[gambit-list] Bug (?) with BlackHole and append!

Christian Jaeger chrjae at gmail.com
Fri Aug 6 14:45:30 EDT 2010

2010/8/6 Yves Parès <limestrael at gmail.com>:
> Still with append!, I have another problem.
> If my list is initially empty, append! does not alter it:
> (define a (list))
> (append! a (list 1 2 3))
> And a remains empty... I don't know if it is normal

|append!| doesn't mutate the binding for |a|, it mutates the list
which is stored at |a| and returns the mutated list.

Unlike a vector, a list is not an object all by itself, instead it is
a term used to describe chains of pair objects pairing some other
object and the rest of the list, with the null object as the end
marker, thus the null object all by itself to represent the empty list
case. A pair object can be mutated, which is what (append! (list 'a
'b) (list 1 2 3)) does for the pair containing 'b, but a null object
cannot be made to contain anything. So (append! (list) (list 1 2 3))
just returns its second argument. Since you don't mutate the |a|
binding, you're not seeing any effect (since there has in fact been

What you seem to want to do is:

(set! a (append! a (list 1 2 3)))

Or maybe you want an object containing a (possibly empty) list that
can be extended through mutation, in which case you could use a box
containing the list:

(define a (box (list)))
(define (boxedlist-append! boxedlist list)
  (set-box! boxedlist (append! (unbox boxedlist) list)))
(boxedlist-append! a (list 1 2 3))

But you don't see that done often, because the spirit of Scheme is
using functional updates, i.e. passing the extended list to the next
function call, so no mutation is necessary.


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