Re: Languages (was Re: Forms support in clients)

Nathaniel Borenstein (
Thu, 29 Sep 1994 12:56:23 +0100

Excerpts from www-talk: 29-Sep-94 Re: Languages (was Re: Form.. "Steven
D. Majewski"@vir (3804*)

> If we knew more exactly about what we
> wanted to do, we could come up with a non-procedural description.
> ( Which is clearly the safe-est representation of all! )

Well, I really have to disagree with this one point. The whole point of
extension languages, to my mind, is dealing with the unanticipated.
Knowing even a lot more about what we will want to do doesn't really
help AT ALL. If we knew EVERYTHING we might want to do, then we
wouldn't need an extension language, but failing that, we do. Now, you
can say "non-procedural" but it's not a magic phrase. There are
non-procedural languages (Prolog comes to mind) but they're just as
dangerous as procedural ones (and a heck of a lot less efficient, too).

> Again: no slam on safe-tcl or Nathaniel's work intended.

Don't worry, I'm really pretty thick-skinned. And I welcome
constructive criticism.

> I understand his desire
> that for it to be an effective standard, defacto or otherwise,
> he would rather see people adopt his scheme that putting energy
> into a "competing" product.

I think you've captured my argument pretty well here. I wouldn't dream
of objecting to people building new languages for good reasons; my
biggest concern is to try to reduce the amount of *frivolous*
reinvention-of-the-wheel, because ultimately I think that such work will
have a negative impact on progress towards better global infrastructure.
The people I really want to persuade are those who might believe that
safe-tcl is really good except for using "that horrible Tcl" as its
language model. That's the path that could get this whole effort
derailed in "language wars". And for folks who hate Tcl, I would point
out that there is no language model that won't have SOMEONE hating it;
therefore I contend that the language model really shouldn't be the
deciding factor in the acceptance of this sort of technology.

I would *love* to hear, however, about anything you want/need to do in
collaborative computing that can't be made to work well in Safe-Tcl. I
see this as an iterative evolutionary process, and my concern is to try
to make us evolve as far as possible in terms of constructive facility
evolution without getting sidetracked by language wars.... --