Mon, 5 Jan 1998 11:04:41 -0500
Calspan SRL Corp
I posted the following to comp.lang.ada and comp.software-eng
and did not receive any meaningful responses (please, no flames
about the S/N ratio in cla!).
Are you aware of any references on this topic?
In his Practical Programmer column in Sept and Dec of CACM, Robert Glass
discussed the failure of "modern" languages to address the needs of IS
programmers. Many are still using COBOL because very few newer
languages provide the domain-specific features required for IS.
He suggests that adding libraries to a general-purpose language does
not solve the fundamental problem. He argues by analogy (socket
wrenches vs. a Monkey wrench) and several examples that domain-focused
languages are sometimes more useful and productive than general-purpose
In my situation, where 90% of a 500KSLOC system is Ada (a general-purpose
language) and approximately 8% is Tcl/Tk (great for interacting with
Unix utilities, building user interfaces, and "gluing" together several
Ada programs into a whole system), I recently introduced Perl for a
specific purpose for which it is very well suited (that is, for
searching and replacing data in text files). This was very successful
because it was much easier and faster to code than Ada and executed
much faster than Tcl.
But, now I am wondering if that was such a good thing in our environment.
Since Ada and Tcl are our primary languages, we have many workers with
those skills, but very few in Perl (I'm the only one!). I am concerned
for our ability to maintain this code in the future.
Are you aware of any serious programming language research which
addresses the issues of
1) what makes one language more suited to a particular domain than
2) how does one decide when to abandon the general-purpose language
in favor of the domain-focused language?
Here are the sorts of questions I would like such research to address:
Why do people use Perl so much for CGI programming?
Why can't I write some libraries so that Ada is just as easy to
use to search and replace data in text files as Perl?
Why is string and list handling so much easier in Tcl and Perl
than in Ada?
Terry J. Westley, Principal Engineer
Calspan SRL Corp, P.O. Box 400, Buffalo, NY 14225
[log in to unmask] http://www.calspansrl.com