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Dylan, D and Dart

D is for Dylan, D and Dart. All languages I have read about but never used in anger.

Dylan is a corporate creation that is old enough to have gone through the complete cycle of creation, endorsement by a corporate sponsor (Apple), reasonable adoption by developers in its niche, fall from grace (i.e., loss of corporate backing) and the eventual release of an open source implementation by a dedicated group of true believers.

D shines in the reflected reputation of its creator, Walter Bright, the second most important person in making C++ what it is today. Until Zortech launched Walter Bright’s C++ compiler, in 1988, all the available C++ compilers were based on Cfront, which was a bit of a pain to use (Cfront to C to object code and on to the joys of using a non-C++ aware linker); it was even released before Cfront version 2. Zortech C++ was a good quality native compiler at a reasonable cost and decent documentation (well, at least once version 2.0 arrived). There was a ready market for this compiler in the form of a large number of developers who were already happily using Bright’s C compiler, marketed by Zorland Zortech. Responding to Zortech’s success Borland released Turbo C++ two years later, with Microsoft (as always) being the language laggard with Visual C++ five years later.

If it had not been for Walter Bright, 1) C++ would not have had the name recognition needed for ISO to start investigating the possibility of a standard for the language, 2) there might not have been a usable mass market C++ compiler in time to win the battle against Java in 1995, or 3) another OO language would have come along and taken the market (there were lots of languages that never took off because C++ got there first). Without the success of Zortech’s compiler it is likely that C++ would have been just an interesting research project that never went anywhere.

Dart is about Google management trying to repeat their Android-Dalvik/Java-JVM land-grab success with browsers and Javascript. If it had been the result of engineers with too much time on their hands the language would have never been submitted for standardization by ECMA. Yes, Javascript has more problems than you can wave a stick at, but creating a ‘superset’ language and a whole new virtual machine to run it is so obviously not the solution. I wonder what patents Google own that have some connection with this new VM?

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