## Issue NTH-VALUE Writeup

```Status: Passed, as amended, Jan 89 X3J13
Issue:         NTH-VALUE
References:    Multiple values, pp. 133-139
Edit history:  16-Aug-88, Version 1 by Pierson
01-Oct-88, Version 2 by Pitman (minor edits)
5-Oct-88, Version 3 by Masinter
(add Current Practice as per Gray)
8-Dec-88, Version 4 by Masinter
17-Mar-89, Version 5, Masinter (as amended)

Problem description:

The set of operations on multiple values in Common Lisp is incomplete:

The only ways to retrieve just one of several return values (other than
the first) are:

- Bind several variables and then ignore all but one.
eg, (MULTIPLE-VALUE-BIND (X Y Z) <exp> (DECLARE (IGNORE X Y)) Z)
This is somewhat cumbersome to write and not perspicuous.

- Get a list of all return values and select from that.
eg, (THIRD (MULTIPLE-VALUE-LIST <exp>))
This is somewhat cumbersome, not perspicuous, and creates
needless garbage.

Add a new macro NTH-VALUE, described as

NTH-VALUE n form                                               [Macro]

N must be a non-negative integer.
Evaluates the FORM and returns the Nth value returned by the form as
a single value.  N is 0-based, i.e. the first returned value is
value 0 (for consistency with NTH and NTHCDR). Both N and FORM are
evaluated, in left-to-right order.

NTH-VALUE returns NIL if N is greater than or equal to the number
of values returned by FORM.

Examples:

With this proposal MOD could be defined as:

(DEFUN MOD (NUMBER DIVISOR)
(NTH-VALUE 1 (FLOOR NUMBER DIVISOR)))

The same code would currently be:

(DEFUN MOD (NUMBER DIVISOR)
(MULTIPLE-VALUE-BIND (DIVIDEND REMAINDER)
(FLOOR NUMBER DIVISOR)
(DECLARE (IGNORE DIVIDEND))
REMAINDER))

Rationale:

This corrects the stated problem.

Current practice:

The TI Explorer and LMI Lambda have this feature.

Cost to Implementors:

Writing the macro version is fairly straightforward.

Some will choose to implement compiler hooks so that code written with
NTH-VALUE will be as efficient as possible. This may involve some
additional work, but presumably nothing major.

Cost to Users:

This is an upward-compatible change.

The occassional code where this comes up may be one or more of
clumsier to write, more difficult to read, or less efficient.
(The feature is rarely used in implementations that have it.)

Benefits:

The cost of non-adoption is avoided.

Aesthetics:

While it does add another function to the language it removes
some need for the hairier multiple-value forms.

Discussion:

Pitman proposed this in the very late pre-CLtL days. It was
rejected then because it was too late in the cycle.

There was not strong sentiment for including this feature
in Common Lisp, but no active opposition.

Comments at the October 1988 X3J13 meeting:

"Trivial, gratuitous."

"Not trivial -- allows index computation. Hard to do this
in a portable, efficient way."

"Says he has an NTH-VALUE macro for a portable system that he
uses (which exploits the computed index feature) and that it's
a gross kludge in one implementation to make it efficient."
```