XL: Advancing the state of programming languages

This is the 200th post on this blog!

The WGP2010 workshop was a good occasion for me to write a short summary of where we stand with XL. With the creation of Taodyne, I’m spending much more time working on XL and with XL. This may not be immediately visible, thought, because XL is only a tool to achieve Taodyne’s objectives, it is not a goal in itself.

The article’s title is “Eliminating Newspeak in Programming language“. Here is the abstract:

Programming languages provide us with numerous tools. But like the
fictional language Newspeak in George Orwell’s 1984, they also restrict
what we can say, and in doing so, they shackle our minds. As a result,
historical programming language all became an economic dead weight as
soon as the hardware, fueled by Moore’s law, passed them by.

XL is a programming language designed to get rid of this Newspeak in
programming. Its primary focus is to help programmers add their own
concepts and their own notations to the language. To validate this
approach, many of the traditional features that XL provides are
constructed, not built in the compiler. The associated methodology is
called “concept programming”. It focuses on the transformation of ideas
into programs.

Writing an article about XL made me realize two things and a half:

  1. XL remains novel and relevant today. Ten years after I first shared code, the problems that XL addresses are still there, the solutions are still nowhere seen in other languages.
  2. On the other hand, the language never caught on. But then, the article, if accepted, will be the first one I ever wrote about XL for academic circles. From that point of view, it’s good to have left HP.
  3. XL is still evolving, and the compilers are still far from being finished… Shame on me.

So I think that XL is really capable of advancing the state of programming languages, but I need to put some additional muscle to explain what it is. Or as a friend reminded me yesterday: “It goes without saying, but it goes better saying it.”

From concept to code

The first key idea behind XL is that the role of a programming language is to help us transform ideas into code. The idea seems simple enough… until you dig deeper and realize just how hard this is. This presentation is a good starting point…

What does it mean to you, to transform ideas into code? How well do the existing languages do that for you? Do you sometimes feel impaired in the way to write your code? Are there things that you simply can’t say with your favorite programming language? Do you have funny horror stories about saying one thing and having the compiler understand an entirely different thing?

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