Developers: Expect New Major Language Within Five Years

Developers: Expect New Major Language Within Five Years by Daryl K. Taft

There’s really not much to this article, mostly a brief report from TheServerSide.com Java Symposium last week. The punchline is that we should expect a “major language” of the stature of Java within five years. Great, yet another programming language that I will have never coded in before being assigned to teach the class… πŸ˜‰

Actually, my main motivation for sharing this article is that it gives me an opportunity to tell one of my favorite stories about Prof. Evan L. Ivie, who retired some years back from the Computer Science Department at BYU. Evan was at Bell Labs when Kernighan, Ritchie, and all those smart guys invented UNIX and C… in the group that he managed. He was like the Forrest Gump of computing. Seemed like every time something amazing happened in the world of computing, Evan was lurking somewhere nearby (or maybe managing the group that did it).

Anyway, one day in an operating systems class, Dr. Ivie made an offhand remark about “C, or whatever language was the fad at the time”. I was stunned. This was circa early 90’s and C was THE programming language that we all wanted to know, and that we all became really good at. We thought the ten commandments had been handed down to Moses in C, and then translated into Hebrew. What we didn’t know (but Evan did) was that C was the language du jour, and that it would be followed by another, and yet another, and yet another, ad infinitum.

What’s amazing today is the absolute explosion of languages that students and professionals actually know and use: C, C++, C#, Java, Tcl, Python, Perl, Ruby, Smalltalk, Scheme, MATLAB, Lisp, Delphi, Visual Basic, JavaScript, PHP, Prolog, SQL, Pascal, Ada, etc. (PLEASE, Please, please forgive me if I left your personal favorite programming language off this list… please! This is random, and off the top of my head!) It’s not the fact that these languages exist that’s so amazing. Lots of goofy languages have always existed. It’s the fact that they’re all relevant, and are all used by a large enough number of people that most software engineers today have at least heard of them, even if (like me) they don’t know much about them.

So I wonder what the heck we mean by “major” language like Java in the future. Is that our ultimate destiny? An uber-language of some kind? A multiparadigm miracle language? Or is our future to be a large community of programming polyglots, drawing fluently from a dozen different tool boxes? I’m not sure which one I find more exciting… either way it’s pretty cool!

One thought on “Developers: Expect New Major Language Within Five Years

  1. I think you’re missing a third option suggested by our research. We will continue to have communities of programmers each using one language exclusively and touting it’s benefits without actually using the other langauges.

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