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Say Something Nice About Every Language You’ve Used

December 8th, 2010 50 comments

In Michael Easter’s recent post, I was struck by his comment that Guy Steele like all languages. Seems like a pretty chill way to live a programming career. So I wondered, do I like all languages? Can I say something nice about every language I’ve used? As the saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.”

Let me give it a try in rough chronological order of the first time I used each language in anger:

  • Pascal – Ouch. My memory is so fuzzy I can’t even think of something bad to say about it. So we’ll count “no comment” as nice and move along …
  • C++ – Another toughy, but this time because my memory is so sharp. Hmmm. Uh. C++ has a really nice personality. Next.
  • Matlab – Pretty cool array slicing notation. I don’t know if Python stole this from Matlab, but when I first learned Python I was like “Hey, this is Matlab!”
  • Common Lisp – Generic functions and multiple dispatch are cool.
  • Visual Basic 6 – Seemless integration with COM and built-in support for the observer pattern.
  • C – As Linus has pointed out, you need almost no context to understand a random chunk of C code. It is what it is and nothing more.
  • Java – It’s simple enough that really powerful, reliable tools can be built for it. If you change the signature of a method in Eclipse, you can feel confident that it actually worked. (unless you’re doing reflection…)
  • Tcl – The entire language is expressed in 11 simple rules and it’s homoiconic. Once you accept that everything is a string, you’ll enter a zen-like trance and every atom of your being will vibrate in harmony with Tcl’s interpreter. Or something. Finally, whenever you write a quick test script, you get to name it “test.tcl”
  • Python – Python taught me about list comprehensions and bound methods. It’s stupid, but I also always liked that you could multiply a string by a number to repeat it.
  • Soar – Fast, rete-based pattern matching is cool. Everything that’s really easy in a procedural language is hard in Soar, but some things that are hard are easy.
  • JavaScript – Taught me that objects are overrated and started my reptilian, OO brain down a brighter path.
  • Ruby – I think blocks are a neat bit of syntactic sugar. I like that everything, including nil, is an object.
  • Scala – Introduced me to implicit typing and opened my eyes to how much I actually have to type when I’m coding Java.
  • Clojure – It’s fun, has a nice cross-platform VM, persistent data structures, a good concurrency story, and is apparently saving Lisp from itself.

Wow, I feel really great now.

Note that every one of these could have easily be extended with “even though”, “except for when” or “but sometimes”, but I resisted the urge, mostly.

Can you think of something nice to say?