MultiLisp is a functional programming language, a dialect of the language Lisp, and of its dialect Scheme, extended with constructs for parallel computing execution and shared memory. These extensions involve side effects, rendering MultiLisp nondeterministic. Along with its parallel-programming extensions, MultiLisp also had some unusual garbage collection and task scheduling algorithms. Like Scheme, MultiLisp was optimized for symbolic computing. Unlike some parallel programming languages, MultiLisp incorporated constructs for causing side effects and for explicitly introducing parallelism.

ParadigmsMulti-paradigm: functional, imperative, concurrent, meta
Designed byRobert H. Halstead Jr.
DeveloperMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT
First appeared1980 (1980)
Typing disciplineDynamic, latent, strong
Implementation languageInterlisp
PlatformConcert multiprocessor
Influenced by
Lisp, Scheme
Gambit, Interlisp-VAX

It was designed by Robert H. Halstead Jr., in the early 1980s for use on the 32-processor Concert multiprocessor then being developed at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and implemented in Interlisp. It influenced the development of the Scheme dialects Gambit,[1] and Interlisp-VAX.


MultiLisp achieves parallelism with the PCALL macro, where

(PCALL Fun A B C ...)

is equivalent to

(Fun A B C ...)

except that the arguments A, B, C, etc. are explicitly allowed to be evaluated in parallel; this circumvents the usual order of evaluation, which is sequential and left to right. It also makes use of a parallel programming construct called futures, which resembles forking, combined with lazy evaluation. Using this construct, an expression such as

(cons (FUTURE A) (FUTURE B))

can be written, which will overlap the evaluation of the expressions A and B, not only with each other, but with computations that use the result of the cons call, until an operation is performed that needs correct information about the value of A or B.

See also


  1. WikiSysop; Mikaelm; Bjlucier; Thedens, Dan (2019-02-06). "Gambit". Retrieved 2019-04-21.
  • Halstead, Robert H. Jr. (October 1985). "MultiLisp: A Language for Concurrent Symbolic Computation". ACM Transactions on Programming Languages and Systems. 7 (4): 501–538. doi:10.1145/4472.4478.
  • Koomen, Johannes A. G. M. (1980). The Interlisp Virtual Machine: A Study of its Design and its Implementation as Multilisp (MSc). University of British Columbia.
  • Bates, Raymond L.; Dyer, David; Koomen, Johannes A. G. M. (15–18 August 1982). "Implementation of Interlisp on the VAX". LFP '82 Proceedings of the 1982 ACM symposium on LISP and functional programming. ACM symposium on LISP and functional programming. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. pp. 81–87.
  • Halstead, Robert H. Jr. (1984). The MultiLisp Language: Lisp for a Multiprocessor. Conference on 5th Generation Computers. Tokyo, Japan.
  • Martins, W.S. "Parallel Implementations of Functional Languages". Proceedings of the 4th Int. Workshop on the Parallel Implementation of Functional Languages: 92.
  • Skillicorn, David B.; Talia, Domenico (June 1998). "Models and languages for parallel computation". ACM Computing Surveys. 30 (2): 123–169. doi:10.1145/280277.280278.
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