Re: Languages: The Bigger the Uglier

"Dr A. N. Walker" <>
23 Feb 1996 00:23:52 -0500

          From comp.compilers

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From: "Dr A. N. Walker" <>
Newsgroups: comp.compilers
Date: 23 Feb 1996 00:23:52 -0500
Organization: Maths Dept., Nottingham University, UK.
References: 96-01-037 96-02-187 96-02-226 96-02-237
Keywords: standards

Pat Terry <> wrote:
>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,

I heard recently that it *was* now finished; be that as it
may, are 700 pages *necessary*? Algol 68 gets its formal spec into
about 90 pages, even that being mostly commentary and examples [the
rest of the Revised Report being a description of the formal language,
a list of standard library routines, and large-scale examples]. If
the stylised English of the semantics were replaced by a larger
2-level grammar, as per Cleaveland & Uzgalis, this might add a little,
but it could scarcely need more than, say, 110 pages, even still
including the commentary and examples.

>> 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 [...]

Oh, that old chestnut again! Does anyone have any sensible
metric by which Pascal, as a language, as a way of solving
computational problems, is simpler than Algol? It has a larger
syntax, suffers from coding bloat, has fewer [direct] capabilities,
and is less orthogonal. Admittedly, it is easier for students to
write compilers for. But any *programmer*, at any level, who finds
Pascal simpler than Algol has been badly taught (or is wearing
Andy Walker, Maths Dept., Nott'm Univ., UK.

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