Friday, May 09, 2008

Choice of Programming Language

If you frequent any computer-related fora these days (and past days), you'll eventually run across a language war. Nowadays this will probably be Python vs Perl, or C# vs Java; in years gone by you'd see C++ vs C, Pascal vs C, Cobol vs FORTRAN, LIPS vs anything, etc.

Now, we all know that Turing-complete languages are equivalent, so there is no operational difference between any of the main languages. We also know that the syntactic sugar that a language has makes certain things very easy, and others hard, like doing OOP in C - you can do it, but you need to build a great deal of the scaffolding yourself.

So when I read this article by Philip Guo about the relevance of the language libraries and the environment, I found myself nodding in agreement. The biggest factor in language choice is never the strength of the language - it's the existing environment - which languages are already in use, what skills can be hired, does the language have built-in strong libraries, etc. Those are the deciding factors in almost all cases.

And, I might add, politics. Sometimes you face a political fight to use a particular language - there is someone who either forces or prohibits the use of programming language.

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