Wood, metal and plastic [was: Re: Why do we call python scripting?]

Paul Jackson pj at sgi.com
Fri Aug 27 21:01:00 EDT 1999

Construction materials have two dimensions:

    1) ease of fabrication, and
    2) strength in use.

One constructs a house mostly of wood boards, because it is
cheaper and easier to build with them.  But in critical places
such as locks, hinges and fasteners, one uses metal.

I think of full-blown C++ as die cast metal, and 'classic'
scripting languages as wood.

    Python is plastic.

It's suitable to a wider range of uses than shell scripts or
Perl (though it cannot displace all uses of C or C++) but it
is as easy to work with as scripts.

	wood    == script   [jcl, 4dos, ksh, Perl]
	metal   == compiled [Cobol, Fortran, C, C++]
	plastic == ???	    [Python]

We need a new word - though until Python has a competitor, that
is difficult.  Human brains don't do well picking names for
classes with one known member.  The sound of one hand clapping
or some such.

Or perhaps Python _does_ have plastic competitors.

Are there other "plastic" languages out there that I don't
know about?  If there were, then we could identify the class,
show at least two example members, and 'name that class'.
Then perhaps this 'is Python a scripting language' question
would rest in peace.

(Actually, the way I've heard some of the Lisp crowd speak of
their various dialects and common usage patterns, that sounds
pretty plastic to me.  Python differs in having a syntax
more like the main stream languages, and in not presuming an
elaborate support environment, both of which make Python much
more accessible to a main stream programmer, for main stream
systems, like myself and the systems to which I program.)

I won't rest till it's the best ...	   Software Production Engineer
Paul Jackson (pj at sgi.com; pj at usa.net) 3x1373 http://sam.engr.sgi.com/pj

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