So many languages, so little time
I hang out on a little, “exclusive” (by which I mean we’re probably excluded by others, not us excluding others) channel on Freenode for programming polyglots. Membership in the group is predicated on two things:
- You must “speak” more than one programming language, preferably in more than one paradigm.
- You must be willing to put up with people talking about any language you’ve ever heard of plus probably a few dozen you haven’t.
Or, you know, you could just join #yfl on Freenode and claim to be a polyglot. It’s not like we make you sit an exam or something!
Anyway, this brings me to my main point. Well, not yet, but soon. I promise.
Segue into the past
I’ve always had a love affair with programming languages. This probably started when I encountered my first truly different language: Forth. I was utterly shocked at how differently you had to think to use it, and how, when you did this, how differently you could view problems. I was, thankfully, pretty young so I took the lesson to heart: some languages are better able to express certain thoughts than others. (Being a natural language polyglot helps in this regard, I guess. The same is true of speech after all.) From this awakening I always sought out new languages, especially ones that allowed me to shape my thoughts differently.
Back to the present
So this is why I’m whiling away my time in #yfl. Sure I quit the software industry itself almost twelve years ago (although I only became aware of the fact that I’d quit it eleven years ago). That doesn’t matter. I still love software. I just hate the industry. And I still love to pick up interesting languages here and there. And, above all, I like to exchange thoughts and opinions with other people of a similar bent, but with different backgrounds.
I get this opportunity in spades in #yfl. In there people with intensely academic maths backgrounds interact with people like me who lack formal education and exchange quips, opinions and experiences with people who, because of a lack of taste, like Common Lisp even(!). It’s a melting pot of experience, opinions and knowledge and, when it gets going, it’s an intellectually very stimulating place.
And at last the point
And it is a very frustrating place because since I semi-co-founded the channel (the history of #yfl is pretty comical) I’ve come across at least a dozen languages that are interesting enough that I at least want to get passing familiarity with them. Here’s a short list of languages brought up and discussed from the last few days alone:
…and a cast of dozens more.
This brings up the conundrum: who has time to even evaluate this many languages in their Copious Free Time™, not to mention actually using them?