Toolkits for the Mind

An article on programming languages aimed at a general readership, from MIT Technical Review. Spotted by De Lesley Hutchins.
When the Japanese computer scientist Yukihiro Matsumoto decided to create Ruby, a programming language that has helped build Twitter, Hulu, and much of the modern Web, he was chasing an idea from a 1966 science fiction novel called Babel-17 by Samuel R. Delany. At the book’s heart is an invented language of the same name that upgrades the minds of all those who speak it. “Babel-17 is such an exact analytical language, it almost assures you technical mastery of any situation you look at,” the protagonist says at one point. With Ruby, Matsumoto wanted the same thing: to reprogram and improve the way programmers think....When I meet Yaron Minsky, Jane Street’s head of technology, he’s sitting at a desk with a working Enigma machine beside him, one of only a few dozen of the World War II code devices left in the world. I would think it the clear winner of the contest for Coolest Secret Weapon in the Room if it weren’t for the way he keeps talking about an obscure programming language called OCaml. Minsky, a computer science PhD, convinced his employer 10 years ago to rewrite the company’s entire trading system in OCaml.

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The catch is that to get the full benefits of the type checker, the programmers have to add complex annotations to their code.

As was pointed out on twitter, this is a little hard to take. Also:

It should not be surprising that Scala, like OCaml, was developed by academics, has a powerful type system, and prizes correctness and performance even at the expense of the individual programmers’ freedom and delight in their craft.
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