Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Language Panel

Here is a must-see video from Strange Loop 2010. It features a panel of icons and rock-stars, with another as guest host. The topic is the future of programming languages. It was a true treat to be there.

Some quick thoughts on the video:

Introductions part 1

Notice how the panelists didn't feel the need to list the languages they've worked with. Relative to their achievements, their intros are brief.

There is a calm confidence in brevity. I first noticed this when Dave Thomas introduced himself on the NFJS tour with: "I'm a programmer".

This separates the amateurs from the pros. Pros don't introduce themselves with the number of languages they know (a pet peeve of mine). It is assumed that everyone has worked with a dozen or more. It is true, no matter how impossible, that for every person in the room, there is someone else who has seen more languages.

Introductions part 2

Kudos to Alex Payne for paying respect. It struck me as sincere.

Introductions part 3

Guy Steele is one classy guy. Note his emphasis: he likes all languages. Each one has value and its own charming quirks. We get the sense that Guy is more interested in solving problems than the current fashion of the industry. He has an air that inspires me to take the high road, and stay above the language wars.

Language Wars

Alas, Guy's angelic aura only lasts for so long. The unvarnished truth is that I'm weak, and I can't resist language wars. Though the gang were rough on Perl, Crockford's irreverent non-comment on Parrot, near the 30:00 mark is priceless.

My Non Question

I nearly asked a question about escaping the surly bonds of ASCII in future programming languages. Unfortunately, I became distracted by my inner voice:

  • Is this a dumb question?
  • Am I asking this to impress the panel? To impress the audience?
  • Didn't Guy Steele, in a keynote, have a Unicode symbol in Fortress? Why wasn't I paying closer attention?
  • How could I travel 1800 miles for a conference and not have prepared a few questions?
And so on. In the end, I played it safe and sat on my hands. Though I may have avoided an embarrassing moment, I also passed up a chance at potential insight.

Lesson learned: brevity rocks; reticence sucks.


plumpy said...

Here's an old-school programming language that didn't use ASCII. I just heard about it for the first time yesterday!

plumpy said...

Oops, forgot the link!


Michael Easter said...

Excellent point, plumpy. In fact, I was going to mention APL in my question.

I've blogged about it in a past post.

Much of a language's charm is its expressive power. Though APL's expressiveness is quite different from something like Ruby, it is astounding.

Hamlet D'Arcy said...

I am a programmer. That's priceless. We got so lost in the quest to be "an architect" or to earn more money, or to be a "team lead" as if that will be more rewarding. We forget the joys of simply writing code.

Kevin said...

I finally got around to watching this and I found it quite enlightening. Thanks, Mike.