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Open Source Languages Rumble At OSCON 197

blackbearnh writes "Everybody knows what the best programming language is, it's whatever one you like the most. But is there a best language overall? Or even a best language for a given purpose? This question has been debated since the first time there were two languages to choose from. The argument is still going on, of course, but maybe a little light will be shed on the issue this week at OSCON. On Wednesday night at 7PM Pacific, representatives of the 5 major open source languages (perl, PHP, Python, Java and Ruby), as arbitrarily decided by O'Reilly, will meet to debate the merits of their various languages. If you're not going to be at OSCON, you can watch it live on a webcast and pose questions or comments to the participants. The representatives are: Python: Alex Martelli, Google; Ruby: Brian Ford, Engine Yard; PHP: Laura Thomson, Mozilla; Perl: Jim Brandt, Perl Foundation; Java: Rod Johnson, SpringSource."
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Open Source Languages Rumble At OSCON

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  • by Lord Ender ( 156273 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:25PM (#28774275) Homepage

    It looks to me like they mean "high level" languages... the sort that allow you to deal with arbitrarily complex datastructures without burdening the programmer with the manual management of memory allocation and pointers.

    Perl barely qualifies for this category (no pointers, but "references"), yet it was one of the first high level languages, so it should get some respect.

  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:33PM (#28774383)

    . . . yet it was one of the first high level languages . . .

    Missed it by a few decades. LISP was arguably the first high level language. You could also make a case for COBOL.

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <phrosty@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:45PM (#28774569) Homepage
    Maybe they meant languages where the whole stack is Open Source. All the standard software and libraries for those languages is Open Source. There is no standard C compiler, runtime, or library -- only a specification (which is not Open Source or Free) with which to build your own implementation of them.
  • I have said it before and I'll say it again, the one true language is....VB6! After all, what other language is there that you can not only write programs in, but also cause wonderful facial ticks in "real programmers" and fill their hearts with dread? Hey, real programmers? How would you like to debug a VB6 app, with no comments and lots and lots of GOTOs? BWA Ha Ha Ha Ha!

    See? Only VB6 can give you a functional app with the added bonus of nightmares for the snooty real programmers. And when joined with the power of Microsoft Access, especially the really old ones like Access 2k, it helps to break their spirit, which keeps costs down due to the fact the programmers are too broken and depressed to ask for raises. It is the gift that keeps on giving!

    So do your part to destroy a programmers will to live, deploy a VB6 app today! Its good for America!

  • by derGoldstein ( 1494129 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:43PM (#28775401) Homepage

    I'm assuming that they meant "dynamic languages", which is relatively difficult to define as well. Is Java technically "dynamic"? (I honestly don't know how to answer that, BTW)

    Java is definitely the exception, however: static-typing, and the requirement to compile to bytecode. Also, Java is the only language here that's suitable for math-oriented programming, the rest of the languages are primarily used to handle text and/or manage data-structures that contain strings as their edge(leaf?) nodes.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @07:17PM (#28776387)

    I don't know too much about LISP. Why do you think it failed to catch on the way these other languages did? If it has modern data structure capabilities, it must be lacking in some other way...

    Lisp was much slower and more memory-hungry than Fortran and C, back when that made a ton of difference. Also, according to a famous essay, development of Lisp was very slow because its developers wanted it to be "right" (i.e., "perfect"), whereas the developers of C were mostly concerned with getting something that was "good enough for now," never mind the ugly warts. This lead to a proliferation of C programmers who tended to be biased in favor of C's syntax (Perl, C++, Java).

    These days, Lisp's biggest drawback, at least for Windows development, is that there's no good, free Lisp compiler for Windows. They're either toys, free but you have to use Cygwin or similar, or commercial. Contrast with Java, Perl, Python, and (I assume) Ruby, which all have free interpreters/compilers for Windows. Java even has a couple of really good, free IDEs. (Even C has some good, free Windows-based compilers, like Open Watcom.)

    I can still remember reading one Lisper's rant on Usenet many years ago about the lack of free Windows Lisp options. His argument was basically that, since Windows itself isn't free, no one should expect that any software written for it should be free. He was really nasty about it, but his opinion seems to be shared by much of the Lisp community.

    On the other hand, some guy is building a Lisp dialect on top of the Java VM. It's called Clojure, and looks pretty promising: A Lisp-alike that gives easy access to Java's gigantic library could be just the thing to rekindle interest in the language.

  • by Toonol ( 1057698 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @08:19PM (#28776865)
    I disagree. C is still the major language used in embedded electronics. In addition, ideologically, it's importance is crucial since c syntax now lies at the core of nearly every major language.

    Just checked: 33,242 C projects on Sourceforge, compared to 44,784 C++, 58,559 Java, 15,562 Python, and 10,871 Perl. (My shock there is Java... sourceforge projects are voluntary... people actually CHOOSE Java?) I'd also claim Javascript as an important, open-source language. You don't see a lot of full apps written in it, but globally it's VERY important, with fingers in all sorts of areas.

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