifies procedures exact->inexact and inexact->exact which can be used to change the exactness of a number. inexact->exact produces "the exact number that is numerically closest to the argument". exact->inexact produces "the inexact number that is numerically closest to the argument". The R6RS standard omits these procedures from the main report, but specifies them as R5RS compatibility procedures in the standard library (rnrs r5rs (6)).
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^ Jump up to: a b 1178-1990 (Reaff 2008) IEEE Standard for the Scheme Programming Language. IEEE part number STDPD14209, unanimously reaffirmed at a meeting of the IEEE-SA Standards Board Standards Review Committee (RevCom), March 26, 2008 (item 6.3 on minutes), reaffirmation minutes accessed October 2009. NOTE: this document is only available for purchase from IEEE and is not available online at the time of writing (2009).
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Prior to R5RS, Scheme had no standard equivalent of the eval procedure which is ubiquitous in other Lisps, although the first Lambda Paper had described evaluate as "similar to the LISP function EVAL" and the first Revised Report in 1978 replaced this with enclose, which took two arguments. The second, third and fourth revised reports omitted any equivalent of eval.
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Invocations of macros and procedures bear a close resemblance—both are s-expressions—but they are treated differently. When the compiler encounters an s-expression in the program, it first checks to see if the symbol is defined as a syntactic keyword within the current lexical scope. If so, it then attempts to expand the macro, treating the items in the tail of the s-expression as arguments without compiling code to evaluate them, and this process is repeated recursively until no macro invocations remain. If it is not a syntactic keyword, the compiler compiles code to evaluate the arguments in the tail of the s-expression and then to evaluate the variable represented by the symbol at the head of the s-expression and call it as a procedure with the evaluated tail expressions passed as actual arguments to it.
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