Some Simple Programming Exercises

Copyright 1999-2001 Cley Limited


Write a function, using car and cdr (or first and rest) which returns the third element of a list.


Write a function which is called as follows:

> (hours-in-1999)
and which calculates the number of hours in 1999.


Write a function called:

> (seconds-in-a-leap-year)
which calculates the number of seconds in a leap year.


Write a function which takes a single argument, leapp. If leapp is non-nil, the function returns the number of minutes in a leap year. If leapp is nil, it returns the number of minutes in a non-leap year (e.g. 1999!).

> (minutes-in-year t)


Lisp provides various arithmetic operators, including the following:

> (= 1 3)
> (= 1 1.0)
> (> 4 3)
> (> 4 4)
> (< 3/4 1.0)
Write a function

> (less-than-or-equal-to x y)
which returns t if x is less than or equal to y. Define it using a selection of the operators above and the logical operators and, or and not.


Write a function is-a-list? which returns the symbol

if its argument is a non-empty list, returns

if it is the empty list, and returns

for anything else.

lookup-details and make-lookup-table

Lisp contains various predicates which check if something is the same as something else. You can use

> (eql 'symbol1 'symbol2)
to check if two symbols are the same.

Write a function lookup-details which looks up information in a record.

A record takes the following form:


Your function should take two arguments:

For example:

> (lookup-details 'age '(John 31 163cm))
> (lookup-details 'name '(Mary 10 unknown))

Write a function which, when given a record of the form given above, returns a lookup table as follows:

> (make-lookup-table '(John 31 163cm))
((name john) (age 31) (height 163cm))


Look in your Common Lisp reference material to find predicates which test whether a number is an integer and whether a number is zero. Use these to define the following predicate:

> (non-zero-integerp 8)
> (non-zero-integerp 0)
> (non-zero-integerp 1.0)


Write a function called memberp, which returns t if its first argument is a member of its second argument, a list, and nil otherwise:

> (memberp 'a '(b a c k)

How does this function behave compared to the behaviour of the Common Lisp member function?


Write a recursive function which finds the first even number in a list:

> (even '(1 5 4 2 7 3))


Write an iterative function which returns the smallest number in a list:

> (smallest '(4 2 5 8 1 6))


Write several versions of a function which prints the elements of a list, e.g.:

> (print-elements '(1 2 3))

Write an iterative version using dolist, a recursive version, and a verson which uses mapc.


Write two versions of a function which asks the user for a number, and returns the number if it is an integer, but returns nil if it is not. For one version, use integerp as the test; for the other, use typep.

> (get-integer-1)
Please enter an integer: 4
> (get-integer-2)
Please enter an integer: "fish"


The Common Lisp function error can be used to signal an error, for example:

> (error "unknown data type")
Error: unknown data type


Write a function which, given a number as argument, doubles that number. It should signal an error if its argument is not a number.


Use mapcar to define a function which, given a list of numbers, subtracts 2 from each number:

> (subtract2 '(1 2 3 4))
(-1 0 1 2)

Now rewrite your function so that it signals a warning if the result of calculation is a negative number (use warn).


Write a function which defines a list of numbers in a local variable, using let, for example:

(let ((nums '(1 2 3 4)))

and which applies the argument function to the numbers in the list.

> (apply-operator-to-nums #'+)
> (apply-operator-to-nums #'*)


Write your own version of nth:

> (our-nth 1 '(1 2 3))

our-adjoin, our-union and our-intersection

The set function adjoin adds a new element to a list if it is not there already:

> (adjoin 's '(s e t))
(s e t)
> (adjoin 2 '(1 3 4))
(2 1 3 4)

Look up the behaviour of union and intersection. Define your own versions of the set functions adjoin, union and intersection.


Write your own version of assoc, our-assoc. Start with a simple function which looks up a key in a list of key-value pairs:

Then add some error checking: make it signal an error, list argument is not a list.


Write a function tree-size which counts the number of leaf nodes in a tree.

For example:

> (tree-size '())
> (tree-size '(1 2 3 4))
> (tree-size '((((2) 1 (3 4)))))
> (tree-size '(1 (2 (3 (4 (5))))))


Create an array which represents a noughts-and-crosses (tic-tac-toe) game. Assign it as the value of the variable *board*.

Write a function, place-mark, which takes three arguments. The first should be the mark which is to be placed (either a 0 for a nought or a 1 for a cross). The second argument should be a dotted pair representing the position the mark is to be placed in. The third should be the noughts-and-crosses game board.

For example:

> (place-mark 0 '(0 . 1) *board*)
> (aref *board* 0 1)


Write a function parse-calculation which, given a string which contains a calculation like these:

"1 + 2"
"3 - 4"
"5 * 2"
"3 / 2"

Returns a list of the form:

(+ 1 2)
(- 3 4)
(* 5 2)
(/ 3 2)

NB: just parse trivial cases of a single call to an operator (+,-, * or /) with two arguments, you do not need to write a general expression parser!

You may wish to use with-input-from-string and read.

Write a function calc which, given a list containing an operator and a list of arguments, applies that operator to the arguments:

> (calc '(+ 1 2))

The Lisp function read-line reads in a line of input and returns it as string:

> (read-line)

Using read-line and do, write a function calculator which prompts the user to enter a calculation, calculates the result, and prints it out. It should exit when the user enters "done" and types return.

> (calculator)
Please enter your calculation: 2 + 3
Please enter your calculation: 5 - 2
Please enter your calculation: done

You have now written a simple calculator. Add some basic input error checking into it.


Define a structure to represent a pet dog. Since it is a pet dog, it will have a name - write your definition so that when you create a dog, Lisp prompts you for its name (it should be stored as a string). Dogs should have a number of legs, and a tail which is in one of two states: wagging, or hanging down.

Write a function pat-dog which, when applied to a dog, makes the dog wag its tail. Write another function dog-state which will print a message to tell you what state the dog's tail is in.


Write a recursive function which takes an atom and a nested list as arguments, and returns a new list which is a copy of the old with all instances of the atom removed, using cond.

For example:

> (delete-all 4 '((1 (((4)) 6 7 (4 3 4)))))
((1 ((NIL) 6 7 (3))))


Look up the definition of typecase, and write a function which prints out a different phrase according to the type of its argument. For example, it might print "4 is an integer" if its argument was 4.


Write a function our-eleventh which checks whether the function eleventh is defined in this Lisp; if it is, it should call it, and if not it should call nth with appropriate arguments. (NB: in order to test, you will need to define eleventh!)

> (our-eleventh '(1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12)


Write a recursive function using labels which collects together all the instances of 0 in a list containing 0s and 1s. The internal function defined within the labels form should be tail-recursive - that is, the last thing it calls should be itself.

Your function should return an error if it encounters any item other than A 0 or a 1 in the argument list; use another local function which calls type-of to return an error dependent on the numeric type of the item encountered.

> (collect-0s '(1 0 0 1 1 1 0))
(0 0 0)
> (collect-0s '(1 0 3 4)
Error: unexpected FIXNUM 3.
> (collect-0s '(0 4.5 7)
Error: unexpected SINGLE-FLOAT 4.5.


Define a function minus which takes one or more arguments. The first argument should be a number from which, in turn, all the other arguments are subtracted. Note that although you may use the built-in function -, for the purposes of this exercise you may call it with a maximum of two arguments.

> (minus 1 2 3)
> (minus 5 2 1 1)


Define a function which constructs a single string out of three string arguments, and either prints it to the terminal and returns nil, or returns the string, depending on the value of the keyword argument to:

> (create-string "fish" "bone" "bat")

> (create-string "fish" "bone" "bat" :to 'result)

> (create-string "fish" "bone" "bat" :to 'print)

to should default to result; an error should be signalled if to evaluates to anything other than result or print.


Write a function which deals a card at random from a suit of cards, until all the cards are gone. The cards should be stored in a local variable within a closure. deal should return an error when there are no more cards to be dealt. (You will want to use the random function.)

> (deal)
> (deal)
> (deal)


> (deal)
Error: No more cards


Write a macro defun-note which will expand into defun and also print a message (to *debug-io*) saying what function is being defined.

A good way to do this is to think about what the expansion of the macro should be:

(defun-note foo (x)
could expand to something like this:

  (format *debug-io* "~&Defining ~A~%" 'foo))
  (defun foo (x)
Note that you only need to care about the first argument - the function name - all the others can just be passed straight through to defun.

There are several ways that defun-note could be extended:


Write a macro, for as follows:

> (for a in (1 2 3 4) do (* a a)
(1 4 9 16)


Imagine that you have some information which you need to store in list of length up to 20 elements.

Common Lisp includes definitions of functions for getting at the elements of a list from first up to tenth.

Imagine that your program has to run both in Common Lisp and in some other Lisp which has more of these functions defined; up to fifteenth, for example, and that how many of them are defined depends on the version you are running of this other Lisp. You need to define functions for accessing elements of a list up to twentieth where they do not already exist.

Write a macro which checks, for each function from first to twentieth, whether it already exists and if it does not defines it suitably.