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[self-interest] Syntax is important - but

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  • Stefan Matthias Aust
    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
    Message 1 of 5 , Sep 1, 1999
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      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

      object.slot
      and
      object:method()

      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.


      bye
      --
      Stefan Matthias Aust // Bevor wir fallen, fallen wir lieber auf.
    • Steve Dekorte
      ... I also prefer Smalltalk s message syntax, but the choice here is not really between the two syntaxes. The choices are: 1. prefix message syntax, Self
      Message 2 of 5 , Sep 1, 1999
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        Stefan Matthias Aust <sma@...> wrote:
        > [Smalltalk's infix syntax is better]
        > [people only like prefix message syntax because they're used to it]

        I also prefer Smalltalk's message syntax, but the choice here is not
        really between the two syntaxes. The choices are:

        1. prefix message syntax, Self object model, potiental for lots of real users
        2. infix message syntax, Self object model, a few dozen hobbyist users

        The syntax battle is not winnable. The object model battle is.
        Why lose both wars by making the victory of one depend on the other?

        Jecel wrote:
        > Please note that I think syntax doesn't matter - the future of
        > Self is to be more and more graphical.

        Agreed, but the question is where to start. Syntax doesn't
        matter in the long run, but getting inital support is important if
        the language is going to have a hope of surviving to see the day when
        there's fully graphical development environment.

        Steve
      • José Baltasar García Perez-Schofield
        ... Don Quijote is a better spelling ;-) ... It s a point that every language must have its syntactical characteristics, but, in my opinion, Self syntax
        Message 3 of 5 , Sep 2, 1999
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          >
          > Perhaps, I'm running against wind mills (as Don Quichote, if that's spelled
          > correctly),

          "Don Quijote" is a better spelling ;-)

          > 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.
          >

          It's a point that every language must have its syntactical
          characteristics, but, in my opinion, Self syntax can be very obscure for
          the beginner.


          > 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
          >
          > object.slot
          > and
          > object:method()
          >

          I think that, if the syntax of Self, changes, this change should
          be managed with care, trying to hold the good characteristics of the SELF
          syntax, and turning other characteristics more attractive for that
          programmers that 'feel safe' with procedural languages.

          For example, a good characteristic of Self syntax I think is that
          it doesn't distinguish between data slots and code slots, and every other
          syntax does it, like C++ or Java.

          > 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.
          >
          >
          > bye
          > --
          > Stefan Matthias Aust // Bevor wir fallen, fallen wir lieber auf.
          >
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          --------------------------------------------------------
          "C gives you enough rope to hang yourself.
          C++ also gives you the tree object to tie it to."
          --------------------------------------------------------
          PBC -- Jose Baltasar Garcia Perez-Schofield -- jbgarcia@...
          Dep. Lenguajes y Sistemas Informaticos, Universidad de Vigo (Spain)
        • Jecel Assumpcao Jr
          ... I would like to say that the above is true depending on the background of the beginner and the real users. In particular, they probably already program in
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 2, 1999
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            José Baltasar García Perez-Schofield wrote:
            > It's a point that every language must have its syntactical
            > characteristics, but, in my opinion, Self syntax can be very obscure for
            > the beginner.

            and Steve Dekorte wrote:
            > 1. prefix message syntax, Self object model, potiental for lots of real users
            > 2. infix message syntax, Self object model, a few dozen hobbyist users

            I would like to say that the above is true depending on the
            background of the beginner and the real users. In particular,
            they probably already program in some other language.

            Personally, I have given up on these people. My friends who
            program in C will never change to Self no matter what I do.
            They might move to Java since it is the same language in
            practice (there are huge differences, but not the way these
            guys program).

            But I think that most people who will be programming in 2004
            don't know any computer languages at all today. For them, any
            syntax will be obscure (maybe not hyperscript). That is no
            excuse not to try to clean up Self's grammar as much as possible,
            but I don't think such issues as infix/prefix will have much of
            an effect on total novices. And I am aiming my efforts at these
            people.

            -- Jecel
          • Steve Dekorte
            ... That sort of thing is typically true of exponential growth. For example, the % of the population that is under the age where they know any language is
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 2, 1999
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              Jecel Assumpcao Jr <jecel@...> wrote:
              > But I think that most people who will be programming in 2004
              > don't know any computer languages at all today. For them, any
              > syntax will be obscure (maybe not hyperscript).

              That sort of thing is typically true of exponential growth.
              For example, the % of the population that is under the age where
              they know any language is increasing with time, but I don't think
              this increases the likelyhood of esperanto being adopted, regardless
              of the benifits of the langauge.

              Steve
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