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A Common Lisp Interpreter Built in COBOL
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A Common Lisp Interpreter Built in COBOL.



This is a small project built by a student at the Recurse Center to express a love for COBOL and better understand it.

Due to COBOL's lack of functions and recursion, the recursion required for Lisp is built from the ground up using file processing. Also, due to the lack of a widely supported debugger, a system logger was also implemented.


Please note that Cisp is currently only actively developed for Windows. *Nix users may experience issues.


All features are currently in development. This is a list of what is to come.

  • Representation of Symbols and Numbers Ongoing Development
  • Basic Arithmetic Ongoing Development
  • Flow-Control Statements Not Currently in Development
  • Lists Not Currently in Development


The README much like the entire project is in current development.

Running Cisp

Hello World

  1. Make a subdirectory for your lisp file.
mkdir test\helloworld
  1. Create a new file helloworld.lisp in your subdirectory containing the following:
(print "HelloWorld!")
  1. To run Cisp cd into the bin (Note that you must cd in)
cd bin
  1. Run Cisp
cisp.exe ..\test\helloworld\helloworld.lisp

Project Structure

Currently the COBOL source files are located in the root directory.


  • bin - Contains all necessary *.dll's (windows users) for those who want to play with CISP without changing the code. This is due to the fact that so few people have COBOL compilers.
  • logs - Contains the log file generated by the system.
  • test - Contains all test files organized by subject.


  • cisp.cbl - The main COBOL program.
  • cisp-error.cbl - The Error System in the program. It will "throw" errors when called.
  • lisp.cbl - Responsible for executing the lisp program.
  • logger.cbl - The Logging System in the program. It will log events in the system when called.
  • recursion.cbl - Handles recursion as requested from lisp.cbl.
  • tokenizer.cbl - Responsible for tokenizing the lisp file given to execute.


The easiest way I have found to compile COBOL is GNU's COBOL compilier. For those who prefer IDE's I have found Open COBOL IDE to be very helpful.

Running Tests


To run all tests in the project, double click bin\cisp.bat

To run a single test: cd bin

cisp.exe ..\test\test_subdirectory\test_name.lisp

Create your own Lisp Files for Testing

  1. Create a directory in test\ to create another test category.
  2. In your subdirectory create a lisp file.
  3. cd bin
  4. cisp.exe ..\test\test_subdirectory\test_name.lisp


Instructions yet to come. The author is a window's user, and *nix systems are not currently supported.

A high level overview is to compile the project and run the executable in the bin folder.

Developing Cisp

How Cisp Works

Log to Log File

Coming soon.

Throw an Error

Coming soon.

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