Python should try to displace Java

Andrew Dalke adalke at
Wed Aug 20 20:59:30 CEST 2003

Alex Martelli and Doug Tolton, on 'scripting' vs. 'systems' languages:

> > I'm using System in the generic sense rather than the specific sense
> > of Operating System.

> Yep, same here.  Although in the expression "system programming"
> it IS more often than not an _Operating_ system that is meant.

The original article I know of which tried to pin down the differences
between the two approaches, at least in the context of modern
languages, is Ousterhout's essay at

By its definitions, Python is a system language:

    Scripting languages aren't intended for writing applications from
    scratch; they are intended primarily for plugging together components.

    scripting languages tend to be typeless: all things look and behave the
    same so that they are interchangeable.

    Scripting languages are often string-oriented, since this provides a
    uniform representation for many different things.

    Another key difference between scripting languages and system
    programming languages is that scripting languages are usually
    interpreted whereas system programming languages are usually compiled.

(Python is byte compiled on the fly, but so is Tcl.  And most Java

    Scripting languages represent a different set of tradeoffs than system
    programming languages. They give up execution speed and strength
    of typing relative to system programming languages but provide
    significantly higher programmer productivity and software reuse.

I no longer see his essay as interesting.  I bring it up to point out
the scripting vs. system language debate is based on nebulous grounds
because there are many, many divergent interpretations of what those
two terms mean.

> as well as a source of income;-).  But note that the firm does NOT
> advertise the role of Python in their systems: "all rock-solid C++"
> is the message marketing wants to keep sending

What's wrong with that?  It's just using a C library.  ;)

                    dalke at

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