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schwern (1528)

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Schwern can destroy CPAN at his whim.

Journal of schwern (1528)

Thursday January 31, 2008
03:15 PM

Arc, the "Hundred-Year Language", is obsolete by design.

[ #35541 ]

Ovid reacted to the release of Arc, Paul Graham's attempt at the "100 Year Language", with a resounding yawn. I must say I agree. From reading the release announcement, not only is Arc not the programming language for the next 100 years, Arc is a resounding step backwards.

I read the announcement that "Arc only supports Ascii". What?! Just ASCII?! In 2008?! First release and he's already prevented about 80% of the world's population from using it. Maybe it's just a temporary thing, but no, he dismisses his choice of ASCII-only as simply being "unPC" and those who disagree are merely "offended" rather than, I don't know, needing those characters in order to WRITE THEIR NATIVE LANGUAGE! It's like he thinks people use Unicode just to write funny programs in Klingon.

This is supposed to be the 100 year language?! With so much of programming becoming internationalized in the last decade, with almost every modern application now speaking it, how can you dismiss Unicode in 2008? Hell, how could you dismiss Unicode if you were designing a language in 1998? Or 2003, when Arc started.

His rationale for not including Unicode is also spurious, it's because Python had a devil of a time dealing with it and also maintaining backwards compatibility. Arc is a new language, what backwards compatibility? He also says "I don't want to spend even one day dealing with character sets". The language designer not wanting to deal with something means he pushes the problem onto all the users: false laziness. Oddly enough, he could have resolved the whole issue by saying "it's all Unicode" and throwing out all the historical character sets. I realize Unicode isn't quite that simple, but man, give it a little thought. He even admits it would only take "a few days" to figure it out. Sorry all you Asian programmers, you're not worth a few days effort. Sorry Europe, umlauts are not worth Paul's time.

This is what happens when one guy (or a homogeneous group) goes into a room and tries to design anything. You come out with something reflecting the biases of that guy. Paul doesn't need or grok Unicode so Arc won't have it. Makes me wonder what other blind spots are in the language? How else won't Arc let the programmer think? Contrast with Parrot and Perl 6. Diverse, international programming team. Unicode is a top priority, along with all sorts of other advanced concepts that one person or another might not find worth putting in "a few days" effort on that will pay off for the programmers in the long run.

A programming language should not be a reflection of how the designer thinks.

There are plenty of other inanities and absurd historical Lisp-isms that he's dragged forward. cons? car? cdr? These only make sense to a seasoned Lisp programmer. If you're starting a brand new language why not give things names meaningful to a human rather than ones based on ancient hardware?

Anyhow, Ovid does a fine job on all that. I'm just... man, no Unicode? Astonishing.

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  • A programming language should not be a reflection of how the designer thinks.

    It'll always be some kind of homeomorphism of how he/she/it thinks, though, won't it?

    • It'll always be some kind of homeomorphism of how he/she/it thinks, though, won't it?
      Not if there's more than one person designing it.

      Even if there is one person, a good designer can think like their users instead of thinking they are the user. This is why designers go to design school. :)

      One can argue that the biases of the designer(s) will always be reflected in the design, but hopefully not quite so clearly as with Arc.
  • Many years ago I read references to Paul Graham, and then reading his articles I was bamboozled. What was all the fuss about? Perhaps it just all went over my head. So, every few years I'd read another article, but my opinion never changed. Now, with Arc mercifully designed to put people off, I suspect it'll never have to change...
  • Just another LISP dialect. Nothing to see here.