Language Niches (long)
robin at jessikat.fsnet.co.uk
Mon Jul 30 01:28:46 CEST 2001
In message <3B6481DB.C5AEA46 at ActiveState.com>, Paul Prescod
<paulp at ActiveState.com> writes
>I'm not sure what point you are trying to make. C became popular between
>twenty and thirty years ago. Its current popularity is a result of that
>early boost. Python is not typically used for "systems programming." I
>think of systems programming as the programming that goes into building
>the heart of an operating system or relational database etc.
C Lasts because it fills its niche pretty well.
>> > * Java was the only way to do client-side graphics and then evolved
>> >into "Servlets" and "EJBs"
>> Java actually represents a new thing; write once run anywhere.
>Java is not much better at that than Tcl or Python.
not at the output side, but Java is good for those anal ists who like to
>> > * Perl was the defacto way to do sysadmining when sed and awk ran out
>> >of steam
>> so C wasn't ever that needed?
>For system administration? I would say "not much". Systems programming
>and system administration are two different thing.
you're reaching here.
>> > * Visual Basic and Tcl were the only easy way to make GUIs for their
>> >respective platforms for a long time
>> This is just nonsense. There are many ways to do CGI and even more ways
>> to do guis. You neglect all those other semi-proprietary languages. The
>> H***card one is an example. Even if you restrict Tcl to unix, Tcl is
>> only a scripting language. The Tk extension is what makes Tcl/Tk into a
>> gui platform.
>Right. And Tcl became popular while it was only possible to program Tk
>in that one language and it lost popularity when Tk became popular in
>Python, Perl etc. That goes to the heart of my argument. Tcl's
>popularity was a side effect of the popularity of its platform. Expect
>was another driver for Tcl's popularity.
>> ... Visual basic is promoted by M$, Delphi is not and has as
>> many if not more adherents.
>Delphi came years after Visual Basic. Really, if Microsoft did not
>invent Visual Basic as a GUI-building technology the Basic language
>would be long-since dead. In fact you could argue that it is because
>Visual Basic is becoming less and less Basic-like.
so one or two years is important. Python came before and where is it;
like quality, temporal precedence isn't really the thing which
>> The above is a list of languages; all are thriving.
>Not all of them are thriving but all of them gained popularity based on
>a particular environment or niche programming task. Sometimes the
>environment got generalized (Tk and soon Visual Basic) and sometimes the
>language outgrew the environment (C). But not once did a language carve
>out its own niche based purely on technical merits (as you claim). If
>Python does so it will be the first.
>> ... For some more nearly
>> dead languages try simula, simscript etc. What was that wonderful
>> rebarbative predecessor of m4 called?
>I wasn't trying to be comprehensive. There are thousands of languages
>out there. I was demonstrating that the major languages that make up the
>modern computing landscapes did so by grabbing on to a niche or a
>> I consider the above to be an assertion. I certainly don't know the true
>> number of regular Python users now or in the past. Perhaps we could do
>> some comparative newsgroup posting analysis to get some idea of who's
>> programming/interested in what language. But all of the little languages
>> would be as noise to SQL and Cobol (even if you count them as languages)
>> in terms of the total code volume and economic significance.
>So your point is that SQL and Cobol carved out their large market shares
>by being technically wonderful and wonderfully stable? I find that
>extremely hard to believe. Look at the growth in the SQL standard. Look
>at the quality of the Cobol language.
evolutionarily the only good dinosaurs are chickens. SQL, Cobol and the
like were there at the right time. If Python/Tcl/VB et al are to succeed
as languages they have to have a real edge. All of these languages are
Turing complete; therefore they can only really be distinguished using
other criteria such as ease of use, matching with the problem space etc
etc. It's pretty stupid to criticize C when it's the main vehicle for
>I'm waiting for you to point out a language that was so great
>technically that it became very popular without hooking on to some
>particular niche or platform or at least having a company with a
>billion-dollar valuation behind it. This is a real problem for Python.
>It has no big company and only tiny niches.
There are no such languages. It's pretty stupid to get hooked into this
language war. Python loses to C every time if you only consider speed. C
loses to Python if you only consider ease of use. These languages are
fit in certain areas in others they are just wrong.
I have programmed translators in Fortran. It was stupid in your terms as
Fortran is an inferior language. At the time it was the highest level
language we had.
More information about the Python-list