Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
Douglas Crockford got to act all curmudgeonly as he talks on how The World’s Most Popular Programming Language Has Fashion and Luck to Thank.
He starts out talking about the black art of languages:
The art in language design is knowing what to leave out. The features of a good language work together harmoniously. A good language helps us to better understand a problem and to find the best expression of its solution.
A good language is composed of a limited set of features. But there is little agreement on which features are best. Programmers can argue endlessly about features and whether a set of features makes one language better than another. Features matter, but we just don’t understand yet how they matter.
Language design has more to do with fashion than technology. It may seem strange that fashion is a major factor in the nerdliest of arts, but it is true. A language with radically different syntax, for example, has no hope of finding broad adoption, regardless of the brilliance of its design. This tends to constrain the rate at which languages evolve.
Just like fashion, a programming language is often a product of its time. The deep problem in language design is not technological, it is psychological. A programming language should equip us with structures that help us to reason more effectively.
Posted by Dion Almaer at 5:06 am