Re: Languages: The Bigger the Uglier

"Pat Terry" <>
20 Feb 1996 01:10:20 -0500

          From comp.compilers

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From: "Pat Terry" <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 20 Feb 1996 01:10:20 -0500
Organization: Rhodes University
References: 96-01-037 96-02-187 96-02-226
Keywords: C, standards, design

> We need to insist that language standardization committees write
> complete FORMAL SPECIFICATIONS for the arcane and baroque languages
> that they are trying to standardize. If we (the consumers) did
> this, you would quickly see the wheat being separated from the
> chaff, and large numbers of overly complex features being tossed
> overboard.

I dispute that. Anyone who knows anything of the Modula-2
standardisation effort will tell you that (a) the decision was made
(with very good motives) to produce a proper VDM specification (b)
this has run to over 700 pages in contrast to the original Wirth
report of about 50 and has not been completed even yet, most of the
committee having, it seems, lost interest (or reached the stage where
they no longer understood it, or wanted to use the language they were
creating) (c) worst of all, the language accreted one after another of
untried and new "features" until in the minds of some of us it became
almost unrecognisable.

> The enemy is complexity, and it is winning.

I couldn't agree more. But there may be hope. Pascal in 1970 managed
to turn about the complexity that was seen as Algol-68 and various
other favourites at the time. Another messiah will come about

Pat Terry, Computer Science, Rhodes University, GRAHAMSTOWN 6140, RSA or or
Voice +27-461-318291 or +27-461-318292 FAX +27-461-25049
[I don't suppose that anyone in the Modula-2 committee took the failure of
the VDM effort as an indication that the language was too big? -John]


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