Re: What makes a language popular?

Duncan C White <harvard!seismo!mcvax!!dcw>
6 Aug 87 12:23:09 GMT

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Related articles
Re: What makes a language popular? kurt@tc.fluke.COM (1987-07-30)
Re: What makes a language popular? harvard!rutgers!petsd!cjh (1987-08-03)
Re: What makes a language popular? harvard!seismo!mcvax!!dcw (Duncan C White) (1987-08-06)
Re: What makes a language popular? msf@amelia.UUCP (1987-08-11)
Re: What makes a language popular?!eugene@ames.UUCP (Eugene Miya N.) (1987-08-24)
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Date: 6 Aug 87 12:23:09 GMT
References: <331@hubcap.UUCP> <627@ima.ISC.COM> <638@ima.ISC.COM>
From: Duncan C White <harvard!seismo!mcvax!!dcw>
Organization: Dept. of Computing, Imperial College, London, UK.

In article <638@ima.ISC.COM> harvard!rutgers!petsd!cjh writes:
>In article <632@ima.ISC.COM> this comment appeared:
>>Pascal: The universally recognized standard reference is Jensen and Wirth.
>Since 1981, there has been an ANSI standard for Pascal ...
>There is also an ISO standard, which is similart to the ANSI standard
>but goes beyond it in one direction: "conformant arrays," which allow
>the programmer to write a subprogram what will take arrays of a given
>element type and varying size. This is a valuable feature, already
>present in FORTRAN and other languages.

Very true.. and this is a nice feature.. but may I ask a rhetorical
question ? [ well, actually, even that is a rhetorical question, 'cos
I'm going to... :-) ]

How many people, when asked a question about PASCAL's syntax, will
say "hang on while I get out my copy of the ISO standard"... and
how many will reach for their Jensen and Wirth ?

Similarly, with C, K&R is still the universal 'C bible', despite various
de-facto changes [addition of void?] and the proposed ANSI standard.
Many people suggest that Harbison & Steele should replace K&R now...
I haven't read it - I will as soon as I get around to it - but I somehow
doubt if it will ever fully replace K&R.

My point is that when a Standards Organization grabs a language by the
scruff of its neck, shakes it about a bit [usually improving it] and
then dignifies the new version with the title "standard", all the old
versions don't magically go away, and there will be considerable inertia
among [the many] users who possess older reference manuals.
JANET address :| Snail Mail : Duncan White,
--------------------------------| Dept of Computing,
    The nice thing about | Imperial College,
    standards is that there are | 180 Queen's Gate,
    so many to choose from... | South Kensington,
    -- Andrew S. Tanenbaum | London SW7
Tel: UK 01-589-5111 x 4982/4991
[Seems to me that the compiler writers' choice of standards is far more
important than that of the users. In the particular case of C, the emerging
ANSI standard enjoys wide support and various vendors are falling over
themselves to demonstrate how conformant they are. I'm not so sure about
Pascal, particularly since the Pascal crowd seems to pay much less attention
to interfacing with the enclosing environment. -John]

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