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Essay 015 - What Languages Fix

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015 What Languages Fix

Kevin Kelleher suggested an interesting way to compare programming languages: to describe each in terms of the problem it fixes. The surprising thing is how many, and how well, languages can be described this way.

Algol: Assembly language is too low-level.

Pascal: Algol doesn't have enough data types.

Modula: Pascal is too wimpy for systems programming.

Simula: Algol isn't good enough at simulations.

Smalltalk: Not everything in Simula is an object.

Fortran: Assembly language is too low-level.

Cobol: Fortran is scary.

PL/1: Fortran doesn't have enough data types.

Ada: Every existing language is missing something.

Basic: Fortran is scary.

APL: Fortran isn't good enough at manipulating arrays.

J: APL requires its own character set.

C: Assembly language is too low-level.

C++: C is too low-level.

Java: C++ is a kludge. And Microsoft is going to crush us.

C#: Java is controlled by Sun.

Lisp: Turing Machines are an awkward way to describe computation.

Scheme: MacLisp is a kludge.

T: Scheme has no libraries.

Common Lisp: There are too many dialects of Lisp.

Dylan: Scheme has no libraries, and Lisp syntax is scary.

Perl: Shell scripts/awk/sed are not enough like programming languages.

Python: Perl is a kludge.

Ruby: Perl is a kludge, and Lisp syntax is scary.

Prolog: Programming is not enough like logic.

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