P as far away as ever from the mainstream......

James Hague <>
Mon Jun 21 19:22:08 CEST 2004


Mike Williams wrote:

>See the article below about ICFP 2004. It seems
>that Functional Programming is as far away as ever
>from mainstream usage. 

When I first found out about functional programming through the language
Hope, what impressed me the most was the simple, native syntax for lists and
tuples.  At the time, I only knew BASIC, Pascal, maybe a little C, and an
8-bit assembly language.  And here was this language that let you cavalierly
toss around data structures without regard to memory AT ALL.  Now, of
course, you can do this kind of thing in most any scripting language, like
Python and Perl.  The other tenets of FP are much harder to evangelize (and
maybe they aren't worth it!).

>In fact it still seems that
>Erlang is the only functional language which is
>making *any* headway in industrial / commercial
>applications. 

Someone else mentioned K, and there is another APL-inspired language, J,
which has also made inroads into the world of finance.  J is perhaps the
closest thing to what Backus talked of in his Turing Award Lectured (and of
course Backus was strongly inspired by APL, so this is no surprise).  

Neither J nor K seem to be discussed in FP circles, however.

>And the FP purists don't like us
>because Erlang isn't strongly typed and totally
>"pure".

Part of the problem here may be that people become FP theorists in school,
then stay that way forever, all without any real world programming
experience.  FP is has become an academic exercise.  Maybe no one should be
able to get a PhD before 40? :)  

>In retrospect we made a great mistake in promoting
>Erlang as an FP. Joe's idea of "concurrency oriented"
>languages would have made better
>sense.....

In promoting it, yes.  In terms of language design, no!



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