[erlang-questions] The Beauty of Erlang Syntax

Benjamin Tolputt btolputt@REDACTED
Tue Feb 24 23:31:21 CET 2009

Kevin Scaldeferri wrote:
> I wasn't in the industry at the time, but I'm not sure that the
> programming workforce of the 80's closely resembled the workforce of
> today (or the past decade).

Not so much. The programming workforce of the eighties (that I know of)
consisted of alot more engineering types than today's workforce does.
The number of "technical college" programmers I have come across has
been increasing at a steady rate. While there is nothing wrong with
technical colleges; alot more people go into them to become
"programmers" whereas the "engineers" are coming from universities. The
way these two types of people think can be vastly different when given
the same problem to solve.

> But, really, one should ask, if Erlang was designed / evolved /
> selected with this goal, why is it that 20 years later most developers
> have never even heard of it?  I guess one possibility would be to
> blame Ericsson and credit MS and Sun for why C# and Java are the
> languages of choice for companies who care more about how easy it is
> to hire an army of developers than anything else.  There could be
> other possible explanations, though.

Well, the popularity of Java & C# can be contributed to a combination of
factors, but one of the largest reasons (if not simply the most
important), would be marketing. Microsoft controls the primary
development platform for their operating system (Microsoft Visual
Studio). While I cannot knock their efforts there (MSVC is an incredible
IDE), they utilise this control to direct the "less skilled" end of the
programming workforce toward their new language of choice (C#). Combined
with an intense marketing blitz in technical magazines, websites, and
appearances/talks at trade shows - Microsoft was able to make C# the
"must use" language it is to business managers today. With the exception
of the IDE leverage they have, the rest of their c#-drive may as well
have been lifted directly from Sun's Java marketing playbook.

There are other reasons for these languages being where they are, but
marketing & industry leverage are the most blatant.

> Also, you've exaggerated & distorted my point with your last sentence.
>  Haskell unabashedly markets itself as a language for highly skilled
> developers to quickly and reliably implement new features.  It is
> still unpopular.  Most companies do not like the idea of using a
> language that requires them to find a top 10% or top 1% developer to
> work on their project. 

100% agree here. Most middle-level managers I have dealt with have just
enough knowledge of programming to make them dangerous. As such, they
tend to go for a language with a high "visibility factor", assuming that
there will be a large selection of programmers to choose from (correct)
and that the language must make programmers more productive (debatable).


Benjamin Tolputt
Analyst Programmer

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