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When functional languages can be accepted by industry?
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Date: -- (:)
From: William Chesters <williamc@d...>
Subject: Re: When functional languages can be accepted by industry?
jean-marc alliot writes:
 > I don't think that CAML needs anything more to be accepted by industry,
 > from a technical point of view.

 > Moreover, the CAML team is certainly one of the most brilliant and
 > efficient development team I have dealt with.

Steve Stevenson writes:
 > \item Unstable compilers for Sisal*:  This is a very legitimate
 >       argument.
 >    
 > \item The programming model did have some serious weaknesses.
 >       Foremost was I/O.  The whole concept of streams was included to
 >       have some way of doing I/O, but it was an awkward hack at best.

   I don't think it can be emphasised too often that some functional
languages (ocaml perhaps chief among them) are of *extremely* high
quality when it comes to the bread and butter usability issues which
concern real-world developers.

   ocaml's compiler/runtime are 99% solid, as reliable as any
commercial system I've worked with.  The I/O and other libraries are
splendidly down-to-earth and effective.  The documentation is helpful
and mercifully concise.

   Criticism of the "functional" idiom per se simply misses the point,
since ocaml supports imperative data structures very well (the only
possible niggle being the "write" overhead associated with the
generational GC, but that's only an issue for certain kinds of inner
loop, and only in comparison with C/C++).

   (All this is a consequence of the skill and hard work of the ocaml
team---and the rightness of their vision of how the pretty ideas
floating around functional languages could best be exploited in a
practical system.)

   So there is no need to look inwards at ocaml, and the handful of
other good and well-implemented minority languages out there, for an
answer to the question of why industry hasn't accepted them on a wide
scale.  Just look outwards to industry itself.  To get Java accepted
required an extremely singular event, namely the rise of the 'net and
Sun's agreement with Netscape; without that kind of earthquake, you
are in a chicken and egg situation.  E.g. I love ocaml and appreciate
its advantages vis-a-vis Java and C++ very well, but I can't foist it
on my colleagues for lots of good reasons to do with its current
(relatively) narrow user base: customer credibility, second-sourcing
for maintenance, learning curve, ...

   But look, the industry is very big, and there is room for minority
languages to live quite nicely at the "margins" where chicken/egg
isn't such a big problem---and maybe one day emerge and achieve world
domination ;).