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Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?

Chris Hills
4/19/2010 02:00 PM EDT

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DickH
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
DickH   11/8/2011 9:14:30 AM
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(continued..) I would contend that the popularity of Java and C# among their proponents comes from their having been made to use C, while never having been properly introduced to a good O-O Pascal (and actually, to all intents, C# really is pretty much ObjectPascal, made to look like C). _They_ say these interpreted or JIT-compiled strongly-typed languages 'just let you get on with the job, no struggling with the tools, you can make a change and immediately try it out'. Just like pascal. I wrote my first program in Algol 60 on an Elliot Automation machine at Burroughs' facility in Dundee on a day-visit from high school - not complicated or large, it solved Poisson's Equation - I was just turned 16, so it must have been early 1968. C, relatively newborn then, should have died that year. I hate to think of the millions of man-hours that awful language has consumed, wasted, the flaky code hiding bugs for years. But it didn't bother me that much in the end, because I became an analogue and RF man, in R&D, and programming was really something I only did for simulations, for calculations, and for myself, until much later. Algol gave us both C and Pascal. More than half the members of the Algol 58 and 60 committees were Americans, and yet somehow Americans seemed to think programming in Algol was unAmerican, European, foreign, and they gladly latched on to C when it came. Unfortunately, C left out all the good bits of algol that made it really productive (simple uniform syntax, strong typing, bounds-checking, readability etc). C was terse, the code looked more serious. It looked 'harder', more abstruse, more arcane, so it had to be better. Shame it wasn't. Unix was a triumph, even more so because it worked in spite of the language they used. It's a pity they wrote it in C.

DickH
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
DickH   11/8/2011 9:13:46 AM
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It's 21 (?) years ago and I'm sitting in front of my almost-brand-new desktop at work: a 33MHz 386. I'm arguing with a C-proponent about my insistence on using algol's lovechild - Pascal - a beautiful tiny language carefully chiselled out of algol by a brilliant American-German engineer called Niklaus Wirth (as I recall). I have rewritten my colleague's C Windows application and extended it. To demonstrate, I tell him I will perform a complete build of the app, about 50000 lines in all, of which around 8000 are non-library bespoke code. He is of the opinion that he can't hang around for this and will go and get a coffee, but I stop him with "You haven't got time for that... Watch!". I click the appropriate button in the IDE and count aloud, to 4, and then say 'Done.' He believeth not. Less than five seconds. So I run the app. He is astonished. He recognises it, and it does not crash. He knows it takes him around 15 minutes to build his app from C. But 'Ahh', he says, 'it won't be as good code, and it won't run as fast'. An hour later, and he agrees it runs faster by 8-10 percent in some parts, and no slower in others. The executable is half the size. I then realise I have made an error - and I demonstrate to him that I have left 'runtime checking' ON. It could have been another few% to 10% faster if I'd turned it off. Now, granted, C compilers have gotten better, and the code they produce much better than that old MS C 1v5 (?) he was using - I should have used the Watcom compiler for comparison, its code ran at least 15-20% faster, though it took even longer to produce it. But no matter, my point was made. When I wrote in pascal, I never used a debugger - I never needed to. Most bugs wouldn't even compile - and those that did were obvious in the source code if you took the time to read it. (continued..)

SeamusC0
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
SeamusC0   5/9/2011 5:58:43 PM
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I began using Modula-2 in 1986 for embedded applications and came to the conclusion that it was the finest high-level language we'd come across (we'd previously used Fortran, Industrial Basic, Coral-66, PL/M-80, PL/M-86, PL/M-51 and MT+ Pascal on embedded micros). Over the next few years we successfully implemented many designs on a variety of processors, ranging from the Z-80 to the Intel 386. It was a sad day for us when we were eventually forced to move to C. Such is fashion. Along the way we used Delphi extensively for desktop-based applications, but that has become a minor player in the languages world. However, I'm glad to say that the influence of modular languages lives on in the more recent generations of VisualBasic.

esuurmaa
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
esuurmaa   6/14/2010 8:01:37 AM
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"However, languages such as Pascal (and the Modular/Oberon family), Simula, and smalltalk that were influenced by Algol have all but disappeared. I will now get protesting emails from the 1000 or so people still using those languages!" While I haven't seen more recent data, as of 2006, the number of developers using Delphi (Object Pascal) was at least 1.75 million: August 29, 2007 1.75 Million Delphi Developers Micheal Swindell gives official figures of the size of the Delphi community. As already reported by Chris Bensen in his blog, Micheal Swindell has reported some official figures of the size of the Delphi community. Over in the non.technical newsgroup (open his message dated 17 Aug, 20:46), CodeGear Product Manager shared numbers based on official surveys (and not on the internal company sales and registration data, which is a well-kept secret): Delphi has a developer population of approx 1.75 million users worldwide in 2006. Delphi has 15% IDE marketshare overall (7.7% ranked out of 100%) and is the #2 Windows IDE and the #4 IDE overall.

antiquus
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
antiquus   5/13/2010 9:06:13 PM
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At a past employer we implemented Agile/scrum for the purpose of taming the management "idea flux". We were bombarded by interruptions and spec tweaks because we had no formal reporting mechanism. The scrum cycle helped give predictability to that mess, because we could say "that will be addressed in (n+1) scrums from now" or "removing that person affects feature X", to make management go away for a while. This was possible because Agile gave us rolling short-term development plans of 3-4 scrums, each with clear and pre-argued priorities. Your development framework must be based on something more than just technical issues.

Bibliognost
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
Bibliognost   4/23/2010 2:02:24 PM
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Algol never caught on in the US, IMO, because it was invented in Europe and suffered from NIH syndrome. I taught introductory programming to newbie engineers in the mid-west in the late 70's and even 2 decades after the invention of Algol (it goes back further than 1960), structured programming was not a concept in our training. I taught them FORTRAN (It takes only 1 semester to learn FORTRAN, and about 15 years to reverse the resultant brain damage) because I didn't know any better. I later studied in Germany, where Algol was still alive and well; and begetting offspring like Pascal and Modula II. You are also right about the religious fervor that characterized disciples of a given technology back then. We're a little more level-headed now, but not cured. This also inhibited spread of information. The biggest barrier (if it can be called that) to trans-Atlantic cross-pollination was the lack of an Internet. Engineers and programmers no longer think in nationalistic terms, and the Net has made that happen. Gary Lynch

uanatol
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re: Happy birthday to Algol, and is the Agile hype over?
uanatol   4/22/2010 2:50:36 PM
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Chris, I am not ptotesting about Modula, but you should not change its name. Its name is "Modula" and not "Modular". By the way, Modula is a nice language. I do not understand why it is not accepted yet by the embedded community? Anatol

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