Future of Objective CAML development
It is difficult for a new language to exist if it is not accompanied by the
important development of an application (like Unix for C) or
considerable commercial and industrial support (like SUN for JAVA). The
intrinsic qualities of the language are rarely enough. Objective CAML has
numerous qualities and some defects which we have described in the course
of this chapter. For its part, Objective CAML is sustained by INRIA
where it was conceived and implemented in the bosom of the CRISTAL project.
Born of academic research, Objective CAML is used there as an experimental
laboratory for testing new programming paradigms, and an implementation
language. It is widely taught in various university programs and
preparatory classes. Several thousand students each year learn the
concepts of the language and practice it. In this way the
Objective CAML language has an important place in the academic world. The
teaching of computer science, in France, but also in the United States,
creates numerous programmers in this language on a practical as well as a
On the other hand, in industry the movement is less dynamic. To our
knowledge, there is not a single commercial application, developed in
Objective CAML, sold to the general public and advertising its use of Objective CAML.
The only example coming close is that of the SCOL language from
Cryo-Networks. There is however a slight agitation in this direction.
The first appeals for funding for Objective CAML application startups are
appearing. Without hoping for a rapid snowball effect, it is significant
that a demand exists for this type of language. And without hoping for a
very short-term return on investment either, it is important to take notice
It is now for the language and its development environment to show their
relevance. To accompany this phenomenon, it is no doubt necessary to
provide certain guarantees as to the evolution of the language.
In this capacity, Objective CAML is only just now emerging and must
make the choice to venture further out of academia. But this ``entry into
the world'' will only take place if certain rules are followed:
Some of the points brought up, in particular standardization, can remain
within the jurisdiction of academia. Others are only of advantage to
industry. Thus everthing will depend on their degree of cooperation.
There is a precedent demonstrating that a language can be ``free'' and
still be commercially maintained, as this was the case for the gnat
compiler of the ADA language and the ACT corporation.
guaranteeing the survival of developments by assuring upward
compatibility in future versions of the language (the difficulty being
stability of new elements (objects, etc.));
- specifying the language in conjunction with real developers with
a view to future standardization (which will permit the development of
several implementations to guarantee the existence of several solutions);
- conceiving a development environment containing a portable graphical
interface, a CORBA bus, database interfaces, and especially a more
congenial debugging environment.