Thursday, December 09, 2010

What programming is

Dr Guy SteeleDr. Dick GabrielGreetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Richard P. Gabriel and Dr Guy Steele are reprising their presentation "50 in 50: 50 Programming Languages in 50 Years" from JAOO Aarhus 2008. This started with a slick video presentation. I was worried this was going to be all art and no algorithms, but the first topic was the "do loop" in Fortran.

The two presenters are taking turns to comment on each programming language since Fortran, each with 50 words about the fifty languages. This is interspersed with diagrams, animation, cartoons and music. There are school students from the Australian Informatics Olympiad in the audience to whom this is all ancient history. But the presentation encompasses the arc of my professional life and the music might be described as "soundtrack for career".

Not only were many songs from the sixties, but some with new lyrics such as "God wrote in Lisp code...". This is from "The Eternal Flame" by Bob Kanefsky (a parody of “God Lives on Terra” by Julia Ecklar).

There is a list of all the languages covered in the presentation, and a video of it, avialable. One thing which not be on the video is where a cricket sounded. At this point I thought there was surround sound, but it was a ring tone from someone's phone.

ps: One language which does not seem to get a mention, but perhaps has been used more than any other, is JavaScript.

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