[FoRK] Programming languages, operating systems, despair and anger

Damien Morton dmorton at bitfurnace.com
Sat Nov 14 05:38:32 PST 2009

There is nothing new under the sun.

Have you seen Algol 68? As you might imagine, it's an Algol variant that
came out in 1968. (Which makes it older than I am.) It begat Pascal,
Modula, Oberon etc and is a cousin of C. (I think it's Lua's uncle.)


So, to get back to the point: Go vs Algol-68. TBH, I think the
41-year-old language is richer, clearer and more expressive. It's
certainly missing some features, like any form of object orientation,
polymorphic functions, but the overall design is much more consistent
and well thought-out.

In 1968 Neil Armstrong was still pootling about in orbit and integrated
circuits were rockets science. Why am I able to compare a language from
this era with a contemporary one on an equal basis? Because,
depressingly, state-of-the-art in programming languages hasn't moved
much in those 41 years.

I think that it's entirely plausible that if someone were to take the
Algol-68 spec, redraft it in modern terminology (types instead of modes,
names instead of variables, etc), update some of the odder areas such as
transput, give it a catchy Web-2.0 name and produce a decent compiler
for it, then it would be heralded as the next great development in
programming languages. Which is kind of depressing...

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