[self-interest] Syntax is important - but

Stefan Matthias Aust sma at netsurf.de
Wed Sep 1 20:02:49 UTC 1999

I agree with most statements from Dave, Steve, Gilad, et.al. - especially
that syntax is important and still subjective.  However, C/Java syntax
isn't (or should I better write: can't be) the solution.  As every human,
programmers don't like to feel as clueless beginners (I don't know how to
express this otherwise, I hope you get the idea) and don't want to learn
new stuff all the time.  They want to feel comfortable and safe.

It's kind of prejustice of mine that espically Americans don't like to
learn other languages.  So they same is probably true (again my prejustice)
for American programmers.  And these people are still the majority.  They
learned one of these old-style procedural programming languages and that's
it.  Everything else is strange, alien and surely not as good as their
first beloved language.  I like to try out the unusal; to learn new things;
for me, every programming language is a foreign language anyway (I don't
care whether I write "ifTrue:" or "glloX:" to begin a condition, no
difference) so I expect more open-mindness from other, too.  And I'm used
to see the semantics behind a language.  "Syntactic suggar" was the name my
old professor aways used.

Perhaps, I'm running against wind mills (as Don Quichote, if that's spelled
correctly), but I like the Smalltalk (and Self) syntax, because it's
different. It's clear, short and still readable -- if you know some English
of course.

So I don't like the idea to use

   object.method(arg1, arg)

so similar ways to express a message send.  NewtonScript, a Pascal-like
language with Self-like semantics uses


which is kind of nice.  They have to distinguish them because of their
really special dual inheritance.  While the Newton was obviously a failure,
the language is very interesting.

Another probably totally unknown language is Archetype, a prototype based
language I found at the interactive fiction archive for creating text
adventures.  It's a kind of object pascal with message send (IIRC)

   message() -> object

which could be read as send message to object.  I like that.

One of the big advantages of SELF is, that it's so general (so pure) and
still powerful that you can easily emulate other languages on top of it.
Actually, I think, a SELF VM could be a nice target for Python or
NewtonScript.  Lua is another interesting candidate.  Even a kind of
ObjectBasic could be possible.

Stefan Matthias Aust  //  Bevor wir fallen, fallen wir lieber auf.

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