[E-Lang] Distress (was: the return of `return')

Ken Kahn kenkahn@toontalk.com
Wed, 20 Jun 2001 14:13:42 -0700


I recently read Guy Steele's "How to Grow a Language"
(http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/cs/who/wadler/steele-oopsla98.pdf ). Here's a
relevant excerpt:

"So a small language can not do the job right and a large language takes too
long to get off the ground. Are we doomed to use small languages with many
warts because that is the sole kind of design that can make it in the world?

At one time this thought filled me with gloom. But then I saw a gap in my
thinking. I said that users will not wait for "The Right Thing," but will
use what comes first and put up with the warts. But users will not put up
with the warts for all time. It is not long till they scream and moan and
beg for changes. The small language will grow. The warts will be shaved off
or patched."

He argues pretty well for getting something out there quickly so long as you
have a story about how it can grow and evolve. MarkM's long list of things
that are more important than syntax shouldn't be a prerequisite for
releasing version 1.0.

It is a really good paper that people should read. A somewhat updated
version appeared in Higher-order and Symbolic Computation, Vol 12, No 3, Oct
1999.

Best,

-ken