1. Syntax
  2. Variables
    1. Booleans
    2. Numbers
    3. Strings
      1. Exploding and imploding
      2. Doing several string replacements at once
        1. PHP
        2. CHICKEN
    4. Data structures

The following page is an introduction to CHICKEN intended to PHP programmers.

This is a work in progress, I will try to work on as frequently as possible (mostly on sunday). In the meantime, feel free to help me by expanding it, correcting (english is not my native language) and/or by commenting on what I have done so far.

CHICKEN is an implementation of the Scheme programming language which, in turn is a member of the Lisp family of languages. More information about this on the http://schemers.org/ website.


Where PHP use the general syntax f(args, ...); , scheme use (f args...)

For example:

substr("abcdef", 0, 2);

is in Scheme:

(substring "abcdef" 0 2)

You will note that:

All scheme expressions use this format, including arithmetic.

The php expression:

3 + 5

Is in scheme:

(+ 3 5)

This is called prefix notation. It may take some time to get used to it but it had several advantages; mostly by avoiding any ambiguity in the operator precedences.

A more complex example can be:

3 + 5 - 12 * 2

Is represented in scheme as:

(- (+ 3 5) (* 12 2))


Like PHP, scheme does not type variables. If you assign $var to a string, it is a string. You re-assign it to 3, it become a number.

However, it should be noted that Scheme is much stricter when dealing with types. In PHP, you can usually omit typecasts, intermixing data of different types:

10 + "5"

Is in Scheme it would cause an error, and you have to explicitly convert a string to a number:

(+ 10 (string->number "5"))


TRUE, in Scheme, is noted #t while FALSE is noted #f. Unlike PHP, all Scheme values are considered to be true (#t) except #f itself, including zero (0), the empty string and other empty structures.

(if (- 2 2) "hello" "goodbye")
;; "hello"


All type of numbers are supported by CHICKEN, including real, complex and rational, natively (without resorting to external libraries).

Number can be expressed in binary, octal, decimal or hexadecimal notation by using the prefixs #b for binary, #o for octal, #d for decimal and #x for hexadecimal. Unprefixed numbers are decimal by default (so 21 and #d21 are the same).

PHP scheme
21 #d21
025 #o25
0x15 #x15
n/a #b10101


Scheme support a vast array of operations on string, including changing case, splitting, extracting substring and regular expressions based searching and replacing.

Exploding and imploding

implode(';', array('a', 'b', 'c', 'd'))

is in CHICKEN Scheme:

(string-intersperse '("a" "b" "c" "d") ";")
explode(';', 'a;b;c;d')

is in CHICKEN Scheme:

(string-split "a;b;c;d" ";")

Please note that the functions string-intersperse and string-split are in the data-structures unit, so if you are compiling a program, you will need to add this in the beginning of your code:

(use data-structures)

Doing several string replacements at once

str_replace(array('PHP', 'Python'), array('Scheme', 'Clojure'), 'PHP and Python are nice programming languages')
(string-translate* "PHP and Python are nice programming languages" '(("PHP" . "Scheme") ("Python" . "Clojure")))

Data structures

The base data structure of PHP is the array. In Scheme it is the list.

However, lists in Scheme are not as versatile as PHP arrays: lists in Scheme are best used for data that is accessed sequentially. So Scheme provides several other data types: vectors (arrays in a usual sense, allowing with a random access by an integer number) and hash tables (allow to access elements by any key).