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A programming language is said to reach a “break-even point” when it can be implemented in itself. For example, a Lisp interpreter that is written in Lisp as well. One major goal for a new programming language is to reach the break-even point, as it is easier to ship programming tools if they do not depend on another language.
The break-even point is when a programming language can be implemented in the programming language itself. For example, a C compiler might be able to compile its own C source code. New programming languages are often written in an existing language. Reaching the break-even point allows a developer to ignore the original implementation and focus on developing a new language.
Lisp is famous for its ability to re-implement itself. A Lisp compiler written in Lisp was developed in 1962 at MIT. Many other programming languages have reached the break-even point.