Finding the right tool for the job - FAIL
Fri 18 October 2013
Filed under Blog
I need to pick a programming language to prototype some initial ideas for my next research project, an interactive shell to program and control lightweight process networks. I initially started with Python, but I stumbled into the need for efficient and concise pattern matching on tree-like data structures, which Python does not provide. So I started to search for a replacement, scanning my usual go-to languages: Go, C++, ML, Haskell, shell scripts.
To my surprise, for my specific pet project none of them fit my bill of requirements:
- [match] supports structural pattern matching (fails: C++, Python, shell)
- [gen] can express generic functions (fails: Go)
- [dbg] supports “printf”-style debugging (fails: Haskell)
- [syn] the syntax is concise and does not sacrifice clarity for pedantism (fails: ML, Go)
Then I scanned a few more candidates which I intended to learn/use soon anyways: Scheme (Racket, Chicken), Rust, Shen, Erlang, Clojure. Unfortunately those fail other more important requirements, which the previous 4 languages did match already:
- [bus] high bus factor (fails: Shen, Chicken)
- [proc] supports process creation and inter-process communication out-of-the-box (fails: Shen)
- [conc] supports lightweight and composable concurrency out-of-the-box (fails: Shen, Lua)
- [ffi] provides a comprehensive and simple foreign function interface to C libraries (fails: Erlang, Shen)
- [light] is close to running embedded: small implementations exist and/or run-time OS dependencies are clearly specified (fail: Racket, Erlang)
- [stable] stable language definition (fails: Shen, Rust)
This was intruiging. Then I started to scan further and larger, to other languages I looked at previously, and still no luck.
Here’s a summary table. The requirements (left to right) are listed in decreasing order of importance for my project. They are all somewhat “deal breakers” for now.
What I learned from this:
- I would be happier if the Rust team would get its sh*t together and stabilize the language.
- It’s a shame that the main author of Chicken is slowly walking away from the implementation and nobody is seriously picking it up yet.
- Maybe it is time for me to learn CamlP4 and add some simplified syntax to Ocaml.
- It’s also a shame that Haskell was not designed by system programmers for system programmers.
- The Python community should learn more from functional language designers.
- I dread the prospect of implementing my own programming language but this project might leave me no choice.