I had the guide on my mind for a while, but could hardly find the motivation to write it. A new friend of mine inspired me on writing, however, as he said that he treaded through the book without doing the exercise. I hope that the post can help him (or other people) to get started with SICP easier.

Even though my tutorial uses apt as the system package manager, and packer.nvim as Neovim’s package manager, I think tailoring the commands to other package manager and operating system is not going to be too hard.

Installing Racket

MIT/GNU Scheme is the “official” way, but I get started with Racket, so my tutorial is on that. Racket is more popular and the tooling around it is a bit better than MIT/GNU Scheme, it is up to you to make the decision.

sudo add-apt-repository ppa:plt/racket
sudo apt update
sudo apt install racket

racket --version
# Welcome to Racket v8.2 [cs].

You need a custom “language” installed within Racket to make the syntax work:

raco pkg install sicp

Check if everything works by writing this content to a file named hello-world.rkt:

#lang sicp

(display "Hello world")

And then try to run it:

racket hello-world.rkt
# "Hello world"

Vim Plugins

Have conjure (which is a nice REPL integration within Vim), and vim-racket ready using your Vim plugin manager:

use 'olical/conjure'
use 'wlangstroth/vim-racket'

Congratulation! You are almost ready!

Tips and Tricks

Syntax Highlighting

Try editing hello-world.rkt, and it may look like syntax highlighting is not working.

Screenshot from 2021-11-26 20-45-08.png

Put a comment on the first line and try again as the work around:

Screenshot from 2021-11-26 20-46-58.png

Useful Conjure Keybindings

You can easily find everything with :h conjure-mappings, but these are the most useful keybindings for me:

  • <localleader>lv for a new vertical REPL split
  • <localleader>er to evaluate the outermost form
  • <localleader>ew to evaluate a word

Screenshot from 2021-11-26 20-49-06.png

(the default key for local leader is \)

Ease The “Working Out” Experience

At first, I tried typing everything within the book into a “scratch” file, then copy the code again and again. It does not spark joy at all: typos and stuff make you spend more time fighting the language and the tooling than actually learning the subject.

Do yourself a favour: copy the right code from this place to a “big” file and work on it.


The post is short and terse, but I hope that you found something useful from it!