Programming languages should be designed not by piling feature on top of feature, but by removing the weaknesses and restrictions that make additional features appear necessary. Scheme demonstrates that a very small number of rules for forming expressions, with no restrictions on how they are composed, suffice to form a practical and efficient programming language that is flexible enough to support most of the major programming paradigms in use today.

Scheme was one of the first programming languages to incorporate first class procedures as in the lambda calculus, thereby proving the usefulness of static scope rules and block structure in a dynamically typed language. Scheme was the first major dialect of Lisp to distinguish procedures from lambda expressions and symbols, to use a single lexical environment for all variables, and to evaluate the operator position of a procedure call in the same way as an operand position. By relying entirely on procedure calls to express iteration, Scheme emphasized the fact that tail-recursive procedure calls are essentially goto's that pass arguments. Scheme was the first widely used programming language to embrace first class escape procedures, from which all previously known sequential control structures can be synthesized. A subsequent version of Scheme introduced the concept of exact and inexact numbers, an extension of Common Lisp's generic arithmetic. More recently, Scheme became the first programming language to support hygienic macros, which permit the syntax of a block-structured language to be extended in a consistent and reliable manner.


The first description of Scheme was written in 1975 [28]. A revised report [25] appeared in 1978, which described the evolution of the language as its MIT implementation was upgraded to support an innovative compiler [26]. Three distinct projects began in 1981 and 1982 to use variants of Scheme for courses at MIT, Yale, and Indiana University [211710]. An introductory computer science textbook using Scheme was published in 1984 [1].

As Scheme became more widespread, local dialects began to diverge until students and researchers occasionally found it difficult to understand code written at other sites. Fifteen representatives of the major implementations of Scheme therefore met in October 1984 to work toward a better and more widely accepted standard for Scheme. Their report [4] was published at MIT and Indiana University in the summer of 1985. Further revision took place in the spring of 1986 [23], and in the spring of 1988 [6]. The present report reflects further revisions agreed upon in a meeting at Xerox PARC in June 1992.

We intend this report to belong to the entire Scheme community, and so we grant permission to copy it in whole or in part without fee. In particular, we encourage implementors of Scheme to use this report as a starting point for manuals and other documentation, modifying it as necessary.


We would like to thank the following people for their help: Alan Bawden, Michael Blair, George Carrette, Andy Cromarty, Pavel Curtis, Jeff Dalton, Olivier Danvy, Ken Dickey, Bruce Duba, Marc Feeley, Andy Freeman, Richard Gabriel, Yekta Gürsel, Ken Haase, Robert Hieb, Paul Hudak, Morry Katz, Chris Lindblad, Mark Meyer, Jim Miller, Jim Philbin, John Ramsdell, Mike Shaff, Jonathan Shapiro, Julie Sussman, Perry Wagle, Daniel Weise, Henry Wu, and Ozan Yigit. We thank Carol Fessenden, Daniel Friedman, and Christopher Haynes for permission to use text from the Scheme 311 version 4 reference manual. We thank Texas Instruments, Inc. for permission to use text from the TI Scheme Language Reference Manual[30]. We gladly acknowledge the influence of manuals for MIT Scheme[17], T[22], Scheme 84[11],Common Lisp[27], and Algol 60[18].

We also thank Betty Dexter for the extreme effort she put into setting this report in TEX, and Donald Knuth for designing the program that caused her troubles.

The Artificial Intelligence Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Computer Science Department of Indiana University, the Computer and Information Sciences Department of the University of Oregon, and the NEC Research Institute supported the preparation of this report. Support for the MIT work was provided in part by the Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Department of Defense under Office of Naval Research contract N00014-80-C-0505. Support for the Indiana University work was provided by NSF grants NCS 83-04567 and NCS 83-03325.